Dash Cams vs Normal Cameras
Dash cams are small cameras that are attached to your rear view mirror, windshield, or dashboard. They are very small and run on 12V DC. They are permanently recording (at least while the vehicle is in motion), and will overwrite old data as new footage is recorded. The motorist can push a button to ‘save’ the most recent footage if they do not want it to be overwritten.
How Does a Dash Cam Work?
Some dash cams simply save the most recent X minutes of footage, on a constant loop, but some are more sophisticated and use lane departure detection, collision detection and velocity change detection to prioritise and automatically save dash cam footage.
Some cameras even upload footage that their algorithms think is worth saving to a remote server automatically, to ensure that the footage will be available to show insurance companies if necessary. These features are invaluable for people who want to make sure that, in the event of an accident, they will not be accused of having tampered with the footage.
Permanent Recording or Parking Mode
While most entry-level dashcams simply record while the car is moving, some will also record while the vehicle is not in use, making them a useful tool for deterring vandalism or theft. This is also known as parking mode. These cameras are wired up to a circuit that is always powered, or sometimes have a separate battery attached to them so they can be used long term without the driver having to worry about the drain on their main car battery.
Alternatives to Dash Cams
Purpose-built in car cameras are reliable and convenient, and higher end cameras have a lot of very useful extra features. However, for people who do not drive on a regular basis, justifying the expense of these cameras may be difficult. If you are not yet ready to make the leap to a purpose-built dashboard camera, then there are alternatives out there that may suit you better in the short term.
For example, if you own an iPhone or a higher end Android device, then there are apps that you can buy that will turn the camera into a ‘dash cam’. You will need to mount the phone safely on your dashboard, and remember to turn the recording feature on and off, which means that these apps are a poor substitute for the real thing. However they are a useful temporary measure until you decide whether you want to make the leap to using a dedicated dashboard mounted camera in your car.