Ok, so you need a dash cam, but you’ve looked online, and the options are staggering. You can have your 1080p recordings at 30fps, which you thought was good, but now there’s 1440p and 60fps. All of a sudden, 1080p at 30 frames seems obsolete! So is it?
The short answer is no, but the options can get confusing. So we’re going to waste no time, and dive right into features that make up your next dash cam. (If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 of the three-part series, check ’em out to see what you missed!)
Resolution, Recording, Looping, and Saving
The resolution is how clear the image can be. A resolution of 1920×1080 is a fairly standard step. 1,920 pixels across, by 1,080 pixels down. The higher the quality, the less record time you’re going to get out of it. Better dash cams have a looping feature, so you usually don’t have to worry about manually freeing up memory. Some have a g-sensor that will detect “incidents” based on the shock sensor’s input. These cameras can automatically save the event from overwriting so that you have it for later review or download. A lot of cameras also have GPS locators to detect position and velocity.
The record time can vary significantly, based on the resolution you select and the available memory with which to record. My Garmin 55, for example, can record at either 1080p, or 1440p. The standard memory card that it came with allowed me to record up to 49 minutes at 1080p, or only 27 minutes at the higher 1440p resolution.
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Nonstandard resolutions are available to give you a wider field of view like 2560×1080. It’s helpful for seeing activity going on adjacent to your fenders; great for capturing a lot of action, but image quality may not render as you’d expect it to in all cases.
If record time is important to you, make sure your camera can accommodate additional memory. The 64GB memory card now allows me to record either 790 minutes of 1080p, or 434 minutes of 1440p before looping back over old footage.
A good practice is to look at actual footage for the dash cam you have in question. Plenty of samples are available, and some may not meet the standards you require from your dash cam. Some even have difficulty reading license plates – an ability many potential consumers tend to assume is standard.
A dash cam is no good if it can’t see what’s going on. If your dash cam has great daytime performance but struggles in the night – it’s really only working half the time. If nighttime driving is an area of concern for you, be sure to research your perspective camera’s nighttime performance, as all dash cams are not created equal.
Some dash cams have infrared recording modes for nighttime driving, but users report more problems with these units, in some cases.
Warnings and Alerts
Certain upper-tier dash cams will feature a series of alerts to make sure you always know what’s going on around you. Some of the more popular features include: lane departure warnings, forward collision warnings, traffic movement alerts (when the car in front of you takes off, and you’re on your phone, acting like you’re not on your phone.)
These features, while convenient, should never be relied upon as anything more than a second set of eyes to enhance your situational awareness. These features are usually never 100% reliable, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
If you get into a fender bender and want to take a peek around at the scene, it may be beneficial to pop the camera off its mount and walk outside with it. Some cameras are highly dependant on a power supply, while others can record for a short time after being disconnected.
My Garmin 55, for example, is a magnet mount. To record outside of the vehicle, I simply unplug the unit, rip it off the mount, and select the prompt to “keep recording.”
Some dash cams have the ability to “watch” your car, even when you’re not around. By tapping into a constant power supply, these motion-sensing cameras can start to record (as in my Garmin 55’s case) 10 seconds before the trigger incident, and will continue to record until after the offending trigger has left the vicinity. I park my car facing my front door.
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of features – just a primer to get your brain thinking about the features that may be important to you. Other factors to consider are the cable length, and where you’ll want to mount yours. Some dash cams can record backward, into the cabin. Some dash cam mounts allow the camera to swivel to a desired area of interest.