Quality HD Video in an Action Cam With the iON Air Pro 3 Review

iON Air Pro 3 Wi-Fi - Action Camera

High quality video in an action cam, the iON Air Pro 3 is a great piece of video equipment for the adventurist trying to record special events. Great mounting options and Wi-Fi controls help keep the Air Pro 3 a player in the competitive field of action cams.

The iON Air Pro 3 has given us additional reason to celebrate while working on this review; we always look forward to the HD video action cameras because they make our work fun! This one is even more exciting, however, since it has Wi-Fi and integrates with smartphones; what could be better? Since many of us complain that action cams are lacking in the area of instant previews, learning that we could use a smartphone to stream live HD video and observe shots before beginning video recording is a welcome addition.

Used for everything from a Sunday morning bike ride to aerial HD video shots by commercial real estate agents of their properties, the iON Air Pro 3 provides versatility with little change. Waterproof to 49 feet in the stock casing, the iON Air Pro 3 utilizes a black metal, bullet-shaped casing with nice blue accents. The casing offers the waterproof abilities and also keeps the iON usable on flat surfaces while keeping the camera from being damaged, due to its strength and durability. Unique mounting options also provide multiple uses from a mini-tripod to the helmet mounting system.

Overview

The default settings for the iON Air Pro 3 out of the box are full high definition (noted as FHD on the camera) video recording in 1080p 1920x1080 at 30/60fps and 1280x720 at 30/60/120fps. The fastest way to change this is by using a sliding switch on the back of the camera (though they can be adjusted to meet your needs through the computer software). The lens is a 16mm f/2.8 fog-free lens, giving your videos a range of angles of view, from 140 to 160 degrees depending on how wide you would like the shot. Video quality is one of its strengths. The Air Pro 3 has very clear HD video with stable, vibrant colors. When comparing footage from a GoPro HD HERO2, the iON showed much crisper video recording and truer colors.

Changing the setting between FHD and HD is simple, just remove the iON Wi-Fi PODZ from the rear of the casing and you have access. However, if you want to switch from single picture to burst or time-lapse, or switch to 1080p/60fps, you need to attach the iON Air Pro 3 to a computer and open the iON software/app to adjust any of these features. These adjustments seem to be something you would have access to on the action cam itself, but there is no way of switching between these modes without the use of an outside computer or smartphone.

Various other items are accessed on the back of the camera including Mini HDMI output, microSD card (up to 64GB), external microphone, hard reset, and USB port for connecting  and charging with a computer. All of these are sealed off from water and dirt through the use of the iON Wi-Fi PODZ rear seal.

iON Air Pro App

Something quite useful is the iON Air Pro App. After connecting the iON to your smartphone, the App lets you remotely control the iON for taking pictures and starting and stopping HD video recording. Though only vertical on the smartphone screen, a landscape view might work better for people using their smartphones for remote video recording. The main drawback is battery life, as connecting with Wi-Fi will quickly drain the Air Pro 3 and the smartphone of power, ours died at about an hour with the smartphone being used as the remote control. However, ease of setup is quite impressive. Have your smartphone look for WIFIPODZ and connect using a password and you are ready to use the App, or we connected through a browser using a home IP address, which then brings up the operating system software, as well as the DCIM folder which holds your pictures and video.

Mounting

Mounting accessories include a double-faced adhesive which is quite sticky, in order to mount the helmet mount, as well as a CamLOCK which consists of a helmet mount and a removable ball joint nut. Another common mounting option is a small tripod with legs that users can bend to wrap around objects, or to level out the camera on uneven terrains. We found our favorite way of using this mount was to place the iON on top of a soccer ball which provided a good elevation to view the action we were trying to record. We were also able to improvise and use zip ties to mount the iON onto a goal post for goalkeeper views of a soccer game.

Record switch and shutter release
This is where action cams excel as a whole, being small and easily handled, they can be mounted most anywhere with a little imagination. The mounts which came with the Air Pro 3 are quite adjustable to work on most situations. The CamLOCK ball joint system is fairly bulky compared to other options that are available through different types of action cams. Also, one side of the helmet mount slide-in CamLOCK broke off when we tried to place it the mount. Though the piece was not forced in, the slide latch bent and did not return. However, we were still able to use the slide lock as it was tight enough in the mount without the slide locks in place. Though there is no option for a chest mount as of yet, the Air Pro 3 is easily mounted on various other surfaces (side helmet mount, top helmet mount, bike frame mount, etc. while using the CamLOCK ball and joint mount) and the adjustability of the mount is quite good. Other mounts iON sells on its site are goggles, head, an FCS board, handlebar, roll bar, suction cup and standard boards.

