Two questions came to my mind when I first entertained the idea of buying a dashboard camera (a.k.a. black box or dash cam) for my car:
- Are dashcams legal in Canada?
- Will dashcams perform properly in the Canadian winter?
Fortunately, anyone in Canada can take pictures or record videos in public places. There is no Canadian law preventing you from doing that. Moreover, dashcam footage has helped the police with ongoing investigations, including collisions and hit-and-runs. Also, voluntarily submitted dashcam footage is helping the police to crack down on bad drivers. So, no doubts here, dash cams are legal in Canada.
As for the Canadian winters, it seems the most vulnerable element of the dash cam is the battery. Batteries don’t get along with extreme temperatures, neither extremely low nor extremely high. A solution to this problem is to use a capacitor (instead of a battery), which is immune to the cold or heat.
Mind you: the battery (or capacitor) is mainly used to save the files (video or pictures in the event of an emergency). The dashcam is normally powered through the cigarette lighter socket of the car. In the event of a collision for instance, the main power coming from the car could get disrupted, and in this case the battery (capacitor) will kick in allowing for some time to save the data.
Capacitors don't decay after time in the same way batteries do. So, a capacitor dash cam will require less maintenance in the long run.
The cameras below come with a capacitor as opposed to a battery. For more dashcams with capacitors click here.
Now that the original questions about the legality and winter endurance are settled, let’s move to other technical must-haves of the dash cams.
Video Quality: 1080p Full HD is ideal. You can also consider 720p HD at the expense of a lower quality. I rather pay for a 1080p Full HD dash cam, as I want to capture as many details as possible with the best quality.
Lens angle: At the very least you want a dashcam with an angle of 120 degrees. It would be even better if the angle ranges from 125 to 150 degrees. As a rule of thumb, with a wider angle you can capture more of the landscape, but the acuteness of the recording decreases.
Storage capacity: Obviously we want to get the biggest storage capacity possible. You can choose from Micro SD cards of 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, or 128GB with a Class 10 rating. Be aware of the fact that some of these cards are not supported uniformly by all dashcams. So, check the specifications of the dash camera of your choice before buying the corresponding Micro SD card.
With the above features in mind I selected a few dashcams for your consideration. These are not fancy dash cams, but they do a decent job for a relatively low price.
There are other fancy features of dashcams that might interest you, but they will of course add to the price of the device. Examples are:
Parking mode: allows your dashcam to keep recording even when your car is parked. The beauty of the parking mode is that the dashcam is not recording needlessly. Instead, the dashcam has a motion detector and only starts to record when motion is sensed nearby. This saves precious storage capacity by not recording the same thing over and over again.
GPS: it can be external to the dashcam or built-in (internal). With this feature every frame (or scene) of your video will bet tagged with speed and location. This is a double edged sword in my opinion. It can help you in a dispute but it can also incriminate you.
WIFI: allows connecting the dashcam to a smartphone, tablet or laptop. This feature helps in downloading the footage recorded to your other devices and allows making adjustments to the recording on the go. Your dashcam will NOT be connected to the Internet. It will just be connected to you other mobile devices.
The dashcams I hand-picked below offer some of the fancy features previously mentioned:
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