2016 Action Cam Accessory Buyer’s Guide

Perhaps you read about or saw someone using an action cam and thought to yourself, that would be a cool gizmo to have. Whether you're new or seasoned to the multiple functions of an action cam, you can't own one without knowing what additions you'll need to get those awesome and dramatic shots.

What You Need to Know: Proprietary Versus Universal

If you purchased your first action cam, then you already know that they are compact, portable and overall fun. And they can be used to capture unlimited activities. In order to know which accessory you need, you first have to know what adventure you plan on using your camera to record. Most common uses for action cam owners can include sports, hiking, mountain climbing and of course, filmmaking. For those thrill-seeking, exciting shots you need more than just the camera; you need the right accessories. You also need to know what these accessories are used for and where to rig them.

For those thrill-seeking, exciting shots you need more than just the camera; you need the right accessories.

GoPro is the market leader when it comes to action cams, with gaining momentum from competitors such as Sony, Contour, Ion and other brands. GoPro, in particular, comes with proprietary mounts. These are standard adapters for all GoPro cams, meaning they limit their compatibility to GoPro accessories only. Nevertheless, the ever-growing, fast changing market of cameras is never without compromise — especially in such an open and driven market as video production.

Mounts

Of course, when it comes to mounting your action cam, it's a matter of application. Let's take a look at the mounts available on the market and the role they play in popular activities.

GoPro makes the GoPro 3-Way 3-in-1 mount for GoPro HERO Action Camera. Priced at $70, this accessory is designed to work as a camera grip, selfie stick or a mini tripod. It features a collapsible design that measures 7.5" when folded and can be expanded up to 20" when fully extended. The extension arm folds to help you get the right amount of reach, or it can be removed entirely if you just want to use the grip. Numerous shooting opportunities are possible with the 3-Way mount, especially if you're looking to take a selfies while free falling at 18,000 feet.

GoPro 3-Way 3-in-1 mount
GoPro 3-Way 3-in-1 mount

There's also the GoPro Handlebar / Seatpost / Pole Mount, retailing at an affordable $20. This mount is designed for bicycle seatposts and handlebars, ski poles and more. Its diameter allows you to fit this mobile mount to a pipe or pole to create a handheld boom.

GoPro Handlebar / Seatpost / Pole Mount

Sony offers a camera shoe mount for your action cam, also priced at just $20. The Sony VCTCSM1 camera shoe mount allows you to connect two cameras for simultaneous control.

Sony camera shoe mount

Big Balance has the GA7 Suction Mount, retailed at $15. Compatible with all GoPro and similarly sized action cameras, you can attach the Big Balance GA7 to cars, boats or motorcycles quickly and easily with its incredible suction power.

Big Balance GA7 Suction Mount

Polar Pro has captivated the market with their StrapMount mounting accessory for GoPro. Retailed at $30, this handy device securely mounts your GoPro to any backpack, SCUBA BCD, life jacket or strap, letting you capture hands-free POV footage without being constrained by a head or chest harness. The Polar Pro StrapMount clamps to your strap with a pair of thumbscrews and features a quick-release plate that allows you to quickly attach or remove your GoPro from the mount.

Polar Pro StrapMount

The Joby GorillaPod Action Tripod is versatile mini-tripod designed for action cameras and other small cameras weighing up to 2.2 pounds. It features flexible legs with over two dozen leg joints that bend and rotate 360°, allowing you to secure your camera almost anywhere. Priced at under $30, it's ideal for leveling your shots.

Joby GorillaPod Action Tripod

ProGearX has an assortment of mounts for anything from surfing to bicycling. Their head mounts can be worn over a helmet or directly on your head in a headlamp-like position. The ProGearX head mount is  also reasonably priced at just $15.

ProGearX head mount

Ram Mount is another winner when it comes to steady mounting for capturing those daring escapades. Whether you're looking for a clamp mount for angle shots or a suction mount for skateboarding, Ram Mounts offer an assortment of adapters ranging in prices from $28 to $50.

Protective Housings

Primarily used for water sports or shooting underwater footage, protective housings offer flawless protection from water, salt, sand or any other particle you can think of that may damage your camera. Of course, when purchasing your camera and protective case, there are vital components to keep in mind. For example, if you plan on shooting footage in deep depths of water, consult with your retailer to make sure you get the appropriate case for adequate protection. Make certain your protective case is waterproof for deep sea diving and other underwater activity.

