I have been a GoPro fan since taking my first trip on the back of a Superbike popping wheelies at a 150 mph.
The GoPro caught all the action, including the moment where I almost fell off after my knee touched the ground on Turn 7 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. At that time GoPro was the only viable action camera on the market that you could mount on a helmet, on a bike, or on a kiteboard. Since then the competition has grown and action sports enthusiasts not only use GoPro cameras but also Contour’s action cameras, and now the ION Air Pro, which just hit the market today.
Giovanni Tomaselli is the brain child behind this new line of action cameras. He knows a little something about video. After securing the rights to computer-related products from the Disney franchise in 1995, he moved into digital cameras for Che-ez and Cool iCam brands in 2000.
Che-ez became one of the top digital video camera brands in the Japan market. Since then, he’s designed digital video products for companies like Polaroid, Nikon, Casio, and Kodak. He was the first to convert a digital camera to a solid state camcorder even before Panasonic. Now he has his sights set on overtaking the market leader in action cameras, GoPro.
Action cameras are a big market. Last year more than 2 million units sold. That’s expected to grow to more than 8 million in 2014. So plenty of room for newcomers in this marketplace, especially ones that aren’t me-toos.
What’s noticeably different about the ION Air Pro, which is priced comparably to the competition at $229, is the ability to know when it’s actually recording. The trouble I always have with the GoPro is I’m never certain it’s running. When I was snowkiting in Utah last year, I missed half the footage, because I could’t keep taking my gloves off in the freezing cold weather to take the camera off of my helmet to check whether it was on. You have to do the same with the Contour cameras.
ION Pro cameras vibrate when they turn on. If you get the wifi version, you also can pop your camera on your helment and see real time on your iPhone or iPad whether or not you have the camera pointed in the right direction. The video pops up right away.
When my photographer Anthony Nielsen has used the GoPros on our shoots for PandoDlaily, including this one with Branchout CEO Rick Marini, taking the ride of his life on the back of a Superbike two weeks ago, he has to mount the cameras, start recording, let it run for a few seconds, turn it off, take the SD card out, and pop it in the computer to ensure he’s getting what he needs. If not, he has to readjust the mounts, and do the process all over again. What a nightmare.
I gave the ION Air Pro to Charles River Ventures Partner Bill Tai over the weekend to test
out at his annual kiteboarding trip to Maui, and he sent me this feedback:
* Wonderful “unboxing experience”. Beautiful and strong packaging that matches the product. Implies quality and durability. The metal can, plastic box is really beautiful as is the product color in blue.
* The video quality is EXCELLENT and industry leading for this form factor.
* It’s waterproof without an extra case.
* The vibration when it’s turned on as confirmation is FANTASTIC as a way to confirm when it’s on and off.
No other product I know of has the variety of interfaces built into the back for display later. Industry leader for sure.
* I like the way it seals in the back – it feels very solid / feels like it will seal better than alternative products.
* I do like the variety of mounts. Covers many if not all situations.
* I’m concerned though that it might (because it sits up high off the connection point – trade off is it gives great range of field of view) catch on something or if it hits something’s will break off. If there were one option as a way to mount it really flat/flush to a helmet so it’s not sticking out it would be good.
The future ION Air Pro is what I’m looking forward to getting my hands on. A user will soon have the ability to control the camera remotely with an iPhone or iPad.
It won’t take years to make either. Giovanni has a way to bring new products to market fast. That’s been the key to his success so far in the digital video market. He explains in the video below why entrepreneurs are making a big mistake when starting from scratch. He says systems integration is the way to go in order to compete in today’s digital economy.
[Note: We shot interview using ION Air Pro. It's better for picking up ambient sound versus an actual interview.]