Xiaomi Yi Action Camera

In this article I want to do a review and manual of the Xiaomi Yi Action Camera including:

  • General information (on naming and versions)
  • Camera Specs
  • Body, Buttons and Lights (what they show and how they work)
  • Accessories Overview (whats included or sold separately)
  • App & Settings (what you can select in the App Menu and how it looks)
  • Demo Footage
  • Known Problems
  • Conclusion (my 2-cents)

 

General Information

Naming
All over the web the term Xiaomi Yi action camera is used. The manufacturer is actually called Xiaoyi and even tough related to Xiaomi an own company. Xiaoyi offers the YI Action Camera, a YI home camera (wifi cam for surveillance) and recently introduced the YI dash camera.

Versions
The YI action camera is available through Chinese retailers since March 2015 and also on amazon through 3rd party retailers.
In December 2015 Xiaoyi introduced and international version of the YI action camera and sells them directly on amazon.
There are 4 features that differ the International version from the Chinese Version: The battery is from Sony, the battery door has a metal sheet inside, the bottom doesn’t have the notch and the international version is also available in black.

Click to find out more about the International Version of the YI action camera.

Xiaoyi released a notice that customers outside Mainland China are advised to buy the International Version for the best support. Chinese Version might not be updated in all languages,

 

 

YI Action Camera Specs

Image Sensor:
16 MP Sony Exmor R BSI CMOS IMX206
Exmor R is a back-illuminated (BackSide Illuminated) version of Sony’s CMOS image sensor. Sony claims that Exmor R is approximately twice as sensitive as a normal front illuminated sensor.
The same sensor is used in the Git2 camera which also offers a 2″ LCD screen and a built-in gyro for image stabilization.

Chipset:
An Ambarella A7 chip is used for in the Xiaomi Yi, that’s the same chipset used in Dazzne P3 & SJCAM SJ5000+.
The GoPro hero 4 black uses the updated Ambarella A9 chip, most of the other action cams come with a Novatek 96660 chip.

Lens:
Aspheric surface FHD photology glass lens, F2.8 DFOV 1550
Focal length:
2.73 +-5%мм; 155° wide angle

Video Resolution & Frame Rate:
2K – max. 30fps
1080p – max. 60fps
720p – max. 120 fps
480p – max. 240 fps

The Xiaomi Xi can’t do 4K, if you want 4K resolution you have to take a look at SJCAM SJ5000X EliteGit2 or Firefly 6S, but their 4K resolution is interpolated!

Recording Format:
Format: .mp4; Codec: .h264;
30fps recording is 29.97fps (same as GoPro)
Currently the bit rate is 25MB/s, but there is an unofficial firmware pushing the camera to 30MB/s

Audio recording:
dual track, 96KHz sampling

Display:
The Xiaomi Yi doesn’t have a LCD display. Although there is a 3rd party accessory LCD which is made for Xiaomi Yi.

Battery:
A detachable 1010 mAh battery is used.
The international version of the Yi action camera features a Sony battery!

Storage:
max. 128GB microSD card, class 10 recommended.

Connectivity & Ports:
built in Wifi and Bluetooth 4.0 – wifi connects to Xiaomi iOS or Android App, Bluetooth to Xiaomi remote control.
microUSB for charging & A/V output, Mic-in is not supported!
& microHDMI port for HD video output.

 

Retailers / Price Comparison:

Chinese Version:
It seems that the Chinese version was unlisted at almost every online store. Here are the links with the last known prices:
Banggood: 67.49 USD – Gearbest: 69.99 USD – Geekbuying: 69.99 USD
On Aliexpress it can be found from now and then: 71.95 USD

International Version:

  • Banggood: 80.99 USD
  • Gearbest: 80.99 USD (official reseller)
  • Geekbuying: 80.99 USD (official reseller)
  • Aliexpress: 80.99 USD (official YI store)
  • Amazon (official YI store)




 

Body, Buttons & Lights

Frontside

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera

 

The power button is on the front of the camera. Around this button there is a LED light indicating the battery status.

