Which car camera is best?
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. Our favorite, the Rove R2-4K Dash Cam, uses Sony Starvis technology to deliver impressive image quality even at night and has a host of driver-focused features well worth a closer look.
What to know before you buy a car camera
There’s a lot of attention on image resolution — 720p, 1080p etc. — and bigger numbers are invariably better. However, other features have an impact, too.
Lens quality is important and it’s nice to see recognized manufacturers (Zeiss, Sony, Nikon), although often, that’s not the case. You definitely want glass lenses rather than plastic, which is prone to temperature distortion.
Aperture is 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.
Various features are available with Wi-Fi-enabled car cameras, from downloading video and sharing online to capturing GPS data from your trips. Non-Wi-Fi 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.
What to look for in a quality car camera
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.
If you live in an area that experiences temperature extremes, whether hot or cold, check the operating range of the camera.
Battery vs. power socket
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.
How much you can expect to spend on a car camera
You can buy an inexpensive car camera for around $20 but you’ll get low resolution and poor or nonexistent night vision. Good-quality dash cams start at around $40, and many drivers find what they need between that and $70. High-end models cost you $150-$200.
Car camera FAQ
Is there any way to check recording quality before you 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 a lot of things can impact on image quality, including how clean their windshield was.
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.
What’s the best car camera to buy?
Top car camera
What you need to know: This high-end car camera includes built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, so it basically does it all.
What you’ll love: It provides an extremely clear image, thanks to the Sony Starvis technology. The motion detection option will keep your car safe even when you’re not around. It supports up to 512gb SD cards.
What you should consider: Some blind spots were reported while recording at night.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top car camera for the money
What you need to know: This is a feature-packed camera for a great price.
What you’ll love: This camera uses a Sony IMX307 high sensitivity image sensor so the image is very clear and reliable. With the 70mai app, you can control everything from your phone.
What you should consider: It tells you (out loud) when it starts and stops recording, which some users find bothersome.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is an HD camera with a low-profile design that won’t alter the look of your car.
What you’ll love: It provides an excellent image during daytime and nighttime. The customer service is great. The lens angle is adjustable.
What you should consider: The adhesive to fix the camera on your dash will not survive high temperatures.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Bob Beacham writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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