Review of iON Air Pro wi-fi HD action cam

 

Action Cams for kayak fishing

The market for action cameras seems to have grown and grown over the last few years. I have been using HD Go Pros for my kayak fishing trips for quite a few years now, but good though they are, they have a number of issues which are very annoying (lens fogging issues, bad audio, brittle mounting buckles and difficult start/stop procedure are just some of the things which were frustrating me). I looked at all of the other high definition action cameras on the market, and one in particular stood out from the crowd – the iON Air pro HD camera. They make a number of different models; the one I was interested in was the iON Air Pro wi-fi edition.

There were a number of essential requirements which had to be satisfied for my kayak fishing exploits…

  • Waterproof – to at least 10 feet
  • Wide angle lens – ideally 170 degrees
  • High Definition video
  • Decent Audio
  • Easy to switch on and off – remote control if possible
  • Decent battery life
  • Wide range of mounting options including a leash point

The iON Air Pro seemed to tick all of these boxes – of particular importance to me, was fact that the iON Air Pro did not require the use of a separate case to make it waterproof; this was the cause of many of the weaknesses of the Go Pro (the cause of the GoPro’s bad audio and fogging) – it seemed to be the iON’s USP.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an iON Air Pro wi-fi for my trip to the Hobie World Kayak fishing championships in Texas; this would be a great testing ground for the action cam and forms the basis of this review.

iON Air Pro wi-fi

The first thing which strikes you, is the quality of the packaging. The iON comes in a presentation case (I bet you could re-use the mount in the presentation case !), which sits on top of a really smart looking tin box containing all of the mounts and bundled accessories.

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The packaging includes the usual blurb about features and specifications…

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Before we move on to look at the camera and its accessories, let’s just spend a few moments looking at the technical specification of the camera.

  • Lens Type: Fixed Focus (2ft/.6m), glass
  • Aperture: f/2.8 (high performance in low-light situations)
  • Field of View: (Degree of Angle)

1080p/30fps = 127 degree,
960p/30fps = 170 degree,
720p/30,60fps = 150 degree,

  • WVGA 30fps = 150 degree
  • Video HD Resolutions:

1080p: 1920×1080 (16:9), 30 FPS.
720p: 1280×720 (16:9), 30 FPS/60 FPS (Slow Motion).
960p: 1280×960 (4:3), 30 FPS

  • Default Switch Settings:

Full HD-1080p/30 FPS/127 FoV OR
HD-720p/60 FPS/170 FoV

  • Sensor Type: 1/2.5″ HD CMOS, 2.2ìm pixels
  • Light Sensitivity: Super low-light sensitivity (>1.4 V/lux-sec)
  • Video Format: H.264 compression, saved as MPEG4 (.mp4) file
  • Exposure Control: Auto
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Microphone: Built-in, mono with AGC (automatic gain control)
  • Audio Format: ADPCM
  • Photo Resolution: 5MP
  • Capture Modes: Single Shot
  • Memory: MicroSD card, up to 32GB capacity (Not included)
  • Average Recording Times: 1080p/720p: 8min/GB
  • PC Connection: USB 2.0 (data connection and battery charging)
  • TV out: HDMI + Composite
  • WiFI: work w/ GO (included)
  • G-sensor (Auto-rotation): Yes
  • Vibration sensor (Shaketrigger): No
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion
  • Battery Life: Approximately 2.5 hrs
  • Charging: Via USB to computer or optional power adapter
  • Charge Time: 80% capacity after 1 hour with optional power adapter, or 2 hours with a computer’s USB port
  • WaterProof: IPX8 (30 feet)
  • Construction: Metal + Plastic
  • PC Compatibility: Windows® Vista and 7; Mac OS® X 10.4.11 and later
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 37x107mm
  • Weight: 130 grams
  • Dual File recording: Yes
  • App Support: ION
  • Low Battery indication: Yes
  • Slide to record: Yes

That’s alot to take in, the important bits from my perspective are the following:

  • Lightweight and compact body – only 130g
  • Waterproof IPX8 (30 feet) without need for separate case
  • One touch record – A proper switch, rather than a toggle button and support to use an iPhone/Android device as a remote control
  • High definition recording in MP4 with wide angle field of view (170 degrees)
  • Decent battery life – 2.5 hours (plus support for a battery extender)
  • Decent array of mounts, and body includes a leash point

A promising start, so lets move on to what’s included in the box.

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That is a decent line up of mounts and attachments in anyone’s book. We will look at them in more detail later, first of all, lets take a closer look at the camera itself.

Camera Housing

The first thing you notice, is that it is quite compact – it only weighs 138 grams (4.5 ounces).

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The housing is made of metal, and it feels tough. At the back is the compartment which provides access to the internals of the action cam – card slots, sockets etc. The cover has a locking latch which has to be unlocked before the case is twisted anti-clockwise and then pulled to open. The covers come in different types – they are called PODZ, and provide additional functionality. The one shown in the image below is a wi-fi POD which allows the iON to connect to other devices as we shall see below.

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The images below show both the standard (LHS) and the wi-fi PODZ (RHS).

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To activiate the wi-fi when the wi-fi POD is installed, simply press the wi-fi button in the middle of the POD. An led will illuminate to show that he wi-fi is switched on.

Once the wi-fi is enabled, the iON Air Pro wi-fi can do the following :

  • Wi-fi enabled devices – PC’s/laptops/tablets etc can connect to the camera and view/download pictures stored on the camera’s micro SD card
  • iPhones/iPods/iPads and Android devices can download an application which enables iON video to be streamed wirelessly from the iON action cam and viewed on the device. The applciation also allows the devices to act as a remote control by starting and stopping recording.