With firmware 1.0.12. the power button got a new feature: It flashes when taking a photo or flashes constantly while recording a video. When doing self-timed photos it will flash until taking the picture. It can be turned off in the App.

Power Status: Blue = 100-50% battery, Purple = 50-15% and Red: 15-0%

Power Status: Blue = 100-50% battery, Purple = 50-15% and Red: 15-0%

 

Status LED

This button is also used to switch between photo and video mode. The current mode is indicated by 3 status LED lights:

Yi has 3 status LED lights

Yi has 3 status LED lights

 

They are located on the top, backside and bottom of the camera.

When you take a photo, they flash once (a little delayed).
If you switch to video mode the will light up and while recording they are flashing.

On the side of the camera, there is the button and LED light for wifi connection:

Wifi button and LED light

Wifi button and LED light

 

This LED is bright and easy to see. I wish the status LEDs would be as bright as this one.

How to connect Wifi?

Now here’s a little hint how to use it: Power up the camera and wait for at least 10 sec. until the camera is powered up. Then press the wifi button and wait again for 10 sec. and the light will start flashing. Now your phone is ready to pick up the camera’s wifi.
The standard password is: 1234567890.

The camera has also built in bluetooth which doesn’t connect with the app, but the remote control.

 

Backside

Let’s take a look at the backside of the camera. There you’ll find the batters door, microSD card slot, micro USB & micro HDMI ports.

Xiaomi Yi backside with ports and battery door

Xiaomi Yi backside with ports and battery door

 

MicroSD cards up to 128GB are supported, class 10 is recommended.

A/V output via USB is possible with firmware version 1.0.7 or later.
Mic input via USB is not possible!
HD video output via HDMI is available.

Xiaomi Yi has a 1010 mAh battery (the battery of the international version is from Sony)

 

Top/Bottom

At the top of the camera there is the trigger button for photo and video recording. The mentioned status LED and a hole for the microphone.
On the bottom you will a 1/4″ thread, a status LED and a hole for the speaker.

Top and bottom view of the Xiaomi Yi

Top and bottom view of the Xiaomi Yi

 

I really like the thread at the bottom, because you can mount the camera without any additional case or housing. Although it is a bit shallow and you might need a washer. I think the notch next to the thread is used for a special 1/4″ to GoPro adapter, to give it more stability. The aluminium frame comes with this kind of adapter.

Note: There is no notch next to the thread on the international version of the YI action camera

 

Accessories

A USB cable is included in the basic set – that’s it. The traveler set contains a monopod & remote control.

The underwater case is an optional extra, in contrast to the SJcam or GoPro. Xiaomi Yi is a little larger as GoPro and SJCAM and the buttons are located on different positions, so you can’t use SJCAM or GoPro housing. Xiaomi Yi underwater cases come with the typical GoPro mount at the bottom, so you can use any GoPro mount.

There are more original accessories such as several strap mounts, bag & floating grip. There are many 3rd party accessories available such as: LCD & battery backpack, several filters and aluminum frames.

 Here’s an overview of Xiaomi Yi accessories where I reviewed many of them.

 

Original Xiaomi Yi Action Camera Accessories

Original Xiaomi Yi Action Camera Accessories

 

App / Functions

When connecting camera and phone you’ll see this menu. If you have problems connecting the camera, check out my other posts about the Xiaomi Yi: e.g. Firmware Update.

The screenshots posted below are taken from the iOS App, if the Android App is different I’ll note it.
The iOS App is also available for the Apple Watch!

Infos & Features according to:
Android v2.6
iOS v2.5.3
Firmware 1.2.13

If there are new versions, I’ll update this blog.
So check back and bookmark this site!

 

Start Screen – Mode selection

The app discovered a lot of changes since it was released. In the very early versions there were different modes for photo and video, now you got everything on one start screen:

Yi App Start Screen (iOS)

Yi App Start Screen (iOS) (right) – Mode selection after pressing the button right of the shutter button (left)

 

This is the screen when you connected your Yi action camera and your smartphone. I’ll go through the buttons from to down:

On top you can disconnect (right) or enter the settings (left) – more on the settings later.

