Dash Cams are quickly becoming a must-have product for vehicles to document what happens on the road in the event of an incident or accident – but not all dash cams are the same.
Tech Guide has spoken to Navman Australia’s product manager Elvis Tran about what customers should look for in a dash cam and how the technology has evolved.
Navman sold more than 3 million sat nav products across Australia and New Zealand but has decide to focus solely on dash cams and develop new models of the MiVue dash cam range and develop connected dash cams for enterprise and business customers.
TECH GUIDE: More and more Australians are driving with dash cams these days, but aren’t they all the same? What makes a good quality dash cam?
ELVIS TRAN: While dash cams basically all do the same job, they’re really not all the same and you can see this in any of those dash cam compilation videos on social media. You’ll see headlights causing light to flare, or sunlight flaring after exiting a tunnel or an overpass, impossible to read number plates and street signs particularly in dark situations, which is when many accidents happen.
Navman dash cams are specifically designed for our region, they aren’t sourced as an international model and renamed. We ensure they go through the strict and vigorous testing and quality control processes of heat tolerance, excessive vibration and thermal shock testing as we know how hot it can get in-vehicle during the Australian summer.
TECH GUIDE: You’ve been a product manager for Navman for a number of years, how have you seen dash cam technology evolve and change in that time?
ELVIS TRAN: As you would know well Stephen, there are always early adopters in technology who want to get the latest gadget and that is certainly true in the early days of dash cams. I can still look back with pride to the first dash cams we developed, knowing that many of the features – HD video, GPS tagging for precise location and speed, 3-Axis G-Sensor to show direction of impact– all are still there.
What has changed is the breadth of features packed into each device and the variety of designs. We’ve incorporated the safety features from our PND (portable navigation device) into our dash cams including Premium Safety Alerts which include school zones, accident blackspots, railway crossing and speed zone changes on motorways to ensure the drivers are warned and can proceed with caution in these specific areas.
With the addition of voice activated commands, you can now control specific commands of the MiVue PRO 4K with the power of your voice for a hands-free experience, allowing you to focus on the road.
TECH GUIDE: What do you think are the most important features that every driver needs to have in their dash cam?
ELVIS TRAN: You have to have Full HD 1080P recording as a minimum and you must have footage that is stamped with GPS location and speed and information gained from the 3-Axis G-Sensor that shows the direction of impact of the vehicle. This is absolutely critical in providing evidence of fault in any accident.
I also think school zones and speed camera alerts are a must. No one wants to get a speeding ticket if they can help it, but even more so, no one wants to speed through a school zone and hit a child. If you have a dash cam that reminds you to slow down, then it is worth its weight in gold.
TECH GUIDE: The claim that the Pro 4K is the best dash cam Navman has ever produced is a big one, what have you got to back this up?
ELVIS TRAN: I know it’s a big call! We’ve designed, manufactured and sold a lot of dash cams over the years but honestly, I’m incredibly proud of this one. It really is the best combination of good design, latest technology and the most useful features for Australian drivers who want the best quality footage. We’ve learnt a lot and improved from the successful predecessor – the MiVue SENSOR XL to develop the PRO 4K range.
In developing the PRO 4K and PRO 4K DC, we really focused on the image sensor – a large 1/1.8” format 8-megapixel CMOS sensor that helps capture the 4K Ultra HD quality and detail needed. We’ve incorporated this sensor into a small footprint dash cam while still retaining a large 2.7” IPS LCD screen. Sensors of this size are normally found in premium compact digital cameras or high-end smartphones. The device is designed to fit unobtrusively onto the window, flat mounted with a 3M detachable mount.
It also has voice activation for emergency recording, and the rear camera is a useful 2.5K Quad HD all thanks to the 5-megapixel Premium STARVIS sensor. We’re proud to be one of the leading brands in the market with a true 4K front and 2.5K rear dual channel dash cam.
With 4K being the benchmark in TVs, you can even playback the footage on your 4K TV without any compromise on quality or upscaled footage.
Like all our top of the range dash cams, it comes with Smart and Low power parking modes. But what’s new in the PRO 4K DC is front and rear motion detection zones, giving you nose to tail protection to detect any movement when your car is parked, with the detection zones, it minimises the chance of false recordings that can be caused by clouds moving or birds flying past.
Combined with the new addition of H.265 (HEVC or High efficiency Video Codec) compression, each recording file only uses half the storage space needed compared to the conventional H.264 so it can capture and store twice as much footage than ever before without any compromise to the video quality.
Super MP4 recording is another new technology in our dash cams that ensures footage is reliably saved and minimising chance of file corruption by writing the files to the microSD card every 2 seconds. In conventional dash cams, the files are written and saved at the end of each recording duration so if the card was ejected, you’d lose the entire recording whereas with Super MP4, you would only lose the last couple of seconds.
One of the top faults our service department hears is file/data loss due to corruption or microSD card being ejected. You don’t want to be caught out at time when saving the footage is crucial and with Super MP4 recording, this new feature reduces the likelihood of this occurring.
TECH GUIDE: Is 4K really necessary in a dash cam? Many of your models are Full HD 1080P, isn’t that sufficient?
ELVIS TRAN: Full HD 1080P is the resolution standard in dash cams and really pretty good, 4K Ultra HD is four times that resolution and produces higher quality and clarity footage that’ll allow you to zoom in and see any necessary details to provide clear evidence if you’re involved in an accident.
Our lens is designed with multi-layer glass to ensure high picture quality and reliability in all conditions, without the risk of distortion, hazing or cracking that commonly occur in low quality and plastic lenses.
TECH GUIDE: Why do sensors make a difference?
ELVIS TRAN: Dash cams work in many ways like regular cameras where the quality of the image depends on the size of the sensor, and how much light is pulled into the lens. Put simply, the larger the sensor the brighter and clearer vision and images are at night or in low light or car parks, and this can make the difference in your evidence of who was at fault.
TECH GUIDE: What feature of today’s dash cams do you think people need to know more about?
ELVIS TRAN: For me, parking mode is top of the list. Virtually all models in our range come with the ability to record when the vehicle is parked, and the engine is switched off.
So many accidents occur in car parks or on the street. This could be someone knocking your vehicle and driving off without leaving a note, or someone trying to break into your car or doing some sort of malicious damage, leaving you to fork out your excess on your insurance premium.
If your MiVue dash cam does have parking mode, it is absolutely worth buying the accessory you need to enable this to work – our SmartBox (which retails for $79) and have an auto-electrician professionally install it for you. This allows the device to sense motion, wake up and start recording with smart voltage and timer monitoring ensuring the dash cam shuts down safely when it reaches a selected threshold without draining your vehicle’s battery.
I think people also need to know that whatever their budget or the style of car – whether it is a high-end luxury vehicle that demands a discreet design, or an older car that is missing technology that can be found on newer cars like lane departure warnings, there is a style of MiVue dash cam to suit.