GoPro has a variety of protective housing accessories for their action cam. The standard case for your HERO4, HERO3+ or HERO3 retails at $50.

GoPro standard case

Back-Bone Gear sells an external case for $60. The Back-Bone Custom Case is designed to store and carry your Ribcage or GoPro cameras, lenses and other accessories.

Back-Bone Gear GOcase

Filters

Filters for Action Cams provide improved quality for underwater footage, GoPro designs Red Dive and Magenta Dive filters priced at $70. These protective lens covers are designed to help reduce glare from reflective objects, enhance sky contrast and improve color saturation in bright outdoor scenes.

Polar Pro manufactures the Venture3+ Filter Set for GoPro HERO3+ Housings priced at $50. Sold as a bundle, the Polar Pro Venture3+ Filter set features a polarizing filter, a macro or close-up filter and an ND filter — everything you need for your outdoor and underwater adventures.

Polar Pro Venture3+

Battery Packs

Most action cam manufacturers sell batteries that come standard with their brand. As with all cameras and camcorders, it's important to know the amount of battery life you'll need for your shoot. Are you filming for an hour or a whole day?

Sony makes the NP-BX1 Battery kit for most of their action cams. Priced at $50, it's ideal for the traveling camera owner.

Sony NP-BX1 Battery kit

The Brunton All day 2.0 Extended Battery Back for GoPro HERO, HERO3, HERO3+, and HERO4, priced at $70, is designed to integrate with the GoPro Standard Housing, serving as its own backdoor for a water-tight seal. This makes the battery compatible with HERO3, HERO3+, and HERO4 models so long as they are used with the Standard Housing.

Brunton all day 2.0 Extended Battery Back

For the most intensive GoPro shooters, Digipower makes Refuel battery packs that last for up to 24 hours. You can purchase their batteries in six, 12 and 24 hour varieties for $50, $80 and $130, respectively.

Remote Controls

The GoPro Smart Remote delivers full remote control of all camera functions, including shutter, on/off settings and tag button settings. The remote can be worn or mounted to your gear for quick, easy access. It includes a key ring and wrist strap. The Smart Remote is waterproof to 32 feet; however, the wireless connectivity does not work underwater, so the remote and cameras do not remain connected if submerged.

GoPro Smart Remote 2

Some action cams are sold with remote controls, while others must be purchased separately with accessory kits. To date, the market has yet to make a universal remote device that can program various brands.

Lights

Lights for action cams come in a variety of sizes and functions. Most are camera specific, but others have special conversion adapters to use with other cameras. Just make sure that before buying, you determine battery life, power and usage.

Intova manufactures a pistol grip tray for POV camera/housing which enables one-handed holding and maneuvering of a compact POV camera and two dive lights attached to arms. The Intova PGRP Pistol Grip goes for $40.

Intova pistol grip tray

Qudos came up with the action camera light for GoPro HERO. It retails at $120 and weighs less than 150 grams. It's waterproof to a depth of 40 meters and is ideal for scuba diving. In addition, The Qudos action camera light works with non-GoPro cameras if a conversion mount is used, which, for the first-time buyer, is an added plus.

Qudos Action camera light for GoPro Hero

Audio

Built-in sound for the action cam has the same poor quality as most video cameras. The trick is to purchase a sound recording device separately and sync it with the lesser-quality audio on your action cam — in this case, using external mics, such as lavaliers and clip style omnidirectional stereo microphones.

Bags/Backpacks

You have a wide selection of bags to choose from for packing your essentials for those venturous shoots.

GoPro designed drawstring bags to protect your camera and accessories priced at $20. If size matters to you and price is not an issue, Lowepro ViewPoint made the 250 Backpack for GoPro and POV action cameras. The ViewPoint BP 250 retails for $120.

GoPro drawstring bag
Lowepro ViewPoint 250 Backpack for GoPro

Final Note: Consider Buying Bundles

Perhaps the best way to save on accessories for your action cam is to make a list of what you need and what you're going to be shooting, then go out and purchase a complete bundle. For example, GoPro, Sony and GoPole sell bundles for every activity you can think of, including rock climbing, snowboarding and more, providing you with all of the accessories and essentials you'll need for every action cam adventure.

Stephen Mandel Joseph is a writer and journalist from NYC, with a passion for filmmaking and directing. He also writes screenplays and comic book scripts when he's not freelancing.
 

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