/ Motoring, Technology

Life with a dashboard camera – my first impressions

Dashcam

We’ve heard that many of you would consider buying a dashboard camera to protect yourselves against scams on the road. So we bought our own to see what life with a ‘dashcam’ is like.

If you’ve ever spent any time on Youtube, chances are you’ve stumbled upon videos where unhinged drivers slew across the road causing chaos and destruction, felling lampposts and forcing pedestrians to dive out of the way. These are all filmed on dashboard cameras.

The reason so many people are resorting to dashcams is not to become Youtube tycoons, but to protect themselves from scams on the roads. In our poll, 59% of you said that you would consider buying a dashboard camera, so we thought we’d buy our own and see how we got on.

Easy to use, but prices are high

I went for a NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional as it offers full high definition recording, GPS logging, a wide angle lens plus motion detection and a G-force sensor.

And the price for all this? Just short of £150. That may sound expensive for a potential defence against scams, but a number of dashboard cameras cost over £300, so this NextBase represents a typical mid-range model. Add in the fact that several car insurers offer discounts of up to 15% if you own a dashcam and the price seems much more palatable.

Fitting the NextBase is simple with a satnav style suction cup that attaches to the windscreen and a long power cable that plugs into a cigarette lighter. Press the on button and the dashboard camera records until you switch it off.

However, even in the week I’ve had with it, sometimes it felt like an effort to fish out the camera, plug it in and arrange the long power cable so that it wasn’t dangling down in front of me. I ended up looping the power cord over the passenger sun visor. Although, if you plan to keep the mount in the car, you could feed the wire around the windscreen more discreetly.

Image quality could be better

NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional

NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional software (click to enlarge)

The main reason to buy a dashcam is so you can provide evidence that you’re not to blame for an insurance claim. So, image quality is paramount. If you can’t make out number plates in all conditions then your dashcam isn’t really fit for purpose.

Based on our first few outings the NextBase seems to provide reasonable footage, apart from in darker conditions where number plates were often illegible. However, this may be down to my car’s heated windscreen, which gives night images a speckled quality.

If you already own a dashcam, how are you finding it? And if you’re considering buying one, tell us why.

Comments

The “techmoan” site (See Odin’s Raven above – thank you Odin) is brilliant. Maybe Which could commission him for carrying out the review as although he does the reviews he doesn’t summarise prices or give easily understood ratings. Notably, his cheapest camera is also the one he says is the best though his full review does highlight drawbacks.

Note: KATY BEE above, he tells you about trying to film vandalism in his “beginners guide to car Dashcam DVR cameras” video at just past 9.40 mins into the video though it is well worth watching the whole video.

Terence Reed says:
21 February 2014

I’ve had one of these cameras for over a year now, fitted just below the rear view mirror. However, every time I have an MOT, I have to unplug and demount it, as the tester says it’s a visibility obstruction ! It actually takes up less space than the rear view mirror Naturally, it goes straight back as soon as the test is done.

The power lead is wired behind dash permanently, so camera comes on as soon as as car started. One thing to remember is that it records sound too, so watch the comments re morons !

Mr C says:
7 April 2014

I’ve recently bought the Smartwitness SVG100-GPS , cost = £214.00. Pile of crap, best avoided. Number plates are unreadable unless the vehicles mounted your bonnet. Road surface glare from ambient sunlight is ridiculous.
Go for the mini 0801, or top draw Blackvue DR500GW – HD the zoom feature for number plate reading is spot on.

I recently had an accident in a supermarket car park where I had a dashcam installed and operated. Whilst the film doesn’t show the other vehicle, it show’s I was stationary and you can also hear the other party admit liability! Not bad for a £15 webcam!

Hopefully the review will cover smartphone apps for i-Phone & Android as they have all the kit already built in?

Patrick says:
10 May 2014

I bought a cheap dash cam on eBay a couple of years ago. I set it to record continuously while the ignition is on. Like many others, I bought it to protect myself in case of an accident where I wasn’t at fault and also to help other motorists in similar circumstances if I happened upon an incident. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that my dash cam would record a robbery and murder where the gunman walked right in front of my car. I don’t want to get into details, but the police tell me that they recovered useful evidence from the recorded footage. They retained the camera for evidence purposes; needless to say, I replaced it with a better model !

Robert says:
4 June 2014

Price is not a problem if the product is meant to save you money and life. With my dash cam I have all the proofs I need in case of accident. To not have cables hanging around I have hardwired it, so it is connected straight into the electrical system of my car. I have this dual camera http://www.accidentcameras.co.uk/in-car-cameras/dual-cameras/ac-f90-dual-hd-dash-cam-with-rear-cam.aspx which it catches images from the front and rear of the car. I have also paid less for the insurance taxes as these guys have some affiliated programs with insurance companies.

