Olympus has announced its Air A01 add-on camera for smartphones, which turns your Android or iOS device into a very capable mirrorless camera, will be getting a wider release and heading to the US. Previously only available in Japan, the Olympus Air A01 is a smartphone-controlled camera similar to the Sony QX1, but features a Micro Four Thirds lens mount with a matching 16-megapixel sensor and is an open platform for developers.
We’ve previously seen a number of add-on cameras for smartphones which claim to offer DSLR-like features, including the Sony QX100, Kodak Smart Lens and more recently the DxO One. However, because they all feature built-in lenses they’re more like compact camera equivalents rather than interchangeable lens cameras. The Olympus Air A01 is different in that it allows users to mount Micro Four Thirds lenses, in the same way theSony QX1 uses an E-mount.
In addition to its Micro Four Thirds mount, the Air A01 features the same 16-megapixel Live MOS sensor (17.3 x 13 mm) and TruePic VII image processor as cameras like the OM-D E-M5 II. This enables a burst speed shooting at 10 fps (frames per second) an ISO range up to 12,800 and Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps. RAW capture is also possible, and the Air A01 features a silent electronic shutter with a 1/16,000-second maximum shutter speed.
Once the Air A01 is wirelessly connected to a smartphone or tablet users can then control it using a dedicated OA.Central for Olympus Air app. This allows focusing, using a FAST 81-point AF system, by tapping the screen of the smartphone, and making changes to settings such as exposure, white balance and ISO speed. Smartphone photographers can also use the app to access to the same P, A, S and M modes as on an interchangeable lens camera, apply filters, or instantly transfer images.
While the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled Olympus Air A01 can store images and video on a microSD card, they can also be automatically uploaded and securely stored on Amazon Cloud Drive. The device itself measures 56.9 x 57.1 x 43.6 mm (2.2 x 2.3 x 1.7 in) weighs 147 g (4.2 oz) and can be clipped onto a smartphone using the included smartphone holder. The built-in battery is said to be good for 320 shots on a full charge.
The Air A01 can also be used when not attached to a smartphone, enabling use in situations and positions it might be difficult to use a traditionally shaped camera, and automatically knows which way around the cylindrical device is being held. It also features a tripod mount which could be handy for remote shooting.
In addition to appealing to smartphone photographers who want better quality and the creative freedom allowed only by an interchangeable lens system, the Air A01 will also be of interest to developers and makers as it’s an open platform. This means developers can produce their own apps for the camera using the available software development kit and makers can easily create accessories.
The Olympus Air A01 will be available in the US from this month in black or white for US$300 body-only, or $500 bundled with a 14-42-mm EZ lens. It will also launch in Canada in August, unfortunately no other international availability has been announced yet.