When we first started looking for new dash cams for our surveillance vehicles, we looked at several private investigator equipment sites and, as we often do, ended up right back on Amazon. With a listed price of $99.99 we were a little bit skeptical as to how good this camera could be. With over 1,159 reviews and an overall 4.5 star rating, as well as a free return policy, we figured we'd take a chance and if it was a piece of crap just send it back. We've had the first trial camera for a week and have used it on two cases so far with some success.
With full HD, 1080p @30FPS resolution, the video we've captured is of the quality that we could use it as evidence. License plates and people are clearly picked up and identifiable which is crucial in the investigation business. Not only does this camera take continuous video, but say you're sitting at a light behind a target and just want to capture the license plate in a photo that you can then quickly attach to an email to other surveillance units or the office so the plate can be run if you're in the middle of a mobile operation and can't run it yourself. This is easily accomplished by pushing a button on the back of the camera which takes the photo and then goes right back to capturing video. Another benefit of this system is the smartphone app you can download from the Apple or Google app stores. It allows you to connect to the camera via WiFi and monitor what the camera is capturing. We tend to camouflage the placement of our dash cams so they appear like they are part of the rearview mirror and when doing so the back of the camera viewfinder is covered up. By connecting to the smartphone app we can see exactly what the camera is picking up, as well as capture still photos from the app with a press of the button accessible on the app.
Set up out of the box is very simple and straightforward and the Z-Edge Dash Cam comes with an easily understandable instruction manual. We were up and running within 10 minutes of receiving it from Amazon.
A few items to note that may be an issue to some users and one issue which was a dealbreaker to us as professional investigators. The dash cam takes video in 5 minute increments and saves them to an onboard SD card. We sprung for the 256GB card which, purportedly, will hold up to 40 hours of video. We don't see the 5 minute videos as an issue as we easily stitched them together in the video software program we use. Video can be recorded with, or without, audio and a date/time stamp can be saved to the video as well which is a must for evidentiary purposes. Just be sure to set the camera to display the date/time stamp instead of the Z-Edge logo which is the default. We noticed that the setting reverted back to the logo display after the first use, but seems to have stayed on the date/time stamp mode since. The camera does start recording the minute you plug in to your vehicle's power supply. This can be a little annoying, but we just delete those video files or don't plug in until we're actually ready to start recording. One major issue that we discovered, which caused our review to go from 5 stars to 3 stars, as well as prompted our return of the camera, is the lack of a working map on the app. Reading the reviews in the app store this has been an issue for quite some time, yet the company hasn't fixed it. For our purposes a recorded map is crucial for evidentiary purposes. If you don't have a need for a recorded map, this dash cam system works fine in all other aspects of operation.
The camera, as delivered, comes with the front camera with mounting suction cup, which works extremely well and allows for a stable recording, the rear view camera, a 12 ft. charging cable, a 26 ft. cable to connect to the rear camera, a 4 ft. data cable, a dual charger so you can plug the USB cable into your cigarette lighter power port, cable clips, and a cable tool so that you can hide the cables if you're mounting the system permanently. We don't have a need to use this every day so we passed on hiding the cable, and we haven't found a need to use the rear camera on surveillances so far.
I can recommend the Z-Edge WiFi Dash Cam for every day use, but until the map issue is fixed with their app, I can't recommend it for use by a professional investigator and, for that reason, can only give this one a 3-star review on Amazon. Please leave a comment if you have any questions and we'll respond asap.
EXCALIBUR Private Investigation
Colorado Springs, Colorado
P.S. We'll be reviewing the Rove R2-4K Dash Cam Built in WiFi GPS Car Dashboard Camera Recorder with UHD 2160P, 2.4" LCD, 150° Wide Angle, WDR, Night Vision next week once we have it in hand. It's a front camera system only, but for our purposes that's all we really need for surveillance.
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