Tina says:
24 June 2014

Hi I have just got a GoPro camera , the book that I have to help me how to work it is hard to understand, so if there is someone that can help on how to get the GoPro to work for me and show me how to, that would be great

Alane says:
1 July 2014

I bought my dash cam recently to capture my summer road trip, haven’t had any issue but I am looking forward to seeing what I catch on it.

tina says:
3 July 2014

Hi INow no how to work my gopro it has taken me some time to work it out now there no stopping me so now when I go in my car it come,s with me so now if some idiot hit,s my car you will be on candid camera hi hi

mac says:
17 July 2014

Have had a ‘car black box’ for some years. It’s ok but is a pain to set. When on it stops my TomTom from finding satellites – so its one or the other. Interference seems to be through the car wiring. You should check this out for all makes!

Try running the TomTom on battery power.

Hi all, I know a lot of you have been waiting for this – here are our dash-cam reviews: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/reviews/dash-cams-and-in-car-cameras/ You can also find a report in the August 2014 issue of Which? magazine

Have you seen the “user reviews” or rather criticisms of Which? disguised as user reviews on the Best Buy product?

The 402g professional CARCAM is in Amazon Black Friday deals for 99 pounds

KingJohn says:
18 January 2015

Something that is very much overlooked with these reports is the warrantee, have you noticed the big companies don’t often sell these makes?

Even Amazon says you should contact the manufacturer offer 90 days if it goes wrong.

Apparently people here dont mind spending £200 for a good dashcam, and I think they will be ready to throw it away after a month if it goes wrong?

Lots on ebay, Amazon and Hong Kong Fu, none of them will help when things go wrong. If you cant buy one from Asda, Tesco, Argos, John Lewis DONT BUY FROM ANYONE ELSE

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

In answer to KingJohn above – sure – there are lots of sellers out there on the likes of Amazon and Ebay who will cause problems, however I have to say “dont buy one from anyone else” other than those stores you list is damaging to small business and completely unfair. I operate carcamwarehouse.com – and my products are some of the worlds best known brands – I have been trading in car cameras for around 3 years now and know FAR MORE than most sellers out there.
Asda and Tesco staff will not be able to offer anywhere near the level of technical help I offer on a daily basis to my customers. I help them with EVERYTHING including PC help, installation, using software – all over the phone.
I have helped people get up and running who do not even know what a hard drive is – so to say dont buy anywhere else is just plain factually incorrect.

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who are competent with using computers, reading instructions and looking for help online if they run into problems. Different people have different requirements, and KingJohn is suggesting we use companies that he probably has no involvement with.

Mark, I agree. What we lose when the big stores push the smaller retailers out of business is the expertise they offer that the others simply do not have. Unfortunately price seems to govern the purchase for most people (including me).

I think I am reasonably competent at finding my way around instructions but many electronic devices seem to have stuff written by people who do not realise how non-technical people can be baffled by what should be simple procedures. I am technical by upbringing and I often find them confusing and time consuming to work out.They just don’t seem capable of writing down instructions in child-proof language. The instruction book for my DVD recorder is 150 pages long, packed with small text and diagrams. Having taken it off the TV during redecoration I then had to plough through the book to set up the correct wiring, and then again to set the epg. And when the epg later was blank – so I couldn’t record – by trial and error found I needed to reinstall all channels as they had been lost. If I was a little old lady I’d have been lost (no disrespect, but you know what I mean). Why cannot these instructions be written for a fool to follow and cover the basic operations simply?

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

You would be surprised at how much support is needed with these units. There are plenty of sellers (including me – yes) out there who offer support which can often take many calls and a lot of time. Sure there are plenty of customers who already know what to do.

Ok – those large stores listed may be able to even offer top technical help aswell – but to say “DONT BUY FROM ANYONE ELSE” – well – I just think thats wrong.

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

I am not kidding here – the help I have to give is right down at the most basic level in computing terms – such as what is a hard drive, and what is the difference between Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer – many customers don’t know this!!!

Regarding manuals, I am starting writing my own for products. Its the best way to help some people out. Not all – but some. I find a quick guide is more often useful than not – once the basics are understood – the rest tends to fall into place with use.

The reality of life is that in the real world – not every person is a computer user – many have little or no experience with computers at all – they do not even work with them beyond an email or an in-house business application (invoicing say or stock control systems).

I dont even think my wifes iphone came with a manual – that would be the other extreme!!

I agree, Malcolm. There is no excuse for complicated instructions. I bought a Panasonic DVD recorder as a gift, about five years ago and setting it up was a nightmare. I eventually abandoned the instructions and relied on trial and error. Another problem is that manufacturers often give no thought to the possibility that you might want to link their product to that made by another manufacturer.

