NEW YORK —
Value electronics supplier Ion America
this summer plans to dive into one of the fastest-growing
segments of the U.S. camcorder business — the action
camera market — with both feet.
Ion recently unveiled its Ion Air Pro action camera line
launching with three model
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
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
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, Polaroid and others.
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 a 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 Compact-
Flash cards, and others. In three years the company went
from $15 billion to $34 billion, Tomaselli said.
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
action camera business, where such brands as Go-Pro,
Contour, Delkin, Liquid Image and Midland have staked
claims to the new outdoor video 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 feet underwater.
“I gave a brief to my team and said, ‘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
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
forming a seal that is watertight to 30 feet.
Different Podz can be purchased to add Wi-Fi linking
capability to a smartphone or tablet to present a live-view
monitor during recording or to see recorded images and
video clips after the fact. 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
modes: 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 three packages differentiated
by mounting brackets
or the addition of Wi-Fi
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 Cloud.
Every camera comes with 8GB of free storage at Ion
Cloud, powered by
; 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 tripod.
The step-up configuration, called the Ion Air Pro Plus
($290 suggested retail), includes a bike- and helmetmounting
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’
The company will use 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.