YI Review: YI 2K Action camera

Xiaomi-Yi-cover

YI Technology YI overview

This is the review of the YI Technology Yi action camera. Let’s start saying this is probably the best budget action cam, we are indeed talking about a real gem sold at a very low price. Xiaomi enters the world of budget action cams, after taking a good share in the smartphone world offering quality devices at low price. As we will see in this review, this action cam records 2k 30fps or 1080p 60fps videos, with a very good quality, reaching GoPro 3+ quality, doing better than GoPro Hero, SJ4000 and 4000+ and SJ5000 +, its most direct competitors. At about 60$ you can buy a very good action cam with high quality video and photo results, a videocamera that records in 1080p and 2K, takes pictures at 16mpx with a sony sensor, with wifi and bluetooth, although she misses some feature, as we will see. With a firmware update in august 2015 it’s been introduced the possibility to record 2k videos, and now you can find new accessories (original or not) as the optional rear screen that can be connected to the cam and a more powerful 2400mAh battery.

August 2015 firmware update introduced 2k videos! A great upgrade that makes the Yi even more attractive, at only 70$ you get an action cam that records excellent 2k videos with natural colors and high sharpness and definition!

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YI Technology Yi specs

We’ll start our YI Technology Yi review analyzing the specifics of this budget action cam. This cam records videos with 2K resolution of 2304 × 1296 pixels with a frame rate of 30 fps and FullHD 1080p at 60fps . It’s video processor is Ambarella A7LS (the Yi Action Cam uses the same video processer manufacturer as GoPro, though it uses an Ambarella A7LS processor compared to the A9 chip in the HERO4 and the HERO3 Black’s A7), while the photo sensor is Sony Exmor R, 16 megapixel BSI, the same mounted in Sony action cams and some Sony camcorders, a sensor that takes pictures of exceptional quality, while the image processor is based on processor ARM 11 at 700 MHz that supports the resolution of 2k 30fps and Full HD at 60 FPS. The cam has both wifi and bluetooth, so with the official app you can stream your videos on your mobile phone. The Xiaomy Yi is sold in two colors, white and yellow + green (black is coming).

These are the full specifications:

  • Video resolution 2k 2304×1296 pixel at 30fps or Full HD at 60 FPS
  • Photo resolution 16Mpx
  • Video sensor Ambarella A7LS
  • Photographic sensor Sony Exmor R
  • Processor ARM 11 at 700 Mhz
  • WiFi and Bluetooth with official app for Ios and Android
  • Aspherical f2.8 wide-angle lens with a 155-degree angle of view
  • Optional waterproof case
  • Shooting modes: single, timer, time-lapse from 0.5 to 60s, Burst Shot
  • Loop recording every 5 minutes
  • Panasonic 1010 mAh battery (up to 100minutes of recrding)
  • Micro SD up to 128GB
  • standard 1/4-20-inch tripod mount
  • Micro-HDMI port supports live video output while recording to a microSD card
  • Audio 2-channel stereo
  • Mp4 AVC codec
  • Weight: 69g
  • Optional rear screen (produced by Pannovo) + optional battery 2400mAh

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YICAMERA-esploso

Appearance and functions

In-Stock-Xiaomi-Yi-Camera-1080p-back
As you can see from the image on the left, Xiaomi Yi does not have a LCD screen to see live what you’re recording. This can be bypassed through WiFi, you can stream on your smartphone using the Xiaomi app what you are recording , and watch recorded video clips. Pannovo also created a TFT monitor that connects to the back of the cam.

On the lower part of the cam ther’s a standard 1/4-20-inch tripod mount, where you can mount a tripod or any compatible docking, as an adapter for gopro through which you can use the Xiaomi Yi mounted on any GoPro accessory.

xiaomi-yi-hd-camera_1
Behind a flap there’s the 1010mAh battery from panasonic. On the back, behind a second door, there are the connectors for micro USB port, micro HDMI and the hole for the microSD up to 128GB.

