The Olympus Air A01 isn’t really a new concept, Sony has a very similar option (with a few more features at a slightly higher price), but both strike me as a very real future for camera portability. The primary reason that I went with the Olympus, despite being a huge fan of Sony made sensors, is the body/lens size is smaller on the Olympus and I was going for more portable. In any event, let me state that this is not a review, just my impressions. If you want reviews, there are a number of them out there already and they’re going to have done a better job at it than I will!
In any event, impressions… So, let me start of with: I really, really, like it. Immediate good things that pop to mind are:
- Small and light, can coat pocket it pretty readily. Pants pocket would be pushing your luck…
- Fits the hand well. I don’t have especially large hands, so I appreciate the feel of the camera in my hand, it’s not bulky in feel.
- Responsive and very controllable auto-focus, you basically touch your phone screen for where you want focus.
- 10 frames a second shooting.
- Easy to get into weird places. I’m looking forward to putting this in a tree this summer, because I can control lens zoom and focus remotely.
- Open SDK for software developers is available. So, don’t like their app? Roll your own.
- You can use it blind, no connected smartphone is necessary. That can give you a bit of an old-time, how did it turn out, thrill.
- Micro 4/3 standard sensor and lens mount, opens up a good range of lens options, not just from Olympus. That was also a reason I passed on the Sony.
Some quick short-comings:
- No flash. This is where the SDK might become useful, being able to trip a flash via some other means, perhaps over the 3.5mm jack, would make a camera like this very handy in the studio.
- Integrated battery. It’s USB chargeable, so it’s possible to extend using the same portable power packs we often have for smartphones.
- No Raw+JPEG mirror to the phone. You can mirror if you shoot JPEG only, though image copy to the device after is actually quite quick and easy.
All-in-all, I think the short-comings aren’t really that big of a deal. The image quality is excellent, the camera is responsive, and the creative options seem quite limitless when comparing it to the bulky beast that my D800 is. Mind you, I don’t see me giving up the D800 any time soon, but it’s nice to have a very good, high IQ, camera that I can more readily carry around with me.
So, where I can see this sort of camera really getting used?
Well, clearly street shooters would find it really useful, the stealthiness is pretty obvious. One of the challenges of shooting on the streets is reactions to having big cameras pointed at them. With this, you don’t even need to be looking anywhere near where they are!
Product photography under continuous lights. The lack of flash is a challenge, but putting the camera on a tripod, yes it has a tripod mount, and then controlling from a big IOS or Android tablet is pretty nice.
Wildlife stealth shooting, one of my plans, because it’s small and quiet and you can get out of the way while still controlling it. Range of wireless appears to be around 30 feet or so, but that can get you out of the general visible area.
Some quick specs:
- Micro-SD card slot
- 10 fps
- 16MP Micro 4/3 Live MOS sensor
- Shutter speeds from 4s to 1/16000s
- Full HD 30fps video
- Full tripod socket
- App available for IOS and Android