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In the last few years, action cameras have become as ubiquitous as surfboards on a sunny day at the beach in southern California. Originally designed for action sports professionals and enthusiasts who needed a compact, rugged, and often hands-free system to capture each thrilling moment, action cameras have trickled down to the general population, too, thanks in part to their ease of use and go-anywhere design. Amidst the panoply of options available today, one brand stands atop the hill—the brand that started it all, whose very name is synonymous with action camera: GoPro.
If you’re considering buying an action camera, then chances are a GoPro is at or near the top of your wish list. But with more models available than ever before, and an increasingly comprehensive array of mounts and accessories, making that initial leap into the system can be a bit overwhelming. It is my hope that this buying guide serves as a GoPro primer, breaking down everything you need to know before making that all-important action-camera purchase, as well as covering the essential mounts and accessories you’ll need. So let’s get to it!
GoPro was founded by Nick Woodman, in 2002, when—as rumor has it—he was left frustrated by his inability to get professional and close-up angles of his surfing exploits during a trip to Australia. After two years of work, the first GoPro camera was released, the HERO 35mm. Described as a “reusable wrist camera,” the 2.5 x 3" camera weighed around 7 ounces and used 24-exposure Kodak 400 film. That’s right—the first GoPro camera was a 35mm still camera. It was waterproof to depths of about 15' and came with a clear case, camera strap, and ski-glove adapter lash.
The HERO 35mm camera was followed by the Digital HERO 1, in 2006, which took 640 x 640 photos and recorded 320 x 320 video (at 10 fps) to internal memory, for up to 10 seconds. Already, the camera featured the quintessential rectangular GoPro form factor. Four years and about as many models later, we see now-standard features added, such as an ultra-wide 170-degree angle-of-view lens and removable SD card memory, as well as the growth of mounting accessories. In late 2012, GoPro truly came of age with the announcement of the HERO3 line. Not only were the cameras smaller and lighter than their predecessors, but they saw the addition of one of the key features found in today’s action cameras—built-in Wi-Fi. The HERO3 was followed up by the HERO3+ Black and Silver Editions, which brings us now to the current lineup.
The GoPro camera lineup is currently split between two main series: the HERO4 line for peak performance, and the entry-level HERO line. Generally speaking, the HERO4 models give you higher recording resolutions and frame rates, richer feature sets, and increased expandability when compared to the more cost-effective HERO models, though there is still a fair amount of variation within each series. With six cameras to choose from, there is a GoPro model for anyone. But which one is right for you? Let’s break it down.
|HERO4 Black||HERO4 Silver||HERO4 Session||HERO+LCD||HERO+||HERO|
|Video||4K / 30, 25, 24 fps
2.7K / 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
1440p / 80, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
1080p / 120, 90, 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
960p / 120, 60, 50 fps
720p / 240, 120, 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
WVGA / 240 fps
|4K / 15 fps
2.7K / 30, 25, 24 fps
1440p / 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
1080p / 60, 50, 48, 30, 25, 24 fps
960p / 100, 60, 50 fps
720p / 120, 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
WVGA / 240 fps
|1440p / 30, 25, fps
1080p / 60, 50, 48, 30, 25 fps
960p / 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
720p / 100, 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
WVGA / 120, 100 fps
|1080p / 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
720p / 60, 50 fps
|1080p / 60, 50, 30, 25 fps
720p / 60, 50 fps
|1080p / 30, 25 fps
720p / 60, 50 fps
|Field of View||Ultra Wide, Medium, Narrow||Ultra Wide, Medium, Narrow||Ultra Wide, Medium||Ultra Wide||Ultra Wide||Ultra Wide|
|Photo||12MP / 30 fps burst||12MP / 30 fps burst||8MP / 10 fps burst||8MP / 5 fps burst||8MP / 5 fps burst||5MP / 5 fps burst|
|Manual Settings||White Balance
Exposure Value Comp.
Exposure Value Comp.
