A Weekend With The Xiaomi Yi Action Camera – mini review

A Weekend With The Xiaomi Yi Action Camera – mini review

xiaomi yi camera review

Last week I received 2 x Xiaomi Yi Action cameras to review so I headed to the mountains and took some sample video and photos. Here are my first impressions of the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera.

Over the past few years I have been filming my mountain biking exploits with a GoPro Hero 3. GoPro basically own the action camera market for extreme sports, and although their products aren’t cheap (compared to Chinese options) their quality, easy of use and range of mounts make them the most reliable option for anyone throwing themselves off a mountain.

This year Xiaomi announced that it hoped to topple the mighty GoPro with their own Yi Action Camera, manufactured by their partner Yi (who also make their home security camera). So how does the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera work in real world conditions?

If you have seen my Xiaomi Yi Action unboxing (you can watch it below if you haven’t) then you will be aware that the camera ships with no mounting hardware at all. That means there is no protective shell, and there are no options to mount your camera to yourself, helmet or other object.

Thankfully the camera has a standard tripod mount which is exactly what JVC use for their action cameras so I picked up a set and mounted the Yi to my helmet.

xiaomi yi camera review

Without a case the camera isn’t waterproof and it is very exposed to branches, rocks and the ground if you crash. Xiaomi are working on a case and I would recommend that anyone buying the Yi invest in one.

If like me you are use to GoPro cameras then you will need to get used to the lack of LCD display on the Yi and also its default modes. On the GoPro you can set the camera up via the built-in LCD. It’s all very fast and easy to set up. (Update: See Below) The Yi has not screen and when turning the camera on it automatically goes in to photo mode bu default. It will even default to photo even if you had left it in video before turning the device off. This lead to a lot of missed footage.

UPDATE: From the settings in the Yi Application on your phone you can set the default to be either photo or video. I now have the camera set up to be in video mode straight away.

Switching between modes is simple, just hit the power button and the mode switches from photo, to time-lapse to video. It’s a little hit and miss to begin with and I am still getting use to it now.

xiaomi yi camera review


To make life easier there is also a very good application which you can install on your phone allowing you to control the camera via WIFI. This makes switching modes a synch and gives you a life preview of what the camera is seeing. On the downside it means you have to stop and get your camera out before every piece of action takes place and that cannot always be possible when on the side of a cliff. It also means that WIFI needs to remain on and this really drains your battery quickly. Luckily the app does have a meter to tell you how much power you have left.

There are various notification lights on the Yi to tell you what mode you are in, but due to the colour of the device (white or green) the LED’s don’t really standout to well and make viewing them difficult to see in sunny conditions. It is common for a GoPro user to ask a fellow rider if their red record light is flashing, on the Yi it isn’t so obvious.

xiaomi yi camera review

With the Yi Mounted to your head you can take 16 mega-pixel photos, or FHD video where ever you go. Below are some photo samples taken this weekend. The image quality is good, and you can take some really great photos with the Xiaomi Yi when using your phone as a WIFI remove. When taking photos with the Yi’s shutter button be sure to keep your hands out of the way of the 155 degree lens otherwise you will spoil the images (as I did).

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera Photo Samples

Capturing action video is what the Yi Action camera is all about, but does this $99 action camera have what it takes to rival GoPro. I still need to spend more time with the camera and the settings to be sure but from my weekend with the camera I have a few things to point out.

Light and colour are amazing, and the sound quality (due to the lack of case) is very good and surprisingly clear. Video shot from a stable positing (like sample 1 below) is very clear, but when the camera itself moves around on rocky terrain the lack of stabilisation is clear (see sample 2).

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera Sample 1

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera Sample 2

In sample 2 we can see a wave in the video, this also happens on some GoPro cameras which like to be set to lower resolutions when the going get’s rough. I will also need to test this on the Yi to see if a settings change improves things. On very rocky terrain the video is almost unwatchable however, and I am not sure if settings or OS improvements will be able to fix things too much.

