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Everything You Need to Know about Dashboard Cameras

What is a Dashboard Camera?

A dashboard camera, or dash cam as they care commonly called, is a video camera that generally records the view out of the front windshield. They vary widely in terms of how the record, what resolutions they are capable of, the light conditions that they require, and how that video can be viewed. The primary components are a video lens, some type of internal storage for video, some control buttons, and a power source. There are many other components and features that are available depending on the device model and your use case.

What is Resolution?

Resolution equates to the amount of detail that the device can record. The higher the resolution the more clearly you will be able to see. Think in terms of distance and detail. If you just want to be able to identify cars nearby with color and model, a low resolution would suffice. But if you want to read license plates consistently, you’ll need something higher. If that license plate is far away, you’ll need very high resolution. If you’ve ever watched a movie where the police enhance a blurry image, that’s a Hollywood lie! Either the information is there or it’s not, so choose wisely.

One other important aspect of resolution, it highly impacts the amount of room you will need to store video. More visual information equals more space on the recording device. Most cameras have settings for this so consider choosing a higher resolution option than you need and then adjusting after you’ve had some time to use your device.

How Do I Store the Video?

Most cameras either come with internal storage, just like your laptop comes with a hard drive, or with a place to add an external card. A card slot is usually standard (such as SD or microSD) and allows you to do two things. First, you can choose the right amount of storage. More storage equals more cost, so you’ll need to find the balance that’s right for you. Keep in mind that as technology advances, storage will continue to get cheaper. You might decide to replace your card as the prices get cheaper or your needs change.

Second, a removable card allows you to quickly and easily transfer the video to another device. If you want to take a recording and put it on your computer, you simply need a card reader to do it. Most laptops already have them built in. You might also want to share the video with others. Most dash cams without removable cards need to be hooked up to your computer with a cable to download the video, though some have WiFi capability.

Why Would I Need to Share Video from My Dash Cam?

Often, videos from dash cams are shared to social media but don’t be fooled, there are much more important reasons to share. If you are in an accident, have an incident with police, or are accused of something that you didn’t do, your dashcam footage can be vital information for your insurance provider, your attorney, and the police. This should be your primary concern when deciding which model is right for you. All those likes on YouTube are just icing on the cake.

Do These Devices Record at Night?

The short answer is yes. Night vision is an inexpensive technology so it is built in to almost all cameras. The quality of the night vision should be your primary concern. At night, lighting changes drastically and quickly. Think about driving down a dark road and then suddenly encountering a car with their high beams on. Street lights, reflections, and emergency lights can all cause issues. It’s worth the investment to get good night vision so that the camera works well in all conditions both today and as your driving habits change.

What Power Sources are Available?

Most cameras operate from your car’s power, while a few will operate on batteries. We don’t recommend batteries since there are too many ways that this can lead to a failure. Most powered units provide a cord to plug into your car’s cigarette lighter. Some require professional installation for a permanent power connection although this gets rid of the messy cord.

Do I Need WiFi or Bluetooth Connectivity?

Wireless connectivity can be great if it provides additional functionality. For example, some companies can pair the camera with an app on your phone. This allows you to easily transfer video, adjust settings, and add additional functionality not present on the camera itself. Software can also be easily updated, so companies are much more likely to add features and updates to the app. If the camera has no way to connect, this is almost impossible.

What is Instant Record?

Your camera will typically be set to loop, meaning that it will record video until the memory is full (usually several days), and then it will begin recording over itself. In most cases, you don’t want to keep all of the video because of the vast amount of space it will require. Instant Record usually means that a portion of the video will be saved and not in danger of being recorded over. A typical event would be an accident. The camera would have an impact sensor and automatically record the event and save it. This ensures that the footage survives even if you don’t download it right away.

Where should I start?

We recommend starting here when comparing dashcams. ESCORT has a long history in providing dashboard devices and offers a variety of installation options.

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