Are you planning to join the growing number of people who install a dashboard camera in their car for that extra bit of evidence in case of an accident, road rage, or meteors falling from the sky? Then you may be wondering which one of the dozens of different models is the best choice for you!
It’s easy to be overwhelmed at first, therefore we have selected the five very best dashboard cameras that you can possibly get in early 2014. We will be looking at dash cams from every price range, starting as low as $50 for a simple-yet effective G1W and moving up the price scale to almost 10 times as much for a top-quality, feature-packed dual-channel camera, the BlackVue DR550GW.
Note that the cameras featured in this article are not necessarily the newest cameras around. We have evaluated technical specifications as well as customer satisfaction for each camera during the course of 2013. Rest assured that the five winners presented here have been field tested by thousands of customers and received excellent feedback all around.
So What Sets A Dash Cam Apart From Other Cameras?
In case you are wondering why you can’t just use a regular video camera, or even your phone’s cam, it’s because a dashboard camera should have all of the following features:
- Connect to your car’s cigarette lighter with a long power cable (at least 12ft) that you can run around the windshield, tucking it away neatly so it is hidden from sight.
- Auto on/off: Dashboard cameras start recording when you start the car’s engine, and stop when you park. That way, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to turn your camera on or off.
- Loop recording: Enables the camera to overwrite the oldest bit of footage when the memory card is full, so you never run out of disk space.
- Impact detection / G-sensor: A G-sensor makes sure that if an impact is detected, the video footage immediately preceding and following the impact won’t be overwritten by the loop recording feature, so you don’t accidentally lose critical evidence.
- Time and date stamp on video (and speed if we have GPS): useful should you ever need your video footage as evidence in court.
- Resolution: 1080p (1920×1080 pixels) is pretty much standard in 2014. While there are still a couple of 720p (1280×720 pixels) dash cams available, most new cameras support 1080p resolution.
- Interfaces: Dash cams generally come with HDMI, USB, and A/V interfaces.
Note that the cameras presented here come with all of the features listed above.
- Storage: Most dashboard cameras support SD cards up to 32GB in size, with the notable exception of the Lukas LK-7900, which supports 128GB of storage capacity.
Having had a look at the basic features a dash cam should have, let’s now check out our top camera choices for this year:
The Top 5 Dash Cams In 2014
G1W – Decent Video Footage For Tight Budgets
At around $50, this dash cam is an excellent choice if you can’t spend a lot of money and just need a security camera, without being too concerned about video quality. The G1W has decent video at day, but night video quality isn’t the best. Also, video footage from this camera can often be rather shaky.
Nevertheless, at this price the G1W makes for a decent security camera that will reliably capture what goes on in front of your car.
The G1W comes with an integrated 2.7″ screen, which is great for adjusting the field of view and playing back video on the spot. The viewing angle is 120 degrees.
Mini 0801 Ambarella – Top Value For Money
The Mini 0801 is a small and stylish dashboard camera released in early 2013 that quickly became a best seller. It is available for less than $100 if you go for the basic version without GPS and internal memory. Video quality is great during the daytime, and average at night.
The Mini 0801 has a nice inconspicuous design and features a 1.5″ screen for ease of operation. The angle of view is 135 degrees. A GPS logger and 8MB of internal memory are available optionally for around $10 extra each.
A nice feature of this camera is that the electrical contacts for the power supply are built directly into the camera mount, so if you want to remove the camera from your car you can do so without having to unplug the power cable.
DOD LS 300W – Excellent Video Quality
Another top seller, the DOD LS300W has excellent video quality day and night. Night vision is augmented by the WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) feature. This, combined with a large aperture of F/1.6 and a high bit rate of about 15 Mbps, makes for one of the highest quality dashboard cameras available to date.
The size of the camera is about the same as the G1W, but at 140 degrees the angle of view is larger. Boot up time is fast and a relatively large 2.7″ screen is included for easy video viewing right in your car. The LS300W doesn’t have GPS, but there is a newer version called LS330W which comes with an external GPS unit.
Lukas LK-7900 – Huge Recording Capacity And Great Heat Resistance
The Lukas LK-7900 is remarkable in two ways: One, it is the first camera to support 128GB SDXC memory cards, allowing for a whopping 28 hours of video footage. Two, this camera can withstand extremely high temperatures of up to 90 degrees Celsius (194 Fahrenheit), which is a great feature to have if you live in a hot climate, where lesser cameras might melt when leave your car parked in the sun for too long.
Due to the lower bit rate, the LK-7900′s video quality is not quite as good as the DOD LS300W’s, but still very good at day and above average at night. The LK-7900 is small and round, making it hardly visible when affixed behind your rear view mirror. A GPS logger is included.
Optionally, you can acquire a so-called circular polarizing lens (CPL) separately for this camera. A CPL filter reduces reflections on the windshield when driving around in sunny weather (this is a problem that all dash cams have). Remember to remove it at night though, otherwise your video will be too dark.
BlackVue DR550GW-2CH – Full Featured Dual Channel Dash Cam
The BlackVue DR550GW-2CH dual channel cam tops off our list of the best dashboard cameras for 2014. At $450, this is the costliest and also by far the most luxurious of the five cameras presented here.
First of all, dual channel means it records out your front and rear windows. While the main camera unit is mounted on your windshield as usual, a smaller camera looks out through your rear window and records whatever is going on behind you. The two are connected by a long coaxial cable.
While the front camera records great quality 1080p video, the rear camera records at reduced resolution of 720p, which is naturally not as detailed as 1080p but the rear footage is still quite alright.
This camera doesn’t have a screen, but it is one of very few dash cams that support Wi-Fi. This means you can connect it wirelessly to your smart phone or laptop. Moreover, this camera comes with an in-built GPS logger. It also has a voice menu feature, which allows you to easily operate it while driving.