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30 fps vs 60 fps vs 4k: What’s the difference?

So you’ve decided to get a dash cam to protect yourself from getting caught empty or to protect your car while parked. That’s great! But if your dash cam has terrible video quality or choppy playback, it isn’t going to do you much good.

This means that you need to choose the right balance between image quality and smoothness. To do that, you need to look at the fps and resolution of a dash cam. But what are fps and resolution and which one is more important? That’s what I’ll explain in this article.

What is fps and what does it mean?

Picture of film roll

One of the main factors to consider when choosing any kind of video recording device, like a dash cam, is the frame rate.

This is measured using frames per second (fps), which dictates the number of image stills that appear on the screen within one second.

Every video, whether it’s dash cam footage or the latest Marvel movie, is a huge collection of individual still images captured by a video camera. When you press play, all of these images are played together in a sequence to create a moving picture.

With higher fps, more images will be shown over the span of a second. Your dash cam might have a rating of 60 fps, meaning that it can show 60 frames per second.

So why is this important? Well, it’s all about the sharpness of the images being played back.

With a higher frame rate, the video playback is smoother and looks much neater than lower frame rates.

By contrast, a low frame rate like 30 fps can look like it’s stuttering in comparison to 60 fps.

The bottom line is that using smoother and sharper footage allows you to see incidents more clearly.

How do I choose a frame rate? 30 fps vs 60 fps video recording difference.

Different rates of fps can have various impacts on the footage that you get from your dash cam. The best frame rate to choose really depends on what you want to get from the footage.

Here, I’ll compare 30 vs 60 fps across a few categories to determine which one offers the most benefit:

Smoothness

With a higher fps rate, you’ll notice a much smoother sequence of images during video playback. This is useful when re-watching traffic incidents. This is because there are more image stills available for the dash cam to cycle through within each second.

When comparing 30 fps vs 60 fps, you’ll notice the differences when watching the same footage in both frame rates. The 30 fps footage will look much choppier and have bigger gaps between image stills than the 60 fps feed.

Having smoother footage with 60 fps makes it easier to observe detail when rewatching a high-speed incident.

Slow motion footage

There’s another benefit to having a higher rate of fps – watching footage in slow motion.

The more frames that your dash cam can record, the more detail is retained when you slow down the footage to identify specific details.

This is because having a higher standard frame rate on the camera allows it to drop to a lower, but still effective, frame rate when playing footage in slow motion. For example, a 60 fps dash cam will slow its footage down to 30 fps to help you pick out certain details in a fast-moving incident.

When you watch a video with 30 fps in slow motion, the quality has to be scaled back even more. In many cases, this results in unclear footage that is choppy and grainy. 

This obscures a lot of the important details that you need to see clearly when playing back an incident.

Low-light footage

Here’s where things get more even. In low-light conditions, 30 fps has a slight edge over 60 fps. This is because the image quality is generally lower at night, so the advantage of smoothness that you normally get with 60 fps doesn’t have much of an effect. 30 fps will have better quality at night because less images will allow more light to be captured in each image. 

lady driving at night

Some dash cams may be able to automatically switch to the best fps rate for low-light conditions or may have an option on the menu that is designed specifically for capturing footage at night. See some of our top recommended dashcams.

File size

When using your dash cam to capture footage regularly, you need to be able to store the film somewhere. This is usually done using an SD card installed in the dash cam itself. But the frame rate can affect the file size.

Footage with a higher frame rate has a larger file size and takes up more memory space. So to accommodate 60 fps footage regularly, you’ll need a larger memory card.

What is 4k resolution?

Along with frame rate, the second main factor to evaluate when choosing any type of camera is the resolution.

This indicates the overall image quality that the camera can provide and is measured by the number of pixels that make up each image.

4k is one of the highest-quality resolutions available on modern dash cams, offering 4000 pixels per image. A higher resolution means better image quality thanks to better contrast, a broader range of colors, and other advantages.

Having a higher 4k resolution on your dash cam allows you to zoom in more effectively during footage without the risk of losing too much detail in the image. This is useful if you need to zoom in on a perpetrator’s face if you suspect that your car has been vandalized while parked, for example.

Which one should you choose – 4k or 60 fps?

So if 4k represents the overall image resolution and 60 fps refers to a higher frame rate, which one should you choose? Favoring image resolution over frame rate, and vice versa will largely depend on what you actually want to achieve while using your dash cam.

Frame rates of 60 fps are rarely seen alongside 4k video quality, so dash cams that offer 60 fps generally run with a 2k image resolution instead.

