Dash Cams: Are They Worth It? What Uses Do They Have And What Kind To Get? - A True Beginners Guide


Over View: I cover the following topics in relative ordered fashion, why dash cams, the reasons to consider them, the uses they have (outside the obvious), several product reviews from first hand use and a few things I learned along the way when it comes to finding out how to get the right camera for the desired application.


1. INTRODUCTION

Dash Cameras - they certainly are an ideal thing to have in certain situations, especially in the certain "wrong" situations. Situations such as fender-benders, hit and runs and any other type of wreck related instance where witness plays favor. Not to mention they are even more desired after a car jacking or theft of sorts. More so than not, fate lacks the provisional (and more so required) credible witness to such cases. At least in order to file a police report worth filing to actually get your possessions returned.

Personally, (and luckily) I didn't have to experience of any of the unfortunate events I mentioned prior, as means for the interest, nor the purchase, of my first dash cam setup. It was actually trying to find a way to capture footage of the cruises and events I was attending at the time shortly after I bought my car. More so, the driving factor behind it was that of alternatives to a GoPro setup in order to focus more on driving and not having to physically interact with (if I didn't want to or couldn't) a GoPro. By "interacting" I mean things such as the short lived batteries dying, the batteries not being charged or even forgetting the camera itself. That, along with the fact I didn't want to jump off into something $300 or more (Like a GoPro, Extra Batteries and the Accessories) right out of the gate and run the risk of it not being what I thought or even what i really needed to suit my desired application. I'd like to take a minute and point out that obviously for a professional method to capture content like what I was going after, where there isnt a market on "practical" means for using a traditional camera (especially one of value). Due to the simple understanding that a majority of what I wanted to capture came when driving, much less if you rode passenger and you would have to hold your high dollar camera out the window and well that's never NOT a dangerous game of risk in dropping or losing the camera.

With that said, I began searching out what options I actually had to resort to. Needless to say the search began with several Google searches to find resolve. Not knowing what to even consider when looking for something like this except the common phrase "you get what you pay for" and combing through user feedback for a large amounts of the time. Again I didn't want to just jump of and spend a bunch on something that failed to do what I needed, which sorta out ruled the logic in "getting what you paid for" in this case. I found myself at Amazon with 100+ choices in front of me and NOT enough time or desire, much less faith in what reviews I did consider reading prior to pushing me into buying one.


2. DASH CAMS

In this section I'll go over the main features offered in dash cams and then list the products I have had used first hand. Before I touch back on the note of my first purchase (which is shown below) I want to list a few of the most common "features" you'll see when looking for dash cameras in general.

The most common and noted features of currently offered dash cams consist of the following,

  • Loop Recording

  • 1080p@30fps (Video Quality)

  • Wiide Angle View

  • Parking Mode or Security Mode

  • G-sensor or Impact Detection

  • GPS (Location and Speed)

  • External Storage (MicroSD cards [sometimes included] that vary in usable capacity)

  • Single Camera Dual Lenses (Mainly Front and Inside the Vehicle)

Now, there are many other features that vary on quality and brand which is where the better quality cameras start to separate themselves over the standard and more basic dash cameras. Features such as video quality above 1080p@30fps), ability to utilize storage capacity above 128GB, WiFi connectivity, Vendor Made Applications for mobile devices or computers for mobile view or editing. Again there many others depending on how far you want to take your search to find them (and your money). One thing I do want to point out related to features, and something that was personally overlooked until trying to utilize 2 cameras for both front/back POV. Specifically speaking on the 2 In 1 cameras that offer 2 cameras lenses for 2 different POVs in one single product. These typically comprise the quality when running simultaneously where 1080p@60fps on the front facing lenses drop down to 1080p@30fps or even possibly drops 720p@30fps while the back is also that level (720p@30fps) or somewhere lower to that of the front and main focus area is. This a common thing on even higher end, however there are recent cameras (including the one I currently utilize and recently purchased, as it just hit the market not even 3 or 4 months ago.)

