These are some of the best and most useful action cam accessories we've laid our hands on for anyone who wants to move beyond the basic helmet mount.
Mounts, cases and more
There's a good reason why GoPro's tagline is "the world's most versatile camera."
With their super-compact design and point-and-shoot operation, it's a device that anyone can set up and use. And with its waterproof housing, you can use it in the snow or rain, in or out of the water, or really anywhere you want to go.
But to get the most from a GoPro -- or any action cam for that matter -- you need to go beyond the adhesive helmet mount that came with the camera.
What follows are accessories to help you do just that. And this list isn't just for GoPro users.
Though many of these use the pronged mount used on GoPro's housings, the first product on the list shows you how to get around that. Also, the accessories here that don't use GoPro's mount use a standard 1/4-20 tripod mount.
This list just scratches the surface of what's out there. If you have a favorite action-cam accessory or one you're curious about, please let me know in the comments.
Editors' note, November 26, 2014: This story was originally published February 18, 2014, and has been updated with additional products.
Delkin makes a lot of camera accessories and also had an action cam called the Wingman HD. I haven't tested the camera, but this mount is a great cheap-and-easy option for GoPros as well as any camera with a standard 1/4-20 tripod mount.
For example, I removed the 1/4-20 tripod adapter from the Delkin mount and attached it to GoPro's QuickClip mount for baseball caps (see the inset picture).
Basically, if you want to buy or use something other than a GoPro housing with a GoPro mount, this is an inexpensive solution. If you can track down this specific one, just search your favorite accessory retailer for a 1/4-20-to-GoPro adapter.
The Jaws flex clamp from GoPro has become a favorite of mine because it allows for quick and secure repositioning of the camera. It's a simple tension clamp with a diameter of 0.25 to 2 inches, but the tips of the clamp move slightly so it can grab onto irregular shapes securely. There's a GoPro quick-release base on top of the clamp, so you can attach a camera right to it. Or, you can use the adjustable neck if you need more height to your shot. It works really well, but it also costs about $50 (£50/AU$89).
Camera accessory maker Joby also has a couple of clamps as part of its Action series. On the left is the $30 Action Clamp and GorillaPod arm (£25/AU$35), and on the right is the Action Clamp and Locking Arm for $40 (£33/AU$40).
The action clamps take a bit more effort than the flex clamp since you have to turn a knob to tighten them, but they can clamp down on something as thin as a stop sign, or anything thicker up to 2 inches. The Locking and GorillaPod arms are attached to the clamp by a 1/4-20 screw. The clamp has a mount on each end, so if you want to move the camera to the other side, it's as easy as unscrewing the arm and screwing it on the opposite end.
The $40 Action Tripod is pretty much the same as a regular ballhead GorillaPod, but it comes with a GoPro mount quick-release clip as well as a standard 1/4-20 quick-release clip. What's nice is the bottom of the GoPro mount clip is threaded for use on a tripod. It goes for about £24 in the UK and AU$30 in Australia.
If you want a suction cup mount to use inside or outside your car, you want the Panavise 809. The locking mechanism can be done with one hand: push down on the big button on top and pull up the handle. As long as it's on a smooth, flat, non-porous surface, it'll stay put -- even at high speeds. If the mechanism looks or sounds familiar, it's because several accessory manufacturers license Panavise's design.
On top is a 1/4-20 stud, so anything with a tripod mount can be attached. The ratcheted metal arm has 140-degree vertical movement and a single knob allows you to tilt the camera 210 degrees as well as turn and rotate it 360 degrees.
It's the best-quality suction-cup mount you can get and well worth the $30 (£25, AU$33).
Panavise ActionGrip 3-N-1 Suction Cup Camera Mount Kit
If the 809 doesn't offer you the mounting flexibility you need, check out the $45 13150 ActionGrip (£30/AU$55, converted). You don't get the bent arm of the 809, but instead you get pieces to create three different lengths: shorty, single knuckle and double knuckle. Plus, you get a GoPro-mount ballhead.
The Panavise GoPro ballhead (pictured here with the double-knuckle length) allows you to tilt, turn and rotate the camera to get just the right angle you want, but without the need to add GoPro adapters. The shorty (inset image) gives you a lower profile, while the single-knuckle gives you some rotation for better positioning.
If you're not familiar with UKPro, you really should be. It is the largest manufacturer of GoPro third-party accessories and the quality is fantastic. For example, UKPro's camera poles make it easy to get great POV video. The tough, but lightweight anodized aluminum poles are tipped with a GoPro mount and have supergrippy handles, so they stay in your hand in the water or with gloves on. And if you do drop one, the brightly colored handles are easy to spot. The $30 8-inch Pole 8 (£18/AU$45) is a good size for tossing in a backpack, while the Pole 22 at $35 (£24/AU$50) gives you a little more reach to get more in the shot. Check out the company's blog if you want to see the poles in action.
If you're not sure what size pole will work best for you, UKPro has you covered here, too. With the 38HD and 54HD poles, you get the same great quality of the fixed models, but they're extendable. The 38HD goes starts at 16 inches (41 cm) and extends to 38 inches (96 cm) while the 54HD goes from 22.5 to 54 inches (57 to 137 cm). Big grippy knobs make it easy to telescope the poles even with gloves on and they're fine to use in fresh or salt water. But, if you do plan to use them in water, you might consider getting the floating versions of these poles.
Like the UKPro poles, the Sandmarc pole telescopes, in this case from 17 to 40 inches (43.2 to 101.6 cm). It, too, is made from aluminum and is waterproof. And at $40 (£40/approximately AU$60), it's priced about the same.
