The shots you get with your camera are dependent on where you place your camera. This is true from huge IMAX cameras down to tiny action cameras. The big difference between the two is that action cameras are small enough and light enough to mount almost anywhere.
Availability of accessories may influence your sports camera purchase since many action cameras have proprietary accessories; however, if you've already purchased your action camera, you may be looking for accessory ideas for the sport you'd like to capture. Having the proper accessories makes all the difference in trying to capture that great ski video or your underwater exploration. We'll look at the vast array of products from some of the leading manufacturers in action camera accessories so you can find just what you need for your next video adventure without breaking your budget!
Bundles Can Help You Find What You Need
If you haven't bought your camera yet, you may want to consider purchasing a bundle. Many camera manufacturers offer bundles that will include essential accessories you'll need to start shooting. Some even provide bundles customized to your specific activity. Even if you've already have your camera, the bundles can show you the types of accessories available for the shooting you plan to do.
GoPro has created bundles specifically customized for 21 different types of activities. The items in the bundles can be purchased separately if you already own a GoPro. Not all of the accessories work with all models of GoPro's cameras so check to make sure your model is supported. GoPro's current bundles include the Hero4 Black camera which has a base price of $499; with accessories added, the full cost can be upwards of $1,000.
Sony and Monoprice have starter bundles for several of their action cameras that include various items ranging from mounts to waterproof housing to live remotes to a chest harness. Sony even sells an action camera bundle designed to train you to be a better golfer. All the bundle items can be bought individually although the starter bundles save you money by purchasing some of the items together.
Vivitar has their 787HD action camera that retails for $99.98 and comes with the waterproof housing, remote control, and mounts for bikes and helmets. While it's not a 4K GoPro, the cost is around the price you might pay for just the accessories alone.
Since GoPro has the largest market share of action cameras, they also tend to have the largest assortment of accessories produced by a variety of companies. This is bad news for other action cameras because GoPro has a proprietary mount. It's important to note that all official GoPro accessories are proprietary for their cameras. When purchasing GoPro accessories, you'll also want to make note of your model of GoPro since many of their accessories are camera specific.
In general, you should check the specs of your camera before you purchase any accessories. If you camera has ¼'' mount abilities then you'll have much more flexibility when purchasing accessories from a company other than your camera's manufacturer. Some companies do sell adapters so you can use their cameras with universal mounts or other camera manufacturer accessories.
The following adapters are important to note:
Monoprice's MHD Sport T-Tip Mount Compatible with GoPro Mounting Accessories retails for $2.94 and allows you to use Monoprice's MHD Sport Wi-Fi Action Camera with many of the accessory mounts designed for GoPro.
Poloroid's Cube Tripod Mount retails for 17.99 and allows you to mount the Cube to any tripod and most 1/4” mounted accessories.
GoPro has a Tripod Mount that retails for $9.99 that is 1/4” threaded if you wanted to use it on other universal mounting accessories.
A water resistant camera is not a waterproof camera. Some action cameras aren't even water resistant. If your camera will be around water, you'll definitely want a waterproof housing. An important factor to examine when considering waterproof housings is how deep under the water can it go. Most companies' waterproof housings are rated to 196' (or 60 meters) but some are only rated to 30'. Protective housing made by your action camera's manufacturer will usually provide a better fit particularly for underwater usage. A majority of the underwater housing is proprietary for specific action cameras like the action camera housings for GoPro, Sony, Contour, Monoprice, Vivitar, and Polaroid’s Cube.
Underwater housings offer great protection from sand; they also provides an added protection against impact. Impact resistance is another element to consider when deciding on a protective casing especially when using your camera for high velocity sports or aerial drone use.
Many of the underwater housings provide a ¼” threading on the bottom of the case which will allow your proprietary mounted camera to accept a universal mount which is important for tripod use in addition to allowing the use of universal accessories.
Designed exclusively for the Hero 3+ Black edition, GoPro's 3D housing allows you to shoot dual 2D footage that can be easily converted to 3D with the free GoPro Studio editing software. Retailing at $199.99, the tandem housing holds two cameras and is waterproof up to 197'.
GoPro has red and magenta dive filters retailing at $69.99 each. Note that filters are specific to the housings they will be mounted on.
Mounts and Support
By adapting to ¼” threading, your action camera will work with most tripods, monopods and shoulder rigs designed for larger cameras. Most action cameras are even small enough to be mounted to light stands that have ¼” hardware. Keep in mind that some fluid heads and stabilizers have a minimum camera weight needed in order to perform properly.
For many action shots, you’re probably going to want a camera support that is made for action cameras meaning smaller, lighter weight and often waterproof. Keep in mind that not all action cameras are the same shape and size. Sony’s action cameras are shaped very differently than GoPro’s. You might be able to use the same ¼” suction cup car mount for either brand of camera, but the same ¼” helmet side mount probably will not work for both.
While there are a huge number of off brand action camera accessories on the market, the quality can vary greatly. Even the same make and model mount can vary greatly in quality from one piece to the next. Considering the relatively low costs of most action camera accessories, it may be worth spending a few bucks more to get a name brand that you know and trust.
Head and Hat Mounts
There are a huge variety of head and hat mounts for action cameras; many cameras even include one with your initial purchase. Keep in mind that depending upon the activity, people can move their heads around rapidly which doesn’t always make for the best footage. Depending on the brand of your camera, prices for the mounts start at around $10.
There are possibly more helmet mount options for action cameras than any other type of mount. Mounting options include side, top, front or back of your helmet; mounts are also designed for various types of helmets such as smooth surfaced or vented helmets which allows you the ability to run straps through the vents. Sony even makes a mount for football helmets.
