Best Low-Light Dash Cams: Record and Capture Your Surroundings while Driving at Night
High-quality dash cams that can see in the dark
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Dash cams are an excellent safety accessory to include in your vehicle when you want some assistance with driver awareness or a simple record of events when the unforeseen occurs. Unfortunately, many dash cams struggle when the sun goes down. In low light conditions, video quality decreases unless you have the right model with night vision. Since accidents are just as likely (if not more so) to happen at night, a low-light dash cam is a smart investment for safety, security, and convenience. If you feel like you're in the dark on what kind of low-light camera to buy, read on for our helpful guide on everything you need to know on the best dash cams with night vision.
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Why Buy a Low-Light Dash Cam
- See in the dark. Just like the name suggests, dash cams equipped with night vision capabilities allow you to see in low-light conditions. For the most part, this type of dash cam is good at bringing out the details that are often lost when the sun goes down. This means you can expect better image quality with the right setup.
- Record unexpected events. Just like any other dash cam, models with night vision can capture and record things that are going on in front or behind of the vehicle. Depending on the design and number of lenses on the camera, you can get great coverage around the vehicle so you have a record of events if an accident occurs. You can also see what happens to your vehicle while you leave it parked.
- Increase your driving awareness. Some dash cams do a good job of enhancing the safety as you drive instead of just recording when things go wrong. Helpful safety features, like blind spot monitoring, increase your awareness by watching areas of the vehicle you may not be able to see as clearly. If your car lacks modern safety features, this kind of dash cam can be the perfect way to upgrade the security of the vehicle without spending too much.
Types of Low-Light Dash Cams
This is the most common type of dash camera available on the market. As a single-unit dash cam, this is the device that does nothing but records the view around the vehicle. These tend to be rather budget-friendly, depending on the construction and design of the camera.
For some dash cams, recording the view just isn't enough. Multifunctional dash cams may be dashboard cameras first with a few extra features built in, but most cams are added to other devices like GPS navigators or aftermarket backup camera kits. In either case, the extra features give you more to work or play with without having to install several different devices in your vehicle.
For more coverage around a vehicle, you'll need more lenses, preferably wide angle, to capture different angles. The most common multi-camera kit comes in the form of a front/rear camera. Sometimes, the lenses are built into the same body you mount onto the windshield. Others, however, come with a separate camera you can place on the rear windshield or bumper. Some low-light kits come with multiple low-light cameras, while others may only have night vision in the front where it matters the most.
Top Brands of Low-Light Dash Cams
As a small electronics developer, VAVA has made its mark on the industry with unique designs that have won awards like the Red Dot Design Award. Starting with audio devices in 2015, the company quickly branched out into automotive electronics with notable products like its VAVA 1920x1080P Car Dash Camera.
Apeman is an electronics company that focuses on giving customers the means to share their adventures with the world. While the company's lineup has a healthy line of action cameras that can survive harsh conditions, it has also developed a few high-quality dash cams like the Apeman Ful HD Mini Car Recorder.
Low-Light Dash Cam Pricing
- $100 and below: Below the $100 mark, there are a few dash cams with low-light capabilities built right into the design. Unfortunately, the quality of the low-light recording can vary greatly between different models. Some only do a barely-noticeable job of improving the details in the image.
- $100-$200: In the midrange of low-light dash cameras, many options come with better, more powerful infrared lights. Therefore, this range is the better choice to check out if you want a dash cam with a really good low-light performance that doesn't cost as much as camera options with all of the bells and whistles.
- $200 and above: If the bells and whistles are really important to you, this range is where you'll want to keep your search focused on. In addition to advanced feature safety features, larger memory capacity, and more lenses, the low-light results of the camera's recording capabilities are also better.
In order to see in the dark, you need some way to illuminate the objects in front. Low-light dash cams do this using infrared light: light you can't see with the naked eye but can be picked up by the camera's sensor. Just like a flashlight, results vary depending on the power and surface coverage of the infrared LED bulbs.
The amount of useful footage a dash cam can capture depends on how much memory it has to store files. Dash cams with a built-in memory card will be limited in this regard depending on how large the hard drive is on the inside. Expandable memory, coming in the form of microSD cards and slots, allow you to increase the camera's storage capacity or swap out different cards if you want to record more.
The final quality of a dash camera's image comes down to the camera itself, especially the lens and sensor. Like other digital cameras, you can get a better image quality with a higher-quality, wide-angle lens and high-dynamic-range (HDR) sensors, more megapixels on the sensor, and higher recording resolutions supported by the camera itself.
- Placement: The placement of a dash cam heavily influences the areas you can record around the vehicle and the quality of the image itself. For low-light cameras, in particular, placement can also affect the night vision quality. For example, many dash cameras struggle to see through a glass, even with infrared light. Cameras placed on the outside of the vehicle, near the bumper or on the license plate, tend to capture greater details.
- Mounting Mechanism: For a secure fit on a vehicle, you need to pay attention to how the dash cam attaches to it. Many use basic suction cups that attach either to the window or the dashboard itself. These are budget-friendly but can suffer from extreme hot and cold temperatures, causing the dash cam to potentially fall off. A quick-mount base that allows the camera to detach quickly from it is also a viable option. This will allow you to take the dash cam out of the vehicle when not in use, lowering the risk of theft.
Best Low-Light Dash Cams Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- It's always helpful to see what the image quality will be before you buy a dash cam. This is where sample videos from manufacturers and other users come in handy to see what you should expect.
- The best placement for a dash cam is somewhere in the center of the windshield so it can get the entire traffic lane ahead of it. You can also mount one on the left or right side of the windshield as long as the view isn't obstructed.
- Some dash cams have settings to compensate for the placement in the vehicle. For example, if you place one on the left or right side of the windshield, there is probably a setting you can control to adjust the recording setup to accommodate the positioning of the camera.
- Keep your dash camera out of sight and, ideally, locked away when not in use. If you leave a cam mounted to a windshield, it's more likely to get stolen or damaged due to heat exposure.
Q. How much can a low-light dash cam see at night?
A. This depends on the design and construction quality of the camera itself. In part, the number of infrared LED lights built into the camera will play a major role in the final results. More lights tend to be better, but this also depends on the power and coverage of each bulb.
Q. How much can a dash cam record?
A. Most dash cams record whenever the vehicle is on, meaning they pick up everything that happens as you drive. With that said, most don't record everything since memory is limited. Instead, the camera will store several minutes worth of footage in the short-term memory. Long-term storage happens when the G-sensor goes off or the user directs it to record manually.
Q. Can a dash cam be used hands-free?
A. Absolutely. Almost all dash cameras work automatically once they turn on. To save a video, for example, a G-sensor will kick in any time an impact occurs. More advanced dash cams sometimes come with hands-free voice control as well to change settings and start and stop recording while driving.
The overall winner of our low-light dash cam roundup is the Vantrue N2 Pro Dash Cam. As a dash cam that covers multiple angles, it's the perfect solution for low-light recording in normal driving conditions.
The best way to save some money is to check out the Apeman FHD Car DVR Recorder instead. Focusing on the front only, this dash cam offers high image quality and a viewable LCD panel built right into the body.