Finally, after being envious of the Japanese market for several months, what is perhaps one of the best innovations in mobile phone photography has arrived in the US.
The Olympus Air is a powerful, interchangeable-lens camera that is controlled by your smartphone. It is a standalone camera that should not be confused with simple adapters for your smartphone’s existing camera. The Air itself, which just looks like an extension of the lens, boasts “SLR quality” images from its 16MP sensor and is compatible with all micro 4/3 lenses.
For those a bit confused by the design of the camera, allow me to explain. The Air is a round cylinder containing the internal “guts” of the camera…the part that actually captures and processes the images like any dSLR or micro 4/3 camera body. To this you can attach any micro 4/3 lens for complete focal flexibility. The Air then connects to your smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth which enables you to control the camera and lens, capture images and video, edit, and share directly from your mobile device. All of your images are then stored on a microSD card inside the Air itself.
So, now that we understand what we’re looking at, let’s move to the more funnerest stuff (what, I get my grammar from my kids!).
- Full manual exposure controls.
- RAW shooting capabilities.
- The 16MP micro-4/3 sensor is a definite improvement over anything your phone has to offer.
- Compatibility with all micro-4/3 lenses on the market.
- A super fast electronic shutter with a max speed of 1/16000 of a second. No, that is not a typo. (Try getting THAT from your 5D Mk-whatever!)
- A fast shutter rate of up to 10 frames per second for 23 bloody seconds.
- ISO sensitivity up to 12800.
- Full HD video recording of 1080p at 30 frame per second.
- Built-In Wi-Fi & Bluetooth connectivity.
- MicroSD storage for storing photo locally, or upload directly to the Cloud from your smartphone.
- A built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
- Weighs in at only 5.19 oz with the battery and memory card (not including lens).
According to the Olympus press release, the smartphone app is also packed with features.
The basic setup app for the Olympus Air A01 open platform camera, OA.Central for Olympus Air, provides total support for Air A01. When you launch the app for the first time, connection preparations, Bluetooth settings and Wi-Fi settings are all explained with illustrations for easy setup. After setting up Air A01 using the app, six unique shooting functions are available for use depending on your style of photography and skill level:
- Mode Dial –Control your camera settings right on your smartphone’s screen. Change your exposure, white balance and ISO speed. The same P, A, S and M modes as on an interchangeable lens camera are available. The camera is also packed with enhanced shooting functions such as movie modes and iAuto, which automatically detects up to 42 different shooting scenes and applies optimal exposure control.
- Art Filter –Simply select one of 14 available Art Filters that matches your creative vision and touch the screen to capture an artistic image. Art Filters can be combined with Art Effects to create truly inspiring photos.
- Color Creator –With an intuitive Color Ring, the user can bring out emotion by adjusting color hues (30 levels) and saturation (8 levels) to enhance a scene.
- Photo Story –Capture a single scene of everyday life from multiple viewpoints. Select from four different frame patterns, then, depending upon your selection, choose the number of frames or add an Art Filter. Then simply follow the on-screen instructions and release the shutter to make your very own Photo Story.
- Clips –Shoot, combine and rearrange multiple short clips into a single short movie of up to 64 seconds in length. The user can select clip lengths from 1 sec, 2 sec, 4 sec and 8 sec. Additionally, you can choose from 14 different Art Filters, touch the smartphone screen to focus using Touch AF, operate the zoom (when using an electronic zoom lens) and use digital zoom up to 3x. Add transition effects, Art Effects and music (default only), all in-camera.
- Genius –With a single release of the shutter, subjects are automatically detected, and Genius provides the user with six different creative versions of a single image. Users can also save their favorite picture and access those same settings anytime to utilize in the future.
The camera is available in two variants – black and white – and can be purchased as a standalone body or a kit. The body alone retails for $299 while a kit that includes a 14-42mm EZ lens is currently going for $499.
While the Air may have a smaller sensor size than its Sony cousins, it’s improvements as a standalone unit are impressive. If I had the extra cash right now, I’d probably be tempted to buy one (along with a smartphone powerful enough to handle it).