The best car camera
Dash cams are a convenient way of recording your trip for later review and are absolutely invaluable in case of a traffic incident, so it's no surprise that they've become very popular. We've been looking at the latest developments so we can help you choose the best model for your vehicle. Our recommendations underline the terrific choices available, for pretty much every budget. Our favorite, the Roav Dash Cam from Anker, uses Sony lens technology to deliver impressive image quality and has a host of driver-focused features well worth a closer look.
Considerations when choosing car cameras
There's a lot of attention on image resolution -- 720p, 1080p, etc. -- and bigger numbers are invariably better. However, several other features have an impact, too.
Lens quality is important, and it's nice to see recognized manufacturers (Zeiss, Sony, Nikon), though often that's not the case. You definitely want glass lenses rather than plastic, which is prone to temperature distortion.
Aperture is another factor. It's given as an 'f' number, usually between f3.0 and f1.4. Lower numbers admit more light to the image sensor, which, when combined with Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) technology, improves picture quality.
With video, you should see a frame per second rate (fps). Thirty fps is common and perfectly acceptable to most, but the best run at 60 fps. However, recording at that speed demands much higher memory, which usually means an additional card.
Not many car cameras are actually "dash" cams; most either use a suction cup or double-sided tape to fix them to the windshield. Suction cups have been known to come loose while driving, but they do have the advantage that you can take the camera off and conceal it in the glove box if you want to. A few models fit over the rearview mirror, although screen sizes are limited.
A major benefit of many car cameras is a parking-collision monitor, which activates automatically when the vehicle is unattended. There are two types: motion sensor and gravity sensor (G-sensor). The first can be activated by objects within the visual range of the camera, but because no contact is required, it can lead to false alarms. The second requires actual physical contact.
Wide-angle lenses are touted as a benefit and can be helpful, but bear in mind that once past about 140 degrees, there's a tendency for the edges of the image to distort. It's not a problem as such, but may have limited value in evidentiary situations.
Date and time stamping could be of value for commercial travelers, and in the event of an accident.
Various features are available with WiFi-enabled car cameras, from downloading video and sharing online, to capturing GPS data from your trips. Non-WiFi models rely on a USB connection to your laptop or require the removal of the memory card. In all cases, it's important to check compatibility with your device: Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac.
If you live in an area that experiences temperature extremes, whether hot or cold, you'll want to check the operating range of the camera.
Power comes either from a rechargeable internal battery (charged via USB cable) or via your vehicle's internal power socket (cigarette lighter). The disadvantage with the latter is that collision monitoring may not operate with the ignition turned off.
You can buy an inexpensive car camera for around $20. We wouldn't. You'll get low resolution and poor or non-existent night vision. Good quality dash cams start at around $40, and many drivers will find what they need between there and $70. High-end models will cost you between $150 and $200.
Q. Is there any way to check recording quality before I buy?
A. Some owners have uploaded clips to YouTube - so if you search for your chosen model you might find something. Bear in mind that lots of things can impact on image quality - including how clean their windshield was!
Q. Are car cameras difficult to install?
A. They're actually very easy - with most it's just a question of mounting (as described above). If the camera takes power from your internal socket (cigarette lighter), you need to plug in the cable. That's it, job done.
Car cameras we recommend
Best of the best: Roav by Anker's 1080p Dash Cam
Our take: High quality, feature-packed device delivers excellent images day and night.
What we like: Uses Sony lens and image sensor with proprietary technology for clear video in all light conditions. Wide-angle lens will capture up to 4 lanes. Parking-collision monitor. 32GB memory card included.
What we dislike: Suction cup should be better. Customer support is limited.
Best bang for your buck: Yi's Smart Dash Cam
Our take: Remarkably comprehensive feature set for the money.
What we like: High-end specification in a budget device: 1080p resolution at up to 60 fps. Wide-angle view. Good night vision. WiFi. Warning system for lane departure and vehicle proximity.
What we dislike: MicroSD card not included. Adhesive tape may fail in high temperatures.
Choice 3: Rexing's S300 Dash Cam
Our take: Competitively priced car cam can be rotated to record forward view or backward.
What we like: 1080p wide-angle and WDR recording for good image clarity. Permanent mounting. Expandable up to 128GB MicroSD card. Auto-locking of video file in the event of a collision.
What we dislike: Some durability issues. Suggested mounting position doesn't suit everyone.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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