Video from a dashboard camera – or dash cam – can be useful evidence if you're involved in an accident or other traffic incident. But not many dash cams provide good clear video or are easy to use. We put them to the test to pick the best from the rest.
CHOICE maintains a highly professional NATA-accredited laboratory and the vast majority of our product testing is done in-house.
- Our testers are qualified and well-experienced in testing a wide range of products.
- Many sit on Standards committees and belong to other professional and expert bodies.
- For some products there are Australian or international standards, which usually form the basis of our testing for those products.
- In other cases, such as with dash cams, our testers and content producers work together to devise our own test methods based on the key aspects that matter to consumers.
With so many to choose from, what makes us choose one dash cam to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the popular brands and models on the market and what you are most likely to see in the retailers.
- We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models
- We check market sales information and we also check for any member requests to test specific models.
- 'From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and purchase each product, just as a normal consumer would.
- We do this so we can be sure they're the same as any consumer would find them and not 'tweaked' in any way.
This is the most important aspect of our dash cam test – after all, if the recorded video isn't clear enough to see details such as number plates and other identifying features of cars, it's not much use to you. We look at:
- Picture quality in daylight Our tester installs the dash cam in a car and drives a set route in clear daylight, then assesses the recorded video for clarity, fluidity of motion and colour accuracy.
- Picture quality at night Our tester installs the dash cam in a car, drives a set route in different lighting conditions at night including well-lit main roads, tunnels and dark side-streets. They assess the recorded video for clarity, fluidity of motion, colour accuracy, light balance and environmental details.
- Heat test Our tester places each dash cam an in oven at 80 degrees for three hours which is consistent with the temperatures you can get in a car in summer, he then assesses the recorded video to see if it works. If the camera fails it earns a 0% score with a higher score if he was able to reformat the card and continue to use the dashboard camera.
Up until recently, we conducted separate tests in low and artificial light. However, we decided to combine these tests into a single night driving picture quality test, which better reflects real-world use. The route covers similar dark, very dark and artificially lit environments (such as tunnels).
Existing data from separate low and artificial light tests has been combined and averaged to create the new night driving score. This now makes up 20% of the performance score.
Ease of use
The lab tester assesses each model for:
- quality of the supplied instructions
- installing the camera in the car
- attaching and detaching the camera from the mount (or windscreen), including adjusting the camera angle to the correct field of view
- adjusting the settings on the camera
- viewing the recordings on the built-in display screen (if it has one)
- accessing and viewing the recordings on a computer.
The ease of use score is weighted mainly towards the ease of attaching and detaching the camera from the mount or windscreen and adjusting the angle of view, as this is something you're likely to do regularly and it's where we see a lot of difference between models. The other factors tend to vary less between models.
The overall score is made up of:
- Picture quality score in daylight (40%)
- Picture quality score at night (30%)
- Ease of use (15%).
- Heat test (15%)
We heat test dash cams in an oven for three hours at 80°C, to see how they'd survive being left in a car on a very hot day.
We maintain a climate-controlled lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.