Ion Air Pro Camera Review

Updated January 31, 2014
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Ion Air Pro Camera

Easy to mount and stop/start -- but to change settings, you'll need a computer. In many ways, testers find the Ion Air Pro easy to use. It's a lightweight little cylinder (just over 4 ounces) with two big buttons -- record and power/photo snap. To change other settings, though, you have to hook it up to a computer, which critics say is a pain. The Contour cameras are the same way, but the GoPro cameras let you change settings on the fly, right on the camera.

The Ion is extremely easy to mount onto your equipment, though. Unlike the GoPro's mounts, which use screws, the Ion uses a sturdy ball-and-socket, so you can swap mounts at will and swivel the camera on its mount with ease. However, "it's hard to crank it down hard enough so that it doesn't wobble when bumped or shaken," says Brent Rose at Gizmodo.com -- and Bonnie Cha at AllThingsD.com never can quite get hers to stop jiggling on its mount.

On the back of the Ion, you can attach extra-cost Podz that add various features. Testers' favorite is the Wi-Fi pod, which allows you to share your videos through certain smartphones. "I downloaded the Ion Camera app to my iPhone (an Android version is coming) and connected to the camera," Cha says. "All my photos and videos appeared in the album section. You can share directly to Facebook, and you also get eight gigabytes of free cloud-based storage." Both GoPro and Contour offer similar features.

The top-level Ion Air Pro WiFi includes the Wi-Fi pod, plus bike and helmet mounts. The Ion Air Pro Plus includes the mounts but no Wi-Fi. The entry-level Ion Air Pro (*Est. $230) omits the mounts and Wi-Fi.

Performance ProsTiny, light and sleek, Sturdy and waterproof to 30 feet, Shoots full HD video, Wide-angle lens, Can snap photos while shooting video, Optional wireless sharing via smartphoneConsImage and audio quality can't match GoPro and Contour, Must hook up to a computer to change settings, No LCD viewscreen, Lens doesn't rotate, Mounts jiggle in tests

Durability

Waterproof to 30 feet. Straight out of the box, with no protective housing (there's none available), the Ion Air Pro is waterproof to 30 feet. That can't match the GoPro cameras -- they're waterproof to 197 feet in their included clear case -- but it "should suffice for most non-scuba aquatic activities," says Rose at Gizmodo.com. None of our sources takes the Ion Air Pro 30 feet deep, but Cha submerges it in a bathtub in her test for AllThingsD.com, and it works just fine.

The Ion's lens (like the GoPro's) is covered with dome-shaped glass. Ion says this helps it shed water, but "I'm convinced that the protruding glass dome will be easier to scratch than the Contour's (which is mostly protected by a raised metal bezel)," says Goodwin at CNET. "A ring of six small screws around the Ion Air Pro's lens seems to indicate that it may be possible to replace the glass if it does get damaged." Pocket-Lint.com's tester drops the Ion off the back of a bike and it survives without a scratch.

Appearance

Slim, discreet shape. With its cylindrical shape and brushed-aluminum body, the Ion Air Pro looks a lot like a Contour camera -- and critics say that's a good thing. The Ion "looks a lot sleeker than the boxy [GoPro] Hero2," says Kim at PCMag.com.

In fact, the Ion looks sleeker than a Contour camera -- because it needs no waterproof case (it's already waterproof to 30 feet).

However, the Ion lacks the Contour's rotating lens, so you can't just mount it flush to your equipment (however that may be) and then rotate the lens to get your footage right-side-up. "Getting properly oriented video from, for example, a goggle strap mount, requires a weird L-shaped bracket where the Contour could just mount flush," says Goodwin at CNET.

The bottom line

The Ion Air Pro offers some appealing features, but it still loses to the GoPro HD Hero2 in head-to-head tests at Gizmodo.com, AllThingsD.com (an affiliate of The Wall Street Journal) and Pocket-Lint.com.

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GoPro Camera CHDOH-002 HD HERO2 Outdoor Edition
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Ion Air Pro Compatible with iPod/iPhone/iPad/Android Devices
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Our Sources

1. Gizmodo.com

The Best Action Camera, Brent Rose, June 20, 2012

The Ion Air Pro places third in this four-sports-cam shootout. It's got a sleek form and built-in waterproofing to 30 feet, but the image quality isn't as good as the first-place GoPro HD Hero2's.

2. AllThingsD.com

Action Cameras That Capture Your Thrills and Spills, Bonnie Cha, July 26, 2012

Veteran electronics critic Bonnie Cha prefers the GoPro HD Hero2 to the Ion Air Pro WiFi. After testing both while biking and skateboarding (and dunking both in a bathtub), she likes the Ion's design, but she says the GoPro shoots better video.

3. Pocket-lint.com

GoPro HD Hero2 vs. Ion Air Pro: Who Is Action Cam King?, Hunter Skipworth, April 12, 2012

Thanks to its high-quality footage, choice of video modes and external microphone jack, the GoPro HD Hero2 beats the Ion Air Pro in this test -- barely. The Ion boasts a much better design, Hunter Skipworth says.

4. CNET

Ion Air Pro Review, Antuan Goodwin, May 23, 2012

Antuan Goodwin calls the Ion Air Pro a worthy contender. It's almost as tough and waterproof as a GoPro camera, but it's sleek and user-friendly like a Contour camera.

5. PCMag.com

Ion Air Pro WiFi , Eugene Kim, May 25, 2012

Like other critics, Eugene Kim finds the Ion Air Pro "a solid entry" in the sports-cam market. It's waterproof and easy to use, but its videos -- although good -- don't look quite as good as the GoPro HD Hero2's.