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 all dash cams provide good clear video or are easy to use. We put them to the test to pick the best from the rest. Here's how we go about it.
Our expert testers
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, and 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.
How we choose what we review
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.
How we test
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:
- Angle of view – the camera is set up in our lab against a scale marked on a wall so we can measure its field of view horizontally, vertically and diagonally. The wider the angle of view, the better.
- 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 in daylight with lens flare – our tester installs the dash cam in a car and angles the car towards the morning sun to assess how well the camera deals with lens flare. As you might expect, dash cams don't perform well in this circumstance so we don't include this score in the overall score, but we do this test in case we find some that cope well with lens flare.
- Picture quality in artificial light – our tester installs the dash cam in a car and parks in a well-lit enclosed garage (simulating an underground carpark or road tunnel), then assesses the recorded video for clarity, fluidity of motion and colour accuracy.
- Picture quality in low light – in the same set-up as for artificial light, but with most lighting and the car's headlights turned off. If the dash cam has a 'night vision' function, this is turned on. He then assesses the recorded video for clarity, fluidity of motion and colour accuracy.
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.
Test criteria explained
The overall score is made up of:
- Performance (80%)
- Ease of use (20%).
Performance is made up of:
- Angle of view score (40%)
- Picture quality score in daylight (40%)
- Picture quality score in artificial light (10%)
- Picture quality score in low light (10%)
We heat test dash cams in an oven for three hours (from 2017, this has increased from 60°C to 80°C) to see how they'd survive being left in a car on a very hot day.
Our test lab
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.
Ready to buy?
Check out our latest test of dash cams, as well as our dash cams buying guide.