Note that the iON’s battery life is reduced, if the wi-fi is switched on.

Underneath the housing is a standard 1/4 inch camera tripod thread. This can be used to attach the iON directly to tripods or other camera accessories, such as the included quick release buckle shown below…

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The quick release buckle allows the iON to be attached to a number of other mounts included with the camera, as we will see later. Also included (and visible in the image above) is a leash, which attaches to the leashing point at the rear of the camera – a nice touch – and one which is very useful for watersports in particular.

On top of the camera there is a button and a sliding switch.

The button has a dual purpose – if it is held down for a couple of seconds, the it acts as an on/off switch. When the camera switches on, it vibrates. Once the camera is switched on, if the button is pressed, then it will take a photographic image. The size/type/style of the images can be changed, as we will see later.

The sliding switch is used to start or stop video recording. To start recording, simply slide the switch to the “REC” position. Recording starts  regardless of weather the iON is switched on or off. This is great – it means that when you flick the switch forward, you can be confident that the iON will start recording. When you slide the switch to  the “STOP” position, the camera will stop recording. You can adjust the settings to that the camera switches off after a predetermined time once recording has stopped – great for conserving battery life.

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That covers most of the basics of the camera operation, now let’s move on to look at some of the accessories.

Bundled Accessories

Another great thing about the iON Air Pro wi-fi camera, is the number of mounts which are included in the bundle. They are intended for use mainly on helmets and bikes (a separate “board kit” is available as an optional accessory – more about this later).

Probably the most useful mounts, from a kayak fishing perspective are the ball and socket joints, and the handlebar attachment (and to a lesser extent, the helmet mounts).

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Two ball and socket joints are included – one straight, and one L-shaped (90 degree bend). The ball and socket joints fit into the supplied helmet and handlebar mounts…

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… and allow the iON camera be attached/detached quickly but securely using the quick release buckle.

The handlebar mount in particular is really useful for kayak fishing – it allows the iON to be added to pole/monopod stems/standard PVC piping and the myriad of other methods used by the plastic fishing army.

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As well as being suitable for helmets, the helmet mount can also be mounted on curved surfaced (such as kayaks) using either supplied webbing straps (short and long) or by using the supplied 3M self adhesive pads.

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A neat little bendy mini tripod is also included in the bundle of accessories– a nice touch.

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You also get a full set of AV leads, and a mini USB cable for charging the unit. The unit can either be charged direct from the USB port of a PC, or from the mains using a supplied converter.

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The supplied USB mains converter is a little gem – it provides different plugs which allow the unit to be charged in different countries (it came in very useful for my recent trip to Texas).

Settings

When a micro SD card is inserted into the slot on the back of the iON, the unit copies an application (ion.exe) to the card – when the iON camera is connected to a PC via the supplied USB cable (and the micro SD card is in the iON) you can run the ion.exe application from the PC in order to set and update camera settings (the application also lets you update to the latest firmware).

The first tab of the ion.exe application lets you change photo settings.

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It lets you set the resolution of the still pictures and also sets the photo mode (single, burst or time lapse). I have set up the camera to take 5MP images every 5 seconds when the photo button on the iON is pressed (the camera will continue to take pictures every 5 seconds until it is powered off).

The second settings tab allows you to change video settings.

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I have set up the FHD resolution to be 960P (I want the 170 degree FOV) and the HD resolution to be 720P30 (there is a FHD/HD switch inside the POD cover on the rear of the camera).

The third page is for general settings.

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You can use this page to set the correct time and date. I have set the camera to switch off after 3 minutes of no activity to conserve the battery.

Optional Accessories

As well as the standard accessories included with the iON camera, you can also purchase other useful accessories. Below are a couple of accessories which would be beneficial to water sports users.

Battery Booster

The battery booster provides a quick charge facility for iON cameras.

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You charge the battery booster at home using the USB lead. The blue LED lights show you when it is fully charged.

Once it is charged, you can connect it to your iON camera via the UDB lead. When you press the button on top of the battery booster, it transfers it charge to the iON camera and charges it. The LED lights show when the charge has been transferred.

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Really useful if you are in the middle of nowhere with no access to a PC or to mains.

Board Kit

The board kit contains an attachment which can be mounted on the surface of a surf board or kayak using self 3M self adhesive tape.

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The contents of the kit are shown below

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The kit also includes a protective skin which fits neatly over the top of the iON camera.

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The supplied bracket twists 360 degrees and can tilt up and down – the position can be locked, and its has a leash point. Two attachments are provided for the iON camera – one uses the quick release buckle, the other goes straight into the 1/4 inch tripod thread on the underside of the iON.

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Summing up

You will get some idea of the versatility of the iON given that when we used it for the first time, we had little idea of what attachment points were going to be available in our kayaks – within a few minutes, we were up and running using the handlebar mount…

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The camera and the mounts both performed well during the kayak fishing tournament, in several different kayaks using different mounts…

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We were very pleased with the results – the video was clear, vivid and detailed with very little barrel distortion. We experienced no lens fogging, and the audio was fantastic…

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Since our return to the UK, I have been using the iON air pro wi-fi camera in lower light conditions, and its performance was still great.

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It has proved itself to have strengths in all the areas where my previous action cams had weakenesses. That is good enough for me.

I will try to post some of the footage I captured using the iON air pro, so you can see for yourselves how good the unit is.

The iON air pro wi-fi action cam is available in the UK for approx. £299. For more information, see the ion website…

http://www.iontheaction.co.uk/index.html