I was shopping around looking for an addition to my spy camera equipment when I noticed a lot of dash cams for sale. Not wanting to spend a huge amount of money on my first dash cam I asked myself
What is the best budget dash cam?
Although there are a lot of dash cams on the market, I found the best one was the Accfly Dual Lens Dash Cam which retails at around £40. This article will explain why this is the best one and how to install it.
Why this dash Cam?
When looking for a dash cam my focus was on the functionality and quality.
I decided that to qualify as a budget dash cam it must be less than £60.
What initially attracted me to this model was the fact that is was attached to the the rear mirror so it was hidden.
Dash Cam attached to the rear mirror
This model has both front and rear HD cameras. It also records both at the same time.
It is also able to use night vision to record at night which is very useful if vandalism is your main concern.
What is powering the Dash Cam at night when the car is turned off?
This dash cam has a built-in battery. However, the manufacturers state this is only for emergencies and for normal use it should be connected to the built-in car charger.
Another concern was
Is it using a large amount of electricity?
Anything that consumes a lot of electricity will over time drain the battery so if the car is not used for several weeks, it won’t start.
Luckily, this device does not consume too much power, the charging input power is 12-24V, the input voltage of the machine is 5V 1A.
I was very impressed by the recording mechanism. The camera records footage to an SD card in 3-minute segments.
Dash Cam recording footage
I immediately thought
What happens when the SD card is full?
The recording will overwrite the first part of the SD card so in actuality the SD card never really becomes full.
My main concern was
Wouldn’t I lose the key footage if it overwrites?
This Dash Cam has the built-in ‘G-Sensor’ . This functions allows the camera to ‘Emergency lock’ footage which means it will not overwrite any recording which contains a significant ‘event’.
When I first installed the Dash Cam I had this configured to high sensitivity as I didn’t want to lose any footage. However, I quickly found our that on this setting it was recording and locking all bumps in the road, including pot holes.
Within several days the SD Card became full with ‘locked’ footage of these “significant events”
Luckily the sensitivity can be altered and since lowering this setting, the issue has not re-occurred.
What type of SD Card does it require?
As explained in this article Using a Spy Camera without a Memory Card
There are lots of different SD cards available. This device uses a micro SD Card.
After I had installed this, I was keen to find out when the red video light is activated as I was concerned that it would do this all the time which could become irritating in the rear mirror.
Luckily the red video light only flashes when the device is recording.
Why not other Dash Cams?
I was very surprised by the number of dash cams on the market. They come in many shapes and sizes. I personally was very interested in purchasing one that was disguised as a mirror so vandals or other motoristsdo not know they are being recorded.
However, one advantage of a traditional windscreen mounted dash cam is that is can be easily removed and swapped between cars.
Also, some come with an HDMI output so it can be plugged directly into a laptop or TV. If portability is key for you then I would recommend one of these.
Although other mirror cams exist, they were more expensive without giving any extra functionality.
When I got the Dash Cam, some of my friends asked me:
Do you get a discount from your car insurance?
I was amazed to find the answer was YES !!!!
In fact, some of the insurance companies now offer up to 30% off for Dash Cam users.
AXA which is one of the UK’s largest insurance companies at the time of writing offers 10% off for Dash Cam users.
With the average annual motor insurance premium currently at £475, this is a substantial saving.
In fact, the saving paid for my Dash Cam!
My car insurance was £415 per year and I have now saved 10% which equates to £41.50.
The Dash Cam only cost £40 so I am in profit.
One caveat is that if you are involved in a crash and cannot provide the footage for whatever reason (fault with the camera or SD Card etc) the insurance company can demand the 10% saving back.
Reading up on this dash cam and others, the main concern for a lot of people is:
How easy is it to configure?
The mirror camera needs to be connected to the car charger. This is done via the cigarette lighter. It is very easy and just plugs in like any other device.
The rear camera is then connected using a 5-metre cable.
How you route this cabling to back of the car is down to personal preference.
I chose to route it through the roof and then into the sealant on the hatchback.
The rear camera and the cable routed through the sealant
This was quite easy to do on my car but this will vary from model to model. Another option would be through the floor and back seats.
This dash cam comes with some interesting features that I wasn’t expecting, such as showing parking guidelines.
However, this was hard to configure. This needed to be wired through to the brake lights.
This did take some time and if you are not confident with motor mechanics I would recommend getting assistance with this.
Red Wire needs to be fitted in the brake light
Dash Cams come in all shapes and sizes and they are becoming increasingly popular
Previously a good dash cam would have cost around £150. It is now possible to get a very good dash cam for under £60.
I choose this dash cam because it had lots of functionality and was hidden from view in the rear mirror.
It was important to me that I didn’t have a separate camera on the windscreen as a lot of dash cams are positioned.
Currently, I already have my Sat Nav on the windscreen and I felt it would start to become cluttered and obscure my view.
It is important to point out that this Dash Cam does not come with the SD Card. This must be bought separately.
However, the saving on the car insurance could well pay for the SD Card.In my case the actual Dash Cam.
Unlike WIFI Spy Cameras discussed here How do WIFI Spy Cameras Work? The Dash Cam does require the SD card to work.
