Dash Cam Buyer's Guide (2015-2016)

This guide has been updated for 2017. For a look at our latest recommendations, check out our latest version of the Dash Cam Buyer's Guide here!

There are many considerations to factor in when you're ready to make a purchase for a dash cam. For a less experienced customer, some of these might not be that obvious. If you're looking for specific features in a dash cam, we've put together a list of considerations and recommendations to help you with your purchasing decision!

Are you looking for dash cam recommendations specifically? Then check out our Recommended Dash Cams list page too!


Parking Mode

This is one of our favourite features and is almost exclusively found on Korean dash cams. It is optimized to protect your vehicle when you're parked in the event of a hit and run or vandalism and has saved many comprehensive insurance deductible including ourselves and our customers. To read more about how parking mode works and how to set up a parking mode dash cam, check out this blog post.

For the best Parking Mode enabled dash cams, look towards the BlackSysBlackVue or Thinkware products.

Pre-buffered parking mode recording is triggered by movement by cars, pedestrians, etc.
The camera's built-in G-Sensor will also trigger recording.


Form Factor

The design of a dash cam not only has an aesthetic function but a practical one as well. Dash Cams that are free of bright accents and are generally matte black will be the most discreet and offer the best protection from theft. We do not recommend getting a suction cup-equipped dash cam as they are almost always bulkier than adhesive mounted dash cams due to the extra height added by the mount. Not only that, suction cup mounts are much more susceptible to vibration than flat adhesive mounts which can cause blurriness in the video recording. Lastly, screen equipped dash cams will generally be bigger than non-screen equipped ones. With a screen, users can view footage and change settings easily at the cost of a more discreet design and potential reliability issues.

We generally recommend low profile adhesive mounted dash cams that are free of screens for the best "out of sight, out of mind" and "set it and forget it" use. They can be easily tucked behind a rearview mirror.

Some options that offer this sleek packaging are the VIOFO A119 and A119S, BlackSys CH-200Thinkware F50, and Thinkware F770

Suction cup mounts typically add about 2.5-3" of height to a typical dash cam and are more susceptible to vibration


GPS (Built-in or External)

GPS can be built-in or come in the form of an external optional module but the function of GPS is the same either way. It typically provides speed and coordinate data in the timestamp or a file you can access through a dedicated viewer. For most consumers GPS is not particularly useful as many customers would rather avoid any complications that could arise from being shown to go a few clicks above the speed limit. For fleet managers however GPS can be invaluable in monitoring employee driving habits. Note that GPS does not mean the dash cam can navigate to destinations or show real-time map data.

Certain higher end dash cams also offer advanced driver assistance systems when they have GPS. These include things like lane departure warning and forward collision warning. Dash Cams that come with built-in GPS and ADAS systems include: BlackSys CH-200, Thinkware F770, and Thinkware X550

GPS equipped BlackVue dash cams show a speed on the bottom bar, this feature can be disabled


Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi on dash cams allows users to utilize their smartphone or tablet as a screen to change settings and view/save footage. This can keep the camera small and improve discreetness whilst also making it easier to share footage. Wi-Fi enabled devices are intended to be used within close proximity and do not require an internet connection. 

Certain models even offer cloud connectivity which lets your camera connect to an internet hotspot. With this feature you can remotely backup files, livestream, and get push notifications if your car is hit and run. *Note that internet data charges may apply for cloud connectivity

Some WiFi equipped models include the Thinkware F770, BlackVue DR650S-2CH, and BlackSys CH-200

Our video guide on the various functions on the WiFi connected smartphone app


Storage Capacity

Storage capacity used to be an area where many customers overlooked as 16GB and 32GB cards were the norm, however nowadays with the increasing affordability of 64GB or even 128GB cards, more and more customers want to maximize the amount of footage they can store. This is particularly useful with parking mode equipped dash cams as they record even when the vehicle is off and overnight a 16GB card could fill up, especially with a 2 channel Full HD dash cam.

One important thing to note is that Mac OSX computers require special formatting instructions to work with 64GB and higher cards. Thinkware dash cams are the best choice for Mac users who want to use 64GB and up cards. Regular formatting of memory cards is also required to ensure optimal performance. Learn more about memory cards.

Some dash cams that can take 64GB or greater cards include BlackVue DR650S-2CH, BlackSys CH100B, Thinkware F770, and LG Innotek LGD521

BlackSys CH-200

The BlackSys CH-200 can take micro SD cards up to 256GB for a great parking mode solution


Lens Angles

Lens viewing angle is a bit of a personal preference and all dash cams will have a considerably wider lens angle than typical consumer cameras or smartphone cameras. The general rule of thumb is that wider lenses capture more in frame but compromise sharpness and introduce more distortion, while narrower lenses tend to be sharper and pick up license plates better. Because these dash cams are mainly used for evidence purposes, capturing more within frame is usually more important for proving fault than overall sharpness and video quality. That being said, our preferred lens angle is within the 125-150 degree range which usually offers a good combination of both.

Some dash cams that fall within this range and offer excellent video quality are the BlackVue DR650S-2CH, BlackSys CH100B 2CH, and the Thinkware F770.

Thinkware F770

The Thinkware F770 has a lens angle that's sufficiently wide and sharp.


Video Quality

Nowadays, great video quality can be had at a very affordable price point so it's not as big of a concern and the purely evidential function of the dash cam does not require them to have cinematic production value. A good dash cam will have a balance between video quality and file size as all dash cams are designed to loop video and large video file sizes put your footage at a greater risk of being overwritten than smaller videos. Most 1080P cameras with 30FPS frame rates will be ideal for dash cam use but there are differences in units that use premium sensors and allow for CPL filters.

High end sensors like the Sony EXMOR CMOS sensor found in many premium dash cams offers great dynamic range so that night time footage still looks bright and low light details are picked up. This is in contrast to some lower end cameras that only expose the areas under street lights or are illuminated by the vehicle's headlights well. Furthermore the performance drop-off at night time with a high end sensor is considerably less as the better noise control means you don't get that fuzzy look when it gets dark out.

Cameras that use Sony CMOS sensors include the DOD LS470W, Thinkware F770BlackSys CH-100B, and BlackVue DR650S-2CH.

The Sony sensor equipped BlackVue DR650S-2CH picks up a good amount of light even off to the sides of the frame on the perpendicular road. There is also minimal graininess despite the low light.

The Skyview G6 has more glare than the DR650S-2CH and night time video looks grainy/fuzzier. It's a solid dash cam for under $100 that still picks up license plates and street signs but with a noticeable drop-off in night performance.


Dash Cam 101