Olympus Air A01 review

A glimpse of the future for photography

Olympus Air A01 review

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The Olympus Air A01 is unlikely to replace your dedicated camera. It's much more likely to interest those who are looking for a smaller companion shooter to go with their more serious DSLR or mirrorless camera, or something to seriously up their smartphone photography game. Compared to just about any smartphone camera, the Air resolves more detail, fuller colors, deeper shadows and generally better dynamic range.

You won't likely be using this lens camera in a studio environment, however, this camera will up your photography game with better food photos, landscapes, group selfies and just about any picture you would normally take with a smartphone. Don't forget about the extra flexibility, either. Because you can point the camera without having to look at the display, you can use the Air to take images from all sorts of new perspectives.

We liked

The Air A01 isn't breaking any new ground that the Sony QX1 has already treaded on, but I feel like Olympus has delivered with a stronger solution. The camera is physically smaller, making it easier to slip into your bag.

At the same time, Olympus has developed a beginner-friendly app that automatically edits and cuts your photo into multiple styles. Then there's also the matter of the Micro Four Thirds world having a much larger catalog of lenses from Olympus and Panasonic.

Of course, the best thing about the Olympus Air is how you can shoot it completely independent of seeing what it does. Thanks to the constantly beaming live-view footage to your smartphone, you can hold up the camera at all sorts of angles you might have never thought of or thought possible, even with an articulating screen.

We disliked

The usefulness of the Olympus Air lives and dies with the smartphone app. But after having the whole setup freeze on me so many times, it's frustratingly unreliable as is.

The ability to control a camera completely from your smartphone offers more creative freedom, but it's still nowhere nearly as fast as putting a real camera up to your eye and pressing the shutter button.

Final verdict

A few years ago, lens cameras seemed like a strange fad. But with more Wi-Fi-connected cameras cropping up from the Sony QX1 to HTC Re, it's beginning to make sense. A camera that you can use completely independent of your line of sight opens up a whole new world of photographic possibilities.

If you're already invested in Olympus's lens family, $299 (about £195, AU$423) isn't a bad way to spend your money for a compact secondary camera. It's far cheaper than the rest of Olympus's compact system camera lineup, and it will work with any MFT lens while delivering surprisingly sharp and colorful photos despite the incredibly tiny size of the device.

Knowing the app falls into sporadic fits when connection problems arise, the Olympus Air is a fun little device that I hope only gets better with future firmware updates. This could very well be the future of photography, but it needs a little more time in the dark room.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.