Basically, you’ll have to decide whether you’d rather have a higher image resolution or a better frame rate.

4k at 30fps vs 4k 60fps. Which frame rate is better? 

In this section, I’ll compare 4k and 60 fps using a range of relevant categories for dash cams to help you choose which direction to go in:

Image quality

This can be a complicated topic because of different lighting or weather conditions, but I’m mainly referring to standard daytime use here. A dash cam with a higher resolution, like 4k at 30 fps, is always going to offer better image quality than a model that can shoot at 60 fps but only has a 2k resolution.

picture of blurry image

Better resolutions on 4k cameras make colors much sharper and more vibrant, and the footage will also have better contrast and saturation than lower-resolution video. A dash cam that can use a frame rate of 60 fps is still going to be hampered by a lower 2k resolution.

Low-light situations

While having a 4k resolution is fantastic for a dash cam in daylight conditions, that advantage disappears in low-light situations. The advantage of having a 4k camera is that more light can be absorbed by the lens to create a better picture.

But at night, there is a lot less light. This means that the difference in quality between a 4k camera and a 2k camera is inverted. 

Because a dash cam with a 2k resolution is less affected by the low-light conditions, this is a better choice at night, even with 60 fps.

Motion capture

On the roads, incidents can happen incredibly fast. This is especially true on highways. If you’re unlucky enough to get tangled up in a fast accident, you’ll want to use your dash cam to capture footage of the incident.

60 fps dash cams allow you to capture more detail when it comes to fast-moving objects. 

This is because you can slow the footage down but still retain smooth playback and decent image quality. This is crucial for picking out important details about the incident.

4k dash cams aren’t well-suited to fast-moving incidents because they usually run at 30 fps. 

This results in much jerkier footage when played back and may also miss out on vital details in between captured image stills.

Parking mode

But when things are much more sedate, higher resolution in the form of a 4k dash cam is much more useful. Your dash cam’s parking mode, for example.

The detail and stability available in 4k images allow you to zoom in on particular details, like the face of someone that you suspect has vandalized your parked car, without losing clarity. In these situations, having a higher frame rate doesn’t have much use because things are so slow.

File size

Whether you’re using 4k resolution or 60 fps, the size of your video files is going to be quite large. Both of these features require more memory than a dash cam that uses a 2k resolution at 30 fps. Make sure to invest in a more spacious memory card if you’re using 4k or 60 fps.

Video playback

The whole point of recording footage on a dash cam is that you can play it back when you need to check something, like how an incident unfolded. This is important especially if you are a rideshare drive. You want to choose a camera that has easy playback.

Files with 4k resolution or 60 fps are large, and often need specialist computer programs to play or edit them properly.

Computers and other devices that can handle 4k resolution are less common than ones that are comfortable playing things at 60 fps. If your computer can’t handle 4k video files, it isn’t worth investing in a 4k dash cam.

Sometimes, even if a device can play 4k video, it needs to compress the file a bit to play it smoothly. This can result in a slight decrease in image quality.

This is also true for uploading dash cam footage to sites like YouTube. Many of these platforms aren’t yet equipped to regularly handle 4k footage. However, YouTube can play videos at 60 fps as a maximum frame rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tell the difference between 30 and 60 fps?

You can easily tell the difference between 30 vs 60 fps video recording when watching them side-by-side. Footage that runs at 60 fps will be noticeably calmer and smoother than 30 fps video, which can seem erratic and jerky in contrast.

You’ll also see a stark difference between the two frame rates when slowing footage down. 60 fps footage can preserve clarity and quality even when played in slow motion, whereas 30 fps video looks unclear and jumps pretty badly.

30 fps vs 60 fps video recording – which is better?

If you want the most adaptable setup for your dash cam, 60 fps holds more advantages than 30 fps. The footage is smoother overall, and in the case of high-speed accidents, having 60 fps lets you re-watch the footage in slow motion to gather important details.

When comparing 60 fps vs 30, the latter tends to jump noticeably between individual image stills, which can cause you to miss out on important details about an incident. If you are worried about quality see our top recommended dashcam here.

Conclusion

For most dash cam applications, having the capacity for 60 fps is much more useful than getting better image resolution.

Sure, 4k makes it easier to zoom in and pick out details like faces or license plates, but the lack of available playback options makes this difficult to use effectively.

Using a 2k resolution in combination with a frame rate of 60 fps offers a much more versatile dash cam setup. You can easily slow down high-speed incidents without losing much image quality, helping you to figure out what happened and protecting yourself from being caught empty handed.  

William
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