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Updated: August 2018

Dash Cam/In-Car Digital Video Recorder/Car Cam Buying Guide

We have all seen those cool-sounding "dash cam" videos on YouTube TV etc. Previously dashcam device Is exclusive for use in some law enforcement unit or security escort vehicles. But as the price of dash cam have dropped, consumers like ordinary people have started installing them in their vehicles. In some countries, particularly Russia has the world's most widespread use of dashcam.

If you have ever wondered why you should spend your hard-earned money on dash cam, the spec you should look in a dash cam as well as location to purchase them, this guide will be your best partner to help you answer these questions. We sincerely hope this Buying Guide will help you when looking to purchase a dash cam.

What is a dash cam?
A dash cam is a video camera mounted in a vehicle. Most dash cams record both audio and video continuously. These cameras are more common to be known as Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) or In Car Cameras. Contrary to the term, the vast majority of dash cams are actually mounted on the windshield, not on the dash. Most of the cameras are forward facing up until 2016, but in 2017 dual lens cameras (front and back) or 2 channel dashcams are gaining popularity than before.

Why you need a dash cam?
Yeah we know, you probably already wondering "Why wouldn't he say you don't need a dashcam, he is here to sell them. Duh" 

However, there are a lot of VALID reasons why a dash cam is a good idea. Here are just a few:


1. Evidence in case of an accident

Often than not, when an accident happens, the two parties will try to claim it is his fault. This is where dash cam comes to use, it will provide real proof of what ACTUALLY happened (i.e. no pointing fingers at either side), saving the worry of the other party changing their story when the police arrived. 

Have a look at the video below.

It shows a very simple BUT frequent accident where the person who caused the accident tried to blame the victim. 

"Imagine without the dash cam,  the victim would have literally no way to defend himself from the incident. "

(Credits to youtube channel DashCamTalk)


2. Insurance Fraud

There are some miserable people who will purposely cause an accident then blame the other party for only reasons such as : 

a. TO SCAM YOUR INSURANCE 

b. EXTORT MONEY FROM YOU 

Have a look at the video below.

It shows someone backing into another vehicle FOR NO VALID REASON on a busy highway, then attempting to scam money from the victim. 

"Imagine If you were in this situation AND WITHOUT A DASH CAM, how would you even defend yourself from being scammed by these miserable persons."


(Credits to youtube channel DashCamTalk)

3. Parking Protection

There are some dash cams (such as Thinkware F770, F800 PRO) that offers a parking mode which records the surroundings when your car is parked. This is done so if someone smashes into your car and drives away, you will have the evidence of the hit and run. In order for this feature to work however, the dash cam must be hardwired into your vehicle.

Have a look at the video below.

It shows a normal hit and run incident BUT this time, it is captured by a dash cam’s parking mode

"So say buh-byes to pay for something that is NOT EVEN your fault."


(Credits to Daniel Teng via youtube channel DSXUITE Xavier)


4. Vehicle Abuse and Misuse

Often than not, there are people who would let us borrow our cars to them and for some reasons, they tend to cause accidents to your vehicles and act like nothing happen. Worry not ! With the dashcams, you will know EXACTLY how a valet, mechanic at service centre or even your kids drive your car. Some dash cams with GPS will even provide the route and speed for your convenience. 

Have a look at the video below and LISTEN carefully to the conversations. 

It is a story of a Camaro owner who used dash cam to catch mechanics mistreating his car.

"So who is laughing now huh ?"

(Credits to youtube channel Juan Montoya)


5. Report Bad Drivers

It seems that the number of bad drivers kept increasing (probably due to 
' lesen kopi o ' ) recently. Anything from someone who speed for absolutely no reason but just to show off and disrupt other road users to not using signal when changing lanes then when something happened, claims it is your fault for not letting them into your lane. Whatever it is, a dash cam is your bestfriend when incident like these happened. 

You can use dashcam to report speeding vehicles, dangerous drivers (such as driving on the wrong side in countries such as Malaysia) road rage incidents etc. to your local police deparment. Just remember to provide the dashcam videos along with your accident report to the police department and you will likely get a more satisfied result. The dash cam video provides real proof of what happened, so the police won't have to spend time looking for the witnesses or CCTV footages when an accident happened. 

Have a look at the video below.

It shows an extreme road rage incident where some crazy man decided to abuse someone else's car for no valid reason.

"Too bad for you, my car has dash cam, so whatever you did is RECORDED." 

(Credits to youtube channel Platform7)


What Should I Look For in a Dash Cam?

With so many dash cams on the market; choosing the best camera is probably one of the harder task. We hate to say this but there is currently no best camera available on the market, it is all up to what is your needs. 

Here is some simple guide on what you should look for why buying a dash cam. 

1. Video Quality

This typically is the number 1 criteria for selecting a dash cam. When purchasing a dash cam, it is important to get one that shoots in high definition (720p or 1080p). You can get a decent HD camera for RM150 and FULL HD for RM250 above. GENERAL ADVICE: DO NOT spend less than RM150 and get a non-HD camera, you will likely be disappointed with the quality. 

One Tips to Remember. After reading this Buying Guide, ask sellers questions regarding video quality better yet choose those sellers that actually know their product.

