Photo: Robert Libetti/ Business Insider
Until now, there have only been two companies competing for what has been called the “wearable camera” space – GoPro and Contour.But this spring a new action camera company came on the scene, and we think it will give both GoPro and Contour some stiff competition.
The Ion Air Pro, a new camera from World Wide Licenses, covers a lot of bases, even if it doesn’t quite beat its competitors in every category.
We recently spent some time testing one out and were pleasantly surprised with what we found.
The Ion Air Pro starts at $229 for the camera without any mounts or a memory card, but if you want to actually mount it on anything you'll need to buy the Ion Air Pro Plus package that sells for $289. That's $10 cheaper than the GoPro kits, which sell for $299.
The Wi-Fi Podz kit, which we tested, includes the helmet and bike kit, and retails for $349. That winds up being $50 less than buying one of GoPro's kits and their WiFi BacPac setup.
You can also buy Ion's bike kit separately for $69, the board kit for $49 and an Air Pro Connect kit (which has and additional Wi-Fi Podz and a battery booster) for $99.
The first thing we noticed about the Ion was the design.
It's compact and slick while still being rugged, and best of all, it doesn't have any clunky casing around it to make it waterproof.
While it withstood our basic testing, it seems like the Air Pro may not be quite as durable as the GoPro, but you may be willing to trade that durability for a lighter 4.5 oz. camera, especially when, say, mounting it on your helmet as we did.
The Ion is supposed to be waterproof for up to 30 feet, which is more than enough for most water sports. While we weren't able to submerge it in 30 feet of water, the camera worked perfectly well for us when submerged in a tub.
As soon as you start shooting with the Air Pro you notice some refreshingly simple features.
Starting and stopping your recording on the Ion is simple. All you need to do is slide a button on the top of the camera forward to the record position.
Once in record mode, the light turns green and the camera vibrates to let you know you're recording. The vibration feature is a huge help for cameras like these, as it keeps you from having to remove the camera and check if the red record light is on, making for a faster and easier start to your recording.
The on/off button at the front of the camera also doubles as the still shot button which easily allows you to snap a photo.
One of our favourite things about the Air Pro is the mounting system. The system easily screws into the bottom of the camera.
Unlike some of its competitors, once screwed into the camera the Air Pro then easily snaps into any of the different mounts you may have. We found this to be a huge plus when looking to, say, switch between mounting on a helmet and handle bars.
Once fastened, the mount was sturdy and secure.
This is where the Ion loses.
While the image quality of the Ion Air Pro was not bad, overall we felt like it just didn't have the detail of the GoPro.
We liked the saturation and richnes of the colours, but the 5 megapixel sensor of the Ion just doesn't produce the same quality of image as GoPro's 11 megapixel sensor.
In the shot above, this is most noticeable in the lack of detail in the trees and street signs in the Ion shot.
We found the storage to be one of the more negative features of the Ion.
The Micro SD cards are annoyingly small to handle and way too easy to lose.
And the fact that the camera does not come with one makes it that much more of a hassle, as many of us don't have Micro SD cards hanging around.
The Air Pro records at full 1080p 30FPS, 720p 30FPS/60FPS and 960p (4:3), 30 FPS. That's just about the same as GoPro, minus a 48FPS in 960p.
While we like the ability to easily switch between 720p and 1080p recording modes right on the back of the camera, in order to change to any of the other modes users need to connect the camera to a computer or use the Ion mobile app (if they have the Wi-Fi Podz kit).
This makes changing some settings quite clunky.
As mentioned earlier, we tested the Ion Air Pro Wi-Fi Podz package, which retails for $349.99. The Wi-Fi Podz was perhaps our favourite part of using the Ion Air Pro.
The Wi-Fi kit comes with 8GB of online storage, enables you to preview your shot on your smartphone or tablet device and makes it simple to upload your photos and videos directly to Facebook and Yotube.
In fact, once using it, we found it hard to go back to our edition of the GoPro without that convenient remote capability.
In the end, the Ion Air Pro is worthy competitor to the GoPro and the Contour cameras.
It has some fantastic features that make using a camera like this easy and fun, but its slight lack of image quality keeps it from truly beating its competition.
That said, it still packs a lot of punch. It's easy to use, easy to mount and easy to share what you've captured, which makes The Ion Air Pro a camera worth buying.