A dash camera or dashcam is an excellent tool to use while driving. It is your best witness in the case of accidents or theft. A small inconspicuous camera, if installed and hidden properly, can record everything that is happening without anyone knowing about it. It helps catch thieves, vandals and rule breakers on the road. Most dash cameras have a G-sensor, which allows them to sense and lock the recording in case of a sharp turn, collision or any other sudden movement.
GoPro is a brand success equivalent of Xerox to photocopying. It is an action camera which is used to take photos as videos for people when they are doing extreme sports. But the brand GoPro has become so famous, that hardly anyone recalls the terms action camera anymore. Furthermore, these days all action cameras are misnomered as GoPro, just like Kleenex for facial tissue.
In this article, we will be doing a detailed discussion on Dashcams VS GoPro and should you use GoPro as a dashcam.
Dashcams vs GoPro: Difference
Dashcams and GoPros have inherent differences which makes them unique products for specific purposes. We will discuss the same below:
1. Power ON and OFF
Dashcams can be installed in two ways, either it can be connected to the accessory port of your car or it can be hardwired into the battery of your car. Either way, it ensures that the dashcam powers on as soon as the car is turned on. If you hardwire your dashcam to the battery, it ensures that your dashcam is on even when the car’s ignition is turned off. So with dashcams, you have a ‘Set it and Forget it’ convenience. Once you install the dashcam, you can be assured that it is continuously recording.
GoPros, on the other hand, do not have that convenience. You can connect it to the accessory port, but you will still have to manually turn on and turn off the camera each time. This means there is no room for error. If you forget to turn it on or off, you might either lose valuable recordings or drain the battery of the camera and miss an event. While this can be resolved by connecting the camera to the USB port or accessory port for continuous charging, you cannot circumvent the feature provided by dashcams where they stay on even when the car’s ignition is turned off.
So when it comes to convenience, Dashcams have the edge over GoPros.
2. Battery Life
Dashcams does not operate on an inbuilt battery. It is connected to your car for power either through the accessory port, USB port or is hardwired to the battery of your car. So in terms of battery power, in case of connecting it to the accessory or USB port, it will continuously operate as long as your car ignition is on.
In case of hardwiring it to your car battery, the dashcams will be on irrespective of whether the car ignition is on or not. So you never have to worry about the dashcam battery running out. It is recommended to hardwiring the dashcam to the car battery, as it also frees up the USB or accessory port for other purposes.
With GoPros, battery life is limited. Based on the type of recording you are taking and the quality of the footage or photograph, the GoPro has a battery life of only a few hours. This can be circumvented by connecting the GoPro to an external USB charger connected to the USB or accessory port, but that means you will have wires hanging around your dashboard and a port continuously occupied.
This can be resolved by tucking in the wires as you would with the dashcams. However, if you aren’t going to use the GoPro as a dedicated dashcam, the wires cannot be tucked in. GoPros cannot be hardwired to the car battery like dashcams. So, if the car ignition is turned off, the GoPro will not be charged and will be drained in a couple of hours.
Thus, in terms of battery power Dashcams are better than GoPros.
4. Parking Mode and Motion activation.
Many models of dashcams come with a unique ‘Parking mode’ feature. We have been mentioning hardwiring your dashcam to the car’s battery and this feature is exactly why. Hardwiring the dash cams into the car’s battery ensures that the dash camera is on even when the ignition is off. This means that if you leave your car unattended for a while, or even park it somewhere overnight, dashcams have you covered.
By turning on the parking mode, the dashcam will continue to record when the car is parked. Coupled with a sensor that detects any sudden motion or impact, the dashcam will record all the sightings without any need for manual intervention. So, if someone bumps your car, or if a thief tries to steal it, in parking mode, the dashcam will capture it all. Thus, your car surveillance is unaffected even when it is parked.
GoPros do not have this feature. You might say that you would keep it on and overcome the problem. This might be viable for a few hours. But, as discussed above, the GoPros battery life is not long enough to last the whole night, or even cover eight-hour shifts. They also do not have a motion sensor as sensitive as that of a dashcam. So if you install a GoPro instead of a dashcam, you might end up losing valuable recordings.
Thus, for the useful additions of Parking mode and motion detection surveillance, dashcams win over GoPros.
5. Loop Record
Dash cameras offer a feature known as loop record, which prevents the SD memory card from reaching its full capacity. In the loop record, the dashcam will continue to record the footage until the memory card is filled. Upon reaching this stage, if you continue to record, the dashcam will overwrite on the oldest recording.
This allows the dashcam to record videos uninterrupted. You might question what if it records over the footage of an accident. But the dashcam covers that too. In case of an impact, a collision, an accident or even sudden movement, the sensor in the dashcam is activated and the recording of that clip is locked. This means that even if the loop mechanism is on, the dashcam will not overwrite the locked clip and will instead move to the oldest footage after that clip.
GoPros also has the feature of loop record, which allows it to record video and audio continuously. However, given that the battery life of the GoPro is relatively short and only the higher end cameras have this feature, we are trading additional cost for a piece of already expensive equipment which is considered a basic feature in dashcams.
Bottom line is that when it comes to loop record, dashcams offer more than GoPros.
6. Withstanding High Temperature
We know how the temperatures change all year round. Baking a camera in the summer heat sitting on the windshield of the car, it is not something you would want to do to your precious cameras. Dashcams are designed to withstand extreme temperatures. Also, most dash cameras do not have lithium batteries, which tend to overheat and cause problems.
Comparatively, Dashcams, while are waterproof and designed to be rugged, are not as resistant to temperature changes as dashcams. There are superior models of GoPros which tackle this problem, but then they are priced higher too. So, you would be paying extra for a feature that comes inbuilt in dashcams.