However not everyone goes mountain biking and there are plenty of action sports where I believe the Yi could pose a very serious threat to Go Pro. Skiing, Snowboarding, BMX, skateboarding, etc are all performed on terrain that is generally much smoother and the Yi could excel here. The Yi would also work well mounted to a car, roadbike, or even on a fishing pole or quad-copter.

These are just my initial impressions of the camera after a weekend of use. I will continue to use the Yi in various instances over the next week and post the full review soon.

Thanks again to Honorbuy.com where I bought both Xiaomi Yi Action cameras from.

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  • Yury

    Andy, Spain?

    • Yup

      • Airyl

        I envy you Andi. Free cameras, unlimited phones to try and use, visiting Spain, covering technology, I’d love to do that stuff.

        • Xalis

          Then do it, no one is stopping you, at first you will need to buy your own phones but you can resell them for a little profit or just to get your money back, that’s how most bloggers and youtubers started.

          • balcobomber25

            Not to mention companies like Ulefone are now giving away phones for people to review. Start with that, make a blog/YouTube channel and gain some followers. Once you do you can market yourself to the resellers who will ship you phones to try out.

        • It can be fun but it also means 7 days a week and way more hours than a 9 -5. Can’t complain though it is amazing 😀 If you do start something let me know I’d be happy to link to you 😉

  • kupoo

    I wonder why there are no chinese cameras with image stabilization? Even SJCam after success of SJ4000 released successor with no image stabilization, which is weird for ACTION cameras :/

  • Guix67

    Did you try the stabilisation mode ? I think it can improve the video by removing the vibrations on your 2nd vidéo

    • There is no option to switch it on or off (or non which I have found yet) so I assume it is on during video by default.

      • Guix67

        Ok. I was thinking that it was like the sony AS100V. Thanks !

  • Aaron Christopher Garcia

    what does it mean if the camera light is blinking and has constant beeping sound? i cant read the manual cause its in chinese. 🙁

    • Jaelius

      Hi Aaron,

      I have the same blinking sound issue as you.
      Can I know if you manage to solve it?

  • Alex

    how long the camera holding a charge?

    • I took it out yesterday for a 2 hour ride (obviously not on all the ride, and with auto shut down when not used for 5 minutes) WIFI was off and I made about 30 min of video. The camera has 16% left. I think the GoPro lasts a little longer.

  • Shelbycobraz

    My audio sounds like complete garbage on mine. Any recommendations?

  • danny

    why can’t i download the app on my phone? i just received my camera but my phone says app not installed when i try installing it! any suggestions?

  • they need microphone from VIVO

  • Eileen

    My camera has the constant beeping issue too. Any help on that?

  • Mabbott212

    My camera updated to the latest firmware and ever since I can’t connect to my phone anymore. Blue WiFi light just stays solid on. Doesn’t flash allowing me to connect. No matter what I do, press WiFi button, hold WiFi button, blue light just stays solid on. Can’t even turn it off once I’ve turned WiFi on. Please help!

    • Jaelius

      HI Mabbott212,

      I have the same issue as you.
      Do you manage to find any solution?

      • Mabbott212

        I haven’t found a solution yet. WiFi light still solid blue and won’t connect. I’ve tried doing the factory reset by holding power button and wifi button. Camera reset, but didn’t fix the problem. Let me know if you figure it out too. Thanks

        • Jaelius

          I manage to solve the problem. I realise it’s the SD card that was causing this problem. I formated the SD card and slot it back and everything is working normally now. =D

          • Mabbott212

            Well that’s good news! What SD card are you using? How do I format the SD card? It was working fine until I did the camera update. Thanks a lot!

          • Mabbott212

            I found instructions on how to format the SD card. I will have to try this when I get home. Thanks! I’m using a sandisk 16 card.