Issues

One of the glaring issues we ran across was that of sound quality. Though many online forums stated that the sound quality was average, we found even that a stretch. Though sounds could be recorded within a few feet of the Air Pro 3, there was still an obnoxious hissing sound which started with any sound and would die away after the sound was completed. If we were to snap our fingers, the hissing sound would start immediately with the sound of the snap and would fizzle out after the sound of the snap had ended. We turned on the noise reduction within the iON’s settings and this did little to help. Also, while moving faster than 5mph, the sound quality was diminished by the wind noise that overtook any other sort of sound. One of our tests for the iON was a mountain bike ride using the helmet mount. Even with riders standing next to us, the iON picked up small amounts of the conversation and never provided sound quality anywhere close to a smartphone when shooting movies. Once we started to peddle during the ride, the wind noise immediately deafened the ambient sound and caused us to turn the computer speakers off during playback so the noise would not deter from our review of the video quality. Even though there is an optional external microphone jack, it is unrealistic to use when using an action cam for sound quality issues. If the built in microphone was possibly moved forward from the back bezel and mounted at a negative angle on the casing, this might take away from some of the wind noise issues.

When we tested the Wi-Fi for connectivity, it was connected to a Samsung GALAXY S III. The camera or app rarely froze and needed a restart. In one instance the camera froze and we tried to turn off the camera by holding down the power button to no avail. We also tried to hit the hard reset inside the back of the camera, but had nothing small enough to fit inside the hole; a pen would not work as the reset hole was smaller than a typical pen point. However, we were able to see how long the battery life was due to having to wait for it to deplete before being able to recharge the Air Pro 3. The battery held a charge for several hours while being stuck "on", and during testing, battery life was proven to be strong, up to three hours on one charge with off/on recording.

Summary

The Air Pro 3 delivers on video quality as it outperformed the HD HERO2 in our tests with bright, vivid colors and delivery of sharp video. However, the sound has a lot to be desired. The waterproof casing is great so you don’t need to stop what you are doing to change housings in order to get it wet. The mounting options are good enough to keep you trying different types of mountings for a new experience, yet the standard mounts are fairly bulky for traditional mounting options. The iON app and software allow you to see what is being recorded to allow for adjustments to take place real-time. However, the battery life is greatly diminished from using the Wi-Fi with the app.

Those who are wanting a compact action cam with some flush mount options for side helmet/goggle mounts, will love this camera if you’ll use it for mostly video without sound. Surfers, cyclists and snowboarders will rejoice in its size, waterproof body, and battery life of over 2.5 hours. However, if you are looking for something to produce a more professional video, you might want to do some additional research.

iON
Air Pro 3
www.ioncamera.com
$350

Tech Specs

Video Resolutions: 1920x1080, 30fps/60fps; 1280x720, 30fps/60fps/120fps
Field of View: 160 degree
Video Format: H.264 compression, saved as MPEG4 (.mp4) file
Aperture: f/2.8
Microphone: Built-in mono with AGC. 1/8” (3.5mm) external mic jack input
Capture Modes: Single shot, 10 photo burst, time-lapse
Photo Resolution: 12MP
Average Recording Times: 1080p/720p: 8min/GB
G-sensor (Auto-rotation): Yes
Waterproof: To 49ft. (15m)
Construction: High quality aluminum barrel
Dimensions (diameter x height): 1.5” x 4.2” (37mm x 107mm)
Weight: 5oz. (142g)
Battery Type: 1200 mAh Lithium Polymer
Battery Life: Approximately 2.5hr.
Memory: microSD card, up to 64GB
TV Out: HDMI, Composite.
Wi-Fi: With included Wi-Fi PODZ
PC Connection: USB 2.0 (data connection and battery charging)

Strengths

  • High quality picture and vibrant colors
  • Very adjustable mount
  • iON Air Pro App/Remote Control
  • Wi-Fi connectivity to smartphones

Weaknesses

  • Sound quality
  • Unit crashed during testing
  • Reset button size
  • No removable battery

Brian Teal is an outdoor sports adventurer who enjoys mixing nature and technology as an amateur videographer.

Issue: 

Brian
Teal
Thu, 02/20/2014 - 9:21pm