Dashcams are becoming increasingly popular in Australia and one of the newest on the market is the Swann Navigator HD Dash Camera. The Dash Cam Owners Australia Facebook page now has over 400,000 likes and continues to grow rapidly as regular drivers capture extra-ordinary things while behind the wheel. We all hope that our daily drives are uneventful, but in reality, that’s rarely the case. When crazy things happen, it may be fun to capture and post the action, but when it comes to an accident, footage from a dashcam is often the difference in a he said, she said scenario and could save you thousands in the long-run.
Swann’s latest range of HD dash cameras include the Navigator HD Dash Camera and Economy HD Dash Camera. While the economy version may meet the price point of some budget-conscious consumers, I’ve been spending time with the Navigator.
First off we need to talk about the features and Swann tick a lot of boxes with a wide angle 140° lens and 1080p quality, the Navigator quality is fantastic. The vision is clear, importantly clear enough to read number plates at a distance, should it be necessary. When watching the footage back on a PC, I was impressed at the clarity of individual frames. Swann equips the cameras with G-sensor which are leveraged for accident detection, this means the footage will be captured if the system that detects sudden acceleration, or collisions. Imagine you get rear-ended at a set of traffic lights, the last thing on your mind is going to be the dashcam, so this is a particularly great feature, actually it should be mandatory on all dashcams, but sadly isn’t.
On the back of the device, you’ll find a 2.0″ LCD which allows the whole package to be small and efficient as to allow a minimal footprint on your windscreen. The device is just 53mm x 30mm x 59mm in size, that small size does however, come with some compromises.
The Navigator HD Dash Camera’s also shoots still photos if required, something I found useful for a capturing a great sunset or if you’re Sunday cruise takes to the top of a lookout. While footage is great, audio can tell part of the story as well and the Navigator has the option to record or mute the audio on your video recordings. Unfortunately the tiny microphone in the side of the Navigator HD, means the audio clips badly, even at low volumes. This review conveniently took place when I was reviewing the 2016 Ford Mustang and even the beautiful roar of the V8 engine was enough to exceed the db capabilities of the microphone. With so much audio clipping, the audio is basically unusable. If you don’t want your singing voice to be the background track of your viral dashcam, use the mute option, a great option to have the audio dealt with in-device, rather than require post-production to remove the audio.
Installation of the Swann Navigator HD was as simple as it gets. Use the suction cup to mount the camera on your windscreen, then connect the power cable (USB) and run it down to your power outlet, newer vehicles this will be a USB point, or older vehicles can use the cigarette lighter adapter. The documentation suggests you snap off the A pillar cover and hide the cable behind there which for a full-time installation is absolutely something you should do to avoid that dreaded dashcam cable hanging down, obscuring your vision. This cable is really long, allowing you plenty of length to get creative with hiding it.
One feature I love with this dashcam is its auto-record feature which starts recording the instant the engine is turned on motion is detected. With the camera always recording, I was concerned at first how a relatively micro-SD card would cope. The way it works the recordings will simple delete the earliest recording to make room for a new one. The dashcam can take Micro SD cards up to 32GB in size, which could easily get you through a week of recordings with an average commute.
You can of course, mark files protected to ensure they never get removed, ensuring they are safe until transfer the footage to a PC or if you’re Android. Having the ability to you pop out the card and transfer the footage is a great asset, one of the best features of this camera. It means you can leave the camera itself mounted in the same position. You could also transfer the footage to your phone (hello Galaxy S7 SD expansion slot) and upload to YouTube or Facebook from there. There is also an option to connect the dashcam to your PC via an included USB if you’d prefer. you can also connect the Navigator HD to a big display through a micro-HDMI power in the side, handy for that quick show and tell. As you can tell, this dashcam is really well featured and really has all the options necessary to suit your workflow, rather than dictate how you need to work.
Often the dashcam footage requires some context and where and when an event happens can be critical to assessing who’s in the wrong. The included GPS tracks exact movements and places, and has the option to stamp the time and location data on the footage. There’s actually a lot more stored in the file’s metadata than you may think, with the speed, location, direction and GPS map overlay all avaialble when using the Swann software. If you want the quick and dirty and just want to publish, then stamping it on the footage is the simpler approach, however if you want to edit from point A to point B, its certainly going to take work in the software.
To be honest, the software is horrible in terms of UI and unacceptable in 2016, but if you can brave your way through that, functionally, it’s pretty good.
Price & Availability
Swann are really well known for their security cameras, but they’ve got a decent offering in the dashcam market. Just keep in mind the software design is rubbish and the audio is unusable. If neither of these issues concern you, then the camera’s size, quality and pricing offer great value for money and should definitely be on your short list.
More information available at Swann.