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6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Your GoPro as a Dash Cam - - BlackboxMyCar

6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Your GoPro as a Dash Cam

If you adore snapping pictures and recording your adventures in the great outdoors, you are probably familiar with GoPro cameras. Widely used by vloggers, influencers, and celebrities to chronicle their lifestyles, whether it's their cross-country journeys, culinary crawls, or underwater activities, the GoPro is a cultural force in the camera market. From sinking them into 120-foot-deep wells to launching them into orbit at 3,800 mph, GoPros are about as versatile a camera as money can buy.

Beginning with a 640x480 still resolution and 240p video in 10-second clips with the GoPro Digital Hero model in 2006, GoPro's latest flagship model, the Hero 12 released in September 2023, is now upgraded to capture videos in ultra-smooth and crisp resolutions ranging from 5.3K @ 60 fps, 4K @ 120 fps, 2.7K @ 240 fps, and 1080p @ 240 fps. Needless to say, it’s recordings are stunningly realistic.

Surely, with such high quality and versatility, these cameras must be able to do something as simple as record my everyday trips in my car, right? Unfortunately, that’s not quite true, and it takes a lot more to be a capable dash cam than recording quality. In this blog, we will discuss the reasons why your GoPro should remain a GoPro and not a dashcam.

Should You Use Your GoPro as a Dash Cam?

1. Excellent Video… But Limited Image Depth.

For the sake of documenting your travel on the road ahead, the GoPro can capture images and raw videos way better than a dash cam. For example, the Go Pro Hero 11 and Hero 12 models give everything you shoot a professional look with 5.3K video at 60FPS and can capture images up to 27.13 megapixels. GoPros now includes advanced image stabilization features to keep the video smooth and clear even when riding on terrains, aka HyperSmooth video stabilization with Horizon Lock.

However, there are still a lot of aspects where the GoPro doesn’t glow compared to dashcams. While GoPros may capture crisp and clear images, it may not be able to record other driving details, particularly license plates, from a long distance. Despite advancements in sensor resolution, the wider angle lenses often utilized in GoPros might impair the ability to zoom in and freeze-frame objects that are far away, especially when there is motion involved.

Additionally, GoPros may struggle significantly in low-light circumstances. Because these devices rely on available light to record film, conditions such as dusk or nightfall can cause performance to suffer. This limits you to capture relevant information during accidents or incidents that occur during the night. Check out this video from Vortex Radar elaborating more about these conditions.

Right now, the dash cam with the most advanced video resolution can only capture 4K @ 30 frames per second max, such as the VIOFO A229 Pro and Thinkware U3000 with Sony STARVIS 2. While the video quality of the latest GoPros is higher, it doesn’t mean that they’re already better than dash cams when it comes to capturing road incidents – especially if you want to cover both front and rear, day and night.

Despite its lower resolution, dashcams have a more holistic field of view thanks to dual-channel, triple-channel, and up to 5-channel dash cam systems. All recordings are processed and stored in one camera, with one SD card, and one power source. With multiple camera configurations combined in one dash cam system, you can capture various angles of the vehicle like the road ahead, the traffic behind and even what’s happening inside!

On the other hand, GoPros are only single-channel cameras. Typically, GoPros used as a dash cam is mounted facing the front of the vehicle. If you want to record what’s happening at the rear or inside your vehicle (which is valuable as accidents choose no angles), you will have to purchase separate units. No, they’re not compatible with any secondary cameras so you will have to buy multiple GoPro units themselves. Your car would become a mess of extension cords and wiring just to keep them powered for a long drive. Most importantly, the cost.

A single GoPro costs around $250 to $499… each. If you want three-channel coverage with a GoPro, it will leave the cost and calculations to you.

2. Needs to be manually turned on… and on…. and on.

Another reason why you should not use a GoPro as a dash cam is its recording capacity. Let’s say you used a GoPro as a dashcam – if you want to record your drive, you need to turn your GoPro on every single time, manually. This is especially problematic if you have additional cameras, like a separate GoPro rear camera we just discussed.

