Looking at technical specs for a dashboard camera can be confusing because of the wide and varied choices and add-ons. Here is a brief summary of the features you might want to consider when looking at dash cameras:
Auto Power On/Off – This is a standard feature found in top-of-the-line dash cam units, although you can manually disconnect/plug it in whenever you want using your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. Alternately, an adaptor may also power up the dash cam if your cigarette lighter
Parking Mode or Buffered Parking Mode – If your vehicle gets hit while parked, the dash cam will automatically turn on to record the event. However, in buffered parking mode, the dash cam does not power off when you are parked. This allows a greater chance of capturing an event as it happens.
Auto Record – This feature allows the dash cam to automatically start recording once the car starts moving.
LCD Screen and Image Correction – Most dash cams are equipped with high resolution (HD) LCD screens [1080p or 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is five times more detailed than standard definition (SD)]. An HD dash cam with a wide angle lens is able to capture a minimum of 30 frames/second (FPS) to a maximum of 60 FPS. The best dashboard camera is able to manipulate the lighting and correct the image while recording. Thus, you can have clear video files even under low light conditions.
Instant Playback – This feature allows quick access to recently-recorded footage.
G-Sensor – This sensor allows a dash cam to automatically save footages based on possible signs of collisions.
Motion Detection – Able to detect motion to warn and help drivers when parking rear end first or when switching lanes.
Single or Dual Channel – Single channel refers to one camera (front windshield only), while dual channel means there are two cameras (front windshield and rear interior or rear window).
Global Positioning System (GPS) – Not all dash cams come with GPS. Usually, the lower-priced and smaller units do not have this feature. That being said, there are dash cams without this feature but still allow you to connect to an external GPS device. While it is doable, having an extra device in addition to your dash cam might take up extra space that may clutter your dashboard.
Other Important Aspects About the Dash Cam
In the United States, the dash cam is a legitimate car accessory. However, there are legal aspects about installing a dash cam that car owners should be aware of:
First, it is illegal to record a conversation when passengers are not aware they are being recorded. This falls under the “surreptitious audio recording law,” also known as the Digital Media Law.
Second, the dash cam cannot and should not obscure the view of the driver or front passenger. In most states, the general rule is that the dash cam can only occupy five square inches from the driver’s side and seven square inches from the passenger’s side. To be on the safe side, do check with your local authorities.
Third, while loop recording automatically deletes footage by writing over it, it is still highly recommended to manually clean and format the memory card every two weeks using the car dash camera’s format menu option. Without doing so, dash cams may start displaying error messages, which is something that can happen whenever a memory card is close to being maxed out.
Fourth, most of the time a dash cam with a built-in screen cannot be turned on when you are driving as it can distract the driver. There are exceptions to this law, however, such as providing parking information and status of vehicle.