olympus-air-a01-heroOlympus just announced its AIR A01 camera, which is basically a lens, which is operated wirelessly from a smart device. The idea is to get rid of the phone’s body and use a smartphone as a “brain” to capture and edit photos. The AIR A01 brings what the smartphone can never have: a huge, interchangeable, lens.

Sony was the first to launch this type of wireless lens/camera which could also be attached to the back of the smartphone and operated via a mobile application. Sony launched the product category with the DSC-QX10  and DSC QX100 at IFA two years ago, and updated the model with the Sony QX1 last year in September, with modest success.

The Olympus AIR A01 brings a similar idea, with a more compact body (56.9 x 57.1 x 43.6 mm) vs. (69.5 x 52.5 x 74.0 mm). The Olympus AIR A01 also features a 16 MP sensor which sends imaging data to the TruePic VII image processor – the same one used in the  latest OM-D and PEN cameras.

The compact camera is controlled over the smartphone with the OA Central app, and can shoot in RAW, record videos at 1080p, or shoot bursts of photos at 10-frames per second.

Overall, Olympus and Sony are really competing for the same market: users who want to take their mobile imaging capabilities to the limit of what’s possible, without going for a compact camera. This is not everyone, but there’s an audience for that.

The AIR A01 also has a slightly different mount which is at an angle, which means that people would use it held at chest level. Sony’s mounting system required people to use its camera at eye-level – unless of course, you put it on a tripod or attach it  to a stick (which I have done to inspect gutters and other hard to get places).

The Olympus AIR A01 ups the ante by providing better auto-focus, higher burst capabilities and more apps. Sony still has a larger image sensor, and a replaceable battery. Ultimately, Olympus’ smaller form factor may be the most important difference in this market.

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