High Gear looks at the iON AirPro 3, an alternative to GoPro
February 25, 2014
In the world of action sports cameras it's rapidly become GoPro and the other guys.
But there's one other guy out there looking to put up a fight, even if it appears to be a David vs. Goliath matchup. That underdog status seems to be just fine with iON Worldwide CEO and founder Giovanni Tomaselli, because he believes strongly that his line of cameras delivers. From a marketing standpoint, iON has jumped into the game swinging, adding its name as title sponsor to a number of extreme-sports events, including Breckenridge's Dew Tour iON Mountain Championships. In the lead-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, iON also signed a number of big-time freestyle skiers and snowboarders, including freesking medalist Nick Goepper and four-time Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark.
We've been product testing iON's latest camera, the AirPro 3 Wif-Fi, since the Dew Tour to see if it can hold up to the mountain lifestyle, and it's biggest competition — the GoPro Hero 3.
To put it simply, there's a lot we liked and a few things we didn't. Put to the test, it stacks up well against the competition, offering a lot of the same features and a few that may even give it a leg up, starting with the lower retail price.
What we liked
The Air Pro 3's strongest feature would have to be the waterproof case. Unlike the GoPro, there's no plastic shell. Its metal casing is already waterproof. (Note: We haven't had a chance to take it to whitewater yet, but it's been solid in snow.) Not having a case yields quick assess to functions and doesn't muffle the sound when used with the built-in microphone. The mic quality is excellent in certain situations, but limited in others (see dislikes). For optimal audio it also has a microphone jack under its Wi-Fi backing.
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The next big sell is the AirPro 3's wireless app functions — similar to the Hero's. iON's smartphone app lets you sync the camera to a mobile phone, allowing for direct viewing of recently shot video along with remote start and viewing functions from the phone it's linked to. The wireless feature also makes it possible to quickly share video in social media and connect to a laptop.
It's one-click filming switch lets you turn the camera on and film in a single motion. Or, it can be turned without starting filming, using a separate power button. The camera's vibrating signal is a handy feature to indicate if it's filming or has stopped — especially convenient when it's mounted on a helmet.
An area where the AirPro 3 clearly surpasses its Hero counterpart is with mounting options. Unlike GoPro's company-specific mounts, the AirPro has a standard tripod thread, making it possible to use with any third-party camera mount.
As for video quality, it offers a wide range of HD options up to 1080p, with a customizable switch to alternate between two resolutions. Our managing editor thought it might exceed even GoPro. It also has 12 megapixel photo capabilities.
What we didn't like
While the AirPro is a well-rounded versatile camera, there are a few shortcomings, though they might not really matter to most of its potential users.
Chief among the flaws is the noise-reduction setting, intended to minimize wind or extraneous noise. When on, it muffles audio substantially with slight distortion. When off, the audio is excellent, but the internal microphone placement makes it highly susceptible to wind noise while skiing. Still, in trees without wind the audio was OK.
For someone looking to overlay music to accompany a video, this wouldn't be a factor. A user could also plug in an external mic, but the camera will no longer be fully waterproof while the backing is removed.
Battery power was strong — iON advertises a 2.5-hour shooting time — but the battery is not removable, should the user desire to operate it for longer lengths of time. There is also no indicator on the camera showing remaining battery life. Amount of charge can be determined when the camera is connected to a smart phone via Wi-Fi.
The last word
As a whole, the iON AirPro 3 is a neat little alternative to the GoPro Hero series. And with Tomaselli looking to constantly improve his camera's capabilities with new models, it's entirely possible that the company will gain ground on its largest competitor. With its lower asking price and its intended market being the more casual videographer, iON likely has plenty of customers to appeal to. It certainly offers a user-friendly feel with a quick learning curve.
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