The GoPro is one of the most popular action cameras on the market. The device is now so ubiquitous that other action cameras are now incorrectly referred to as “GoPros.” GoPro is not just another brand. It is a phenomenon. In fact, more and more drivers are deploying the GoPro as a dashcam since it is so versatile and flexible.
Although the manufacturer wasn’t the first to make action cameras that could operate well under extreme conditions, their products built a reputation for unbeatable quality. Unsurprisingly, they quickly became mainstream and captured the action cam market.
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Is it a good idea to use a GoPro as a dashcam?
Having a GoPro as your dashcam is a smart idea. While you are focusing on driving (as you should be), the camera will automatically capture footage that may prove very helpful in a variety of situations.
- Suppose you have an accident. With the GoPro as a dashcam, you can substantiate your story in court and vindicate yourself.
- Perhaps you can utilize it to capture amazing footage that you will cherish for a lifetime. Heck, your video may even become viral as it did for lucky GoPro owners who had the privilege of capturing the blazing meteor crashing toward the Russian skyline.
- If you have teenagers, having a GoPro dashcam in place is added reassurance that they are behaving correctly behind the wheel.
You can get low-end GoPro’s ideal for dashcam use for around $150 – which is a great bargain. You also have the confidence of owning a rugged camera that can withstand a lot of abuse and still function.
Important features of the GoPro (in regards to driving)
- Flexibility – While you can buy other dedicated dashcams besides GoPro, the trouble with most of them is that you cannot use them for anything else. But a GoPro is incredibly versatile, and it can be adapted to virtually any scenario seamlessly. For example, you can use your GoPro as a dashcam on the way to the slopes, and then use it to record footage of you and your friends goofing off skiing / snowboarding all afternoon.
- Loop recording capability – With loop recording, you can still record videos even if your memory card is full. The camera will automatically replace the oldest video with the newest. This feature is not just helpful, it is imperative. It is a vital feature that drivers cannot do without. You won’t find this feature in other action cameras.
- Small size – The GoPro camera is much more compact than other dashcams. As a result, it will take up much less space on your windshield, thereby giving you a clearer view with less obstruction. This is another essential feature that other high-end dashcams fail to provide. It can be said that the larger dashcams are less than ideal because they will take up space on your windscreen and obstruct your view. This is a safety hazard that can prove to be dangerous. In some jurisdictions, due to this very reason, you are not allowed to install a dashcam that is bigger than a certain limit.
GoPro dashcam sample footage
There are lots of examples of GoPro dashcam footage on YouTube. Here a few examples:
- GoPro Hero 7 Black driving sample
- GoPro Hero 6 Black as a Dash Cam
- Short dashcam footage of a GoPro Hero 6 recorded on 4k @ 60fps
- GoPro Hero 8 dashcam test
As you can see from these examples, the GoPro (any model) is more than capable for use as a high-quality dash cam.
Pros and cons of using a GoPro as a dashcam
Great for high-quality Videos
Depending on your budget, you can go for GoPro cameras with very high quality. 4K resolution videos are very much possible with the GoPro Hero 7 Black for instance, which has set a new benchmark for all other dashcams.
In case you are on a budget, you should know that lower resolutions can also work well besides being cheaper. You should study the GoPro range to find a mix of resolutions, features, and pricing that is better suited for your needs.
Ultra-Wide Angles to Capture More Information
The lenses in GoPro action cams cover a wide angle so that you can record a broader panorama. This way, you can save more information. Having a wide-angle lens is a good idea because an important event may take place at a wide-angle to the camera lens. Wide-angle cameras can record such views easily whereas, other lenses cannot. The broad range of view is the main reason why ultra-wide angled lenses are favored in security cameras.
The wide view comes at a cost though. The image is distorted where straight lines appear curved. You may have noticed this in other cameras that use the same kind of lenses. However, you can now use software to reduce distortion (which comes as built in plugins in apps like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for example). Although the spherical distortion will not go away completely, it will be considerably reduced.
As explained, this is a key feature that many other dashcams lack. With looped recording, your GoPro cam will record videos even if the memory is full. In this case, the oldest video will be replaced with the latest video. You do not need to worry about clearing the memory for your new recording.
Since GoPro cams have a sleek silhouette, they make good dashcams as they will not occupy an excessive area on your windshield. You can purchase all kinds of holders imaginable for your GoPro, and therefore, keeping it securely attached in front of the windshield is not an issue.
