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Dash cam Australia comparison review


One of my guilty pleasures is sitting down on a quiet evening mid-week and watching some of the dastardly driving deeds exposed on the Dash Cam Owners Australia channel on YouTube.

Beyond entertainment, however, the purpose of dash cams is to capture a moment in time as proof of evidence in the event of an accident. 

Most of the devices on the market today allow you to pinpoint the exact time, date and location of a collision or event, not to mention showcase what was happening in and around your own car when the accident occurred. For less than the cost of a GoPro, you can mount a dash cam to your windshield and use the technology to capture footage that could help you with an insurance claim if you’re involved in a crash. 

Most dash cam systems allow you to set the parameters for how long they will record for when an event is triggered, and the Micro SD card capacity will have a part to play in that, too - so be sure to check the instruction manual. 

The technology isn’t just for forward-facing views, either; many dash cam systems now come with a front and reverse camera - for those nasty nose-to-tail bingles that are oh so common on our roads. An estimated 30 per cent of sales in 2019/2020 are of these types of camera system.

Dash cams have become a huge part of the Australian driving environment - the 2018-2019 financial year in Australia saw the dash cam market in Australia valued at $24 million, with about 165,000 units sold. 

  • The Car Cam Corder. The Car Cam Corder.
  • The Navman MiVue760 Ultra. The Navman MiVue760 Ultra.
  • The Uniden iGO CAM 85R. The Uniden iGO CAM 85R.
  • The BlackVue DR900S-2CH. The BlackVue DR900S-2CH.
  • The BMW Drive Recorder. The BMW Drive Recorder.

Insurance companies are increasingly asking if owners have dashcam tech fitted to their car, and it could lead to lower premium costs or a reduced excess payment. Customers are also becoming more interested in hard-wiring their dash cam to their car, as many now offer sensors to detect if there is an impact when the car is parked. We all know how handy it would be to catch the cheeky so-and-so who hits your car in the parking lot and doesn’t leave a note!

These camera systems have become more and more mainstream - no doubt in line with the popularity of the Dash Cam Owners Australia channel - as people aim to protect themselves and prove their point if an accident occurs, or even just to share with their mates if they see something interesting happen on ‘cop cam’. 

The best dash cam for you might be dictated by your budget. We get that! The good news is that even the best dashcam systems can be readily had at bargain prices from places like Harvey Norman and JB HiFi - we’re talking regular discounts of hundreds of dollars on everything for budget-friendly Uniden systems through to top-spec Blackvue units.

Keeping budget parameters in mind, for this test we assembled four stick-on dashcam options to assess, from cheap to costly - and even one that is part of the car’s on-board camera system.

That’s right, car brands are moving towards offering pre-installed dash cam tech, and in this review we made use of a 2020 BMW X6 xDrive30d as our control vehicle, as it was fitted with the BMW 'Drive Recorder' system that uses the vehicle’s surround camera system to record events.

For this test we drove in daytime and nighttime situations, on busy streets and quiet backroads, with the aim of hitting record on the devices at the same time in the same situations to compare them back-to-back. Here is how each of these cameras performed.

Car Cam Corder - $13.20 plus postage

Our test kicks off with what could be one of the most affordable dash cam options you can imagine. 

This one was bought from Chinese shopping site Wish.com for just $13.30 for the device - plus $10 shipping to Australia. It arrived unbranded and ambiguous. We’re just going with Car Cam Corder as that’s what’s printed on the sticker. 

Its specs looked okay. The stated camera specifications include 1920x1080P recording, with a 3.1-inch screen and “6GA+Class high resolution ultra-wide angle multilayer lens”. 

But opening it, you could tell it was a cheap device; it was light - it felt more like a toy than an actual dash cam. But it did come with a suction cup, cables and English instructions… not that they helped much. This was the least intuitive to use of our camera systems. 

The Cam Corder image was pixelated and the recording jumped between scenes. The Cam Corder image was pixelated and the recording jumped between scenes.

As you can see from the recording performance of the cheap Car Cam Corder, the video quality was terrible. It was pixelated, and on playback the recording jumped between scenes - meaning you could miss the crucial moment of impact in the event of an accident. Above all that it was hard to figure out how to trigger an event to record when we were setting the camera up. It instead wanted to constantly record and overwrite the previous files.

