What is it?
A lightweight, waterproof video camera designed for sporty people.
What's it for?
It's a camera for GI Janes and Joes who like to take videos of themselves para-gliding, parachuting, mountain biking, white water rafting and other high octane sports. Unable to replicate those conditions exactly in my humdrum life, I tried to put it through its paces by mimicking extreme sports conditions, albeit on a much smaller scale. I took the camera for a bike ride, rolled it down a hill, sprayed it with water and threw it in the bath. It survived.
Does it work?
The cylindrical camera's bright plastic casing looks cheap and cheerful, so I was worried it might break, but surprisingly it withstood my rigorous testing. I didn't screw it down very tightly on the bike mount - so it rattled around and my video recorded that sound rather than anything else. The mic also failed when in motion, and under water, and after it had been in water. In fact it only really worked well when it was static... but that rather defeats the point of it being an "action" camera. Looking online, it looks like other users have had similar problems. On the plus side, the curved lens makes even the most mundane bike ride seem full of peril, but it also distorted my face when I spoke directly to the camera (see video). The camera has a "G-sensor" for "which end is up assurance" which worked most of the time, even when I threw it around a lot. Most of all, it's really fun and very easy to use, you can switch it on or off with the flick of a switch and it vibrates so you know when it's on, even if you can't see it. I can see it would be great to capture your friends screaming as they ride a rollercoaster, or to record a parachute jump, because it's so little and light and it comes with a whole host of ways of strapping it on and using it hands-free, but in other ways it feels lacking. For example, producing the video and getting it online was quite a challenge. Unlike many modern cameras there was no sharing function to upload the video straight from the device to Facebook or You Tube, and it didn't even come with basic editing software. The risk is those little magic moments will stay locked in the camera's lightweight body and never seen again.
Is it worth the money?
The iON Air pro measures up to the Polaroid on basic stats, plus it comes with 8GB of cloud storage space, but it costs more at around £180. Rival company Chilli Technology makes a head camera in a hard-wearing black metal casing for half the price (around £55). It hasn't got such a wide range of features and the image size is fixed at 720p HD resolution, but at least you wouldn't worry about it disintegrating on a rainy hike or your kids mistaking it for one of their toys.
Waterproof up to 10m
Wide angle lens provides 170 degrees
Durability, battery life, price and other specs
Video Options: 1080p, 960p or 720p
Still image options: 16MP, 5MP, 3MP, 1 x or 10x (burst) or Time Lapse shooting mode
Always records two versions of the video, one is smaller for 'easier sharing'