Why Look For the Best Value Dash Camera?
If you are in the market for a dash camera you might get a little overwhelmed at the choices and features available.
Dash cameras are everywhere, there are hundreds of different options at all different price ranges. The reason I wanted the best value dash camera was because at the high end you pay a lot for features that aren’t really needed (at least for me).
These “high end” dash cameras are a poor value proposition for me, often plagued by poor reviews anyway with features that are sometimes faulty and others that are just gimmicks. I just wanted something that worked.
That isn’t to say that the expensive dash cameras are bad, with issues constantly being fixed by firmware and features that are often new to the market and push the development further and further, they’re just not for me.
In this post I will go over what I think is the best value dash camera available at the time of writing and why it ticks all the boxes for me.
I will cover some basic details and things to consider when choosing dash cameras, things that are important and things that to me are overrated.
Best value dash camera video
For those who want to see sample footage, this video covers the install of the dash camera, why I chose it and also has some sample footage.
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Why I wanted a dash camera
I had no plans to ever get a dash camera, but as my 4WD build went on and I added a reverse camera as a rear view mirror replacement, I was already half way to having full incident recording capabilities.
I decided that the front dash camera would be handy for me as it could not only provide evidence in the case of an incident but also if the footage was good enough to be pulled from the camera to add to travel videos as I drove the car around.
What I needed from a dash camera
Given all of the above, I wanted to find the best value dash camera, something that met the following criteria:
- Simple to operate – With a screen to check everything and no crappy phone apps.
- Reliable – Not to overheat in the Australian conditions.
- SD cards – Not requiring manufactuer SD cards and not requiring USB to pull footage.
- Light and small – I didn’t want to be able to see it from the driver’s seat.
- Good camera – More on this in a second, but something with a decent image.
- 1 channel – Only wanted a forward facing camera, no package deals with extra crap.
- Hard wiring – Easily hard wirable with minimal fuss.
- Flexibility – In chnaging record times, frame rates and resolutions as needed.
All of the above things would lead me to purchase this camera here:
Viofo A119 V3 – The best value dash camera
This to me was the best value dash camera on the market, click the link to see the reviews on Amazon and you will see that it carries 4.5 stars from 4,200+ reviews, with 72% of people giving it the full 5 stars!
This post won’t go into the nitty gritty details, but the camera is not 4k, although it does offer some interpolated 4k resolutions (these are not true 4k as the sensor isn’t big enough).
This camera is lightweight, it has a screen in which everything can be set up, takes any microSD card and it offers different frame rates, resolutions and record limits, all of which I will touch on a bit more down below.
For those looking for a camera that just works and isn’t unnecessarily bogged down with useless features, this is the one to get.
Now that we know what the best value dash camera is, I’ll just dive a touch deeper into why it’s the best value dash camera and what makes it better for the Australian conditions and my needs of reliability and flexibility.
What About 4K Dash Cameras?
In this section I just want to clarify a few things that people might not understand about dash cameras (or cameras in general) that could help you save money by not purchasing a camera based on marketing hype and flashy website design.
These are all relevant as well to why I think the Viofo A119 V3 is the best value dash camera, as it avoids a lot of these pitfalls but includes all the features that matter.
Some of these features matter for its operation as a dash camera, but they also matter for those who are hoping to use their dash camera footage in travel videos, to show people some of the places they have been.
Isn’t 4k better?
Yes and no.
There are limitations with dash cameras, they need to be designed to be small and hidden away, otherwise they lose their appeal to owners who don’t want big cumbersome things hanging in their view.
This usually means that they have small sensors and struggle to dissipate heat.
Processing of a 4K image generates more heat which can be an issue in these small camera bodies that don’t receive much air flow to cool down. This wouldn’t be as big an issue in Europe for example, in Australia car windscreens get very warm.
Obviously as technology improves the CPUs used become cheaper and 4K can be processed for the same power usage as an older CPU might have used for a 1080p image, therefore generating less heat, but this is still ongoing and far from perfected at the time of writing.
In regards to the smaller sensors, packing 4K pixels onto a smaller sensor can lead to poor quality vision in low light, this is speaking in generic terms though and manufacturer’s have all sorts of ways to combat this but in general more pixels does not mean more performance in low light.
Does 4K give a sharper image?
Yes, kind of.
It gives more detail, but it is only sharper if the scene is stagnant. When there is movement involved the shutter speed (or stabilisation) is what will determine how sharp it all is (no blur).
But I have not seen a single camera on the market where you can control the shutter speed yourself.
The only control you will get is frame rates, which is not the same thing. All of the exposure is automated which is necessary to keep the camera simple and exposed correctly.
