There is a lot of competing companies in the action camera market, but nothing seems to compare to the ubiquity of GoPro. The XiaoMi Yi is a WiFi action camera that offers similar functionality to GoPros, but at a fraction of the price. You would think that something like the Yi wouldn’t be able to compare to a major brand names like GoPro, but the Yi is actually full of pleasant surprises.
Despite its price tag, this camera is capable of surprisingly high quality videos and images. The camera uses a CMOS sensor and is able to record 1080p up to 60FPS, 720P up to 120 FPS, and 480p up to 240 FPS. It also is capable of taking 16 megapixel, or 4608x3456, still images. The most notable attribute of the Yi is the great colors. In both well lit and low-light scenes, the XiaoMi Yi maintains consistently well-saturated and natural colors. Unfortunately, there is a rather big drop in quality when switching to from 1080p30 to 1080p60, but sometimes that 60 frames per second is needed for high motion scenes and slow motion. Of course, it’s hard to describe the quality of a camera, so below is a video that compares the Yi to GoPros.
Video belongs to MarkHawkCam
The Yi is also capable of recording audio, but the sound quality is really poor. Even without the microphone being obstructed, the sound is often hard to hear and sounds very muffled. If audio is important in what you are filming, the best option is to resort to an external audio solution and then sync the audio up in post. Of course, this isn't ideal when you want to avoid as much editing as possible. Luckily, most cases of action cameras don’t require high-fidelity audio so this isn’t much of an issue.
While the hardware of the camera is very impressive, the software experience is quite the opposite. Getting everything set up can leave you with quite a few headaches. The biggest problem is that the official app’s language is Chinese. In order to get the app in English, you need to the internet for a translated APK that you must install manually. After you install the APK, getting the camera to connect to the app via WiFi can take a couple of tries. There is also an official iOS app, but it has a single one-star review that claims certain features are missing.
The good news about the software is that once it’s all set up, it is rather painless to use. Linking the camera via WiFi can take a couple of tries, but after that, everything is intuitive. There are three modes you can use the camera with: video, image, and screenshot. Each of these modes have different settings that allow you to get the shot you want to take. Of course, there are basic options like resolution, quality, and AV output over mini-HDMI. In addition to these settings, there are also some really useful options such as lens rectification that undoes the fish-eye distortion. The lens rectification that is built into the app may not always give results as good as ones you can achieve in video suites, but it can be very convenient if you want to avoid a lot of editing.
Most of the control you have over the camera is done via this software, but you also have the option of using buttons on the camera itself to switch between modes and start recording. There are various LEDs on the camera to indicate which mode you are in and the power LED changes color depending on the battery life. The battery itself seems to have some issues, as I was noticing inconsistent percentages in a short period of time. It also appears the battery drains even when not in use, but it’s hard to tell when the indicator is unreliable.
The Xiaomi Yi is a camera that really surprised me. Going into the review, I was a bit skeptical since I had never heard of Xiaomi and the software seemed to be rather hard to obtain. However, after allocating the time to set it all up and get some use out of it, I really started to appreciate how much bang for the buck the Yi offers. This camera is a perfect example of how popular brands and high price tags don’t always mean better products. While the camera does have some caveats like the software and battery, it offers amazing hardware and quality for the price. Because of this, I strongly recommend picking up a Yi if you want to get a cheap action camera that is very versatile for the price.
The Xiaomi Yi was sent to us by GearBest. If you’re interested in purchasing the camera, you can get it on their store here for $62.89 USD. GearBest also has a wide variety of technology and other products that can be found for great prices, so be sure to check out their store.