|Built-in Wireless||Wi-Fi and Bluetooth||Wi-Fi and Bluetooth||Wi-Fi and Bluetooth||Wi-Fi and Bluetooth||Wi-Fi and Bluetooth||No|
|Built-in Touch Display||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|Ports||Micro HDMI, mini USB, microSD, HERO Port
(Composite A/V and 3.5mm stereo mic input via optional adapters)
|Micro HDMI, mini USB, microSD, HERO Port
(Composite A/V and 3.5mm stereo mic input via optional adapters)
|Micro USB, microSD||Micro USB, microSD||Micro USB, microSD||Micro USB, microSD|
|Battery||1160mAh battery pack||1160mAh battery pack||Built-in 1000mAh battery||Built-in 1160mAh battery||Built-in 1160mAh battery||Built-in 1180mAh battery|
|Waterproof||131' (40 m) Standard Housing||131' (40 m) Standard Housing||33' (10 m)||131' (40 m)||131' (40 m)||131' (40 m)|
|Weight||Camera: 3.1 oz (89 g)
With Housing: 5.4 oz (152 g)
|Camera: 2.9 oz (84 g)
With Housing: 5.2 oz (147 g)
|2.6 oz (75 g)||4.5 oz (127 g)||4.3 oz (123 g)||3.9 oz (111 g)|
As the above chart indicates, the HERO4 Black is the crème de la crème of GoPro cameras. It supports Ultra HD 4K (3840 x 2160) recording up to 30 fps, 2.7K (2704 x 1520) up to 60 fps, and 1080p up to 120 fps for Full HD slow-motion playback. If 120 fps isn’t high enough to get the ultra-slow-motion capture you’re looking for, then the HERO4 lets you record 240 fps at 720p. If you’re looking for 4K video recording or high-resolution, high-frame-rate recording, then the HERO4 Black is the camera for you. It also gives you advanced Protune manual controls over photo and video settings (see glossary at end of article for information on Protune), and let’s not forget about 12MP stills at burst up to 30 fps.
The HERO4 Black is compatible with virtually all GoPro accessories and is waterproof to depths of 131' when inside of the GoPro Standard Housing. Like most of the current GoPro cameras, the HERO4 Black is equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity that let you pair it with GoPro’s Smart Remote or to a mobile device running the GoPro App for remote monitoring, control, and sharing.
When compared to the HERO4 Black, the HERO4 Silver is about half as fast at each video resolution, maxing out at 15 fps at 4K, 30 fps at 2.7K, 60 fps at 1080p, and 120 fps at 720p. But if you don’t need 4K video (15 fps is simply too slow for most applications) or 120 fps Full HD video, then the HERO4 Silver gives you everything that the HERO4 Black does, along with one major bonus—a built-in touchscreen LCD.
The LCD gives you intuitive on-board camera configuration and a convenient way to monitor and play back your footage, all without having to pair it wirelessly with a mobile device or add a separately available LCD Touch BacPac (see Monitoring and Control section). The combination of high-quality recording options and a built-in touchscreen makes the HERO4 Silver a tempting option for someone who wants the benefits of an LCD without having to spend extra money or add additional weight to the camera.
Breaking away from the traditional GoPro form, the HERO4 Sessionis the smallest and lightest GoPro available. Its cube-shaped body is approximately 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the HERO4 Silver in the Standard Housing, making it easy to wear and mount practically anywhere. The Session is the GoPro simplified, and is submersible without requiring a separate housing like the HERO4 Black and Silver, though only to depths of 33', compared to the 131-foot rating of the Standard Housing.
Despite its size, the HERO4 is able to deliver 1080p video up to 60 fps, 720p video up to 100 fps, and 8MP stills in burst up to 5 fps. Built for no-frills operation, a single press of the shutter button powers-on the camera and starts capturing video or Time Lapse photos automatically. A second press stops recording and powers-off the camera. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. For more advanced control and configuration, simply connect to the GoPro app on your smartphone or to the Smart Remote.
While some Protune manual setting controls are available—namely ISO Limit and Sharpness—you won’t get the full spectrum of controls offered by the HERO4 Black or Silver. Another key difference is that the Session also uses a built-in rechargeable battery rather than the removable battery pack, so once the battery is depleted, you’ll have to find an external power source USB power source to recharge/power the camera. But with portable USB power packs readily available, this seems like a fair compromise when you consider the compact size of the camera. For mounting, the HERO4 Session includes Standard and Low-Profile Frames.
Supporting 1080p video up to 60 fps and 8MP stills (5-fps burst mode), the HERO+ and HERO+LCD are entry-level options for users who want GoPro-quality immersive footage without sacrificing Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. For added simplicity, all HERO models feature an all-in-one design in which the front of the camera is built directly into a non-removable rugged housing that is waterproof to depths of 131'. Also, like the HERO4 Session, it uses a built-in rechargeable battery rather than removable battery pack.
By integrating the camera and housing into a single unit, GoPro was able to shed some size and weight; compared to the HERO4 Black in the Standard Housing, the HERO+ is about an ounce lighter. Despite the integrated housing design, the cameras still use detachable backdoors like the Standard Housing of the HERO4 Black and Silver models, providing access to memory card and USB connection ports, which have been relocated to the back of the device, unlike the HERO4 Black and Silver.
The HERO+ and HERO+LCD are nearly identical cameras with the except that, as the names suggest, the HERO+LCD adds a built-in touchscreen LCD much like the HERO4 Silver. This makes it easy to frame shots and play back footage without relying on connecting the device to your phone or tablet. When deciding between the two models, you’ll have to consider how important a rear touchscreen is to you, as all HERO models aren’t compatible with BacPac accessories such as the LCD Touch BacPac, so you can’t add a separate LCD touchscreen to the HERO+ the way you can with the HERO4 Black.