The apparently “ultra wide” lens was entirely too close-up to capture an entire scenario. easily missing out on what was happening on the periphery. 

We also shot some footage at night to give you an idea of its performance in the dark, and again, it was disappointing. This screenshot should give you an indication of the quality, or lack thereof.

They say you get what you pay for. They say you get what you pay for.

They say you get what you pay for, and in this instance, you don’t get much of a dash cam. It doesn’t have GPS mapping to pinpoint an event, for instance. But would you want a $13 dash cam to know everywhere you’ve been? I wouldn’t.

Our advice? Spend more to get a dash cam worth your money. The resolution of the camera is poor, the lens is too narrow, and the controls are terrible.

Navman MiVue760 Ultra - $269.00 RRP

A bit of a jump up the pricing chart to a well-known and respected brand saw us fitting the Navman MiVue 760 Ultra, which retails at $269.

It has plenty of big dollar features for the money, including 4K high-resolution recording (3840x2160P), along with a 150-degree wide angle Sony lens, a 2.7-inch colour LCD screen, smartphone connectivity to share files over Wi-Fi, GPS location tagging, a realtime GPS speed readout, headlight reminder and driver fatigue alerts.

Plus with this system, if you hardwire it, it can even work when your car is parked, acting like a sentry. There’s a G-sensor and motion sensor to trigger an event in that instance.

The Navman hits above its price point in terms of performance. It recorded cleanly and offered crisp footage that will easily allow you to read number plates or spot traffic signs and signals if you need to. Plus this system includes a driver fatigue monitoring system, and the next model up can even chime in with a forward collision alert. 

The Navman hits above its price point in terms of performance. The Navman hits above its price point in terms of performance.

Its operation is simple, too. Just hit the blue button and it’ll do its thing. That simplicity was one of its most endearing features, because it was simple to learn and easy to operate, even for novices.

The Navman's performance in dark back streets was a little underwhelming. The Navman's performance in dark back streets was a little underwhelming.

It was also better than good at night, working a treat on a very dark road and also coping well with changing light conditions in tunnels and around town. But its performance in dark back streets was a little underwhelming.

Along with its budget-friendly price tag and high quality image capture, its operational ease was its biggest benefit. 

Uniden iGO CAM 85R - $349.95 RRP

Third on the list was the Uniden iGO CAM 85R, which is sold as a twin camera setup at $349.95 retail. 

To keep things simple, we focused just on the forward-view camera for this test, but this is an affordable dual camera system, especially considering its specs. 

It has forward-facing 4K recording (3840x2160P), a 2.4-inch screen, GPS tagging, a large speedo display and, like the cheaper Navman unit, it has parking mode when hard-wired. The forward-facing camera in this unit has a very broad 160-degree angle lens. 

It doesn’t have any of the driver warnings, though, and it is a sticker-mount system rather than a suction cup, which might be an issue if you change cars with any regularity.

The forward-facing camera in this unit has a very broad 160-degree angle lens.  The forward-facing camera in this unit has a very broad 160-degree angle lens. 

The Uniden system offered decent vision from its camera during daylight hours, but it wasn’t quite as good quality or clarity as the cheaper Navman.

It dealt well with light changes for the most part, though it was harder to pick up the finer details in the images from its wide angle lens. 

At night the Uniden performed better. At night the Uniden performed better.

At night was where the Uniden performed better, though still not quite as well as the Navman. The camera seemed to round off some of the sharper edges and missed a bit of the detail as a result. Its balance between light and dark was more subtle, though.

The usability of this cam wasn’t as good as the Navman - there’s no easily discernible trigger function, and it just felt like it took more time to learn the menus. 

Plus it was the only one of the satellite-capable models that glitched out while in the Sydney area, with it at times showing that I was driving 999km/h. I’m sure that would have been fun, but it wasn’t the truth.

BlackVue DR900S-2CH - $799 RRP

A significant jump up the price scale and we arrived at the BlackVue DR900S-2CH. 

