While iON cameras have been available in South Africa for the past few months, the brand hasn’t enjoyed top-shelf visibility in most retail outlets. Those who’ve been looking might have found some online stores selling them, but that’s about it.
Thankfully, that’s all about to change for this range of GoPro-competing action cameras, as Premium Group (also responsible for tech brands such as Lexar and Nikon) has taken over distribution. That could make things a bit tougher for the market’s current leading action camera, and a brand that’s synonymous with these devices, GoPro.
One of the mid-range iON models, the Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi, offers everything you’d get from the GoPro HD Hero 3 Silver Edition: wireless connectivity, 1080P and 720P video, and still shots. The iON model is built to be waterproof (up to 10 metres) and can be mounted without a special casing, while a naked GoPro needs its housing for mounts to be attached and to gain a waterproof rating (admittedly, to 60 metres). Where the iON really ekes ahead, though, is with the inclusion of an external microphone jack. If you’ve heard the muffled audio from action cameras then the use of an external mic, which can be placed out of the airstream, is a huge bonus.
Another plus for the iON camera is its cylindrical design. Mounted on the side of a car or other fast-moving object it’ll have have less drag than the square GoPro cameras in their housings. It’s by no means small, but it’s compact and light. Those who’ve had a hard time mounting a GoPro in tighter spaces might find the iON to be a better bet.
The wireless iON models can sync up with Android and Apple smartphones, through a mobile app. This controls settings on the camera and it’s also possible to use your phone as a viewfinder, perfect for getting the right shot without guessing where the fisheye lens is pointed. iON’s app will also record video and transfer it to phones, but in our brief hands-on this proved to be a time-consuming process – shifting video files using microSD cards seems much simpler.
More exciting, though, is the promise of two upcoming models. The iON Air Pro Adventure, which has a built-in GPS receiver, and the iON Speed Pro, a motorsport-oriented model, which has accessories for those who want an action cam for in-car shots.