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DASH CAMS - WHAT TO LOOK FOR

We have all seen Dash Cam videos on You Tube and on TV – the funny, the scary and even the bizarre. Previously only police cars had Dash Cams installed, but as prices have dropped, ordinary people have started installing them in their vehicles. In some countries, such as Russia and Korea, millions of drivers have equipped their vehicles with Dash Cams.

 

If you have ever wondered why you should purchase a Dash cam and what you should look for, this page will help you answer those questions.

What is a Dash Cam?

A Dash Cam is a video camera mounted in a vehicle, typically mounted on the windscreen not on the dash as the name may suggest. These cameras are sometimes called Drive Recorders, DVR's (Digital Video Recorders) or In-Car Cameras. Dash cams continuously record video and audio as well as other information such as speed, location, date and time directly to a memory card, in most cases, a MicroSD card. Most Dash Cams have continuous recording. This means once the available storage is filled, the oldest footage is recorded over.

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Why you need a Dash Cam?

There are many reasons why a Dash Cam is a good idea. Here are just a few:

Evidence in case of an accident

When an accident happens, a Dash Cam will provide real proof of what took place. No need to worry about the other party’s version of events. In cases where the other party has an eyewitness in the form of a friend/passenger, they could easily collaborate any old story to pass blame on to you. With a Dash cam, you have video as your witness, and video does not lie.

Insurance fraud

There are some unscrupulous people who will purposely cause an accident then blame the other party. They may try to extort money from the victim or fake injuries to collect payment from insurance companies. It is very easy for someone to back into your vehicle, and then attempt to extort money from you. Without a Dash Cam, you would have no way to prove that you were the victim.

Parking protection

Some Dash Cams offer a parking mode, which through movement sensors, will begin recording if an impact occurs when your car is parked. If someone smashes into your car and drives away, you will have evidence of the hit and run. The Dash Cam must be hard-wired into your vehicle for this to work.

Vehicle abuse and misuse

Do you ever worry when other people drive your vehicle? When handing over your keys to a valet or mechanic, you will know exactly how your vehicle was treated. If your kids drive the car, you can see how they have been driving. Dash Cams with GPS will even provide the route and speed.

Report bad drivers

With roads getting busier, it seems that the number of bad drivers is increasing. Video evidence from a Dash Cam can be used to report hoons, dangerous drivers and road rage incidents. Dash Cam video provides real proof of what happened.

There’s so many Dash Cams on the market, how do you choose?

These days, a Dash Cam can be purchased for as low as $60, but like many things in this world, you get what you pay for. Cheap Dash Cams are often unreliable, are of poor build quality and record very poor video quality. There is no point trying to use Dash Cam footage as evidence if you cannot even read the offenders licence plate number. Websites such as eBay and Alibaba are flooded with these poor quality budget Dash Cams. These cheap Dash Cams may seem like a good idea at the time due to low cost, but if the video is not usable, then they are not such a great deal after all. In fact, it could end up costing you.

Here is what you should look for:

Video quality

 

This typically is the number one criteria when selecting a Dash Cam. When purchasing a Dash Cam, it is important to get one that records high-resolution video – at least Full HD 1080p. Dash Cams are now available with 4K video resolution. Some vendors are not truthful regarding video quality and advertise their Dash Cams as HD when in fact they are only Standard Resolution or 720p. Even though 720p is technically HD, this can be deceiving as consumers think they are Full HD 1080p. 720p HD Dash Cams are still be very disappointing in regards to video quality, particularly at night or in poor light conditions when needed most.

It is important to keep in mind, Full HD video of an accident or other incident, is clearer and details like licence plates are easier to read. This could be the determining factor in an insurance or court case.

Low light video quality and WDR (Wide Dynamic Range)

 

Along with Full HD quality, another important thing to look for in a Dash Cam is the quality of video recorded at night or in low light situations. If a Dash Cam is not capable of recording decent, visible video during the hours of darkness, it is as good as useless. Many serious accidents and hit and runs take place at night.

Dash Cams with Wide Dynamic Range can record greater scene details, from shadows to highlights. WDR improves video quality when light intensity is widely different. When filming both dark and light locations at the same time most cameras can only reproduce details from one area but not both simultaneously, WDR makes it possible to record more detail in these contrasting areas. WDR increases the capacity to view license plates at night. Plates are often reflective and in combination with dark streets make for a challenging scenario without WDR.

In the video below, you can see that the Full HD Dash Cam is good at night, but does not have the WDR feature. It relies on the lens aperture alone. Both the Full HD and Super HD models shown here have an aperture of f2.0, but with the WDR feature enabled on the Super HD model, you can clearly see a big difference in low light video quality. Most 4K Dash Cams will also have WDR. Some Full HD models (including the model used for this video) incorporate infra-red LED's to add some illumination in low light. However, the effective range of IR lighting is limited to a few meters.

