Olympus Air A01 Preview

UPDATED 6.30.2015 - Earlier this year, Olympus announced its latest and greatest Micro Four Thirds camera system. Only this new digicam doesn't even have a body, a display, or even a shutter button. It was originally announced in Japan, with no word on plans to release it into the US market. Well, now it's here.

Whatchu talkin' bout, Steve's?

The Olympus Air ("A01") is an "open format" Micro Four Thirds camera system. Similar to Sony's "lens-style" QX-series, the Air is little more than an image sensor, processor, built-in battery, microSD memory card slot, and a Micro Four Thirds lens mount. You then supply a compatible Micro 4/3 lens (it will work with any Olympus or Panasonic lens in this class) and an iOS or Android smartphone, which operates the camera via a free app while mounting to an adapter on the back of the Air's compact, circular body.

While the Air includes many features found in the PEN and OM-D series, there are a couple trade offs when your entire camera is the size of a compact lens. Mainly, you do lose a mechanical shutter, the dust reduction system, and image stabilization.

However, on the plus side Olympus hopes the Air will offer unparalleled smartphone image quality while changing the way we think about taking photographs. How so? A traditional camera is one piece. You look in the viewfinder or display, frame, shoot, and share. The Air can work this way too -- there's a spring-loaded clip to mount it to phones as big as the iPhone 6-Plus -- but you don't have to mount the Air to your phone for it to work (thanks to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth). Meaning, you can hold your phone in one and and the lens in the other. Heck, you don't even have to be holding the Air for it to work. Mount it to a tripod, step into the frame, and take high quality 16MP pictures with your family and friends.

The Olympus Air app will feature eight unique apps:

  • OA. Genius is the main app. It includes iAuto for easy shooting as well as Touch AF (touch anywhere on your display for the focus point). It also gives you six different versions of your shot, altering brightness, focus, hue/color saturation, Effects & Art Filters, and Framing. You then select your favorites, and the app will adapt to your preferences.
  • OA. ArtFilter boasts 14 different filters, many of them customizable and adjustable via your touchscreen display. And you still get Touch AF and Digital Zoom and Multiple Aspect Ratios. The filters include Partial Colour, Vintage, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process, Gentle Sepia, Dramatic Tone, Key Lime, and Watercolor.
  • OA. ColorCreator allows you to adjust hue, color saturation, highlights and shadows for photos.
  • OA. PhotoStory offers two-three shot layouts in different frames. It's a little bit like comic book panels. Take photo one, then a second and/or third to complete your story. However, you don't have to take two (or three) images back-to-back. You can take one, and wait to capture the second and/or third frames.
  • OA. Clips allows you to edit 64-second short films. Select video clips from 1, 2, 4, 8 seconds long, add one of 14 art filters, and edit them together with a soundtrack using audio files on your phone. Then share instantly.
  • OA. Mode Dial turns your smartphone into an Olympus' Micro 4/3 ILC camera. Toggle between iAuto, Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual Mode, and Movie Mode. Manual controls include shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO, and white balance. Anyone familiar with Olympus cameras is going to be at home here; if you're new the series, the interface is easy to learn and customizable.
  • OA. Viewer is your in-camera editor. You can trim a pictures orientation or adjust aspect ratios. There's also a slide show display where, again, you playback images stored on the microSD card while adding music if it's already on your phone (no streaming).
  • Lastly, OA. Central offers in-camera instructions.

Olympus Air A01 Features:
  • 16MP Live MOS image sensor
  • True Pic VII image processor
  • Optical Zooming with "EZ" compatible (electronic zoom) lenses
  • Compatible with Olympus, Panasonic, and all other Micro 4/3 Lenses
  • 3x Digital Zoom
  • 1/16000-sec High-speed Shutter
  • ISO 100-12,800
  • 10fps continuous shooting
  • FAST AF (81-point)
  • Touch AF
  • Full 1080p HD Video Recording
  • RAW image capture
  • Diagonal Phone Mount
  • Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
  • Amazon Cloud Image integration
  • 8 unique apps: OA.Central, OA.Genius, OA.Clips, OA.Art Filter, OA.Mode Dial, OA.Color Creator, OA.Viewer, OA.PhotoStory
  • High-speed start up option
  • Built-in battery with a USB recharge
  • Tripod mount
  • Easy Sharing
  • Self-timer
  • Add Geotags
  • Free App requires iOS 7.0-8.1 or Android 4.0-4.4
  • Dimensions: 57.1mm x 43.6mm x 56.9mm

The Olympus Air A01 will be available in the US as early as July (2015) in white or black. The MSRP should be $299.99 for the body or you can purchase a $499.99 kit that includes the 14-42EZ F3.5-5.6 lens.
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Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.