Overview – iON is one of many competitors in the game of action cameras. While Sony and GoPro get most of the attention smaller companies like iON are making some pretty good cameras that may eventually compete with these two larger companies. The iON Air Pro Lite was my first action cam and although it’s a bit outdated now, it served as the template for some of iON’s newer and more advanced cameras. This review talks about some of the things that I love about iON cameras, as well as a few of the things we feel could use some improvement.
Design – Although video quality is probably the most important factor for us in determining our favorite action cameras, design aslo plays a key role. Although the iON Air Pro Lite is now an older camera it serves as the basic design for all of iON’s newer action cameras and is definitely worth talking about. The iON Air Pro Lite is basically a metal tube that is waterproof up to 30 feet without the need of an extra protective case. The downside to this is that the lens is exposed and you have to be careful not to scratch it. The lens is quite rounded and offers a wide angle 170 degree view that is similar to the wide angle views of Sony or GoPro. Unfortunately this view can’t be changed or adjusted, and the lens can’t be rotated. However, the iON Air Pro Lite does have an auto rotate feature that can detect the angle of the camera and adjust. This is a great idea, bu doesn’t always work the best. It’s maybe a little too sensitive sometimes, and I have had films turn ot sidewys even though the camera is mounted right side up. The resulting video is sideways and useless without editing.
The simple two button design makes it very easy to use, and the haptic feedback ensures you know anytime you press a button and start recording. These vibrations are quite loud when wearing a helmet, but I actually like knowing that I’m recording. The bottom of the camera is where the mounting hardware is, and it’s similar to the Sony cams we tested. On the back of the camera is the Podz. These removable “endcaps” are interchangeable and add extra feature like Wi-Fi to certain cameras. This is also what covers all of the cameras connections. I think what we love most bout the design of the iON Air Pro Lite is it’s simplicity and functionality.
Ease of Setup/Use – The iON Air Pro Lite was the first action camera we ever tested, and its still one of the easiest to use of all cameras we’ve tested directly out of the box. It has a simple and intuitive design and the default setting is in High Definition 1080 30p. Of course all cameras will take a little bit of time to figure out everything, but the iON Air Pro still remains the easiest to take out of the box and start recording video. It has a simple two button interface that is easy and intuitive to use. Best of all is the haptic feedback you get anytime you turn the camera on, take or a picture, or start and stop video recording. This haptic feedback lets you know the camera is on and working when you ask t to.
Video Quality – The iON Air Pro Lite is capable of recording in 1080 30p full HD (FHD) or 720 60p HD video with the flip of a switch at the rear of the camera. It’s also capable of recording at 960 30p or 720 30p after making adjustents to the settings on the computer or phone. All of the other cameras that we have tested are capable of recording in at least 1080 60p and so isn’t an exact apples to apples comparison. All of the newer cams have newer sensors and better picture quality than the iON Air Pro Lite, but the Air Pro is actually quite good despite it’s older censor and 30p limitation. The video quality was more on par with the older GoPro models than the newer Sony or GoPro cams.We haven’t had the chance to test the new iON Air Pro 3, but if video quality of the older Air Pro Lite was this good, we’d like to think that the new iON cams would be able to hold up pretty well against the newer Sony or GoPro cams.
iON Air Pro Lite 1080 30p Video Quality
Video formats and Settings – The iON Air Pro Lite is a simple camera, and doesn’t offer all of the video formats the newer Sony or GoPro cams do, but we actually appreciate the simplicity. The iON Air Pro is capable of shooting in 1080 30p, 960 30p, 720 60p, and 720 30p. The only format we really wish it had was 1080 60p since that is the format we shoot in most often, but when we first got this camera we were happy with the video quality of the 1080 30p. It’s also worth noting that ION addressed this with the iON Air Pro 3 which is now capable of shooting in 1080 60p. If you’re happy with the basic HD video format and don’t need any of the higher definition videos the iON Air Pro Lite isn’t a bad camera. If you need the 1080 60p then you’d have to opt for the newer Air Pro 3 or one of the Sony or GoPro cameras.
Software – The iON Air Pro Lite was one of the simplest cameras to use out of the box, but every now and then you’ll need to adjust settings via the computer or phone. On the back of the Air Pro is the removable pod that hides the microSD slot, and other connections. Here is where you can use the HDMI or Micro-USB to connect to the computer and change the setting on the camera. This process is relatively simple with even basic computer knowledge. If you up for the Wi-Fi Podz you can use it to connect to the phone. At the time of testing we had a Samsung Galaxy S3 that we integrated with the iON using the iON app. This wasn’t the most user friendly app, but it did the job.
Battery Life – Battery life is okay on the iON Air Pro Lite. With Wi-Fi off the battery will last 2 or 3 hours recording almost every run. If you needed to film every run all day you’d need to switch out batteries or charge halfway through the day.
Sound Quality – The iON Air Pro Lite picks up a lot of noise, but not necessarily in a good way. When having conversations on the mountain the ION will pick up the sound well (although quiet). We like being able to hear conversations, and even the new GoPro cams don’t do this very well. However, where the GoPro is much better is the reduction of wind or other noise. When playing back the videos from the iON it sounds like you’re in a wind tunnel. The noise doesn’t stop at that either, picking up any bangs, knocks, bumps, or other sounds from you or your surroundings.
Size and Fit – The iON has a nice streamlined cylindrical shape that we actually really like. It’s no longer the smallest or lightest camera, but it still works well for helmet mounting. Although it’s longer and slightly wider than the Sony HDR-AS200V it’s not as tall. It’s hard to say which is really bigger, but neither one of them are bulky.
Accesories – Mounting is pretty straight forward and easy to use. The attachment on the camera is quite large, but it makes it easier to use with gloves than the Sony or GoPro system.
Summary – Although the iON Air Pro Lite was the first camera we tested it still has a few features that we really like. It’s video quality isn’t as good as the new GoPro or Sony cams, but we love the simple design and ease of use. Plus now that it’s a few years old it comes at a pretty decent price. If you don’t need the best in video quality and don’t mind the 1080 30p high end then the iON Air Pro Lite isn’t a bad choice. We would love to test the iON Air Pro 3 and see how that compares with the newer cameras. With more video formats and better video quality I think the Air Pro 3 could actually become a pretty good competitor to GoPro and Sony. We will definitely post a review once we have the chance to compare.