There are three buttons:

  • Frontal for switching on/off
  • On the top for shooting photos or start recording
  • On the side for the activation of the wifi

There isn’t even a small LCD screen, so for any adjustment (resolution, mode in which you are located, etc.) you must use the application, which is actually very simple and intuitive and it works very well, allowing you to easily perform virtually every type of setting.

A waterproof case is not included, but you can buy it for a few dollars on Amazon.

Monitor_Xiaomi_YiA few days ago it was released an optional external LCD screen that connects to the rear of the cam to see what you are recording . It also comes with a more powerful battery of 2400mAh that can record longer videos. In addition to a new larger waterproof case where you can enter the cam with these new accessories. All at 48$. Now the Xiaoyi is really the most complete economic cam with the best video quality.

Wifi and dedicated App

xiaomi-yi-appAs mentioned, the cam does not have any LCD screen, so you must use the app provided in the official website (for both Android and iOS) or in your playstore to set the webcam and see what you’re recording. The app is in English and other languages and is very well made, and often receives useful updates.

First you must enable wifi via the side button and wait until the LED flashes, then press the button for the application to connect to the cam. At this point you will see live in the app what the cam is recording – with a slight delay – in addition to three buttons, one for recording, one to open the gallery, and the upper one to set the mode: photos, videos or snapshot. You can see at any time the status of the battery of the smartphone and the cam, and the connection status. There’s also a button for the settings from which you can configure the resolution of the photo or video, the brightness, the photo mode, the exposure mode and other options. After configuring the cam through the application, the settings remain even if power is turned off and on again.

The default password to access the cam is 1234567890 and can be changed later

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YI Technology Yi vs SJ4000 vs GoPro Hero

Let’s do a comparison of the characteristics between these three action cam that are priced close to $ 100

201532103838827

Xiaomi Yi

sj4000

Sj4000

Gopro_Hero

GoPro Hero

Video quality 4 / 5 3 / 5 2.5 / 5
Max video resolution 2k at 30fps or 1080p at 60 fps 1080p at 30 fps 1080p at 30 fps
Screen Nessuno Streaming + settings Only for settings
WiFi Yes + bluetooth Yes (the wifi version)
No
Waterproof With optional case
With included case With non-removable case
Micro SD Up to 64GB Up to 32GB Up to 32GB
Micro HDMI Yes Yes No
Price 80$ 80-90$ 110-130$
Xiaoyi Review Xiaomi Yi Review SJ4000 Review

This cam is definitely superior to SJ4000 and GoPro Hero, then this great cam should be compared with the GoPro Hero 3 + Silver, which has the same sensor Ambarella A7LS and costs $ 325 or even with GoPro 4.

YI Technology Yi action camera review

201532103838827As soon as you turn on the camera from the front button, the Yi enters automatically in the photo mode as default , pressing the power button again you change the mode to video , and 3 led will turn on, on the lower side, top and rear. You can still change these settings using the app, so that it will turn on automatically in video mode. Pressing the Record button at the top the 3 LEDs start to blink. The front button is surrounded by a LED that is blue when the battery is charging, it becomes pink and then red when it is depleted.

Finally let’s talk about video quality: it is excellent , especially considering the very low price of this action cam. With the 2015 August firmware it was introduced 2k resolution at 30fps making this action cam really complete and absolutely attractive. As evidence of this quality the bit rate is up to 25Mb/s so video files are slightly compressed. The images are very sharp and fluid even in low light conditions. The field of view is 155-degrees fisheye then the images are slightly distorted with barrel effect, typical of action cams, but less than GoPro and SJcam that have an angle of 172-degrees.

Watch the video at the end of this paragraph from the minute 7:44 onwards to see some examples of shooting in various light conditions, or download these video and photos shot with the Xiaomi Yi (in FullHD).

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There is, however, the function Lens rectification that through software improves the typical images of a fisheye lens making them less distorted, for example the curvy walls become linear as in reality, of course it cuts part of the edges of the frame, thereby reducing the shooting angle.