However, if you shoot with something other than a GoPro camera, this is like getting two poles for the price of one. The GoPro mount on top is attached by a standard 1/4-20 tripod mount. That gives you a pole you can mount other cameras on as well as use the removeable GoPro mount on other tripods or monopods or anything with a 1/4-20 mount like the Panavise mounts mentioned earlier.
It doesn't look like much, but the Mule's design is really pretty clever. The lightweight, plastic bar has a GoPro-housing mount on each end and then in the middle is a connector for attaching it to any GoPro mount.
Don't have a mount or need a lower profile? The bar can be securely attached with inexpensive cable ties. The rubber grooves on the bottom help keep it in place while the two rubber pieces at each end on top help keep the ties from slipping.
Plus, you can use it handheld if you just need a simple handle to shoot with.
If you want to shoot handheld with two cameras or shoot at night with some extra light, you want the Flex Grip ($50/£40/AU$109). At each end of the big, textured grip is a GoPro mount so you can shoot with cameras pointed forward and backward. The top mount is on an extendable arm that can be pulled up and out allow you to pivot the camera.
Shooting at night or underwater? You can swap out the top camera for one of UKPro's waterproof LED lights -- the Freestyler or Aqualite -- to brighten up the scene while still shooting with the bottom-mounted camera. And with the pivoting arm, you can shine the light just where it's needed.
The $70 3-way (£53, AU$120), as its name implies, can be used in three different configurations. Completely folded up it's a basic camera stick that lets you comfortably shoot handheld. You can then extend it to get closer to your subject or, if that subject is you, use it as a selfie stick. Lastly, screwed upside down into the handle is a small set of legs that you flip around and twist back into the handle, converting the 3-way into a tripod.
Though the iOgrapher's primary purpose is to help steady video shot with your iPhone 5/5S, it can also be used as a mount for a GoPro or other action cam with wireless capabilities.
There are two accessory shoes on top giving you a place to mount a mic or an LED light panel. But, mount a GoPro into one of these shoes and you can use your iPhone as a remote viewfinder and controller when shooting handheld video. Or simply put the whole setup onto a tripod so you can get in the shot.
If you're looking to make your handheld GoPro video look more professional or just eliminate shake, you'll want to consider a $150 Steadicam Smoothee (£140, AU$220) or $100 Curve (£90, AU$150). While I preferred using the larger Smoothee, the Curve is small enough to drop in your backpack, which is really what you want for shooting with the GoPro. Unfortunately, both require you to have the LCD back for the GoPro for the camera to balance properly.
A skate dolly allows you to get smooth tracking or panning shots with your action camera. They can be expensive, though, which is where Monoprice comes in. Its dolly only costs about $20, but is solidly built and rolls smoothly. The base plate has markings so you can precisely angle the axles to turn a full circle in as small as a 7-inch radius.
GoPro accessory maker Polar Pro got its start in 2011 making a simple polarizer filter for Hero cams.
It didn't stop there, though, and the company now has the Venture3+ combo pack that includes polarizer and neutral density (ND) filters and a 3.8x macro lens.
The most important filter in the pack for most people will be that original fixed horizontal polarizer. It helps tame glare off of water or snow or really any reflective surface. It will also make your blue skies pop a bit more.
The ND filter basically slows down the shutter speed of the Hero3+. By doing this you can create motion blur in clips where you're traveling at high speeds. An ND filter will also help cut down on wobble from rolling shutter and with blown-out highlights in really bright scenes.
Camera accessory maker Fotodiox took its WonderPana filter system designed for wide-angle lenses and adapted them to use on GoPro housings. You can check out videos on the company's YouTube channel to see them in action. To go along with the WonderPana Go system, Fotodiox also makes metal thumbscrews, extenders, and tripod mounts as well as a wrench called the SharkBite for getting your thumbscrews supertight and opening bottles.
If you only have one camera and a few accessories to keep track of, a simple inexpensive case like this one from Fotodiox is sufficient. I like this one because it has three separate storage areas with the main camera tray on the bottom.
The Pill Box is great for any action cam, not just GoPros. Elastic bands on one side can be used to secure the camera or bigger accessories, while the zippered pouch keeps all your smaller bits and pieces from falling out. It's just some good extra protection for when you want to toss your camera in your bag and go.
The 903 is a great little case that can handle some abuse and the elements. The case is impact resistant and waterproof with locking claw closures so they won't pop open accidentally. It also has an automatic pressure release valve so you can open it easily after pressure changes. It's available with a foam-block insert letting you set it up for your specific camera needs, or without if you're just looking for a safe place to store your miscellaneous accessories.
Along with its poles, UKPro has several case options. The POV20 LT, POV20 (not pictured) and POV30 are single-camera cases. The LT is a lightweight soft-shell nylon, while the regular cases are tough ABS polymer that are waterproof with pressure releases so they're still easy to open after an altitude change. A removable foam tray gives you storage below the camera.
If you've got a growing collection of GoPro cameras and accessories, the POV60 will keep you organized. It has room for up to four cameras in their housings as well as batteries, a charger, remotes, knobs and nuts, cables and whatever else you've got lying around.
Like the POV30, it's water-tight and constructed from ABS with steel hinges and two-stage locks to keep it from accidentally popping open. It's also shockproof from up to 7 feet (2 meters) onto concrete.
No, it won't make your camera perform better or help you capture video where you couldn't before. But, if you feel like adding a little personality to your camera, SkinIt has a full selection for GoPro. They're actually made for the standard housing that comes with the Hero3+ and 4, so you won't be putting them on the camera itself. Not bad for $15.