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Dash Cam FAQ
Car cameras or dash cams are an increasingly popular option for drivers to record what happens as you drive. Recorded footage can also be used as evidence in an incident should it be required.
With Crash for Cash and Flash for Cash costing the UK motorist £392 million in 2013 a dash cam is the perfect way to provide indisputable evidence should you be involved in a collision or fall victim to an insurance scam.
Dash cameras come in an array or different sizes, features, capabilities and prices.
In our post ‘Should I buy a Car Camera‘ we look at the pros and cons - with all this information you can make an informed decision on which to go for and ultimately purchase the best one for you.
What is a Single Channel camera?
This is a solution with just one camera. It is usually mounted in the front windscreen. It can be powered by an in-car power adapter or hardwired to the vehicle electrics.
What are Dual (2) Channel cameras?
This is a solution comprising of 2 cameras, usually one for the front and one for the rear. The rear camera is often internal but may be external. Some rear cameras options include infrared to monitor your car's internals at night.
How does a Vehicle Power Adapter work?
This is a common and flexible solution where the camera is powered from the vehicle power adapter.
Some vehicles may have only one power socket available, so charging other products may not be possible unless you stop recording.
Be aware that in this mode, the camera will power down when the vehicle's ignition is switched off.
What does Hardwired mean?
This is a more permanent power solution. An auto electrician or competent person can connect the camera's power directly to the vehicle's electrical system so power is available at all times.
Hardwiring can enable additional features such as 'parking modes' as there is always power available from the vehicle battery, even if the ignition is off.
Should I use a Suction Mount?
These are the most simple way to attach a dash cam or other accessory to your windscreen or dashboard. It is a portable solution and useful if you plan to remove and reinstall the camera regularly.
Generally speaking, suction mounts are more visible and may slightly impede your view when driving.
Are Adhesive Mounts better?
With an adhesive mount, the camera is more firmly put in place. The camera usually detaches from a mounting plate, leaving this attached to the windscreen, sun visor or mirror.
Adhesive mounts are generally designed for semi-permanent installations.
Is it better to have a discreet camera?
Whilst a camera is designed to protect you in the case of an incident, a camera can cause an incident of theft if it is highly-visible.Whilst the likelihood of theft is low, a smaller and more discreet camera that appears more hidden when you look at a vehicle is often beneficial.
Whilst the likelihood of theft is low, a smaller and more discreet camera that appears more hidden when you look at a vehicle is often beneficial.
Some cameras have LEDs that you may wish to turn on/off to show it is recording and/or avoid drawing attention.
What is a good video resolution?
Probably one of the most important factors, aim to purchase a camera with as high a recording resolution as possible based on your budget.
The higher the resolution the better the level of detail. This can be extremely important when reviewing footage.
1080p or "Full HD" records at 1920 x 1080 pixels. This is probably the benchmark for most recordings. and is what you should be aiming for, but 720p which records ar a resolution of 1280 x 720 is also referred to as HD and is passable.
720p (HD) records at a resolution of 1280 x 720 is also passable and will take up less storage space, allowing for more footage on the same size memory card.
Resolutions lower than this often lack fine detail and truthfully are best avoiding.
Some cameras support resolutions higher than 1080p. This can make for excellent quality footage but be aware of the storage implications that come with this.
Can a Dash Cam record at night or in low light?
1080p Cameras will record good footage during daytime and dusk conditions but just like standalone cameras, low light can cause a problem for cheaper models.
Better quality cameras will have advanced sensors that are better suited to low light environments. They may also incorporate software algorithms to enhance the final footage.
Where possible, see if there is any sample footage available for the camera you intend to purchase.
Is Loop or Continuous Recording important?
Realistically this is a must and is standard on any decent dash cam.
This technology is designed to automatically overwrite old footage once the storage space is full. This means that you can record indefinitely on long trips without needing to touch the camera.
Of course, you should be aware of the recording time for your camera. If you want to save all your footage then you will need to stop and manually change SD cards.
Continuous/ Loop recording can be usually be switched off but then you will need to be aware that the camera will stop recording when the storage is full.
Most cameras with G-Sensors or impact detection will securely save these types of clips so they do not get overwritten.
Can I manually Record?
At times you may want to ensure a particular bit of footage is captured.
A button on the camera will allow you to do this with most then saving a pre-determined number of seconds before and after pressing the record button.
These clips are usually then saved in a secure location so as not to be overwritten by continuous recording features.
Can I expand the memory?
Cameras will either have built-in storage or a memory card slot. Sometimes referred to as an expansion slot, the card used is usually microSD. The size of memory will affect how much footage can be stored.
Some cameras come supplied with memory cards and others require you to purchase one separately.
What is Dual Recording/Save?
More advanced cameras will offer the ability to save footage to either the internal or external memory, or both.
Many will save to the external memory as the primary option. In an incident activated by the G-Sensor though, the footage will store on the internal memory as well.
This means should the memory card fail, a copy of the incident will be on the internal memory as a backup.
Generally, clips saved on the internal memory are smaller and the memory often fills up quicker. It is worth checking before purchase.
Should I buy an Auto/On-Off camera?
Imagine having to turn the camera on and off every time you begin and end driving. It would be all too easy to forget, let alone the ongoing annoyance of having to do so.
This is where the Auto/On-Off feature comes into play. Those with it will commence recording within a few seconds of the ignition being switched on.
What does the G-Sensor or Motion Detection do?
The camera detects a motion in the vehicle and begins recording.
The point at which the camera detects this motion will depend on the sensitivity it is set at. Some have pre-configured sensors, others you can control. Just be aware if the sensor is not set correctly, impacts may not be picked up.
Recordings triggered by motion or the G-sensor usually store footage for a set period of time before and after the impact. This file is then generally saved in a secure location.
It is worth checking on your camera as to these times so you are informed.
What is Parking Mode?
This is a system that lets the camera record even if the vehicle ignition is switched off.
Using the G-sensor, and motion-detection if configured, the camera will commence recording for a period of time and save the file to a secure location so you can see what happened when you were not there.
More advanced cameras will have options to avoid battery drain.
Should I look out for Date and Time Stamp?
Whilst not key critical, any footage stamped with the correct date and time offers greater accuracy and could prove beneficial in any dispute that may arise post incident.
Ensure you set the time correctly on your camera.
Is the display size important?
By no means essential, cameras with screens can playback footage on the unit itself. This might be useful at the scene of an incident and also makes it easier to change settings on the camera without needing to connect to a PC.
In some dual-channel setups, it can also be used as a rear view camera option when reversing.
Bear in mind that cameras with screens tend to be bulkier and less discreet.
How does GPS work?
GPS records the exact location coordinates at the time of recording. Premium cameras have this built in. Cheaper cameras may offer an additional GPS module as an accessory.
GPS tends to make the camera a little larger but is very useful for tracking your driving and proving your location if necessary through the footage.
This GPS data is usually accessible only by the dedicated software that comes with the camera.
Do dash cams have Safety Camera Alerts?
Be it fixed or mobile camera alerts, these can prove useful when driving in unfamiliar areas.
They will often give advanced warning of their location and the speed limit in the area.
The information is based on databases that the manufacturer has so they can not be relied upon as 100% accurate. Checking for updates is advised.
What software comes with my dash cam?
Many cameras come with their own software to install on a computer or Mac.
Some recorded files can be read off the camera directly as a mass storage device without the need for additional software. However, the manufacturer's software will often bring many benefits.
The software is often organised with the ability to search through recordings and provide useful relevant data such as the date, time, speed, GPS position and more. This can also be stamped onto the footage to remove any potential issue of tampering.