At the bottom of the GoPro totem pole sits the HERO, which sports the same integrated housing design as the HERO+ and HERO+LCD. While its specs are naturally more Spartan than other models, the camera still delivers 1080p video at 30 fps, 720p video at 60 fps, and 5MP still photos with bursts up to 5 fps. Besides the drop in video frame rates and still-image resolution, the HERO is the only GoPro that doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so you won’t be able to connect it to the Smart Remote or your mobile device, which means no wireless monitoring or file sharing. But, if these features don’t matter to you, then the HERO is the most affordable way to get into the GoPro game. It makes an ideal option for action camera beginners, or even as a gift for your children.
The housing has always been an integral part of the GoPro system, though the HERO line with its integrated housing design, and the HERO4 Session have stirred things up a bit. The external housing is, in essence, a rugged plastic shell that helps to protect your camera from the scratches and impact damage it’s bound to take from all of your adventures and action-sport heroics. After all, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to replace a beat-up or broken housing than it is a camera. Housings also, depending on the model, serve as a waterproof case that not only protects your GoPro from the elements, but lets it accompany you underwater on all your snorkeling and diving expeditions.
Beyond mere protection, a housing is perhaps the single most important GoPro accessory because it adds the standard GoPro pronged mounting interface, enabling you to attach the camera to the wide array of available mounts and accessories. Without a housing, you’re left with a naked camera that you can’t really attach to anything, which takes away all of the fun.
There are three basic housing types available: Standard, Dive, and Skeleton. Let’s take a look.
This is the housing that is included with the HERO4 Black and HERO4 Silver in standard bundles, as well as previous HERO3+ models. It’s waterproof to depths of 131' and features large, spring-loaded buttons that let you to operate the camera fully, even when wearing gloves. A flat lens cover maintains optimal image clarity both above and below water. Included with the Standard Housing is a Standard Backdoor for underwater use, a Skeleton Backdoor for open-access to rear connection ports, and a Touch Backdoor for use with the HERO4 Silver’s touchscreen LCD.
For applications where you want to keep a low-profile, GoPro offers its Blackout Housing, which is a matte-black version of the Standard Housing. In addition to matte-black backdoors, it also comes with LCD concealment sticks that help prevent unwanted reflections coming off the housing’s LCD window. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, HERO3
For an even more durable shell than the Standard Housing offers, you’ll want the Dive Housing. In addition to extreme, high-impact activities, the Dive Housing is waterproof to depths of 197', making it a mandatory accessory for deep sea divers. Like the Standard Housing, it features spring-loaded buttons and a flat glass lens port. It includes Standard, Skelton, and BacPac Backdoors. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, HERO3
HERO3, HERO3+, and HERO4 Housing Clarification: There is a fair amount of confusion surrounding camera and accessory compatibility between Standard and Dive Housings. Let me try to end the confusion. When the HERO3 was released, there were no separate Standard and Dive Housings, but rather a single “HERO3 housing.” It wasn’t until the HERO3+ that GoPro created what is now know as the Standard Housing, which became the default housing, included with HERO3+ standard bundles, as well as subsequent HERO4 standard bundles. The original HERO3 housing design effectively became today’s Dive Housing.
Both housings are compatible with HERO3, HERO3+, and HERO4 cameras, but differences in design—most notably the lens port—mean that some accessories, such as underwater filters, are housing specific. A filter designed for use with the Dive Housing (or the original HERO3 housing) is not compatible with the Standard Housing, and vice versa. The two housings also have different Backdoor designs, so a Standard, Skeleton, or BacPac Backdoor designed for the Standard Housing won’t fit onto the Dive Housing.
The Skeleton Housing is similar to the Standard Housing, but features open side panels and a Skeleton Backdoor that provide access to the camera’s connection points. This is ideal for when you want to charge the camera while recording, output a live video feed, or capture unobstructed audio using the GoPro’s onboard microphone. The open-panel design also aids in helping to keep the camera cool during long shoots. It probably goes without saying, but the Skeleton Housing is intended for use in dry-environments only.