Having the proper accessories makes all the difference in trying to capture that great ski video or your underwater exploration.
Many action cameras include one helmet mount with your camera purchase. Prices for helmet mounts start at about $10 for a simple mount and increase based on the complexity of the mount. While your shots can suffer from excessive head movement, you can decrease this by using a heavy helmet; usually the heavier the helmet, the less your camera is affected because there is less rapid head movement.
Chest mounts are a great option if you’re looking to decrease the amount of camera shake that you sometimes get from helmet or head mounts. Chest mounts can also give you that great POV look of seeing the wearer’s arms in action especially while skiing. Camera manufacturers including GoPro, Contour, and Sony make chest mounts for their action cameras with prices starting at $15.
Wrist mounts have always been favored by divers but are becoming more popular with other users; if not diving, wrist mounts are best used with the camera facing the wearer. Pricing tends to start at $15.
While there are a few mounts designed to attach a camera to the side of a scuba or ski mask, they can be awkward for the wearer. Liquid Image has solved this problem by building action cameras into their goggle-styled mask which is also a great option if you don’t want your camera to be easily noticeable.
There are suction mounts designed for use with surfboards, snowboards, skateboards, boats and cars. They offer the opportunity to achieve an incredible array of shots, and they can mount to nearly any smooth, flat surface. GoPro makes a vehicle suction mount that they say is tested at speeds over 150 mph. Prices for suction mounts usually range between $18 – $80.
Retailing at $49.99, GoPro's Jaws Flex Clamp mount allows you to attach your camera directly to the clamp or use the provided flexible neck to achieve a wider range of camera angles.
These are mounts that are usually a two piece design that screws together around the handlebars of your bike. Many camera purchases include a bicycle mount; bike mounts tend to start at $10. Regardless of the mount, you need to keep in mind that road quality will affect how much the camera shakes and will ultimately affect your footage.
GoPro and Contour both make mounts to attach your camera to your guns, bows or fishing poles. Prices range from $30 – $70.
With musician's in mind, GoPro's mic stand mount retails for $14.99 and has an adapter so it will work with both US and European mic stands.
Mount for All Seasons
GoPole's Scenelapse 360° Time Lapse Device is perhaps one of the most interesting accessories out on the market. Scenelapse will automatically rotate 360° while also allowing you to set the duration and the angle for your shots. Retailing for $34.99, Scenelapse comes with a removable GoPro mount but also has a universal 1/4” mounting option.
Mini Monopods and Grips
Mini monopods also known as selfie sticks are becoming very popular with snowboarders and surfers because of the unique ways and angles they can include themselves in the action footage. In many cases, a camera’s remote can attach to the pole of the selfie stick right above the grip making it easy to start and stop recording.
GoPro's 3-Way mount is a unique design that can function as a grip, extender or tripod and retails for $69.99. Rugged grips like Gopole’s Bobber ($29.99) can give similar camera angles but is more durable and even floats if you drop it and your camera in the water.
Steadicam's Curve is a compact, gimbal-based, handheld stabilizer that retails for $59.95. Known best for their stabilizing technology, Steadicam specifically designed the Curve exclusively for GoPro to help shooters create smooth, shake-free footage. This stabilizer is great if you have small hands or if you need a Steadicam in a small confined space.
The Smoothee, also by Steadicam, is a larger stabilizing device that has multiple mounting options including GoPro and iPhones. More than twice the price of the Curve, the Smoothee is also significantly larger. This is great for those with larger hands.
GoPro's Smart Remote (Hero3 and later) and their WiFi Bacpac and Remote Kit (original Hero to Hero2) both provide incredible flexibility for your GoPro. Retailing at just $79.99, either remote will allow you to control your GoPro at distances up to 600' as well as control up to 50 GoPros at once. The remotes are also wearable and waterproof.
Sony offers their wearable Live View Remote that is both impact resistant and waterproof. The remote retails for $149.99 and allows you to watch the live video feed from Sony action cameras as well as control them.
The Monoprice MHD Sport and Vivtar 787HD action cameras both include remotes with your camera purchase, but these remotes are limited to controlling recording.
It’s important to note that many action cameras including models from Sony, Contour, and GoPro have mobile apps that allow you to control the camera and monitor the video it’s shooting from a phone or tablet. Typically, the camera apps are a free download.
Before You Buy
Double check the accessory and make sure the mount is compatible with your camera. In some cases it’s not just the connector, but how the camera will be positioned on the mount. In order to get good action camera footage, you need accessories that fit and work properly with your camera.
Sidebar: Go Wild With Action Camera Accessories For Your Pet
Why should humans have all the fun? Now you can see, first hand, the fun and mischief that your pet experiences from their perspective by using a pet harness and your action camera. Here's a quick breakdown of pet harnesses and what cameras they will fit.
Retailing for $44.99, Sony has a dog harness that is proprietary and will fit most of their action cameras inside of the water and impact resistant housing. It will fit dogs with waist sizes of 19 ¾″ – 31 ½″ ; typically this would be a dog that weighs greater than 33 lbs.
GoPro has a dog harness, Fetch, that will accommodate all size dogs ranging from 15 – 120 lbs. It retails for $59.99 and is compatible with all GoPro models.
Obviously, you’ll also want to use a remote to monitor Fido’s shots and get the most from his cinematic adventure!
W. H. Bourne is an award-winning director; her most recent film played at more than 40 film festivals, including international screenings.