Do you drive an expensive car? Do you have your own YouTube channel dedicated to ridiculous roadway incidents? Do you live in Russia? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you might want to consider buying a dashboard camera, if you haven’t already. Dash cams are excellent tools for a few specific situations — in particular, they’re great for settling disputes over car accidents, and for remembering that one time when a freakin’ meteor fell from the sky.
You might not be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Halley’s Comet, but once you outfit your vehicle with a camera, you’ll wonder why you ever drove without one. Finding the right dash cam might be a harder than you might expect, however. Many major camera manufacturers are reluctant to dive headfirst into the dashboard market, so we went out and compiled a list of the best dash cams available for all your recording needs.
Vantrue OnDash R2 ($150+)
The Vantrue OnDash R2 is everything you could ever ask for in a dashboard camera. Featuring a 170-degree field of view and an F2.0 Six Layer Optical Glass Lens that’s heat and dust-resistant, the R2 can capture quality footage just about anywhere. It can record 1080p video at 30 frames per second, and boasts excellent night vision and widescreen HDR. The simple press of a button switches the camera into Parking Mode, too, a mode in which the camera will begin recording as soon as an object comes within 10 meters of your vehicle. Unlike its successor, the R2 also comes equipped with 32GB SD card, which allows you to save a few hours’ worth of 2k footage. The R2 powers on and off alongside with the car — like most dash cams on our roundup — and features a G-sensor that automatically records and locks video, just in case you get in a fender bender.
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Mobius ActionCam ($75)
If you’re looking for a cost-effective, reliable, and inconspicuous way to record your travels, look no further than the Mobius Action Camera. The lightweight device weighs a mere 0.3 ounces and measures 4.8 x 3.3 x 0.9 inches, allowing the frame to fit directly in front of your rear-view mirror and thus eliminating the camera from view. It also features all the hallmarks of a quality dashboard camera, including the ability to capture 1080p video at 30fps, and is capable of recording over previous footage when its memory fills up. That said, small packages sometimes come with small drawbacks. The Mobius doesn’t have a built-in screen, so you’ll have to go back to your computer or TV to play back recordings. It also lacks an accelerometer or G-sensor, so footage from a legitimate crash or serious accident might not be very stable. For the price, though, the Mobius fills its niche admirably, especially if you prefer to keep your dash cam under wraps.
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GoPro Hero4 Black ($500)
Though GoPro doesn’t make a dedicated dashboard camera, any one of the popular action cams in its lineup are more than capable of providing superb video footage. Made to withstand the exploits of motocross riders, skydivers, and snowboarders, the GoPro handles like a dream when the terrain gets bumpy. The Hero4 Black model — the premiere camera of choice for capturing action footage and the most expensive option on our roundup — features GoPro’s new SuperView mode, allowing you to capture video from an impressive, wide-angle perspective. Its Auto Low Light mode also simplifies filming at night and automatically adjusts the frame rate in low-light scenarios, while the built-in Wi-Fi means you can quickly and conveniently share photos and video footage via the camera’s accompanying app.
Furthermore, the compact Hero4 Black films in high definition and maintains an excellent frame rate (4k at 30 fps, 2.7k at 60 fps, 1080p at 120 fps, and 720p at 240 fps). The camera even comes with a versatile mounting system, allowing you to place the camera almost anywhere in or on your vehicle. Battery life also pushes two hours when filming, and the device is capable of capturing time lapse shots at differing intervals and 12-megapixel stills at up to 30 fps. GoPro’s most robust offering isn’t a dedicated dash cam, but that makes it even more convenient when you want to take it off the road and on the trail. That said, we don’t necessarily recommend spending five Benjamins on this guy if you’re just going to use it as a dash cam. For $100 less, you can grab the Hero4 Silver, which does everything the Black does — minus capturing footage in 4k. Read our full review here.
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Garmin Dash Cam 10 ($125)
The Garmin Dash Cam 10 isn’t the most powerful dash cam on our list, nor is it the most feature-laden. However, there is something to be said for reliability and brand recognition, and Garmin’s dedicated dash cam certainly delivers on both fronts. Capable of capturing 4GB worth of footage in 1080p, 720p, or WVGA, the camera records both video and audio — something not all dash cams are able to do. An integrated microphone also allows you to record audio from inside the vehicle, while a host of free software adds your location, real-time G-force data, and other vital information to your videos. If you’re a Mac user, you’ll need VLC or another third-party video client in order to access and edit the footage, which is automatically saved as .AVI files. The G-force data is collected via an incident-detection sensor that automatically saves videos in the event of an accident. For an extra $70 or so, you can even upgrade to the Dash Cam 20, which adds integrated GPS tracking. Still, we think the basic model is a better value.
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Z-Edge Z3 ($106)
The Z-Edge Z3, from Zero Edge Technologies, packs quite a punch for a modest $106. The dash cam can capture 1080p footage at 30 fps, and relies on a combination of clarity and smoothness that no other dedicated dash cam can boat. The Z3 also comes equipped with a 32GB SD card, so you can capture about fours hours of footage at max resolution without having to spend another $15 on a memory card. Built on an Ambarella A7 processor, the Z3 captures video with a 145-degree field of view, and automatically adjusts to different levels of light. Z-Edge decided to forego surface-level features, such as built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, in favor of a more powerful camera. While there are certainly reasons why you might want those technologies in a dash cam, they’re extraneous features that are designed for basic fraud avoidance purposes.
The Z3 draws its power through the cigarette lighter and automatically turns on and off alongside your car, and its auto-loop recording saves the most recent footage over the oldest footage when you reach the storage threshold. An embedded G-sensor, like the one used in Garmin’s Dash Cam 10, will also automatically record and lock video footage in the event of an accident or crash.
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