A DVD recorder is usually used in conjunction with a TV, allowing plenty of opportunity to provide top quality on-screen help, yet I have not seen any commendable implementation of this approach.

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

I think a lot of the instructions are for features not many people would ever use!
My preference (for everything really – not just these) is a quick startup guide – followed by a horrid complicated manual which I can look at if I need to get niggly with something very specific in the future.

Yes – onscreen help – always right where you need it if its a tv or dvd!!!!

Mark – Back in the 80s and 90s, I used to write manuals for routine use of scientific laboratory equipment, especially where expensive damage could result from misuse. The first draft would be corrected following feedback from users. For those who can follow instructions, it is a great help to have clear information in writing.

My iPhone came with just a small card explaining how to switch the phone on and giving three website addresses, one a userguide. I don’t think I had to look at it. With all popular phones, there are countless people who will help sort out any problem.

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

Sorry WaveChange I posted two replies but not as “replies” – oh the Irony – I guess a need a which.co.uk website manual.

Mark – I share your preference for a quick start guide to set up new equipment. They are usually well written and not daunting.

I wonder how people without computers get on if the buy an iPhone. It’s a bit arrogant for Apple to assume everyone will cope. They don’t even provide a support phone number.

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

Its a problem for some and not others. For an experienced iPhone user – the manual would never be looked at, for a person just starting out with an iPhone, I honestly would say it could be tough and frustrating.

One area with phones, xboxs, cams and computers I frequently get asked about in business or otherwise has to be as follows :-

How do I set up wifi?

Some device manuals seem to assume that everyone is fully conversant with Automatic and Manual IP address allocation, WAP and WEP and this and that to mention just a couple of things. The mind boggles 🙂

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

Wave, I too have written the odd manual here and there in my time. My trade as it were was computer programmer for about 20 years.

Lolling here – I agree – my wifes iphone came with nothing as mentioned – I was there to help out!!

🙁

Mark Waddington says:
28 February 2015

P.S I prefer Android 🙂

There’s some sense in a couple having different phones because they are better at different things. If I was looking to buy a dashcam I would want to borrow a couple from friends, which is what I did when contemplating buying a satnav.

julie says:
1 March 2015

Help i can not get my car camera to work and i can not get a instruction manual can you help me

Good morning Julie, I’m sorry to hear that your dash cam isn’t working. Have you been in touch with the manufacturer at all? – I’m certain they’d have a technical support helpline. If you still experience problems, feel free to respond with make and model number and we’d be more than happy to help.

Olivia says:
1 March 2015

From recently being in a car crash, and witnessing one today, why aren’t in-car cameras/dash cameras a more rewarded thing? Only a few insurers offer discount for them. Perhaps it’s naive of me to ask, but I would have thought more people would go for it, at the end of the day it protects you!

From my crash I realised how hard it is to prove who’s at fault, even with witness statements. And I witnessed a horrific crash today, and it was the least I could to do offer evidence to help those involved.

I own a NextBase in car camera, my only criticisms would be that they’re not that robust, in my crash (which was only around 30mph) it flew off the mount, ripping the charging base off, so now I can no longer charge it.

and I guess because the novelty of the dash-cam is still so new, there’s no way I can get it repaired, I have to buy a new one. So I feel they should be built slightly sturdier.

And in low light it is not great with clarity on number plates, from the evidence I submitted for the crash I witnessed, although the car is close enough, you cannot read the number plate.

jim richards says:
5 March 2015

Hi Why are they called dashboard cameras when they all seem to be mounted on the windscreen which makes them more noticeable thus more ‘tempting’ to villians and a real pain trying to run the wiring around the furniture,Get a phone app mounted on the dash and pop the phone in your pocket when you leave the car.It’s not quite as as good as a the real thing but so what?
I’ve not seen an accident of note in 50 years and the ones I have seen have been out of range of a proper recording. I’ve seen more accidents in my bathroom.Anyone for a bathcam ?

. . . And why is the instrument panel or fascia of a motor car still called a dashboard? The dashboard was the wooden front panel of an open cart, wagon or carriage and its purpose was to protect the driver from splashing from the horses.

In the musical “Oklahoma!” there is the well-known song “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” [a surrey being a fast horse-drawn passenger carriage] in which the vehicle is described: “. . . The wheels are yeller, the upholstery’s brown, the dashboard’s genuine leather . . .”. Early motor cars were fashioned on horse-drawn vehicles so a lot of the original terminology [e.g. boot – a built-in storage box the coachman sat on] was drawn from those sources. Cameras came later.