Yicamera

The behavior in the steps of bright light / low light and vice versa is very good, and happens gradually, without sudden changes in exposure that will adversely affect the overall quality of the video. The sensor is certainly of superb quality and can handle any situation, even when the sun enters the frame moving from a dark area to a very enlightened one. There is an electronic stabilizer, but not good as Sony ones.

There is also the Low light mode for shooting in low light. By activating this mode, the frame rate decreases.

Foto Xiaomi Yi Foto con Xiaomi Yi Foto con Xiaomi Yi Foto con Xiaomi Yi

The photos are of excellent quality and maintain a high level of detail even when enlarged to 100%. They are better than those shot with other economic action camsc, like GoPro Hero or SJ4000+. This thanks to the excellent 16megapixels photo sensor Sony Exmor R . Just to enlarge a photo taken with the Xiaomi to see the difference. The only cam below 160$ that can compete with the photo quality of the Xiaomi camera are the SJ5000+ and Sony AS30, but they loose the battle in the video field.

The audio is stereo and of good quality. There is not a socket for plugging in an external microphone. Unfortunately filming in motion (motorcycle, bike going fast) the wind affects the sound, more than on other action cam like the Sony that have a noise reduction.

The Xiaomi Yi is not suitable to be used as a dash cam drive, because the power doesn’t turn on and off automatically when connected to the cigarette lighter.

The battery lasts about 75 minutes at 1080p60, and at 1080p30 about 100 minutes , with wifi off, lasts pretty good especially when compared with the direct competition. You can also record while charging the battery, useful option if you are in a car or motorcycle using the cigarette lighter socket.

Confronto_gopro_vs_xiami_yi_vs_sj4000

Finally to make a comparison between the GoPro Hero 4 Silver, the Xiaomi Yi and SJ4000 we took a magnification to 100% of a frame of a movie (see the photo above). The images speak for themselves, the GoPro Hero 4 Silver obviously proves the best, Xiaomi is just below, the Sj4000 is much worse and less defined.

Defects found: it is a bit slow to turn on (2-3 seconds after pressing the button it is ready to record), and the status LEDs are not so clear with the sun. Moreover, the lack of the screen sometimes is perceived, but even the GoPro 4 Black hasn’t one.

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Complete video review with video shots in different lighting conditions:

Videos and picture shot with YI Technology Yi

Here are available Videos and pictures shot with Xiaomi Yi with no compression. Click on the file, and then on the link download on the top right, do not watch it in streaming because it is compressed and low quality.

Sample video at 1080p 60fps:

Xiaomi Yi vs GoPro:

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Some user’s quotes:

Amazing value! I love this camera. Paired with the android app, it’s awesome. I just can’t spend the money for an overpriced Gopro, when I can get this for a fraction of the price. The MP4 video files can be imported directly into the free GoPro studio. Big Pros: this camera has a tripod screwhole on the bottom. the video is 1080p 60 Frames per second. HUGE The time lapse mode has so many intervals. I love this little camera, and at this price, I won’t get salty if it breaks. UPDATE: Since purchasing there have been 3 firmware updates addressing requests from users. Which is great Also an iphone app came out. You can 2 or 3 of these for the price of one GoPro. And 4k recording? really? The file sizes get sooo big, rendering takes forever. 1080p 60 FPS is really all I need. Update 09-20-2015 2k Recording now with the latest firmware update. If you want a company that listens to its users and keeps on adding features! This is the camera to go with. Compatible with so many go pro mounts with the underwater case. as well as the threaded tripod mount in the case. And who doesn’t have an iphone or android? Well 3% of the population. I am sure they will come up with a windows phone app soon. In any case, I love this camera. i use it all the time. And if it breaks.. 80 bucks or so to replace? winner everytime! Did I mention you can use the GoPro studio for free?
I was heading to Asia for month and decided I wanted a GoPro until my brother told me to check the Xiaomi Yi. I’m so glad I did. The value at this price point is just enormous. This camera uses the EXACT same CCD that the base gopro hero4s do at a much lower price point and with the added functionality of being able to sync to your android phone. That’s brilliant and what I love to see from manufacturers who provide value. Gopro has thrived because they were the only show in town and have gone the route of overcharging for features that should be standard in the first place. I took this through Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and Taiwan for a month and it worked flawlessly. What I loved: Great image and video quality Great price point Good solid build quality WIFI to smartphone What I didn’t really like: All the dang led lights! I found it kind of annoying that the power button LED blinks while recording so covered it with electrical tape. I think they might do this to prevent pervs from video taping people. But for a regular person I just wanted normal reactions from people and didn’t want their eyes drawn immediately to a huge blinking light. The unit puts an awful lot of heat. I don’t think it affected performance but it did get me worried. Slow powerup. Because of the 45min to 1hr record time at max resolution I would often turn it off to conserve battery life. But by doing so I would often miss some cool moments because I was waiting for it to power up. What I wish it had Accessories–I think many gopro mounts will work with this. But out of the gate I had to buy a housing (which worked out fine) and a monopod. I wish it had been bundled with both or at least had Xiaomi Yi branded versions Battery life– don’t think GoPro is doing any better. But the battery life at max resolutions wasn’t cutting it for me. Though this is an action camera so I shouldn’t ask for too much. IMAGE STABILIZATION — this would probably kill the cheap price. But if it had it it’d be a perfect camera.
This is my honest opinion and review. I’m the type of guy that likes to give a chance even to the unknown companies sometimes (if the reviews are good 😉 of course) Well in this case this camera is not by an unknown manufacturer rather than that it’s one of the biggest in China and other than being big they are great. Comparing to the Gopro collection of cameras out there today it’s definitely a Gopro killer (at least in my opinion), from the number one factor which is cost to video quality (2k 30fps after latest update), pictures quality (16mp) and the list can go on if we go into deep details about the functions of this camera. The wifi connection with my phone is absolutely amazing and the camera can be controlled from it as well, downloading the videos to your phone is easy but takes time, other options is to connect the camera to a PC or just remove the micro SD card. The camera can be also connected to a tv/monitor by an micro HDMI to HDMI which is nice. The battery life is great and will let you film for about 45min with wifi on or about an hour without wifi. This camera takes beautiful videos and photos, looks very nice and feels very sturdy, build quality is great and the camera feels like a high end product. There are many accessories available for this camera which is great and most of them are not so expensive. It’s extremely easy to use and does the job just as good as any $400 cameras out there. All in all its a great deal and a superb camera.

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6 Comments

  1. Leemur

    Looks pretty decent, but still for an action camera it’s too box-like. The best shape for action cameras -e specially ones with high speed – is bullet, such as in Drift Stealth. This cam is so aerodynamic and sleek that you may forget that you actually have it mounted. Really, I do sometimes! 🙂 I use it both as action cam on motorcycle and commuting camera when I go to work. Perfect for both activities.

    Reply
  2. Gabriel

    Hi,
    Thanks for the fantastic review. I recently got me a xiaomi yi and love it.
    I however have one issue, my day recording is superb but at night/low light its pathetic to say the least. I have tried different settings and even switching on the auto low light settings but still not good quality.
    I have seen other night time videos on YouTube & forums but mine isn’t any close.
    What could I be doing wrong. Y0ur help is highly appreciated.
    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. mork

      Hi, thanks! I think you should DISABLE the auto low light setting. Then you should record at low fps mode, like 30fps or 24fps. Try this and let me know. Anyway, the Yi suffers a lot with low light conditions.

      Reply
    2. David M

      There are a number of variant of the Yi.

      The Z22L and Z23L supposely uses a weaker IR filter. So low light is improve…but at the expense of more flares when the sun is present.

      Reply

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