That’s right, every time you enter your vehicle, turn on the ignition, do up your seatbelt, and are ready to go, you’ll need to reach over to the camera and turn it on, another bothersome step that adds time to every drive. We can only imagine how irritating it would be if you were in an accident or had a traffic violation and failed to capture it because you forgot this vital step!

Remember, when you install a dashcam, it begins recording as soon as you start the car.

3. It can’t protect you 24/7… especially when you’re away.

Everyone knows how expensive a GoPro can be - and if it’s too evident or just placed on your dashboard or windshield, it will be an attraction for thieves, especially when you’re away from your vehicle. While a dash cam is also an investment, it is not susceptible to theft as it is relatively small and is attached to your car. Even better, it can help you to catch thieves with its parking mode feature.

Dash cams are built differently, and built for the road and parking lot. With its parking mode feature, dash cams can be kept in your ride 24/7 and get their power from your car’s electrical system. So, when you shut off and exit your vehicle, the dash cam will keep an eye on your vehicle while you’re gone and automatically capture anything suspicious, all while using much less power than normal recording.

Dashcams even have the option to protect you and update you in real-time with notifications through The Cloud, which GoPros can’t do. All these modes, automatically switching when you enter or exit the vehicle automatically.

4. No impact. No detection.

The G-Sensor is another primary distinction, a feature that is absent in a GoPro camera, and a fundamental dash cam feature found in even the cheapest models. The G-Sensor on a dash cam recognizes when an accident or other significant shock has occurred and generates a small video file, preventing that recording from being overwritten by new data and marking it as important.

This makes keeping significant footage simple, and eliminates the immediate concern of retrieving the footage, to prevent the camera from looping over it as it constantly records your drive.

5. Shorter Battery Life

Since it’s not connected to any power source, the GoPro needs to have a long battery life to capture the road continuously. Any mishap occurring when your battery is low will deprive you of crucial evidence. GoPro undoubtedly has the best image and video quality - but is let down by its battery life.

Comparatively, dash cams do not rely only on battery power. The majority of dash cams are directly connected to the electrical system, so having a low-battery device is something you won’t worry about. These batteries are also a concern in high heat because…

6. GoPros May Explode in Extreme Heat.

GoPro cameras, in general, cannot withstand extreme temperatures - especially if you’re going to leave them in your car on a hot sunny afternoon in warm regions. There have also been instances where GoPro models have had difficulties powering up in cold weather.

GoPros, while durable, are often not be as optimized for the specific temperature range encountered in a vehicle. This is largely due to the batteries just mentioned, as being exposed to these extreme conditions has been known to reduce their lifespan and capacity, and in some situations, explode. Instead, dash cams use Supercapacitors, which can endure even the sweltering summertime or very cold conditions. Supercapacitors won’t store charge in the same way a GoPro battery will, requiring a constant power connection, normally from your car battery. Beyond that, constantly recording at the high resolutions that GoPros advertise causes them to run very hot, requiring you to lower the resolution for the constant recording of a dash cam. Learn more about supercapacitors and lithium-ion batteries here.

Dash Cams are the Real Pro

To put it bluntly, GoPros are missing almost every feature that makes dash cams so perfect for recording video in a vehicle. The simple ability for a dash cam to instantly turn on and start capturing video means you don’t have to fiddle with it at all, and things get better from there.

Many dashcams offer 2-channel to 3-channel functionality. Allowing you to capture video from two different cameras at the same time automatically, which offers more coverage of your vehicle with very little hassle. Imagine setting and configuring two GoPros to get the same effect.

Certain dash cams, such also offer lane departure warnings, GPS tracking, and geofencing to track and alert you of the vehicle’s location. The Thinkware U3000 is a perfect example of how dash cams go above and beyond a GoPro’s capabilities.

Don't get us wrong: GoPros are incredible. Our point is that they are unsuitable for daily driving, just like smartphones. GoPros are made to capture your adventures, whereas dash cams are developed with the rider's needs in mind, so why use anything else?

Don’t believe us? Check out what the GoPro community has to say themselves about using a GoPro as a Dash Cam.

Check out our Dash Cam New Buyer’s Guide here. 

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