Olympus Air AO1 - Pros and Cons

First off the great advantage of the Olympus Air AO1 is it's size. As you can see in the images above, paired with a Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 and an Olympus 45mm f/1.8, I've got a very small, very light, yet very well specified two lens camera system. With these fast, high quality lenses there is no compromise on image quality and with the right smartphone I am also getting a better live view than I will get on most of my stand alone 'real' and 'proper' cameras. Again, depending on what you use, you may well find that the touch screen functions are better too, I certainly do.

Wi-Fi is mostly good. There are occasional unexplained glitches and it's always a good idea to restart the device you are using to control the Air and clear out anything that might be working away in the background. This incredibly portable device is therefore pretty reliable under those circumstances and when set up properly functions very well. However, don't expect DSLR or advanced mirrorless start up times and operation. It just won't be possible. To start with you have to set up your wi-fi connection and launch the app. neither of which are particlarly quick processes. And the AF / shutter release process has a time lag as well.  

In the above shot I was attempting to get a car dead centre on the bridge over the underpass. After several attempts, this was the best I got. Now with my Nikon DSLR's and some of my mirrorless cameras I would expect this to be easy, but using the touch screen or the camera shutter button on the Air, there is a delay. Not much of one, but it makes the camera not very suitable for action shooting. Which, to be honest, isn't that much of a surprise. 

The other main problem is battery life. The Air itself isn't bad. It is after all screen free. The wi-fi will consume power but not as much as running a miniature TV screen. But that's only half of it. The smartphone controller is working very hard. Wi-Fi plus running the screen and it's here I've found the problems. Yesterday I was shooting all afternoon and the Air still had it's three bars full on at the end but my iPod touch was 80% dpeleted. Considering I shot just over 50 raw and 50 jpg. images, that's not great. So, if you are considering this, you need to do some tests to see how long you can shoot for and how many pictures you can shoot on your smartphones charged battery. Thses days there are many phones that don't allow changing the battery, so it's a good idea to see what actully happens in a real world shooting situation. I may well get myself a second iPod touch as that's probably the cheapest option for me currently. My Samsung K zoom has interchangeable batteries, but it doesn't fit as well onto the phone holder as my iPod, plus I've discovered getting US apps. on a UK Android phone isn't as easy as it is for Mac IOS and I may well not be able to even get the app. installed on that phone until (and if) the Air gets released in the UK. There is of course the option to keep turning the camera and / or phone on and off to save battery life, but with the slow startup time, that means lots of missed shots.

In yesterdays post, I wrote about how I think the Air is most useful in situations where each image is considered carefully. And I've pretty much confirmed that. I did get some grab / reaction shots I liked yesterday, but I also got quite a few where anything ressembling a 'decisive moment' had gone.

So for me this is a camera that has a lot of advantages when I'm walking some distance shooting travel, landscape, location, architecture and all sorts of nature and outdoor 'scenics.' I Iove the (lack of) size and weight and I like using it. It is an incredibly small camera, but with a big performance. Like all my favourite cameras, it inspires me to create the best images I can and there's not much higher praise I can give to a camera. I see it very much as a companion to my GoPro Hero4, which is another (very) small camera that inpires creativity. And while I can't rid myself of my old school habits and doing things the way I've done them for years using the same kind of gear I've used for years, I can at least use these modern takes on what constitutes a camera to explore some different ways of making pictures. The Olympus Air AO1 fits in very nicely with that. 'Nouveau traditionalists' won't like it much and it certainly won't get a lot of appreciative looks down the camera club. More likely an 'Oh my God, what the f**k is that!!!' reaction. But it does work well if handled with some thought and the ability to anticipate and it does create pretty amazing images. And for me it has the virtue of not looking like it was designed halfway through the last millenium. And as far as I'm concerned, there is a lot to be said for that.