WHAT IS THE ION AIR PRO 2 WI-FI?
The iON Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi is a rugged, waterproof action camera with a full range of mounting options and wireless connectivity. The market for camcorders you can use whilst engaged in sports has grown considerably. Although GoPro has become the leading brand in the area, there is still plenty of room for competitors, and iON’s Air Pro 2 looks like a promising alternative. With Full HD resolution and a WiFi add-on, it’s a real alternative to the GoPro, and garnered some interest when it was announced recently.
Unlike the GoPro, the Air Pro 2 uses the bullet camera format that has become the convention for action camcorders. It looks like a stubby flashlight, with a rugged exterior that is rated waterproof to a depth of 10m. There are just two rubber buttons on the top. The one nearer the lens turns the camera on when held down for a few seconds, and then takes a photo when pressed for a shorter period. Sliding the rear button forward begins recording, and you can turn it off again by sliding this backward. You can also turn the camcorder on and immediately trigger recording immediately by sliding the button forward.
That’s pretty much it for controls on the outside of the camera. The device vibrates to indicate when it is turning off and on, and that recording has started or stopped, which makes it intuitive to use even if you can’t see it. This is great if you have it attached to your helmet. The Air Pro 2 will record video at 1080p and 25 frames per second, with 960p and 720p also available. At the same time, a lower-resolution 320 x 240 version is recorded, aimed at social media and email. The sensor is quoted as having 14Mpixels, although there is no mention of its size. You can capture still images at 4,608 x 3,456. At the top video quality setting, the data rate is 12Mbits/sec, which is decent but not up there with most mainstream camcorders. MicroSD cards are used for recording, and a 8GB card will be enough for around 90 minutes of footage at the top data rate.
One of the unique features of the Air Pro 2 is its PODZ system, which allows accessory add-ons to be slotted onto the back. The Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi includes the WiFi PODZ, of which more later, but you can also get one with a waterproof remote control for triggering the camcorder (and up to seven more) from a range of up to 20m. Underneath the PODZ cover is the MicoSD slot, a Mini HDMI port, and a switch to choose between Full HD and basic HD, although if you want to make any other changes to the settings you will need attach the unit to a desktop or mobile device. A micro USB port is available for charging, and there is also a microphone input, which uses a 2.5in minijack. So you can hook up an external microphone, but not when using a PODZ accessory at the same time, so the Air Pro 2 won’t be waterproof either.
The bundled accessories are reasonable, if not entirely comprehensive. The Air Pro 2 has a standard screw hole on the bottom with notch, so a regular tripod can be used. However, there’s a Gorillapod-like tripod included, and a quick-release plate iON calls CamLOCK. To go with this, there’s a ball-jointed mount that can either be used with a double-sided adhesive patch for a helmet or potentially a strap. However, the latter isn’t included in the box, and we would have liked to have seen a few more mounts included as standard, although there is a variety of additional mounting kits available, including for helmets, bikes, and boards. The Air Pro 2 charges over USB, but there’s a separate charger included in the box as well, with a full set of swappable plates for different plug types.
The WiFi options starting to find their way onto action cameras are much more essential than those now becoming de rigueur on premium mainstream camcorders, so it’s great to see these on the Air Pro 2. It’s reassuring to report that iON’s iPhone and Android apps are pretty accomplished, too, delivering useful features that enhance the Air Pro 2’s abilities. With the WiFi PODZ installed on the rear, and the camera turned on, a touch of the button on the PODZ accessory itself enables the WiFi.
It’s not possible to connect the Air Pro 2 to an existing wireless network, so your next job is to connect to the camera’s local WLAN with your mobile device, after which the mobile app will be able to access the camera’s functions. Whichever platform you are on, these functions are the same, although the interface layout is slightly different in each case. The Dashboard tells you which WiFi network you are connected to, the battery level of your iON Pro 2, and any files currently being uploaded. A separate tab lets you browse the contents of your camera’s memory card, and play back its contents. You can also configure settings, including login details for your social media accounts, which consist of Facebook, YouTube and iON’s own Cloud service, where you are given 8GB of storage for free.
You can also configure the camera’s settings, including photo resolution and shooting mode, video resolution, TV system, auto power off, and whether the picture rotates automatically with camera orientation, which is useful as otherwise you will need the desktop software to do this. But the most useful feature of all is the remote control. You can choose still camera or camcorder mode, then view what the lens is seeing, and take a photo or trigger recording. The preview ends during recording, unfortunately, but at least you get to check the shot is framed correctly beforehand. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the WiFi PODZ sucks power, and will significantly reduce the two-and-a-half hours battery life of the Air Pro 2 to around half that in our experience.
The Air Pro 2’s image quality is decent for an action camera, although it’s not in the same league as the GoPro Hero3, particularly when the latter is using its Protune option. In good lighting, colour and contrast are faithful enough, but there is a softness in detail compared to the GoPro, or a premium mainstream camcorder. Performance in poor lighting is a mixed bag.
The level of brightness and colour saturation remain decent in low levels of illumination, but there is a grainy discolouration across the image, that is particularly evident in areas of white. This is still a better image quality than many action cameras we have reviewed, however. The fixed lens is a relatively extreme wide angle, with a 180-degree field of view. This produces a fish-eye effect at the edges, but means a lot more of the action on each side is captured, which will come in handy when engaged in some extreme sports, such as sky diving.
SHOULD I BUY THE ION AIR PRO 2 WIFI?
The iON Air Pro 2 is worth considering. It’s well made and the WiFi PODZ adds a good level of features with the iOS and Android apps, even if battery life is considerably reduced when in use. However, for around £50 more you could get the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition, which offers a greater range of shooting modes, including 4K, and better overall image quality.
The iON Air Pro 2 shows a lot of promise. It may not have the brand recognition or 4K shooting of GoPro’s Hero3 Black Edition, but it’s still a robust and well designed device. The wide angle of vision will suit some sporting activities better, too. Image quality is not as good as a mainstream camcorder, but better than most action cameras, again with the exception of the GoPro Hero3. There are lots of mounting options, too, although most are optional extras. This is definitely a contender for extreme sports video making.