So now I'll list the cameras I have had a chance to either purchase or utilize first hand (Such as friends buying them). Starting with my purchases, a brief description of each and what lead me to my next purchase.

First Dash Cam

Brand: Old Shark

Price: $65.00 - Amazon

Style (POV): Single-Forward Facing

Mount: Suction Cup With Adjustable Pivot

Resolution: 1080p@30fps

Features: Built In G-Sensor, 170 Degree Wide-Angle,Loop Recording, Night Vision,3'' Screen, Parking Guard and 32GB MicroSD Card Included

Needless To say, this being my first dash cam purchase of four total...It didn't work out for me too long. The first (and main) issue with this camera, was the lack of quality at night. Not remotely close to where to the reviews feed me to believe I was getting. However, (with only $65 or spent) the lesson from my failures weren't and could have been catastrophic (should it have been $300-$400). This relates back to not knowing what your getting before you get it, along with sheer interpretation of perspective for the words like "Good" or "Awesome". Especially when used to describe the video quality from what I read in the reviews. The only exception here is assumptions of the people utilizing this setup were NOT using it for the intended purpose I was at the time (Nightly car related events, such as races. Where sometimes not enough light, such as from on coming headlights played a role in keeping the lighting up for the camera to have "Good" quality). Better yet, here are 3 short clips which justify my point. First, a clip during the day in which light in obviously more abundant.

Video #1


[Missing Content]

Here is the second, with absolutely no back ground lighting (Street lighting, head lights from other cars or anything else).

Video #2


Along with the third and final video, to show the difference at night with help from surrounding light sources.

Video #3


Suggestive of 1080p, yet with out being able to recall if that aspect was actually addressed (or not) in the feedback I did review prior to purchasing, who knows. None the less, that alone lead me on a deeper path toward finding a more adequate solution for capturing quality footage in a night time setting. Leading up to my next camera purchase.

Second Dash Cam

Brand/Model: Roav/C1 Pro

Price: $108.00 [On Sale] - Best Buy (Regular Price $130.00)

Style (POV): Single-Forward Facing (With adjustable swivel lens)

Mount: 3M High Quality/Endurance[Temp] Adhesive (And Sliding Bracket)

Resolution: 720p@30/60fps, 1080p@30/60fps and 1440p@30/60fps (or "2k-widescreen")

Features: Roav App (for mobile devices) Wifi (for connecting mobile devices & transferring videos via the app), GPS, Time Stamp [With Speedometer], Parking Monitor, G-Sensor, Montion Activation, Extreme Temp Resistance (14-149F) 2.4 Screen, and 32GB MicroSD {Included]


This camera, although nearly double in price, was purchased on much desperate need to fix my night capture issue. I must say, it was a spur of the moment buy - A.) It was on sale that same day I went looking at what they had to offer at Best Buy B.) Which the fact it already offered something the prior setup didn't that caught my attention - 1440p resolutions. After a week of using day and night, I was satisfied and bought another for the capturing the back of the car. Not to mention during which time, I discovered the app (covered shortly) and the amazing overlays it offered with the play backs on my android devices. The only downside with this camera was the app, where as it was not only horribly slow in transfer rates (due to the fact it utilized only 2.4ghz band WiFi to the mobile devices for transfers. Supposedly firmware updates that are out now claim to address this (however I ended up selling both before I could confirm). Regardless, I'll show you the quality during both day and night, showing exactly why I was pleased with this setup. You can also use the following footage as means to show just what a quality related difference there is between it and the first camera.


Video#1


Video #2

Now coming to my final purchase of dash cams and current setup, the reason for it. Quality obviously wasn't the issue for me here, over a year down the road. The driving factor behind yet another purchase was simply the fact I became more into video editing and the content I found myself missing and wanting to take advantage of more came at random times or where something would happen inside the car. Followed behind it was the issues of having to deal with 2 cameras or 2 memory cards everything time I wanted to do front and back captured content for video creations. Leading me to search even further for a 3in1 POV setup.

