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We received the tube-shaped ION Air Pro 2 complete with a bunch of accessories to test its attachment potential. It differs from some other action cameras in that there is no need for a waterproof casing, with the camera being completely waterproof up to 30ft. The tin box that was delivered to our office included a handlebar mount, helmet adhesive mounts, a pouch, USB cable, audio/video cable, and charger. Some of these were standard items, where some, like the handlebar mount, would be sold separately.

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Specifications

It has a standard specification, if you ask me, as you wouldn't actually look at buying any camera with less.

From the manufacturer's site:

Lens Type: 180º ultra wide angle field of view.

Sensor: 14 Mega pixel CMOS sensor.

Focus Range: 0.5m / 20inches.

Video: 1080p: 1920x1080 pixels (16:9), 25fps PAL / 30fps NTSC. 960p: 1280x960 pixels (4:3), 25fps PAL / 30fps NTSC*. 720p: 1280x720 pixels (16:9), 50fps PAL / 60fps NTSC. 720p: 1280x720 pixels (16:9), 25fps PAL / 30fps NTSC*.

Format: H.264 compression, saved as MPEG4 (.mp4) file. Dual video files for easy sharing.

Photo: 14 mega pixel in JPEG format. Single, burst-shot*, time lapse*.

Audio: Built-in high quality microphone. Microphone Input (for professional external microphones). AAC compression, automatic gain control.

Storage: MicroSD / MicroSDHC with minimum class 6, recommended class 10 up to 32GB (not included). Average recording time: about 4 hours (using 32GB mSD card in 1080p30/720p60).

Connection: USB2.0 (for data connection and battery charging). HDMI - Hi Def Video.

Power: Battery life: approx. 2.5 hrs / 1 hr (w/ Wi-Fi).

Housing: High quality aluminum barrel / rubberized finishing.

Waterproof: Depth up to 10 meters / 30 feet.

Dimensions: 37 x 37 x 108 mm / 1.45" x 1.45" x 4.5".

Weight: 130g / 4.6oz (including WiFi PODZ™).

It will do 1080p in 30 frames per second (fps), while 720p in 60fps to allow for slow-mo action. If you compare it to the formidable likes of GoPro in 3+ Silver form, it doesn't quite hold up, with the GoPro doubling those frame rates. Most people would not even use this feature, I suspect, but the greater frame rate often increases overall quality of the image, so this was a bit disappointing.

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Accessories

The Air Pro 2 has an initial connector that screws into the tripod mount at the bottom. A ball joint-type mount slides into this and after that you press the ball into the joint of another connector, which has a bolt that secures the ball in the joint. So that's three connectors that need to be used in order to attach the Air Pro 2, to say, a handlebar. There was slight play in the slider connector, though it didn't really affect anything. The tightening bolt was a serious mission, needing vice-like grip to get it to where the camera wouldn't move about. Untightening it also needed an amazing feat of strength.

The ball-joint did work a treat, allowing minor adjustments where other cameras would need a few adaptors to get the same result. There was no need to remove the camera to change the direction where it faced, just a strong grip to handle the bolt.

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The other connector used was the helmet attachment. The 3M double sided tape provided to stick the attachment on was super strong and didn't look to be going anywhere soon. It had a dedicated curve to it, making placement tricky, but I found a curve on the side of my helmet that fit. The weight of the Air Pro 2 was apparent here, but once on the move it wasn't very noticeable. The ball-joint was also great, allowing the small adjustments necessary to get the camera pointing exactly right.

In use

The ION Air Pro 2 is a really simple camera to use. Slide the recorder button forward, feel (and hear) that long vibration and you're good to go. Vibrations indicate its use, telling you when it's recording and when it's not. It also indicates when it turns off and when it's taking photos, even for time lapsed photos. So if you set it to take a photo every 5 seconds, it vibrates every time. The vibration for recording was useful, especially when it was on my helmet, but not so when it was taking photos – that was annoying.

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The Wi-Fi capabilities come courtesy of the back cap, the little button activating it. It doubles as a protector for the plugs and card slot.

It doesn't have an LED screen but uses a light at the top to tell you whats happening. So, for example, green is on and red is record. Nice and easy. But then there's some flashing ones with many colours that I couldn't have been bothered to learn.

Battery life was where the Air Pro 2 particularly shined, providing ample supply. ION claim an estimated 2 1/2 hours of recording time, and that is what we got, almost exactly. The only downfall here would be that you can't replace the battery with a pre-charged one as it's not removable.

If you don't get the Wi-Fi version then mid trail setting changes are impossible. The only way to change the setting is via your smartphone or computer and the only way to connect to you phone is by Wi-Fi. Even then it is a monumental pain. The ION app is just plain terrible. It looks fine and is easy enough to navigate, but only when it works, which is very seldom. It is so slow and lags like crazy. We tried it on both Android and iOS and both were the same. It also quit unexpectedly about half the time.

When you get it right, though, then you can use your smartphone as a remote for the camera, taking photos or recording. You cannot view what you are recording, though.

Video Footage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgqM24iNr6I

ION Air Pro 2 attached to the handlebars and then the top tube of the Giant Anthem 1 27.5 we were testing at the time then attached to my helmet on the right side. Because it was on its side it took a portrait shot, but quite nicely captured the trail and bike in one go. This time I was on a PYGA OneTwenty test bike. All shot and uploaded at 1080p - be sure to adjust the player quality settings for accurate representation.

Image quality

While recording two different qualities of video are being taken simultaneously. It is done so that you can send your lesser quality videos off into the social ether via the Wi-Fi capabilities. It's useful if you're keen to share your adventures immediately, but if you're the editing sort, you won't be using this feature.

Sound quality was pretty good. Because there was no waterproof casing, the microphone was able to pick up sounds much better than cameras that needed a casing. This also meant that wind noise was a factor, but this is unavoidable when you expose any microphone to wind. When stationary you could hear conversation quite clearly and even on the go voices were audible.

The image quality was quite good. It didn't jump about in the rough bits or skip frames. The image was sharp, but I found that it could be a bit better, given it was 1080p. The colours were really good, though - nicely saturated and natural. The photo quality was the same, but in motion the camera struggled to get a solid image.

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In the end

Right, down to brass tax. The ION Air Pro 2 video camera has entered a market with some exceptional players, and to be honest, especially with a recommended retail price of R4 499, it doesn't quite hold up. It holds its own for the amateur action film star who wants to go for rides and share them with friends or on social websites. It's easy to use in action, but is let down horribly by the software, both on your smartphone and computer. And this is a significant downfall, as it's the only way to interact with the settings or updates.

The accessories held up well enough, but were bulky and this made setting the camera up a little tedious. The ball-joint connector was great, though, and did offer a lot of options in terms of movement and angles that would be a mission on other cameras. Operation mid-trail was also very convenient, with only a small slide of the switch to turn the camera on and start recording. But trying to use your phone as a remote was a nightmare because of the poor app.

Overall, I would recommend this camera to those who prefer a point-and-shoot kind of camera as opposed to a manual operated DLSR.