The Skeleton Housing uses the same lens port design as the Standard Housing, meaning that it is compatible with lens filters designed for the Standard Housing. For HERO3, HERO3+, or HERO4 users who want a Skeleton Housing that is compatible with Dive Housing filters, look no further than the HERO3 Skeleton Housing. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, HERO3
While not necessarily a “housing,” The Frame provides the simplest way to mount your GoPro. Designed for low-speed or non-moving activities where you don’t want the extra weight and bulk of a housing, the frame wraps around the sides of the GoPro, leaving access open to all connection ports for quick battery and micoSD card changes, camera charging, data transfer, and live video output. It is particularly well-suited to indoor activities where you want to capture the cleanest onboard audio. While it doesn’t offer any protection for the camera, it does include a Protective Lens to help guard it against scratches, dirt, and debris. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, HERO3
By definition, a backpack is something that you wear on your back—insightful, I know. Well, the same pretty much applies to GoPro’s BacPac accessories, which attach directly to the back of a GoPro equipped with a HERO expansion port. Models with the HERO port included the HERO3, HERO3+, HERO4 Silver, and HERO4 Black. The HERO4 Session and the HERO models don’t have this port and, thus, are not compatible with BacPac accessories. Currently there are two BacPacs available: The LCD Touch BacPac and the Battery BacPac.
For HERO4 Black owners (as well as HERO3 and HERO3+ owners), there is no way to monitor or play back footage directly on the camera; i.e., there is no built-in touchscreen monitor like there is on the HERO4 Silver. But fear not, this same functionality can be added to the cameras, thanks to the LCD Touch BacPac. Not only does it enable you to frame your shots before shooting and review the clips you’ve already shot, but it also provides a convenient and intuitive way to access the camera’s menu system, giving you touch control over all camera settings. It even has a built-in speaker with volume control and a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio monitoring.
Though it's compact in design to keep the overall size and weight of your GoPro down, the BacPac won’t fit inside of the Standard Housing using the traditional Backdoors. In order to fit, a BacPac Backdoor is required. Fortunately, the LCD Touch BacPac comes with its own Touch, Standard, and Skeleton Backdoors, so it’s ready to go, out of the box. These Backdoors are compatible only with the Standard or Skeleton Housings. Dive Housing-specific Backdoors are included with the Dive Housing itself.
Be aware that the LCD Touch BacPac draws power from the GoPro’s rechargeable battery pack, so your shoot time per battery will be almost 50% shorter with the BacPac attached than without it. For applications that benefit from having the LCD Touch BacPac attached, make sure to have a few extra batteries on hand. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO3+, HERO3
The rechargeable HERO4 battery pack has a capacity of 1160mAh, which provides approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes of continuous 1080p60 video recording (with Wi-Fi turned off) on a full charge. To extend the run time, GoPro offers the Battery BacPac, which is ideal for all-day adventures, scuba diving, or activities where it’s difficult, unsafe, or simply impossible to swap out batteries on the fly. The current model features about 15% more capacity than the previous one, though GoPro doesn’t specify what the exact capacity is. But by looking at the run time numbers on GoPro’s website, we can calculate that it will boost the continuous run time by about 45%, bringing the continuous 1080p60 record time with the HERO4 Black up to 2 hours and 30 minutes. For even longer times, consider one of the third-party options available, such as these large-capacity options from DigiPower.
The Battery BacPac can be charged using the included USB cable and any standard USB charger. A separate Dual Battery Charger is also available. For use with the Standard or Skeleton Housings, the Battery BacPac comes with Standard and Skeleton BacPac Backdoors. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, HERO3
Though designed to be mounted directly on the back of your GoPro, both BacPacs can also be connected to the camera using a separately available BacPac Extension Cable. The 3' cable lets you mount your GoPro in a hard-to-reach spot and still be able to operate and monitor it remotely using the LCD Touch BacPac, or swap Battery BacPacs without having to remove the camera from the mount. However, to use the cable, you will need to use a Skelton Backdoor or The Frame in order to access the rear HERO port, so the Extension Cable isn’t suitable for use in or around water.
All current GoPro cameras, with the exception of the entry-level HERO, are equipped with built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. This allows you to pair the camera with the optional Smart Remote or to a smartphone running the GoPro App for remote camera control.
The Smart Remote brings all of the onboard camera controls into a compact, portable unit that can work at distances up to 600' away from the camera. It becomes an essential accessory when you have your GoPro mounted in a hard-to-reach spot, such as the side of your helmet. Now, rather than having to take the helmet off to adjust settings, start/stop recording, or capture photos, you can do so on the fly, at a moment’s notice.
Another benefit of the Smart Remote is that it’s waterproof to depths of 32'. While its Wi-Fi signal won't carry underwater, this does mean the remote won't be damaged, even if completely submerged. It can even control up to 50 cameras at a time for all of you multi-cam action heroes and event shooters out there. When used with HERO4 cameras, you can also use the Settings/Tag button to take advantage of the camera’s HiLight Tag feature to mark key moments while recording so you can easily locate the best clips later on when playing back, editing, or sharing.
For many users, the GoPro App is an integral part of the GoPro experience. Available for iOS and Android devices, the app not only turns your mobile device into a wireless live view monitor for framing your shots, but it gives you complete control over camera settings from the convenience of your smartphone’s touchscreen interface. You can also view your photos and play back video clips, copy and save files to your mobile device, and even delete files from the camera’s microSD card.