Current Dash Cam

Brand/Model: Vantrue/N4 (3 Channel)

Price: $250.00 - Amazon

Style: 3 Channel (Front Facing/Reverse[In Vehicle]/Rear Facing)

Mount: Suction Cup With Adjustable Pivot

Resolution: 1440p@30fps+1080p@30fps+1080p@30fps

Features: First Camera with 3 Ch. POV, Parking Monitor, G-Sensor, High Temp Resistance (14F-158F) 2.4'' Display, GPS, Time Stamp (Speedometer), Utilizes Type-C cables for fast data transfer, Vantrue App for PC, Micro SD [Not Included - Can Utilize 256GB] Wide Angles (155 Fr, 165 Inside, 160 Rear)



Now, this is as close to an "immersive" type return especially for what I desire to use the cameras for. Not to mention it's better than wearing a GoPro on a head mount and feeling awkward but also not knowing what you really capture on it until you watch the captured footage after its caught. I'll post one video with the tri-channel content from this bad boy and let it do the talking.(Dont Mind the Fact I blurred out my-self on purpose)



Goes without saying this dash camera has ability to capture night content of that and better than the prior Roav dash cam. The only detouring factor I have yet to find with this camera is well, nothing to date. Price is a little under what the 2 Roav's are at regular retail ($130), but you get 3 cameras and only have to deal with 1 single memory card for the data. That and you also do need two power supply's either. Let's not forget the fact it can utilize 256GB storage where the Roav can only handle 128GB. If you're simply being "Extra" about finding some down side to the camera, it can only be the fact it is a tad more greedy with space, where as the Roav setup adheres directly and angle friendly to the front window and this setup hangs down and requires more clearance. Other than that, and that's just trying to come up with something, this is by far money well spent for anyone trying to find an alternative to handling a GoPro, cell phone, traditional camera or otherwise. Not to mention the fact it protects your vehicle when or if the time comes for a witness to object false information.

Before I move on to summing up this blog, I will mention another camera that I had got my hands on from a friend that bought them in a pair. Simply because they were out of the Roav's at my local Best Buy at the time of the desired purchase, he settled for these which came from Walmart.

Brand/Model: NextBase/122

Price: $59.00 - NextBase

Style: Single-Front Facing

Mount: Suction Cup With Pivot Swivel

Resolution: 720p@30fps

Features: Click & Go Mount (To Suction Base) With Magnetic Security Locking, 2' Screen,120 Degree Viewing Angle and Parking Mode.



From what we learned with the first camera, which was around this price of $59.00...You can be sure that you're not getting a jaw dropping product. In my friend's case as stated before, was left to purchase these not so much by choice more than lack there of at the time. As far as the camera goes it's pretty simple and basic just like the features it suggests. The biggest issue and I have yet to see this prior this camera and to current date, is the overkill of the lens and how far it stretches out from the rest of the camera and especially on the note it has mediocre all around to offer for just how bulky it is.


Finally I'll show you the quality of what it can do during the night (Which again, I think is most critical on making a choice prior to purchasing).

Video #1



3. Summary

Hopefully all that information helps with tips and understanding that although GoPro makes nice 4k@30/60fps video (Especially the Hero8Black, which I had the privilege of borrowing a friends for an extended period) , they lack battery life, require tending to before GPS and Overlays kick in (as the have to register on the camera prior to taking a video) for editing with the GoPro software. Along with the fact they are easy to lose where dash cams, well not so much being they are in the car and they never require holding in most situations. Oh and they can protect your car in bad car incident related scenarios where as a GoPro if you constantly powered it on and had it turned on prior to said accident (Where as dash cams come on when the car does among other methods Motion, Impact, etc.) I'd also say in my case, I get a kick out of the stuff I don't realize that my cameras pick up (Vocal commentary in the background in cases) during certain times I can use for video content. That or helping with finding things I might have lost or taken somewhere and forgot where they ended up. I leave you with this, if you on the fence or have interest in dash cams and not yet purchased one...Just do it, you'll be glad later on and you can bet on it when the time comes!

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