The company claims it is the world’s leading dash cam manufacturer, and all that in spite of the fact that its flagship offering doesn’t even have a screen!

But it does have the widest lens of these dash cams at 162 degrees (capturing 4K - 3840x2160P), plus it has a rear-facing camera with a 139-degree lens.

It is a stick-on rather than suction-on setup as well, but it feels more like a permanent item to be fitted than the others here.

This system also has an over the cloud function that allows you to check on your car and its surroundings at any time using your smartphone, provided you’ve got the app. And you’ll also need to hard-wire the dash cam to the battery for this capability. 

The BlackVue was crisp and clear during daytime driving. The BlackVue was crisp and clear during daytime driving.

There is no denying the quality of the footage from the BlackVue was impressive: it was crisp and clear during daytime driving, though it did seem to struggle at times with shadows from buildings and contrast changes.

It has the widest angle lens of these cameras, and it certainly offered a great view of the car’s surroundings. 

At night there was still a bit of an issue with the contrast pickup of the lens. At night there was still a bit of an issue with the contrast pickup of the lens.

At night there was still a bit of an issue with the contrast pickup of the lens, and it was a bit harder to discern number plates using this cam compared to others, and part of that came down to how good the LED lights were on the BMW.

Without having a screen to look at - and it also doesn’t have a button to trigger an event, rather you just ‘swipe’ your finger over a sensor - it can be difficult to tell if the system is working properly at a glance.

Ultimately, if you’re not as interested in using the smartphone tech capabilities this system offers, I would suggest that some of the alternatives will give you 90 per cent of the dash cam for less than 50 per cent of the price. 

BMW Drive Recorder - pricing depends on subscription

Last but certainly not least was an entire car - the BMW X6.

That’s a little misleading, because you can get the BMW Drive Recorder in models running the BMW operating system 7.0 that have a surround-view camera system and Parking Assistant Plus fitted. That includes select examples of the 3 Series, 7 Series, 8 Series, X5, X6 and X7

You can choose to subscribe to the service on a monthly basis ($19 per month), or download it for a year ($79), three years ($189), or forever ($429 unlimited access).

It’s pretty affordable technology. But then again, you’ve gotta buy a new BMW in the first place… It’s pretty affordable technology. But then again, you’ve gotta buy a new BMW in the first place…

At that cost, it’s pretty affordable technology. But then again, you’ve gotta buy a new BMW in the first place…

And in terms of tech, it uses the car’s parking cameras which are designed for a specific purpose, and therefore don’t have the whole ‘dash-cam’ experience in mind.

So the lens quality is lower and the recording is done in HD 1280x960P. Most cameras that record in 1280 (width) will do so by 720 (height), but these cameras offer a slightly higher (and therefore squarer) viewing ratio. 

But on the plus side, you’re getting footage from the front, rear and both sides with this system, which is handy to capture evidence of bystanders or witnesses. 

You’re getting footage from the front, rear and both sides with this system. You’re getting footage from the front, rear and both sides with this system.

As you can see from the above screenshot of the footage, the system recording defaults to a quadrant layout, which means you get a great view of your surroundings. 

The lenses are somewhat fish-eyed, especially for the side-view, but the quality isn’t too bad. In daytime driving it maintains an even image quality, which, while not perfect, is definitely going to be usable in the event of a low speed incident.

At night the image quality was good in well lit urban environments. At night the image quality was good in well lit urban environments.

At night the image quality was good in well lit urban environments, offering a good glimpse at what was happening around the car. On darker roads it was fine, too, but relied heavily on the car’s headlights.

Personally, I found the Navman system to be the most intuitive, and I also appreciated having a screen to display the situation. It was my pick of this group.

But I love the idea of more and more car brands moving towards using in-built cameras to record and save their surroundings, so BMW deserves a hat-tip for that.

RankingsDash Cam
1Navman MiVue Ultra 760
2BMW Drive Recorder
3Uniden iGo CAM 85R
4BlackVue DR900S-2CH
5Car Cam Corder

We’d love to know which one of these five dash cam options you’d choose - they all offer something worth considering for their respective price points. Let us know in the comments below. 

Make sure you stay tuned to UrbanGuide for more dash cam stories.