Like the Smart Remote, the HiLight Tag feature is available for compatible cameras (HERO4 and HERO+ LCD), letting you mark key moments while recording. This saves you time scrubbing through footage to find the good bits that you plan on sharing. Speaking of sharing, it’s now easier than ever to share that killer shot immediately after it happens, thanks to the Trim + Share feature. This lets you choose a 5-, 15-, or 30-second segment from any of your recorded clips and save it for sharing to your favorite social media platform like Facebook or Instagram, or for later editing. This features is also available in-camera (albeit without social media sharing functionality) using a HERO4 Black with a LCD Touch BacPac, a HERO4 Silver, or HERO+ LCD.
What began as a “reusable wrist-worn camera” has evolved into a system that can be worn or mounted virtually anywhere—with the addition of the appropriate accessory and a bit of imagination. GoPro’s panoply of mounts covers the spectrum of action and adventure sports, and if you can’t find a mount from GoPro, then the odds are a third-party manufacturer has what you’re looking for. I’ll focus mainly on the offerings from GoPro, though this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Before looking at some of the mounts available, it’s important to note that there are two standard GoPro mounting interfaces: the 3-prong mount and the quick-release base. The 3-prong mount enables direct attachment of a GoPro housing or frame. Basically, every housing or frame (or in the case of the HERO and HERO+ cameras, the integrated housing) features two prongs that slot into the three prongs on a GoPro mounting accessory. The camera is then secured using a thumbscrew and acorn nut. One of the benefits of this type of mounting interface is that no matter what accessory you’re mounting the camera on, you always have at least a small degree of tilt-angle adjustment to help get the shot you want.
The quick-release base doesn’t use any prongs, but rather a flat surface with two tabs on the side. Obviously, this mount doesn’t accept the two prongs from a GoPro housing. Instead, a housing requires a separate quick-release buckle, which comes included with every GoPro. Once outfitted with a quick-release buckle, you can easily attach and remove your GoPro from any accessory that utilizes the quick-release base interface. This saves time having to unscrew your camera from the mount and lets you move between mounting accessories without missing a beat (or losing your thumbscrew). Among the accessories on which you’ll find the quick-release base interface are adhesive mounts and straps.
Your GoPro stand packaging comes with many of the essential mounting accessories you need, including quick-release buckles. Now let’s take a look at some other essential accessories.
A relatively new accessory, the Ball Joint Buckle adds a swivel ball joint to the standard quick-release buckle for easier camera angle adjustment. Additionally, the three-prong camera mount features an integrated locking plug that provides secure camera mounting using a GoPro thumbscrew without using a separate (and easy-to-lose) screw nut.
These mounts use industrial-strength, waterproof adhesive to adhere to a variety of non-porous flat or curved surfaces, such as helmets. A standard GoPro package usually includes one Flat Adhesive Mount and one Curved Adhesive Mount. You can also purchase additional mounts, available in a pack of six (three flat, three curved). When you want to remove a mount, simply apply heat from a hairdryer. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
Attaching your camera to a GoPro-specific mounting accessory is great, but you can also attach it to a tripod, monopod, or other support device that has a standard 1/4"-20 camera screw, thanks to the addition of the Tripod Mounts. This package includes two 1/4"-20 adapters, one with a 3-prong mount and one with a quick-release base. This opens up a whole world of mounting possibilities. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong and Quick-Release Base
Wearing a GoPro is one of the best ways to get up-close action shots, as well as POV shots that let your audience get inside your head and see the action and you saw it. There are many ways to wear your GoPro. Here a few:
This two-in-one package includes both a Head Strap and GoPro’s QuickClip. Adjustable to fit all sizes, the Head Strap sits on your forehead, giving you a headlamp-like perspective similar to your own sight line; complete with head movements. The QuickClip can be used for a similar perspective when attached to a backward baseball cap. It can also be used to Clip your GoPro to straps and clothing. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong
Like the Head Strap, the Helmet Front Mount positions the camera to provide a headlamp-like perspective, but this is designed to attach to a GoPro Adhesive Mount. The adjustable mount can also allow the camera to be flipped down to capture close-up self-portraits. Have you always wanted to know what your face looks like when you wipe out? Well, now you can find out! Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
Designed specifically for any vented bike, ski, or similarly styled sports helmet, the Vented Helmet Strap positions your GoPro on top of your helmet without having to use an Adhesive Mount. It’s quick to mount, easy to adjust, and fits pretty much all helmets. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
This chest harness is perfect for when you want a lower line-of-sight perspective than you get with head- or helmet-mounted options. The lower perspective is ideal for skiing, biking, and board activities, fitting your arms, knees, poles, and handlebars into your shots. It is adjustable to fit most adult body sizes. For kids and teens, the Junior Chesty is available. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
Harking back to the first GoPro camera, the Wrist Housing lets you wear your camera like a watch, then pop it upright when you’re ready to shoot. It features an adjustable strap and an integrated 197' waterproof housing. It can even fit over ski gloves or jackets using an included adapter, so no activity is off-limits. It is particularly good for surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and rock climbing, or for use as a video-log camera to document a trip or backpacking adventure. Mounting Interface: Integrated Housing. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, HERO3
Much like the Wrist Housing, The Strap lets you wear your GoPro on your wrist, but instead of a dedicated housing, it features a 3-prong mount, making it compatible with all GoPro cameras. The mount rotates 360 degrees for easy camera-angle adjustment on the fly. An included extended strap even lets The Strap fit around your arm, leg, or larger objects. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong
While wearing a GoPro is great for capturing hands-free footage, there are times when it is simpler and more appropriate to go handheld. There are countless numbers of third-party extension poles (aka selfie sticks) and handgrips out there to serve this purpose. GoPro offers two main options for handheld shooting: the 3-Way and The Handler.
