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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.