GoPro cameras are a revolution in consumer technology, and for good reason. They’re a reliable, durable, and high-quality camera for half the price of prosumer digital cameras. Everyone and their nephew has a GoPro these days, which means innovative users have cooked up a variety of creative uses for them. From sinking them into 120 feet deep wells to launching them into orbit at 3,800 mph, GoPros are about as versatile a camera as money can buy.
That’s led others to use them in less extreme ways, such as a car dash cam. But how do GoPros stack up to actual dashboard cameras? At BlackboxMyCar, we researched the key benefits and downsides of using an action sports camera as a dash cam.
Aside from GoPro’s high-quality video capture and the option on newer models for looped recording, the camera turns out to be a little too much of a generalist to stack up to products from dash cam manufacturers like Thinkware and BlackVue.
Pros and Cons of Using a GoPro as a Dash Cam
Starting off with the pros of the GoPro as a dash cam, we have camera quality and lens view angle. The GoPro not only excels in these departments, it’s one of the better cameras you can buy for high-quality, ultra-wide angles. Additionally, looped recording is included as a base feature of the device, which allows the memory card to continue overwriting itself when full, in order to keep saving new footage until something worth saving happens.
The list of cons we discovered for the GoPro as a dash cam device is more extensive. First of all, the GoPro is expensive compared to many dash cams, and it’s also very recognizable. Having a GoPro mounted on your dash at all times is showing everyone that passes by your vehicle what you have inside. People know how much GoPro’s cost, and it could be an invitation for theft. A traditional dash cam is designed to be sleek on a dashboard and inconspicuous to passersby. It’s also designed to withstand extreme temperatures on a car dashboard, something that the GoPro just can’t handle.
Next, the GoPro lacks features inherent to almost every price level of dash cam, such as long battery life and the ability to auto-launch when you turn on the vehicle. For the average GoPro user, those features just aren’t necessary. However, when you start using one as a dash cam, you’ll quickly realize how frustrating it is to deal with on a constant basis. Actual dash cams are made to work with little input from you, until you need the footage following an accident or some other event.
The final thing that sets the GoPro down a few pegs from even mid-tier dash cams is the number of useful software features, which we’ll break down below.
What Useful Dash Cam Features is the GoPro Missing?
To put it bluntly, GoPros are missing almost every feature that makes dash cams so perfect for recording video in a vehicle. The simple ability for a dash cam to instantly turn on and start capturing video means you don’t have to fiddle with it at all, and things get better from there.
Many dash cams offer 2-channel functionality. You can capture video from two different cameras in the same clip automatically, which covers more footage of your vehicle with very little hassle. Imagine setting and configuring two GoPros to get the same effect. Your car would become a mess of extension cords and wiring just to keep them powered for a long drive.
Many middle and higher-tier dash cams are able to use motion detection as well as G-force sensors to automatically save important moments. They lock the files away so you can be confident that they’re safely stored away for you after an accident or break-in.
Parking mode is another smart feature in high-end dash cams. When you shut off and exit your vehicle, the dash cam acts as an extra set of eyes. It will keep an eye on your vehicle while you’re gone and automatically capture anything suspicious.
Certain dash cams, such as the Thinkware F800 PRO also offer lane departure warnings, GPS tracking, and geofencing to track and alert you of the vehicle’s location. The F800 PRO is a perfect example of how dash cams go above and beyond a GoPro’s capabilities.
These features and even more are proof of why it’s always better to buy a dedicated dash cam instead of trying to adapt a GoPro into a functional product for your needs.
Want to find the right dash cam for your specific needs and budget? Check out our Dash Cam Buyer’s Guide and we’ll point you in the right direction.