Processor and Sensor

Many Dash Cams advertise what processor the camera is based on. The processor is the CPU of the camera. The most widely used processor brand in Dash Cams is Ambarella. One of the best processors, is the Ambarella A7L. This CPU can process video up to an impressive 2304 x 1296 dpi @ 30fps or 1920 x 1080 @ 60fps , compared to the previous model, which records up to 1920 x 1080 @ 30fps, as found in the Full HD Dash Cam. Many Dash Cams  on the market are only 25fps. The frames per second (fps) produces smoother video at higher frame rates. 25fps can look very staggered or glitchy, while 30fps is nice and smooth. While the processor is important, the quality of the CMOS sensor and lens are key as well. This is why different Dash Cams with the same processor can have dramatically different video quality. There are some Dash Cams on the market that use the Ambarella A7L, but due to a poor quality CMOS sensor, produce what is known as “over-sharpening” which makes the video image look pixelated and not smooth as it should be. One of the best CMOS sensors is the Sony Exmor which is used by a handful premium Dash Cam manufacturers.

GPS logging

GPS logging utilises a satellite link to record your location and speed for the duration of the journey. The Dash Cam software provided allows you to view the actual footage of the road and follow the vehicle location and speed at the same time. This adds an extra layer of evidence to any scenario you may find yourself in. In fact, there are documented cases of individuals fighting speeding fines with the use of GPS logging.

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Crash sensor (G-sensor)

A G-sensor (gravity sensor) detects an impact and automatically protects the recorded file, so the Dash Cam’s cycle recording cannot overwrite it. These protected files are usually stored in a separate folder on the memory card. In many cases these protected files can only be deleted from the memory via a computer.

Screen display

Some smaller Dash Cams do not have a screen to display the current footage. A screen is not absolutely necessary, the camera will still provide the same level of protection. However, a screen display can be quite useful in the event of an accident. The Dash Cam can be removed from the vehicle (battery life usually lasts 1-2 hours) and used to show other parties (including Police) at the scene, exactly what has occurred.

A screen display is also very useful in setting up the Dash Cam to make sure it is level, there is nothing obscuring the lens and to see the exact view to be recorded.

Storage

Typically, 2-3 minutes of HD video require 100 MB of storage space on a Full HD Dash Cam. However, varying levels of HD video quality will make a difference. 32 GB MicroSD card will store approximately 7-8 hours of video from a Full HD Dash Cam, about 5-6 hours from a Super HD. But with the newer 4K Dash Cams we have found that a 32 GB card will only record about 2 hours of video due the high resolution. You can usually get a little more recording time with audio disabled, recording video only. You can later transfer the files to another storage medium for editing or uploading.

Heat Resistance

Heat resistance is an often-overlooked feature of a quality Dash Cam, however it is extremely important to be aware of. Most Dash Cam sit between the windscreen and the rear-view mirror. In this position, the camera is exposed to not only harsh sunlight, but to the heat created by the greenhouse effect inside of the car. These extreme temperatures can cause the electronic components of the camera as well as the internal battery to fail and cause cracked housings. In a short period of time, a perfectly fine camera might wind up as a piece of junk. Many cheap, budget cameras do not feature heat tolerant parts.

Parking Mode

In parking mode, a dash cam can stay on while the car is parked and you’re not in it. This can help answer questions in case of unpleasant surprises when you return to your car. If you notice any mysterious damage like door dints, scratches, or something more major, the dash cam could provide answers with parking mode. Parking mode only works if the dash cam is hard-wired to permanent power in your car unless the camera has an internal battery. Dash cams with parking mode, will automatically turns the camera on when it detects a bump or a sudden movement. There are small devices inside the camera called accelerometers. As you can probably guess, accelerometers detect and measure acceleration. When those accelerometers are triggered, they turn on the camera so it can possibly pick up whatever is happening.

Driver Assistance Systems

Dash cams are capable of much more than just showing you what’s in front of you or what’s behind you. Some of them are very smart and can detect where the lanes are and the distance between you and other vehicles. If you’re out of your lane or if you’re too close to the car in front of you, some dash cams can give you an audible warning to back off or to get back in your lane. Lane departure warning has been proven to be a very effective way to combat driver inattention. Many luxury car manufacturers are integrating such technology in to their cars. For a fraction of the price, you can add this safety feature to any car. Adjustment can be made to the thresholds at which the warnings go off which is nice if you often drive in heavy traffic, and you don’t want to get too many alerts.

Additional Rear Camera

Most dash cams are just that – cameras that mount to the dash and monitor what’s going on in front of the car. However, some dash cams come with an additional camera to aim out the back of the car. Rear end collisions are the most common type of car accident in Australia. If you’re ever unfortunate enough for that to happen to you, a rear facing camera can provide evidence of what car did it, where it happened, when it happened, and most importantly, the other motorists reaction. If it’s a hit and run situation, that evidence will come in handy.

BSS offers state of the art dash cams that could be a perfect fit for your needs. An advanced, yet economical option is the DSH-1052. It’s available as a dual camera dash cam, meaning you can get one camera in front and another in the back. 1080p full HD gives you an outstanding image on a bright, colourful screen.

This unit comes with advanced driver assistance systems – lane departure warning and front collision warning.

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