The 3-Way gets its name due to its ability to function as three distinct devices: a handgrip, an extension arm, and a mini tripod. It collapses down to 7.5" when folded and reaches up to 20" when fully extended. You can fold the extension arm to get the right amount of reach, or remove it entirely when only the handgrip is needed. When you need to set it down or get a stationary shot, a mini tripod is tucked away inside the handgrip, which attaches to its base. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong
Serving double duty as both a handgrip and a flotation device, The Handler not only lets you capture steadier handheld footage, but it will keep your camera from becoming fish fodder at the bottom of the ocean. It offers enough buoyancy to float any GoPro plus an attached BacPac accessory. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong
From bikes to boards, there are plenty of options for attaching your GoPro to pretty much anything. Previously, we looked at some essentials, such as Flat and Curved Adhesive mounts. These mounts can get the job done often, but sometimes you need something a bit more specific to the task at hand. Let’s take at look at some of the options available.
To get the best angle of yourself surfing, this often means attaching your GoPro directly to your board. This is where the aptly named Surfboard Mounts come in handy. Suitable for water gear, such as surfboards, paddle boards, kayaks, and boat decks, these mounts offer more holding strength than the standard Adhesive Mounts. Two mounts are included per pack, each including an adhesive anchor and tether strap for added security. An FCS-compatible 3-prong adapter is included for mounting to a standard FCS center fin socket. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base (Surfboard Mount); 3-Prong (FCS Male Plug Adapter)
Compatible with boards 1.5 to 3.5" thick, the BodyBoard Mount installs like a leash plug to a bodyboard or a soft-top or foam surfboard/SUP. It includes a camera tether and locking plug for when the waves get tough. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
An essential for road and mountain bicyclists, this handlebar mount allows you to clamp your GoPro to handlebars, seat posts, or any other pole between 0.75 and 1.4" in diameter. It can be used with 0.43 to 0.7" diameter tubes using an included adapter, making it a great option for ski poles, as well. A 3-Way Pivot Arm is included for camera angle adjustment. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong
Essentially a larger version of the Handlebar / Seatpost / Pole Mount, the Roll Bar Mount fits 1.4 to 2.5" diameter tubes, so it’s the mount of choice for clamping to roll bars, bike frames, bumper bars, roof racks, and more. A 3-Way Pivot Arm is included for camera angle adjustment. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong
Sometimes you just need to slap a GoPro to the side of a vehicle. Featuring a 3.4" diameter suction cup, tested to speeds of 150+ mph, the Suction Cup mount attaches your GoPro to cars, boats, motorcycles, and other vehicles. An adjustable arm enables low-profile mounting and features a standard 3-prong mounting interface. A quick-release base adapter is also included. It is important to note that the mount isn’t intended for high-impact sports. If there a strong possibility that you’ll crash or wipe out, then you should probably think twice before using the Suction Cup. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong and Quick-Release Base
Basically just a spring-loaded clamp with two quick-release-base attachment points, the Jaws:Flex Clamp lets you quickly attach your GoPro to objects ranging from 0.25 to 2" in thickness/diameter, including slim and irregular shapes. A bendable gooseneck arm is included for versatile camera angle adjustment. An optional longer Gooseneck is available separately. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
For all of the musicians out there, the Removable Instrument Mounts make it easy to attach a GoPro directly to your guitar, drum set, keyboard, or other instrument. They are adhesive mounts, but don’t worry—they use temporary, non-damaging adhesive that is safe to use for most instrument surfaces. Each pack includes three mounts and two single-use adhesive strips. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
Unsure about putting an adhesive mount on your instrument? Well, fear not! GoPro’s The Jam avoids this by using clamps to attach to practically anything on stage, including guitar headstocks, drum hoops, keyboards, brass instruments, and mic stands. It is adjustable to three different lengths to suit your instrument and the desired shot. Mounting Interface: 3-Prong
This simple Mic Stand Mount works the same way as a quick-release base tripod mount, but adapts to the standard 5/8"-27 mic stand, rather than ¼"-20 screw. A bushing adapter is included for use with European-style 3/8"-16 stands, or even boompoles. Mounting Interface: Quick-Release Base
Given the compact size and waterproof housing, it’s no surprise that GoPro cameras have become so popular among scuba divers and snorkelers. But to get the best out of your GoPro underwater, you should definitely consider investing in one of the many third-party camera trays available or SP-Gadget’s P.O.V. Dive Buoy handle, as well as an underwater light for deeper diving adventures. Besides these, there are a few basic accessories that you’ll need, including Dive Filters and Anti-Fog Inserts.
