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We think that every driver should have a dash cam. They improve safety, prevent serious accidents, and make parking and reversing way easier. Now, we’re dash cam nerds – but we don’t expect all our readers to be. To help out, we’ve put together a dash cam glossary of many of the key terms, features and buzzwords you should understand when shopping for a new dash cam.
Dash Cam Glossary
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of some key dash cam features, terminology and other things you may not be familiar with. Understanding these terms will help you find the best dash cam for your needs.
Loop recording – a technology that allows dash cams to continually record footage. Essentially, the camera will automatically delete the oldest footage on the camera in order to make room for new footage. This allows for continual recording on relatively small SD cards. Most dash cams have loop recording, as it’s an essential feature.
Night vision – refers to the camera’s ability to record at night. Typically utilizes a combination of WDR tech (see below), and internal display tech to optimize night vision.
Wide dynamic range (WDR) – a camera technology that allows for the balancing of light and dark spots of camera footage. WDR is essential for night vision, as it allows for better overall coverage of all areas in camera range, whether they are illuminated or not. All of the best dash cams with night vision will have this feature, while some cheaper cams may not.
Wide angle lens – a lens style that allows for a wide view of the road in front of you. There is no formal guideline or regulation in order for manufacturers to call their products “wide angle”, but typically you’ll see cams from 130 to 170 degrees.
Parking mode – a innovative feature that activates your dash cam when a disturbance is detected. This helps potentially capture footage of an accident even when your car is off. See our recommendations for the best dash cameras with parking mode.
HD/Ultra HD/UHD/1080p/etc – refers to the resolution of the camera. Most cameras will offer at least 720p, with many offering 1080p or better. There are even some 4k dash cams out there. This guide does a good job explaining the differences (it refers to TVs, but the principles are the same).
Two-way/dual channel/front-and-rear – refers to camera setups that offer both a front-facing and rear-facing camera. Sometimes they will feature two separate cameras, one for the front dash and one for the rear dash, while some products have one unit with two cameras facing in different directions. See our guide to the best front and rear dash cams.
WiFi – refers to the camera’s built-in WiFi tech that allows for wireless viewing on your smartphone. This eliminates the need to remove the SD card to view/save footage. See our guide to the best WiFi dash cams.
Safe operating temperature – refers to the camera’s maximum/minimum safe operating temperature. As sensitive devices, most cams do not perform optimally in extreme temperatures – but some do. See our guide to the best dash cams for hot weather.
G-Sensor – a technology that detects potential accidents based on gyro readings and motion detection. When a disturbance is detected, G-Sensor enabled cams will automatically save relevant footage permanently so that it is not later overwritten.
In-cabin recording – refers to a camera that records inside your vehicle. Useful for rideshare drivers, cab drivers, etc. See our guide to the best Lyft dash cams and the best dash cams for Uber drivers.
GPS tracking – refers to cameras that record and sync GPS data with dash cam footage. Useful in the case of an actual accident, as GPS readings can help prove where you/your vehicle was located at the time of an accident.
SD card capacity – each camera will have a maximum supported SD card size, typically from 16gb to 128gb (with some outliers offering higher capacity). See our best SD cards for dash cams guide to determine how much storage you may need.
Hopefully this dash cam glossary has helped defined some key dash cam features and terms for you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!