The configuration was reasonably easy. However it is worth noting for anyone with mobility issues this would have to be installed by a mechanic. This could quickly exceed the price of the unit.
The front camera can be installed by anyone, its really easy, the tricky bit is the rear camera.
Personally, if it was going to require a professional to configure the rear camera I wouldn’t.
The price will exceed the added functionality.
All in all, this is a very good addition to the Spy Camera collection. It will help me and my family stay safe on the roads.
Further Information About Dash Cams
When looking to buy a new dash cam I found quite a lot of confusing and sometimes contradictory information on when dash cams record. Therefore, I decided to find out:
Do Dash Cameras Always record?
The answer is the ‘out of the box’ solution will not always record.
You can, however, set up your dash cam so that it does but it will require an extra item of equipment.
Constant recording is often referred to as ‘Parking Mode’.
Why doesn’t it record all the time?
The reason is that the although the camera is low voltage, it runs from the car battery.
When the car is idle that energy will not be replaced.
Therefore eventually the battery will drain completely…….not good.
If it doesn’t record all the time, won’t I miss the ‘key’ footage?
Not necessarily, the dash cams come equipped with a technology called ‘G-Sensor’.
This technology will ‘Emergency lock’ any footage.
This means it will not overwrite any recording which contains a significant ‘Event’.
A word of warning, as discussed in this post Best Budget Dash Cam what constitutes a ‘significant event’ is controlled by the sensitivity setting of the camera.
Getting this right is a balancing act. Too sensitive and every single pothole will be deemed an ‘event’ and before you know it the whole SD Card is full.
However, not sensitive enough could mean that you do lose a genuine event.
A significant event which you want your Dash Cam to capture
What about if it is really dark, will it still capture the footage?
As with all things spy camera, the quality can vary massively from one camera to the next, dash cams are no different.
The ability to capture good footage at night is one of the differing factors.
The best dash cameras will come equipped with technologies such as WDR and EXMOR which make a massive difference to the clarity when filming at night.
WDR stands for Wide Dynamic Range.
It is essentially another form of High Dynamic Range Imaging.
This means that it provides a greater dynamic range of luminosity.
It does this by merging multiple low-dynamic-range or standard-dynamic-range images to provide the HDR, all in real time.
Sony also produce something called EXMOR sensors.
These broadly use the same technology but in a specific way particular to Sony.
They are considered to be some of the best examples of HDR, and are used widely in photographic camera and video cameras.
So, I don’t need to record all the time?
This is very much down to what you hope to capture using the dash cam.
If vandalism such as spray painting or graffiti is your main concern you might want to.
Somebody painting the car will not trigger the event lock.
Maybe you’re suspicious that somebody (with a key) is using your car without permission.
Again this would not be recorded without parking mode.
Also, some people would like to know who is getting in and out of their car (or their partner’s car).
Lastly, the G-sensor will not record the footage before the event.
Consider this scenario: someone runs up to your car and then smashes the window.
The G-sensor will only record the footage after the smashed window.
The footage of interest might have been before the smash when the offender’s face was visible.
So, if I want continuous recording, how do I do this?
In order to get around the issue of the battery draining, we need to fit an additional battery.
This will power the dash cam when the main battery is not being charged.
Luckily as the dash cam is low voltage, this battery is nowhere near the same size as the main car battery.
The market leader is the BlackVue’s Power Magic PRO Battery Discharge Prevention Module.
This is often referred to as the Power Magic PRO.
Is the Power Magic PRO easy to fit?
The quick answer to this is for most people, NO.
This fitting requires the battery to be hard wired to the fuse panel in the car.
For most people, this might be outside of their comfort zone.
How do I set up the Power Magic PRO?
There are three wires that need to be connected
Wire 1 – Red Wire
This is the accessory fuse wire. It is the wire that connects to the ignition switch fuse slot.
The accessory fuse is activated when the key is removed and the engine is turned off.
This lets the Power Magic PRO know that the car is now parked.
Wire 2 – Yellow Wire
This is known as the constant battery fuse.
This is connected to a fuse that is powered even when the vehicle is parked.
Wire 3 – Black Wire
Last and most important is the black wire which of course is ground.
This should be connected to a metal bolt or nut in the vehicle.
This will have a c-shaped end so it will require a wrench or socket to completely secure it
Wiring required for Power Magic PRO
Is there an easier alternative to the Power Magic PRO?
The BlackVue B112 Battery Pack does not require hard wiring and will still provide the parking mode function.
The downside is that the battery pack is charged up when the car is operational and then drained overnight (it holds enough charge for 12 hours).
The battery requires an hour to charge. Therefore if you drive on average less than 1 hour a day, this will not work.
Also, it utilises the 12v ‘cigarette lighter power source which might already be in use.
12v ‘cigarette lighter power source already in use
When considering dash cam recording we first need to ascertain what we really need.
If we feel the event lock G-sensor is sufficient then we can fit the recommended dash camera I’ve recommended in this article.
However, if we feel that parking mode is essential then can we cope with the limitations of the battery pack?
If the answer to no to both then it must be a hardwired battery pack such as the Power Magic PRO.
However, you might need a professional to fit this for you.