The deeper underwater you go, the more red light is lost, resulting in heavy cyan or blue casts in your GoPro images. To remedy this effect, which is difficult to fix in post, all you’ll need is an underwater color-correction filter. GoPro offers Red and Magenta Dive Filters, both suitable for use at depths between 15 and 70'. The Red Dive Filter is suitable for blue saltwater or clear fresh water, while the Magenta Dive Filter is designed for use in green water, such as lakes with high algae content. Options are available that fit the Standard/Blackout Housing lens port, the Dive/Wrist Housing lens port (as well as the original HERO3 housing lens port), and even the Dual HERO System (more on this later). There is also a wide-range of third-party filters and filter systems available.
Underwater footage or footage in high-humidity environments can sometimes be ruined by fogging inside of the housing, especially when using a Touch LCD BacPac that creates extra heat inside of the housing. To prevent this, you should pick up a pack of Anti-Fog Inserts that can be dropped into the sides of the housing. These are useful not only in underwater applications, but in cold-weather environments, as well, so skiers and snowboarders should also pick up a pack. Twelve filters are included per pack and can be reused about four times each.
While not used for underwater footage, for any shooting about water you should strongly consider adding the Floaty Backdoor, which adds a bright-orange flotation device that keeps your GoPro HERO4, HERO3+, or HERO3 afloat should you drop it in water. This makes it essential for any above-the-water activities, such as surfing, wakeboarding, or even snorkeling. It attaches directly to the back of a Standard or Dive Housing Backdoor using an included adhesive anchor. Also included are two adhesive anchors and replacement Standard and Dive Housing Backdoors, so you have a reserve when shooting on dry land. Compatibility: HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, HERO3
Admittedly, this article only scratches the surface of GoPro cameras and the available accessories. Beyond the everyday action sport and adventure footage, a GoPro can also be used for more professional applications, such as capturing aerial footage with UAVs, 3D stereoscopic and 360-degree virtual reality video, and even stream live with the addition of the GoPro HEROCast wireless transmission system. I’ll conclude this article with a brief look at some accessories and considerations for video professionals and those who want to have their videos ascend to the next plateau.
All GoPro cameras can capture onboard audio, but the audio quality is about as good as you’d expect from a camera of it size. Also, let’s not forget that the mic is often covered by the Standard housing, further muffling the audio. For the clearest onboard audio, you’ll need to use The Frame. And to cut down on wind noise, you may want to outfit it further with a GoPro WindSlayer, a foam windscreen that wraps around the camera body.
For the highest-quality audio capture, an external microphone is required. To make this happen, GoPro makes a 3.5mm Mic Adapter cable for the HERO4 Black, HERO4 Silver, HERO3+, and HERO3 cameras, letting you use a compact shotgun mic, lavalier mic, or any other 3.5mm microphone.
Looking for a way to add that extra dimension to your GoPro footage? You may want to consider pairing two GoPro cameras to capture stereoscopic 3D video. To make this possible, GoPro offers the Dual HERO System, a tandem housing designed to hold two GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition cameras. While other HERO models will fit, physically, currently only the HERO3+ Black firmware provides camera synchronization, which is essential for 3D to work. It remains to be seen if GoPro will offer firmware updates for the HERO4 cameras, so you may want to consider picking up a HERO3+ if you want to experiment with 3D video.
Once captured, the synchronized footage is then converted to 3D format using the GoPro Studio editing software. Like the Dive Housing, the Dual HERO System is rated is depths of 197', and GoPro even makes specific Dive Filters for it, so the system is ready for underwater 3D recording.