4K images can be cropped in to get more detail than smaller resolutions when things are still, this is definitely true, but dash cameras of any resolution fall apart when reading licence plates with a speed differential of anywhere from 50-75km/h.
So if you’re going 30km/h in one direction and a car is doing the same in the other direction, chances are you won’t get a licence plate clearly regardless of resolution.
Why I didn’t buy a 4K dash camera
The main reason that I didn’t buy a 4K dash camera is because they’re overpriced, often coming with a bunch of features that I find useless such as voice commands, phone apps, extra cameras, emergency services tie ins and other pointless stuff.
The second reason I wasn’t interested was due to the fact that in the north of Australia, or anywhere in Australia in the summer time, they will be more likely to overheat and fail.
Thirdly, these cameras are quite poor in the grand scheme of things. You will not get the equivalent of GoPro footage, the quality is not good enough to make a big difference going from a 2.7K camera to 4K.
If I were to buy a 4K dash camera
My initial dash camera of choice was the Nextbase 622 GW (Amazon).
The main reason for this was the fact that it had image stabilisation, one of the only cameras I saw (possibly the only one) that offered this.
They also claim to have increased the sensor size to allow a cleaner image and better performance at low light.
I was steered away from this due to some claims of overheating as well as its larger physical size, but will probably try this or its predecessor if and when the Viofo A119 V3 dies.
Viofo A119 V3 – Why it’s the best value dash camera
Let’s go over what makes the A119 V3 the best value dash camera and why it is good for those wanting to pull the files for travel videos.
The Viofo A119 V3 is the best value dash camera as it can be had for about $150-170 depending on what you purchase it with and if they are on sale.
It is reliable and simple, hides easily behind the rear view mirror and can be hard wired with a simple 12 volt step down transformer (Amazon).
The following features are what made the camera stand out to me as a great dash camera for also using for things other than replaying accidents.
None of these features are ground breaking, but some more expensive cameras don’t even provide as much flexibility as is on offer from Viofo here which is crazy given their prices.
Bitrates and format
Bitrates are the amount of data that will be captured by the camera, it will mean less storage space on the memory card but higher quality footage.
This appealed to me because I can set the bitrate to high and get better footage that will more easily edit with other camera footage.
Don’t expect miracles though as these cameras are definitely not amazing by any stretch of the imagination.
By including MP4 as a format option, these microSD cards will go straight into a computer or laptop for editing without any need to try and transcode the footage, or issues with playback on different devices.
These two things make it a reasonable choice for using the footage in videos outside of when there is an incident.
Importantly, Viofo works with most microSD cards of a certain speed, unlike some other brands that don’t play well with cards that aren’t their own which is stupid.
Resolutions and aspect ratios
The Viofo native resolution is a 2560x1600P in a 16:10 aspect ratio but it allows you to choose from a number of different resolutions.
The native aspect ratio is a 16:10 but most will use the 16:9 2560x1440P like the one shown below.
There is also options for an interpolated 4K version that changes the aspect ratio to a 21:9, which is considered more “cinematic” and cuts out the sky and bonnet from the footage as seen below.
Viofo claim that this mode (although not true 4K) will expose better as it does not need to expose for the sky or the bonnet and will concentrate on the centre of the frame.
It should also require less data to record in this aspect ratio as there are pixels not being recorded at the top and bottom of the frame, meaning less processing power needed and therefore cooler temperatures.
Loop record times and audio
With the Viofo you have the choice to record in looped videos of either 1, 2, 3, 5 or 10 minutes each. This could be helpful for those who want to look through less files when scanning for footage they wanted to find and view.
Obviously audio is helpful for people who wish to read out licence plates in case of incident (as cameras aren’t great at picking these up), or to leave notes for themselves about where they are when using the footage for a travel video by speaking to the dash camera.
Both handy things to have.
The Viofo A119 V3 offers a number of different resolutions with the option to capture at 30fps or 60fps.
By capturing at 60fps you can slow the footage down in editing to get smoother footage, possibly catching more detail but at the expense of memory card storage and heat.
The Viofo A119 V3 (Amazon) does everything you need it to do, without hassle and without bloated features that offer little but cost a lot. It would be my recommendation for those seeking the best value dash camera.
The version I purchased also came with a GPS module to record vehicle speeds and locations which is super helpful for later looking back and remembering where I was, all for $160.
There are plenty of good choices out there, but none offer the same features for the same price tag and carry such good reviews.
The flexibility through the menu system is incredible, you can take a 21:9 image in MP4 format, make the camera record a higher bitrate for a longer loop length whilst recording audio and not at risk of overheating.
So give it a shot if you want simplicity and value, or check out what else Viofo have on offer at their website.