Thus, dashcams withstand extreme temperatures more effectively than GoPros. To circumvent this in GoPros, you will have to put in considerable investment.
7. Visibility and Inconspicuousness
Dashcams are designed to be inconspicuous. They can be hidden behind the windshield or the rearview mirror, making them silent and unobtrusive witnesses to your driving sessions. The wires of the dashcam can be hidden away, whether it is connected to the USB port or accessory port of your car, or hardwired to it. It is difficult to locate the position of the dashcam unless they are specifically looking for it.
This is not the case with GoPros. GoPros are smaller in size, but it doesn’t make them inconspicuous like dash cams. It is difficult to hide it behind the rearview mirror. So you have to settle by placing it on the dashcam. Most people know what a GoPro looks like, and more importantly how much it is worth, mainly because of its popularity. It is to action cameras what band-aid is to bandages. It attracts attention, which is the exact opposite of what you want from a dashcam.
So in terms of inconspicuousness, Dashcams win once again.
8. Installation Time and Effort
Dashcams can be easy to install if you know the right method. Installing it by connecting to your USB port or accessory port is quite simple. Secure the dashcam in place, hide the wires on the inside of the headlines and pillars and connect it to the required port.
In the case of hardwiring the dashcams can be difficult. It is recommended to take it to a professional mechanic as doing it on your own may be dangerous. This would require some additional time and expense.
In the case of GoPro, the installation part is simple enough. However, if you want to overcome some of the problems with GoPros such as manual power on, or extended battery life, you will have to purchase some additional attachments, which would require additional expense.
So, even if it costs a bit extra and takes more effort, we recommend hardwiring your dashcam into the car’s battery over any other option.
Dashcams are relatively cheap compared to GoPros. This is because they both are designed for specific purposes. Dashcams are dedicated cameras used in vehicles to record the events on the road. They help provide evidence in case of car accidents, road rage, theft, etc. GoPros have a different purpose. They are designed to take the best qualities of point-and-shoots and camcorders.
They come in a rugged small frame and are waterproof and virtually indestructible. These are great features to have in a camera. This is what makes them unique and hence expensive. But the point is that while driving, you don’t need all these features. GoPros are designed for more hardcore uses and hence are jam-packed with a lot more features than a dashcam, making it lucrative for camera enthusiasts, but unnecessary people who want a dashcam.
Thus, when you compare dashcams and GoPro, the dashcam is cheaper than a GoPro.
Should You Use A Gopro As A Dashcam?
The short answer is No. it is too much investment for a product that doesn’t offer all the features a dashcam would. It does not fulfil basic requirements like a long battery life, intelligent parking mode, motion detection surveillance or even inconspicuousness. When you compare dashcams and GoPro, it is not designed to withstand extreme temperature changes.
You have to manually turn on and turn off the GoPro each time, while the Dashcam has a ‘set it and forget it’ mechanism. There are a few ways to overcome that problem, but it involves purchasing additional attachments for the GoPro, which is already more expensive than a dashcam, to begin with. Sure the installation part might seem easy compared to hardwiring the dashcam to the car’s battery, but it is a small price to pay for a better product which is designed specifically keeping in mind its application.
Don’t get us wrong, we are not trying to undermine the GroPro. But it is a different kind of product made for a different kind of application. If you look in terms of absolute features, the GoPro comes off as the superior camera. But the bottom line is it is not made for car surveillance.
The only reason you might consider using a GoPro for a dashcam is if you already have it and want to squeeze your money’s worth. If you are still interested in using your GoPro as a dashcam, below are the detailed steps on how to do it.
How to use it?
You will need a few additional attachments to provide some of the features that dashcams provide.
- A wire with a USB port: As GoPros have limited battery, we will have to connect it to either the USB port or the accessory port. Make sure that the wire is compatible with the GoPro camera and the USB port of your vehicle.
- A Backpack that will clip on to the GoPro and cables: This will control your GoPro camera and handle the automatic start-up and shut down and also the recording controls. The communication pin between the backpack and the GoPro camera will control the camera, allowing it to automate the process which would have been manual otherwise. The cables will connect the backpack to the car. However, make sure that your backpack is compatible with the GoPro camera before using it.
- A flat mount: This will be used to mount the GoPro and secure it in position.
Now we move on to the guidelines:
Step 1: Find a position on your dashboard to position the GoPro. You need to make sure that the camera covers the maximum area in front of the car with minimum obstruction in front of the lens. Once the position is finalized, place the mount on the dashboard. The stick-on kind of mount would work best as it will not damage the car interiors. Leave the mount once it is stuck on for the recommended amount of time. Some mounts require to be kept on overnight to be secured properly in position.
Step 2: Attach the backpack to the GoPro camera. Program the backpack to automate the GoPro. Connect the backpack to the port using the compatible cable. Connect the battery cable to the GoPro and the other end into the car USB or accessory port.
Step 3: Mount the camera in position. Check if the backpack works to provide automation. The camera should turn on when the car ignition is turned on and off when the car ignition is turned off. Tuck in any hanging wires into the side panels of the dashboard.
Your GoPro Camera is ready to be used as a Dashcam.
When you look at Dashcams vs GroPros, both are excellent cameras in their own accord. The popularity of GoPros needs no more praise or detail. However, using a GoPro in place of a dashcam would mean forgoing a lot of features that dashcams offer, without any sizeable return. If you are looking for a camera to increase the security and surveillance to protect your car and yourself on the road, we recommend a dashcam over a GoPro.