Because of their diminutive size and compact footprint, they are easy to mount and keep in place.
Point and Shoot capabilities
You won’t have to fiddle with the lens or make any other adjustment (for instance lighting) to get a great shot. GoPro cams have automatic features that can make the right modifications for optimal shot quality. The automatic functionality is not perfect, but it does perform well across a broad range of scenarios.
The night mode is also available so that you can shoot with good clarity in poor lighting.
Short Battery Life
The short battery life means that you must recharge the camera more often. you can get only a few hours out of the camera before having to recharge the battery, and even with conservative use, you cannot use the GoPro for long hours without recharging. This is not good for long road trips, such as the coast-t0-c0ast drive Scott did in a C7 Corvette a few years ago.
Because of the short battery life, you cannot use the GoPro as a security camera for your car. However, there are some steps that you can take to remedy the short battery life. Of course, this will involve a degree of battery management, but things will certainly improve:
- You could, for instance, keep an extra battery at hand (fully charged) to swap when the battery within is discharged. After you swap, you can put the discharged battery in a charger. This way, you can keep repeating the swap cycle each time the battery is discharged.
- You can even install a long-life battery to get more hours out of your GoPro. You can even use an external battery pack. Note that this trick applies only to certain models.
Does Not Have Parking Mode
If you are in the habit of using this feature to ease your parking woes (which activates the camera and startes recording when it detects an impact), then be warned that it cannot be found in the GoPro.
Since the lens is fixed, you cannot zoom in or out. Although you can select a narrower view, this is nothing more than a simple cropping of the wide-angle shot.
Will not start automatically
Most dashcams start recording when your car starts up. These devices have motion sensors inside them to activate the camera when necessary. However, you will not find this feature in the GoPro since it is not a specialized dashcam. Of course, specialized dashcams do pay a price for this functionality. They cannot be used for any other purpose, unlike the versatile GoPro (which has a wide variety of other uses).
To use the GoPro as a dashcam, you must activate it manually, put it in recording mode, start the recording and then end it manually when the trip is over.
Accessories you’ll need to get the most out of a GoPro as a dashcam
1. GoPro Dashcam Stickers
You will have to check the laws in your state to understand whether or not you need to mount a notice on your vehicle that tells passengers about a dashcam in your car. It is a good idea to put a sticker on your vehicle that informs others about the dashcam recording.
2. GoPro Smart Remote
With a GoPro smart remote, you can control your GoPro camera functions without even needing to touch the camera. This is a very good tool because it obviates the need to handle your GoPro camera which can change its direction. Almost everyone will value the convenience of controlling your dashcam without needing to touch it.
3. Screen Protector
It is always a good idea to install a screen protector to increase protection for your GoPro cam. There will be a smaller likelihood of the screen getting cracked. Your rugged GoPro cam will become even more resistant to unexpected shocks and impacts. You can also protect the LCD screen from scratches and smudges.
4. GoPro Mounting Kit
A quality camera mount (with a strong suction cup) is very important because it can latch onto practically any smooth surface. Therefore, rather than installing your GoPro on the windshield (which can obstruct your view), you can install this camera kit on your dashboard to hold the GoPro as a dashcam.
5. GoPro Dual Battery Charger
You will find much-needed convenience in this accessory since it can charge up to two batteries at once. You can even make use of the GoPro supercharger for even faster battery charging.
With this useful gizmo, you can recharge two discharged batteries at the same time. It even comes with a spare battery that you can use with your GoPro cam when you are charging the drained battery.
Tips and Tricks for Getting the Best Footage
- Make sure that your car is properly air-conditioned. If you leave your car outside then the car can easily heat up to over 125 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which the GoPro camera will shut off. Since this is a very high temperature, you will not likely encounter it unless you shut off the air conditioning on a very hot day.
- Another thing that you need to be careful about is that GoPros are very popular and therefore will be easily noticed by thieves. GoPro cameras have a very good resale value and market and are therefore prime candidates for theft. Therefore, you must take the camera off its mount so that it is not visible to thieves.
- You can also make use of the smart remote control accessory mentioned above so that turning the GoPro on and off is less of a hassle.
- For the very best picture quality, record your footage in 4k and 60 frames per second (60fps).