We wrote this article to educate those on wanting to learn about the basics of dash cameras. Please note: we aim to remain completely unbiased and do not make any specific recommendations or references to particular brands / products but rather provide an educational insight on all relevant information for readers pertaining to dashcams, along with aiming to enhance and develop a more thorough understanding for the broader community.
WHAT IS A DASH CAM?
A ‘Dashcam‘ is basically a portable and specialised camera that attaches to the vehicle’s interior windscreen by either via the supplied suction cup mount or tape mount. These dashcams basically continuously record whilst the vehicle is in motion or driven on the roadway. These devices are also known as a; car camera, dash camera, car dvr or car blackbox. The use of dash have been popularised in mainstream media based on countless video footages of events occurring almost daily within the russian roads. See also, Russians and DashCams.
TYPES OF DASHCAMS?
There are different types of dashcam models that vary in size and colour, overall their primary purpose is to record events that occur outside the vehicle. Generally there are two types of dash cameras which are broken up into the following categories: (1) Front facing dash camera or ‘one channel’ product. These dashcams typically mount on the front windscreen whilst facing forward and capturing events on the roadway. (2) Dual front and back dash camera or ‘two channel’ product. In addition to the front facing dashcam, there is also a secondary camera which mounts at the back of the vehicle to provide coverage of all events happening behind the vehicle. The dual cameras simultaneously record and store these videos onto one memory card for management. From experience, commercial vehicles such as truck companies tend to use 2 channel products.
HOW DO DASHCAMS WORK?
Believe it or not, using a dash camera does not require any technical expertise. In general there are four main components from ‘out of the box’ package that is needed. These include: (1) car dash camera (2) Memory card (3) car power cable and (4) suction cup or tape mount. Basically, insert the memory card into the camera, then ensure the supporting mount is attached to the camera. Following this attach this mount onto the windscreen and plug the connection cable from the dashcam into the cigarette lighter or 12v port for power. Thats it! simply sit back, relax and go on about driving everyday as you would knowing you are protected by your own personal eye-witness!
When the vehicle is active and in motion, the dashcam captures everything within sight onto the portable SD or microSD memory card. This recording process is usually automated and starts the second your engine is turned on (provided power is connected from the camera to the outlet). When the engine is turned off, or vehicle is no longer in motion then basically the dash camera stops operating or recording. For some older models they may use a lithium battery which may last for up to 2.5 hours without connection to any direct power outlet.
Almost all dashcam models generally records in incremental segments of either 1, 3, or 5 minute files. The reason for these specific file sizes is to allow for a quick and effective means of access when needing to play back the media files, oppose to referring to a specific file which may of been recording for 1 hour straight. This reduces computer memory usage and direct means of getting to the file without ease. Upon the memory card being consumed and used up, most dashcams have an internal loop-function mode during which the camera basically automatically rewrites the oldest file and continuously records.
At any stage you need to refer to the videos, basically take the memory card out and insert this into your computer to playback the media files. Alternatively if your dash camera has a screen then simply select and playback the files using the product toggle buttons. The smaller, newer and discreet models (with no LCD screen) have a WiFi (wireless) enabled option allowing you to to connect to your camera from your smartphone to stream back the video files.
WIRING and POWER?
Typically dashcams are powered by the vehicle’s cigarette port as mentioned. The inclusion of this cable is generally about 4 metres in length. The reason for this particular length is to allow for the cables (which run from the mounted windscreen) to be hidden or tucked under the interior pillar, and connected directly to the power outlet. By doing so, provides for more of a more tidy and discreet installation. Bear in mind, to ensure the least obstruction, the cables should run from the windscreen and along the front passenger side to the power outlet. The reason for doing so is in the event the cables become loose, there are less possibilities to cause visionary obstruction or distraction to the driver operating the motor vehicle.
The alternative installation method is through hard wiring the dashcam directly to the car or vehicle battery fuse box. The hard-wiring kit is generally sold separately as an accessory and requires a qualified auto-electrician to properly install this. The advantages of having a hard-wired installation is so this enables dashcams (which support ‘parking mode’ or ‘surveillance mode’) to provide continuous recordings even when the vehicle ignition is turned off. The power wiring kits vary for each respective model, and may also be known as; UPS (uninterrupted power supply) or power prevention discharge device. Do note, these devices are generally engineered to cut off upon reaching a certain voltage, that way the camera does not drain the car battery.
WHO USES DASHCAMS?
You may be surprised law enforcement agencies such as the police highway patrol for have years utilised in car video systems to capture, record and retain these videos for evidential purposes and presentations at court. Other organisations such as the fire brigade, ambulance and state transit buses have also been using these dash cameras for a variety of reasons. More recently as demands for dashcams are now prominent, everyone from everyday individuals, to families and various business organisations have started to adopt the usage of dashcams to protect their assets, manage their fleet vehicles and dispute any litigation, insurance or liability claims.
BENEFITS OF DASHCAMS?
Apart from what we’ve highlighted above, there are also other reasons which may be beneficial for having a dashcam. Whether it be to protect yourself, fellow drivers, or to capture bad drivers on the roadway, just don’t be surprised if you come across a plane crash, flying meteor, marriage proposal or fake insurance scam. All and all, there are a vast number of interesting and amazing events which occur almost daily on the roads (although not as much in Australia as you would expect in Russia).
In addition, you may surprised most high-end dashcams have an inbuilt or optional GPS module accessory that enables the dashcam to capture the speed, location and coordinates of the motor vehicle. The logging of such details can be played back showing the speed the vehicle was traveling a the time, along with real-time location movements of where the vehicle has been.
IS USING DASHCAMS LEGAL?
In Australia, there are no are specific legislation under the Road Transport Act 2013 or Australian Road Rules that stipulate or prohibit the use of in car cameras. Generally recording of the public roadway is allowed, and as long as the recording is not infringing upon ones personal privacy in which may be deemed inappropriate or incriminating within the court of law. Pertaining to the recording of audio, under the Commonwealth or Telecommunications legislation, it may be illegal to record any audio conversation of people without their knowledge or consent. Therefore, in any case it is recommended to disable the microphone, or formally advise upon interacting with any individuals that the recording of audio is taking place. ** Do note, if unsure please seek appropriate legal advice for clarification.. because we’re sure not lawyers! **
Upon reading this article, we hope we’ve been helpful and provided you (the reader) with all the basic, necessary and essential information to equip you with a better and much more thorough appreciation on using a dashcam.