New York - Value
electronics supplier Ion America
revealed Tuesday that is diving into one of the fastest-growing segments of the
U.S. camcorder business -- the action camera market -- with both feet.
Ion is launching the Ion Air Pro action camera with three model configurations
(differentiated primarily by mounting systems) set to compete against the
popular Go Pro line. The cameras are said to be easier to use, don't require
waterproof cases, can be submerged to 30 feet, and have an option to add on
functionality, such as Wi-Fi linking through interchangeable modules called
Like the Go Pro line, the cameras can be mounted on cars,
helmets, surfboards or almost anything that takes the shooter into the heart of
The company's global parent Ion Worldwide is directed by CEO and
founder Giovanni Tomaselli, who has been developing and marketing lines of
affordable CE devices for nearly 20 years under various licensing arrangements
with Disney, Mattel and Polaroid.
He was also made a Harvard Business School case study after he
took his own Che-ez digital camera brand to a top-five market share position in
Japan, on the strength of a value price point and flashy color scheme that
appealed to young Japanese females obsessed with children's icons like Big Bird
and Hello Kitty.
Prior to relaunching Ion Worldwide, Tomaselli had sold the
company to manufacturer Flextronics, staying on to run the ODM imaging division,
which produced digital camera products for such major brands as Casio, Nikon,
Polaroid and Kodak.
"In 2006, I took the Flextronics'
imaging business from $120 million to $680 million in the first year," he said.
In 2007, he assumed the responsibilities for Flextronics' CE division
and did $1.6 billion in production, working with brands including Sony (TVs),
Microsoft (Zune), XM Radio, all of SanDisk's Cruzer products and CompactFlash cards,
and others. In three years the company went from $15 billion to $34 billion,
But at the end of the day, Flextronics didn't have the appetite
for the CE business that they thought they did, he said, and Tomaselli bought
back his old company and the Ion brand for digital imaging products.
Now Tomaselli has turned his sights on the growing outdoor action
camera market, where such brands as Go-Pro, Contour, Delkin, Liquid Image and
Midland have staked a claim to the new outdoor video camera opportunity.
Tomaselli said the target is action-seeking young trendsetters
eager to take their cameras literally anywhere, from the top of a ski slope to 30
"I gave a brief to my team and said, â€˜I want a camera that has
the smallest possible footprint and is best in class,' " Tomaselli said. "The
consumer in this class is uncompromising. They are willing to pay, and they've
proved it. The Go Pro camera was $299 at Christmas of 2009 and it is still
He said the Ion Air Pro action cam is 20 percent lighter than Go
Pro units and even lighter than Contour models. It features a vertical design
that accepts unique back covers called Podz that snap in place on the back of
the camera for a watertight seal to 30 feet.
Different Podz can be purchased for extended battery charge life
or adding Wi-Fi linking capability to a smartphone or tablet device to present a
live-view monitor or to see recorded images and video clips. The company is
even planning one for an external Bluetooth mic system.
The camera's wide-angle lens records in 1080p HD video resolution
(960p, 720p and WVGA options are available as well) with fields of view up to
170 degrees. Still pictures can also be captured in three models: one at a
time; 10 in one burst; or one photo every 10, 20 or 30 seconds to created
stop-motion video footage.
Ion America will offer the Ion Air Pro in five packages
differentiated by mounting brackets or the addition of Wi-Fi capability.
The top-of-the-line Ion Air Pro Wi-Fi version ($350 suggested
retail) includes a Wi-Fi Podz that enables users to shoot HD video and share it
wirelessly to a mobile device via a free iPhone/iPad app. Users can share the
content with friends and family through email or Facebook, or connect to a
computer for additional options.
Apps are available today for any iOS device (Android devices will
be supported later in the year, the company said). The camera ships with a CamLock
mounting system that will secure the camera to bike handlebars and most summer
and winter sports helmets.
The flexible locking system enables the camera to be rotated 360
degrees to capture subjects from almost any angle without the need to re-mount.
The image automatically inverts if the camera is rotated upside down during
action or mounting.
The app lets users create and manage content in albums, share
video and photos to the Internet or Facebook, and store content in the Ion
Every camera comes with 8GB of free storage at Ion Cloud, powered
by MiMedia.com; additional capacity can be purchased as needed.
The camera also includes an easy-to-use top-mounted switch that
lets the user know with a buzz that the camera is on and recording. A "REC"
light will also illuminate to provide a visual signal that the camera is on.
Users of models without Wi-Fi can store images to a MicroSD card,
up to 32GB in capacity.
The base Ion Air Pro carries
a $230 suggested retail and includes a universal travel charger kit and a mini
The step-up configuration, called the Ion Air Pro Plus ($290
suggested retail), includes a bike- and helmet-mounting system in addition to
the travel adapter.
The bike- and helmet-mounting system is also available in the
aforementioned top-of-the-line Air Pro Wi-Fi kit.
Tomaselli said Ion will be
taking the Ion Air Pro to market through sporting goods stores as well as CE
and camera specialty retailers capable of selling the products' benefits. The
company will used distributor Wynit to reach CE and camera dealers.
The company will promote the product through its website, through
retail partners' stores and websites, and through social media. Plans are also
in place for co-op advertising support, Tomaselli said.
Three extra add-on packages will also be available: a $50 surf
mount (called the Board Kit), the $70 Helmet and Bike Kit, and a $100 Connect
Kit that includes a Wi-Fi Podz and 1,800-milliamp battery booster.