Consumer Council's guide to choosing the right dashcam in 2020

【車 cam 點揀好】消委會車 cam 評測報告 2020

Recently, a conversation between a taxi driver and his extremely difficult customer became a hot topic in Hong Kong when it was caught on camera. To drivers, besides car insurance, a dashboard camera (dashcam) for your vehicle is a must. Not only does it protect you, but it also protects your passengers. Case in point: a dashcam is able to provide key evidence against false accusations.

As car camcorders become increasingly common, the variety of dashcams also increases. For instance, we've previously talked about a multi-angle camera system mounted on your reverse mirror. This 360-degree camera system allows drivers to avoid blind spots and helps you park in reverse better. 

With so many choices available, how do you choose the right dashcam? Lucky for you, this month, the Consumer Council tested 12 types of dashcam sold in Hong Kong to help you compare the many different brands.

Test criterions

Coordinated by the British Consumer Organization, the dashcams in this test range from HKD $429 to HKD $2,280. All of them are capable of filming in high quality. Among these products, 8 are merely filming devices with no additional functions. You can only install them on the windshield in the front to record the traffic conditions. The other 4 cameras are capable of recording the road conditions in both the front and the back simultaneously.

Other testing categories include image quality, sound quality, recording range, screenshot quality, GPS positioning accuracy, and G-force file protection performance, etc. In terms of image quality, they analyzed the images captured by each dashcam. Then, the Council evaluated whether these images are clear, and if the dashcams are capable of auto-focusing on car license numbers or road signs, and more. 

Several dashcams have blurry footages

Among the 12 dashcams, 3 are easily affected by the street lights, as well as any strong lighting. The glare is very obvious. This is even apparent during daytime. Recorded footages tend to be blurry and blocky. Additionally, the screenshot quality isn't up to par either. In situations where there isn't sufficient lighting, 75% of dashcams are unable to capture the license numbers of the car in front of them.

Aside from hardware limitations, your dashboard camera's recording ability is also affected by the road condition. The weather would be one example, reminds the Consumer Council. That's why drivers should consider choosing good quality cameras. When accidents happen, you would want to avoid losing the ability to settle disputes just because your image quality is terrible. 

Are expensive dashcams necessarily better?

The 12 types of dashcams tested have prices ranging from HKD $429 to HKD $2,280. That is to say, there could be up to 4 times' difference in price. However, test results show that the pricest (HKD $2,280) and the cheapest (at HKD $429) dashcams both received a total of 3.5 points in the end. Simply put, there is no relationship between the price and the quality of those tested dashboard cameras.

Image details are not ideal

Additionally, 75% or 9 dashcam models only scored 2 or less points in dim or dark environments when it comes to the readability of the details in the captured images. Two dashcams scored a measly 1 point. It was difficult to see the license plate number of the car in front and road signs when you paused the video recording. However, you could read the license plate number of the car 5 meters ahead in better performing dashcams.

When driving on the highway, the images of fast-moving objects in 4 dashcams were hazy and shaky. If you got into an accident while driving, the video may not provide useful information. They only received 2 or 3 points for this item.

View coverage is also important

View coverage is another criterion for comparison. The longitudinal coverage of images among the 12 dashcams showed no big difference with a range between 50 to 60 degrees. Though the horizontal coverage has a greater difference, ranging from 70 to 130 degrees. Note that the lowest-scoring dashcam has the narrowest horizontal coverage of 70 degrees. Naturally, it only scored 2 points.

Parking mode monitors around the clock

Dashcam's parking mode will stop functioning once you turn off the engine. Instead, it'll automatically go into standby mode. If it senses that the car is about to get crashed into, it'll immediately activate the G-force recording. Besides the parking mode, 9 dashcams in the test are also equipped with motion detection functions. When it detects objects moving in front of the camera, it'll start recording instantly. Nonetheless, aside from one dashcam, the rest must be installed by a professional technician who would connect them to the vehicle battery for constant power supply in order to use the parking mode. After connecting to the battery, 3 dashcams will auto-start the parking mode. However, the remaining 9 cameras must be manually turned on to activate the parking mode.

How do you choose the right dashcam?

To sum up, the Consumer Council has the following recommendations for drivers when purchasing and using dashcams:

  • Choose a dashcam with at least 2 megapixels resolution and full HD video recording feature (1920x1080) to clearly record road conditions.
  • Pay attention to the frame rate. Use a dashcam that has the ability to record 30 frames per second (30fps) or more. This way, the recorded images would play smoothly and without stuttering. The images would look sharper even when you're driving at high speed.
  • The wider the recording coverage, the better. Ideally, the transverse recording coverage is up to 140 degrees.
  • Parking mode of the dashcam should monitor your car's surroundings 24 hours a day. What's more, its power generally would not exceed 10W. To clarify, this is equivalent to the power consumption of the reading light. In other words, there is no need to worry about your dashcam draining your vehicle battery.

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