Ion looks to crash the action camera party with the Air Pro 2, its second wearable video camera that not only records 1080p video, but costs $100 less than the top-tier brands (like GoPro) with similar features. When this $299 camera hits the market in late March, will it be the one to bring on your next outdoor adventure?
Click to EnlargeThe Ion Air Pro 2 looks almost identical to the original Ion Air Pro. The camera body is a large cylinder, at 4 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter, and weighs 5.3 ounces with its Wi-Fi adapter. It feels slightly bulkier than the Contour+2, but is about the same size. Most of the Air Pro 2 has a dark metallic gray finish, with metallic blue accents at either end. The Air Pro 2 is waterproof up to 30 feet.
Like the Contour+2, Ion keeps its controls simple: There's one button to turn the camera on and off, and one slider to start and stop recording. Both were easy to locate and press, even while wearing ski gloves. Plus, the camera vibrated, providing confirmation that we had made a selection.
Click to EnlargeThe bottom of the Air Pro 2 has the camera's single mounting point, a universal tripod screw. The camera comes with a mini tripod, helmet mount, travel power adapter, USB cable, and a pouch.
The back of the camera has a plastic cap that pops off to reveal a microSD card slot, microUSB and miniHDMI connections, a microphone jack, and a switch to change from HD to FHD shooting modes. Ion refers to the cap that covers the back as a PODZ; the Air Pro 2 with Wi-Fi comes with the Wi-Fi PODZ, which enables the camera to connect to an Android or iOS device via Wi-Fi.
One area where the Ion Air Pro 2 could use some work is with its mounting brackets. The bottom of the camera has a standard tripod screw hole, but in order to mount the device to a helmet, you need to use a large L-shaped plastic piece with a ball joint on one end. While we appreciate that this joint lets you fine-tune where the camera points, the result is that the camera is positioned somewhat far away from the helmet.
We're also not fans of how the mount connects to a helmet. Not only does it require a plastic piece be attached via double-sided foam, but you also have to wrap a cloth strap around the exterior of the helmet. This strap often came loose in testing; we had to hold it in place using some wire ties. To be fair, we believe this strap issue may have been related to the curvature of our helmet. Still, no other action cam we tested requires this elaborate of a setup.
The Ion Air Pro 2 can capture video at 1080p and 30 frames per second, and still images up to 16 MP in size. Additionally, you can set the camera to take still images once every 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds.
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We were generally impressed with the Air Pro 2's video quality. Video shot at 1080p was crisp and bright, on a par with the Contour+2 and GoPro Hero3. A recording of a run down a ski slope in Whiteface, N.Y., accurately captured the bright blues, reds, and greens of skiers' jackets, and we could even make out the tracks left in the snow.
With a 180-degree lens, the Ion Air Pro 2 has a wider field of view than other cameras, such as the Contour+2, which maxes out at 170 degrees. Whether you want a wider or narrower field of view depends upon what you're filming; for that reason, we like that the Drift Innovation Ghost HD lets you adjust the camera's field of view.
Like most other action cameras, sound degraded quickly as we picked up speed, with wind noise becoming unbearable.
Click to EnlargeAfter pressing the button on the Wi-Fi PODZ and waiting for the status light to blink blue, we connected to the Air Pro 2 via Wi-Fi. We then opened the iOS app; here, we could view the videos stored on the camera, control it remotely, and change settings such as video and still resolution. The app also shows how much battery is left on the camera.
Click to EnlargeFrom the app, we could also connect to Facebook and YouTube, so we could upload videos straight to those social networks. Considering the size of the files, though, we'd recommend only using this feature if you have an LTE phone.
As a bonus, if you sign up for a free Ion Cloud account, you get 8GB of free cloud storage.
We reviewed the Air Pro 2 with the Wi-Fi PODZ, which costs $299, but consumers can also pick up a non-Wi-Fi version for $249.
Ion says the Air Pro 2 will last up to 2.5 hours while recording. During our test, when we captured 720p video, the camera lasted 2 hours and 35 minutes. That's a half an hour better than the Contour+2, but about an hour less than the Drift Ghost HD.
Click to EnlargeFor a relatively young company, Ion gets a lot of things right with the Air Pro 2. The device has a relatively compact and durable design, lasts a fair amount on a charge, and has a comprehensive smartt phone app. Not only that, but it costs $100 less than competing devices. If Ion can find a way to mount the camera closer to a helmet, it will really give other action cameras a run for their money.