WHETHER YOU WANT THEM FOR FRIVOLOUS OR FINANCIAL REASONS, DASHCAMS COULD BE YOUR CAR’S NEW BEST FRIEND.
DASHCAMS ARE PROVING to be more and more popular with the general public who seek peace of mind when driving. In a worst case scenario, they’re proof of who’s at fault in an accident, providing crucial evidence. While they won’t lower your premium, the footage you have can help bolster your claim, and they’re only growing in popularity — insurer AAMI has said that approximately 13% of Australian drivers were using dash cams in 2015.
Mounted to the top or bottom of your windscreen — anywhere that’s not going to obscure your view of the road ahead — these video cameras record footage of your surroundings while you’re driving. Some have GPS capabilities, noting your precise location, speed and direction of travel. The majority, though, are simple video cameras that share tech with action cameras, but are far more affordable as they’re not designed to be weatherproof.
They need constant power and use the 12V supply in your car. Out of the cameras we tested, the best automatically power up and shut down when you start or turn off your car, and also note when something unusual happens; namely, an impact with another object, or hard braking. It’s a sobering thought, but useful nonetheless.
Navman MiVue 630 EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR IN A DASH CAMERA.
IN THEIR MOST pragmatic form, dash cameras are simply tools to help you expedite the insurance claim process in the event of an accident and, if that’s the sum total of what you’re looking for, it’d be hard not to recommend the MiVue 630 from Navman. It has a smaller screen than some of the more pricy units, but considering dashcams need to sit in a position that will obscure some of your view out the front windscreen, we actually prefer that. The most important feature in a dash camera is a 3-axis gyroscope as it not only triggers an incident log if you happen to cross the acceleration threshold (as you would when you are rear ended) but it also notes the acceleration readings throughout the incident so you get directional information on where you have been hit even if it isn’t in the camera’s field of vision. Add GPS positioning, speed, timestamping and an illustrative 3D visualisation of acceleration to the camera’s full HD picture resolution and you have something that captures the clearest possible picture of any incident.
Uniden iGo Cam 755 WELL MADE AND INTELLIGENT.
UNIDEN HAS SET the bar with the iGo Cam 755. Its list of features embarrases other cameras in the category, and is also the one with the most interesting design and best suction cup mount. You will need a bit of space to mount it, as a square, dedicated GPS antenna pokes up out of the top of the screen, though getting it into place is easy.
Alongside standard impact detection, Uniden’s cam also senses when you’re departing your lane, will alert you to movement at traffic lights, and built-in speed camera warnings — you won’t find this package anywhere else. Only the Kaiser Baas units feature 2K recording as well, and the quality of the video is excellent — bright, clear and lots of contrast, able to pick up licence plates where others struggle. The wide angle lens captures more of the periphery of the road ahead, too, and the raw video files feature the speed of your car and time. You’ll have to install the software to view more in-depth metrics, however.
Swann 140DCM COMPACT AND CAPABLE.
TUCK THIS WELL-FEATURED camera behind your rear view mirror, and you’ll have good quality footage you can later rely on. Swann’s diminutive 140DCM cam was one of the easiest to use, with its large buttons and compact design that gave us everything we needed. Sudden acceleration or bumps are recorded and the footage locked, otherwise it can be on a five-minute loop until you manually hit a button to secure it.
GPS data is overlaid on the screen, showing off your coordinates and speed, along with the time. Although this doesn’t feed into Google maps, having the info there will help later on should you need it. It also has a small internal battery, which is enough to use the camera out of the car and shoot extra footage or photographs. Extremely sunny or overcast days can cause the image to wash out, so we’d suggest angling the camera downwards a touch. Plus, as a bonus, it comes with sticky clips for the charging cable.
Kaiser Baas R20 GOOD-LOOKING AND SOLID.
KAISER BAAS ALMOST shot itself in the foot. The R20 comes in $100 cheaper than the also very good R30, has the same key features — auto impact detect, 2K resolution, GPS and an audio guide — and produces identical footage. So why opt for the more expensive cam?
The R30 has a better, simpler layout, as the R20 is initially unintuitive for capturing photo and important moments, and Wi-Fi isn’t available here. That’s not a deal breaker by any means, though it is a compromise.
The R20’s large screen also doubles as a clock or compass when it ticks over to be a screensaver, and you can record up to 10 minutes of footage at a time. Unfortunately, the raw footage does not give your speed or direction — you’re relying on the software there. Like the R30, you also get cable clips included in the packaging, a double socket USB charger and a sticky mount. Great value, and another reliable unit.
Kaiser Baas R30 A PINT-SIZED PERFORMER.
ONE OF THE most thoughtful dashcams going, the Kaiser Baas R30 offers a good first impression. It’s one of the few units not to have a screen on the rear, instead shifting view-finding duties to your smartphone. Download the (utilitarian) app, and you can get a live view in order to get the camera positioned just so. It’s one of the few that comes with a sticky mount, and only moves on one angle (pitching up and down) so you’ll need to make sure you’re happy with it before locking it in place.
An audio cue also tells you when it’s started recording, and saving important footage, while the lights on the rear indicate power on and a good GPS signal. Inside the box, you get a generous cable, clips and a double USB socket so you still have a spare port to charge your phone.
While the 2K footage is slight overkill, the quality is among the best of this crop, and the optional PC/Mac software is also pretty powerful. You will need it to view your direction and speed.
Navman MiVue 698 DUAL CAM THIS ONE HAS YOUR BACK.
THIS DUAL-CAMERA SETUP really is the cremé-de-la-crem of insurance claim dashboard camera setups. Offering a 2.7-inch LCD display that can show you real-time 1296p and 1080p dual-camera picture-inpicture feeds, precision 8-satellite GPS that relays speed limits and speed/red-light camera warnings and a raft of advanced safety features like collision, lane departure and driver fatigue warnings, the MiVue 698 is the most advanced dash camera setup money can buy.
Anyone who has come off second best in a car insurance claim will see the investment value in a dash camera and could more easily justify the $429 price tag of the MiVue 698, but even then, it’s a stretch. When you compare it with the entry-level models like the MiVue 630 that manage to capture everything you could want in a dash camera for $270 dollars less, you’ve basically got to be prepared to fork out a lot of money for the rear camera and the speed and red-light camera warnings. If you’re contemplating buying an additional reverse camera anyway, then the cost of the MiVue 698 makes sense, otherwise you’ll probably wish you were a little more frugal.
Laser Car Crash Camera Full HD1080P CHEAP AND PRETTY CHEERFUL
LOOKING FOR THE absolute basics? You’ve found it, as the Laser is the cheapest, most affordable camera here. Apart from noting when a serious impact occurs, Laser’s HD camera will record footage in 1080p, and that’s it, as the functions you get on more expensive models are absent.
Despite noting important incidents, footage is automatically looped with the older stuff written over, and you’ll have to stop recording if you want to save that key footage. Video quality is acceptable but not great, looking a little washed out. Cars need to be immediately in front of the camera for it to make out their licence plate, and the relatively narrow field of view doesn’t help either.
Still, it’s a tempting prospect, and considering the next cheapest option — the Navman MiVue 630 — is twice the price, this could well end up in your car. We’d suggest stretching the budget, however.