Keep THESE in mind when reviewing the video quality of a dash cam. 

1. Watch videos (on YouTube or Facebook likewise) in FULL screen at the HIGHEST resolution available for that particular video. 

2. If possible, try to look for night videos rather than day videos. Most HD cameras, even the cheaper ones, perform well in the day (but not at night). In order to judge a dash cam performance, you MUST see how it performs in poor lighting conditions.

3. Watch videos from real END users, not from the manufacturer (or anyone that is somehow related to the manufacturer) because the videos produced by the manufacturer usually appear better than real user videos. Reasons:

a.They may be using a better lens on the camera. 

b.They may mount the camera on the outside of the windshield to minimize glare. 

c.They may be recording at a higher bit rate. 

d.They may record in perfect lighting conditions (night videos in well lit streets). 

Another Tips to Note. Try looking for videos from Russian camera owners rather than videos shot elsewhere as they are more representative of the video quality

4. Beware of videos from websites that do reviews, whatnot if they are selling the camera. Some of them get their cameras DIRECTLY from the manufacturer. These review websites may have been provided a “ringer”, a better camera than what is available to purchase by the general consumers.

5. Look at the wideness of the recording angle in the video. NOTE: most manufacturers greatly exaggerate the viewing angle.

2. Discreetness

Unlike other cameras, when buying a dash cam, it is ideal to have a discreet camera. This basically means the built of the camera should be very small or tiny AND can be mounted behind the rear view mirror, with a reasonable sized and clear displaying TFT/LTPS LCD screen. 

Colour is another point to note. Since majority of the rear view mirror exteriors are in black colour, black colour being the least noticeable color is ideal for a dash cam as it would blend in with the rear view mirror almost perfectly.

The smallest dash cams usually don’t have screens ("Think of this like a CCTV, where you need an external monitor to view the recordings"). It will however be a major issue for instant playback as not everyone will bring along their laptop or video connection kit along every day.
We are starting to see rear view mirror dash cams. This idea is great and discreet; unfortunately video quality and reliability have not been best. As technology improves, this might be the ideal dash cam design.

3. Reliability


Another important factor to consider is reliability. In Malaysia’s scorching hot weather, look for cameras that can withstand high temperatures, especially if you will be hard wiring the dash cam to your car battery.

Processor
 Many dash cams advertise what processor the camera is based on. The processor is the CPU of the camera.
 The 5 most popular processor manufacturers for dash cams are Novatek, CSR-Zoran, Ambarella, Texas Instruments, and Allwinner Technology. If you own a dash cam, it is very likely that it has a processor from one of these 5 companies. While the processor is important, the quality of the CMOS sensor and lens are key as well. This is why different dash cams with the same processor can have dramatically different video quality.

Other Things to Look For
 There are a few other things to look for when purchasing a dash cam.
 Power adapter length of 3.5M / 11FT or greater. This will allow you to install the wire around the windshield rather than hanging straight down. 


Auto start and auto stop. Make sure the camera you are purchasing has auto start and auto stop capabilities. Manually turning the camera on and off is not convenient.
 

Continuous looping / cycle function. When the memory card fills up, the camera will delete the oldest file and continue recording.
 

No gaps (lost of seconds of video being recorded) between video files. Because accident happen in a flick of an eye, gaps by 1 or 2 seconds makes huge difference. Buying a Dash Cam with a 256MB build in Internal Memory will 100% eliminate gaps problem, as video files go through internal memory before saving into Micro SD storage.
 

Many dash cams come with LED lights. Vendors claim the LED lights improve night recording performance. Unfortunately, these LED lights do not improve night recording because they are not powerful enough. They may even cause additional glare from the windshield. If you have LED lights on your dash cam, you are better off keeping the lights off. After all, car‘s headlamp is much more brighter than 6 White LEDs put together.
 

G-sensor is a sensor which locks a video file when sensor detects gravity force exceeds or performed a sudden spike reading, such as in the event of an accident. Video recorded before and after an impact will automatically saved and locked. Loop/cycle recording will not delete the file unless performed manually.

 

Dash Cam Software
Most dash cams will save the videos in either .AVI or .MOV format. Most video players such as Windows Media Player or VLC Media Player can play these files. For dash cams with GPS and G-sensor capabilities, mapping software usually comes with the dash cam.

 

A great freeware program called Registrator Viewer is designed for dash cams. This software automatically groups the clips and you can save a grouped clip easily. It also has GPS mapping and G-sensor support included. If you are not happy with the viewer that came with your dash cam, you might want to try Registrator Viewer out.
 To edit your video files, Windows Movie Maker is a decent solution. If you are having trouble with .MOV files consider the following freeware software solutions:

 

AviDemux – can import and edit the .MOV files
 

Free Video Converter – can convert a .MOV file to another format such as AVI but also allows you to do simple editing such as cutting and joining
 mp4cam2avi – can convert .MOV files to AVI. You can then use any free AVI editor such asVirtual Dub to edit.

This is basically what you need to know when buying a Dash Cam. Worry not, we will update our Buying Guide as new products are released. 

:) Thank you for reading !