This is a MacVoices Briefing on the Garmin Dash Cam 10 dashboard camera for your car.
Why a dashboard camera? Its pretty simple, really. Dashboard cameras can be great for capturing vacation travel or just a pleasant drive, or the stray flaming meteor, but at the end of the day, the most important function this can serve is in the event of an accident. It will give objective documentation of what happened. It may help you, it may hurt you, but there won't be any question and there won't be a lot of"he said, she said" or issues surrounding liability, and that can be invaluable in dealing with your insurance company or in the event of a lawsuit.
Why The Garmin Dash Cam 10?
There are plenty of dashboard cameras out there, some of them cheaper, and some with more features. I picked the Garmin because of their reputation for quality products and excellent support. That latter factor is something that seems to be sorely lacking in the world of dashboard cameras, and I didn’t want to spend money on something that might stop working in a few weeks, or had no support options.
I picked the Dash Cam 10, which has fewer features that others in the Garmin line, because at the end of the day, what I was looking for was simple documentation of what was happening in front of me in the car, not a device that I needed to fiddle with or tweak.
The Garmin Dash Cam 10 Itself
The Garmin Dash Cam is a 1080p dash cam that mounts to your windshield via a suction-cup mount. The suction cup is a clamp-type, and is much more secure than those that you just push on. In the couple months I have been using it, it has never fallen off, in spite of a wide and changing range of temperatures. However, I do adjust the clamp once a month, just to be sure.
The unit itself is 1.4" x 2.7" x 3.2", and approximately 5” by 2.7” when attached to the windshield mount arm. Because of its vertical dimensions when on the arm, it can potentially block a small portion of the driver's view, so it is best mounted either behind the rear view mirror from the driver’s perspective, or off to the passenger’s side, or to the extreme upper left of the driver's side.
The Dash Cam 10 is powered via a powerport plug that has a length of cable more than adequate to reach any front-seat accessible power port. It can be also be hard-wired to your vehicle’s electrical system if you wish. That option cuts down on portability between vehicles, but also saves the passenger or the driver from having to deal with the power cord.
The cam itself attaches to the arm via a plastic ball joint so that it can be removed easily in the event you want to use for a purpose other than as a dash cam. This is possible because of the built-in lithium-ion battery, which gives you approximately one hour of recording time when disconnected from the car’s power. Why would you want to do this? In the event of an accident, you can take the dash cam out and take video of vehicle damage, the positions of the involved vehicles, road or traffic conditions…all vital pieces of information in the event of a disputed accident.
A 4 GB card is included, which can record up to 48 minutes of video at 1080p, 2.2 hours at 720p and 4.8 hours at VGA. In my opinion, when you NEED the video from the Dash Cam, you will want 1080p to have the best quality and most detail available, so it is advisable to upgrade to a 32GB card, which bumps up the recording time to 384 minutes in 1080p. Note that a Class 10 card is required, and the unit does NOT accept anything above a 32 GB card.
The recordings are on a continuous loop so that, once the card runs out of space, the earliest video is deleted and replaced by the newest. In other words, first in, first out. Each video file is approximately 4 minutes in length before the camera switches to a new file. The videos are unfortunately recorded in .AVI format, not natively viewable on your Mac. However, there free utilities like MPEG Streamclip that you can use to convert the AVI into something more useful to Mac users.
Video can be exported via a USB-Mini cable to your Mac, or directly from the MicroSD card. Garmin does provide a utility for capturing the video, but I found direct copy in the Finder to be much more efficient.
The screen is 2.3”, and can be turned off or set to automatically dim after a specified period of time during operations to cut down on distractions. Really, there is no reason to watch the screen while you’re driving since reality is right in front of you. Once you have it set up and running, the only interaction you need to have is optional - to save a video with protection if needed, or to take a still photo. More on that in a minute.
There are four conveniently-placed control buttons on the bottom edge of the unit facing toward the back: There are no labels, but small icons are visible when the unit is powered on.
From left to right: The button with the disk icon protects the last four minutes of video, or the most recent piece of video that hasn’t been protected, making it a simple matter for the driver to capture and preserve a close call or particularly interesting experience. That video is marked as having to be manually deleted and isn’t subject to the automatic, rotating deletion of the camera. Of course, if you gather a bunch of those up, it does cut down on the capacity of the camera.
The second button is the settings button where one can select the recording mode, event detection, protect video from being overwritten, car audio recording, screen brightness, volume, button sounds, date and time stamps, and more.
The third button controls playback and should obviously not be used while driving.
The fourth and final button is a shutter release which will snap a photo, not a video. Useful if your car is stopped or your passenger wants to capture a particular scene.
The device detects collisions automatically and protects videos of approximately 4 minute length in the event of an incident. Again if you wish to invoke the protection manually, use the left-most button.
The Garmin Dash Cam 10 is available on Amazon for a street price of about $125. A model with GPS will run you $30 more.
The Bottom Line:
I’ve been using the Garmin Dash Cam 10 since January and frankly, I tend to forget about it until something like this happens that I want to document and capture to remind people of why they need a dash cam.
As I said earlier, there are plenty of options that are a lot less expensive, there are plenty of options that have a lot more bells and whistles, but at the end of the day, what I really was looking for something to document my driving and protect myself in the event of an accident, and the Garmin Dash Cam 10 does that. If you look at some of the other options, you see horror stories about both the product lifespan and also the support, or lack of any support. I have to recommend going with the Garmin Dash Cam 10. If you want those extra bells and whistles, Garmin can provide those too.