    • If the wifi light stays solid, you might didn’t give the camera enough time to power up. Start the camera and wait at least 10 sec. Then press the wifi button and wait again for at least 10 sec. I had the same problem. More info on this here: http://elproducente.com/post/117018465809/xiaomi-yi-problem-connecting-wifi

  • Tugboatom

    I have a friend picking up one of these for me when he is in China next month (I live in the US)

    Are the waterproof cases available yet? If so, how much are they? I need to make sure to budget for everything.

    Also, the app that connects my Note 4 to the phone. . . can you only get the app from a Chinese app store? Does Google Play have it? Can it be side loaded?

    • Mabbott212

      You can buy them yourself online. Geekbuying.com Google xiaomi yi English app and a guy converted everything to English. It says something like tweaked English version. Cases are not available yet.

      • Tugboatom

        Thanks so much for the info.

        From what I read, they are less expensive in China (some say $69) Is that true? I think the Geekbuying.com price is fine too, but I could wait a bit and get it for cheaper there if that is true. Also, maybe they will have a waterproof case by then as well.

  • PinoTM

    Are you sure the camera isn’t waterproof ?
    I read somewhere that the camera itself is waterproof, so we don’t need to add a waterproof case.

  • jotka
  • jotka
  • PinoTM

    Alright, thank you for the information 😉
    I guess french “journalist” are not so good for reading english, they all said it was waterproof ^^’

  • ADeLuxe

    My Xiaomi YI (white) has two problems: the audio is very low
    (even if I scream during the recording) and muffled; the second problem: when
    the wifi is on, you hear a background noise in the audio of the video… I think it’s an hardware problem. How did you resolve with your product?

    • Ori

      Did you fix that ? Same issue white camera

      • ADeLuxe

        Not yet… I hope next firmware may help us…

        • Ori

          Tanks for respond ,

          I hope to 🙁 that so annoying.

          • AlexH

            Guys, already found a solution for this? I have the same problem, the sound is verrrrrry low and muffled

            • Sencer

              poff did you solved this ?? pleasee helpp!

            • azrisilmi

              you can find the way on how to fix this problem in youtube. apparently it is not software problem but hardware.

  • ADeLuxe

    My Xiaomi YI (white) has two problems: the audio is very low
    (even if I scream during the recording) and muffled; the second problem: when
    the wifi is on, you hear a background noise in the audio of the video… I think it’s an hardware problem.

  • Ori

    I have this problem to any idea?

  • Manezi S.

    Hey Andi, great article. Please could you upload some 1080p footage running at 60fps? I’d be really interested to see how this compares to that from a GoPro. Thanks

  • Parkker

    My did the same thing on Nexus 4. What a pain. Camera is now useless to me until I can resolve this. I don’t know what to do now.

  • bubba

    The waterproof cases are available for presale through alibaba and aliexpress

  • Phil

    The official iOS App is not available, but there is another iOS working with the camera:

  • azrisilmi

    I believe your unit have the same problem as my unit. if you look closely there is black shadow defect at the top right corner of all your photos. my camera also have this exact problem. please let me know if anyone knows a solution for this problem.


  • Toufik LFC

    i want to know if can i shot pictures without linking it with phones

  • Syeda Anam Sultana

    I cannot record video at 1080p 60 fps and 720p at 120fps the video is just a still image I thought it must be bcuz of class 4 memory card I was using so I bought san disk class 10 memory card and still I can’t shoot video at those resolution (which I need the most) the only resolution it records is 1080p 30fps…
    Some one please help me to fix this problem

  • Akhil K Ravi

    I have 2 yi cameras and is there any option to synchronize shoot both cameras at a time with one mobile.

  • Admin Admin

    Great review, Thanks !

    Some very cheap places I found online to buy Xiaomi Yi / Qumox SJCAM cameras and gimbal stabilizer`s is:

    Banggood: http://www.banggood.com/Wholesale-Sport-Camera-c-3250.html?p=J031143423240201512X

    and Tomtop: http://www.tomtop.com/Cameras-Photo-Accessories?aid=vibedkse