Capturing POV footage is a great way to give your audience a taste of the action. But what if you want to relive your actions from every direction and see things that even you missed while in the moment? This is where a spherical rig comes into play. A spherical rig, as you may have guessed, configures multiple GoPro in a spherical configuration to capture high-resolution 360-degree panoramic or complete spherical video. 360Heros offers a series of rigs in various configurations to hold up to 14 HERO4, HERO3+, or HERO3 cameras, including options for stereoscopic 3D 360-degree video, as well as an underwater option. Footage captured from each GoPro is combined using separately available stitching software for viewing on virtual reality headsets or 360-degree video players and web-based hosting sites.
Quadcopters and other UAVs have exploded onto the market in recent years, making high-quality aerial footage possible for amateurs and professionals alike. For smaller copters with lower payload capacities, GoPro is the de facto camera of choice. Not surprisingly, manufacturers such as DJI, 3D Robotics, YUNEEC, and Blade all offer quadcopters with mounts or gimbal stabilizers designed specifically to fit a GoPro camera.
If you want to take the leap into the world of aerial videography, then there are a few accessories you’ll want to pick up, namely a circular polarizer and set of neutral density filters. So, why are these filters important? A circular polarizer is used to cut down on glare and reflections bouncing off large bodies of water, snow-covered ground, and other reflected light. It also helps improve color saturation and enhances contrast between clouds and the sky. Neutral density filters serve a different purpose. These are used to reduce the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor, with the effect of causing the GoPro to compensate for the reduction of light for reducing the shutter speed, and thus capture smoother, more cinematic motion. It also helps reduce the visual effects of vibration jitters. To get the benefits of both filters, you can even find a ND/polarizer combo filter.
Many quadcopters are equipped with motorized gimbals that stabilize your GoPro along two or three axes. This results in smooth, professional-quality aerial footage. This same free-floating stabilized effect can be achieved on the ground, as well, thanks to a wide offering of handheld gimbal stabilizers designed specifically for GoPro cameras. This takes your videos to new dimensions by eliminating unsightly bumps and jitters as your walk, run, skate, or ride. There are even wearable options that let you capture hands-free stabilized footage. A word of caution though—the gimbals are for naked GoPros only (no housing), so be wary of using them to during high-impact activities.
Developed with VISLINK, HEROCast is a wireless transmitter that turns your GoPro camera into a miniscule broadcast solution. The system uses H.264 encoding to deliver a live HD feed (up to 1080i60 and 720p60) with embedded audio and minimal latency. Previously, GoPro cameras were restricted to after-the-fact highlight reels when used in professional productions. Now with HEROCast, you can take all of those unique and immersive POV angles that GoPro is known for and add them as camera feeds that live-event producers can switch to.
There are two versions of the HEROCast transmitter are available: a standard version and a BacPac version. The standard version remains detached from the camera and is connected via an HDMI cable. This is ideal for body mounting or semi-permanent installations where the transmitter is mounted to a fixed location in a studio. The BacPac version is an all-in-one solution that connects directly to the back of a HERO4 or HERO3+ standard housing. It has a rugged design for use in hard environments and, though not waterproof, it does have an IP67 rating, so you won’t have any problems using it outdoors in rain or snow.
Advanced Protune Controls: Provides customizable settings for color, ISO Limit, Sharpness, and Exposure, increasing the creative control you have over your images. Available options vary by model.
Auto Image Rotation: When enabled, the camera automatically adjusts orientation to right-side up when the camera is mounted upside down.
HiLight Tag: Lets you mark key moments while recording so you can locate your best clips later for playback, editing, or sharing. You can add tags by pressing a button on compatible cameras, the Smart Remote, or the GoPro App.
Looping Video: Records a continuous video loop that overwrites itself until you press the shutter button to stop and save it.
Protune: Optimizes your GoPro images for post-production workflows. Activating Protune gives you higher data rates with less video compression, cinematic 24 fps frame rates, as well a more neutral color profile for increased flexibility for color-grading during post. The neutral color also preserves more details in the highlights and shadows for an expanded dynamic range.
QuikCapture: Allows the camera to power on and record automatically with the press of a single button.
Simultaneous Video + Photo: Record video and capture time-lapse photos at the same time.
SuperView: This mode uses the full height of the image sensor to capture a more immersive wide-angle perspective that’s great when you want to fit more sky and ground into your shots. This mode takes a 4:3 aspect ratio image and then dynamically stretches it to fill a 16:9 frame. The stretching is done only on the sides, leaving the center of the frame unaffected. You may want to avoid using SuperView in situations where there are people are the edges of the frame, since they will be stretched a bit.
Time-Lapse Video: Rather than having to stitch together JPEG images in post, such as with the standard Time-Lapse mode, this mode automates the process by creating video from frames captured at set intervals. The resulting clip is immediately ready for playback and sharing.
Trim + Share: This feature enables you to create short video clips on your phone or tablet and share them on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and more.