What cam with a later version is the “expand button” in the picture. The preview picture will switch to fullscreen and landscape mode – that was requested for a long time!

The first line below the live preview shows the current settings on the left and the battery status of the camera on the right.

Right of the shutter button you can select the mode of the camera. There a two lines, first line shows the photo modes: Single, Timer, Time-Lapse and Burst; the second line the video modes: Video & Video Time-Lapse.
Left of the shutter button you can change the settings for each mode:

 

Photo modes

Xiaomi Yi Photo Modes: Single, Countdown, Time-Lapse & Burst

Xiaomi Yi Photo Modes: Single, Countdown, Time-Lapse & Burst

 

  1. In Single mode you can select resolution
  2. In Timer mode you can additionally select the self-timer countdown: 3s – 5s – 10s – 15s
  3. In Time-lapse mode you can select the interval: 0,5s – 1s – 2s – 5s – 10s – 30s – 60s
  4. In Burst mode (no photo) the camera  will shoot as many pics as possible in selected resolution. There are no selections available in this mode.

 

Video modes

Xiaomi Yi Video Modes: Video & Time-Lapse

Xiaomi Yi Video Modes: Video & Time-Lapse

 

  1. In Video Mode you can select the Resolution and Frame Rate (more options available in the settings)
  2. In Video Time-Lapse Mode you can select resolution interval when pictures should be taken and video length. When off is selected the time-lapse is taken until you stop it manually

 

Photo vs Video Time-Lapse:

You can select video time-lapse where a video of your time-lapse is generated. When selecting time-lapse in photo mode, several photos will be taken according to the selected interval, but no video is generated!

 

Apple Watch

The Yi Action App is also available for the Apple Watch where you can start/stop recording, take photos and select the different modes, similar to the smartphone App:

Yi Action App for Apple Watch

Yi Action App for Apple Watch

 

Settings

When you enter the settings in the top menu of your app you’ll have a variety of options. I’ll go through them per sections.

 

Video section

The first section in your app handles settings for video recording showing the following options:

Yi Action Camera - Video Settings (iOS)

Yi Action Camera – Video Settings (iOS)

 

Video quality:
You can select high, medium or low and the camera changes the bit rate (1080p 60fps):

high: 25 MB/s
medium: 13 MB/s
low: 11,5 MB/s

Time stamp:
You can select if you want date, time or date & time recorded with your video.
Currently the Timestamp is not displayed when “lens rectification” is turned on. In early firmware versions the stamp was distorted in that mode.

Lens Rectification off & Timestamp off - LR off & T on - LR on & T on

Lens Rectification off & Timestamp off – LR off & T on – LR on & T on

 

Resolution:
The following options are available. What’s interesting, that 720p 30fps is not available.

  • 2k – 2304×1296 30fps 16:9 (2K) – new with firmware 1.2.0
  • 1080p – 1920×1080 60fps 16:9
  • 1080p – 1920×1080 30fps 16:9
  • 1080p – 1920×1080 48fps 16:9
  • 1080p – 1920×1080 24fps 16:9
  • 960p – 1280×960 60fps 4:3
  • 960p – 1280×960 48fps 4:3
  • 720p – 1280×720 60fps 16:9
  • 720p – 1280×720 48fps 16:9
  • 720p – 1280×720 120fps 16:9
  • 480p – 848×480 240fps 16:9

Video Standard:
You can select the video standard PAL or NTSC.

  • When selected NTSC the frame rates above are shown – 30fps as well as 24fps and a multiple thereof.
  • When selecting PAL you’ll get 25 fps or a multiple thereof as well as the 24 fps options.

Default Recording Mode:
Here you can select if the camera should start in video mode or Time-Lapse mode (video time-lapse).

Metering Mode:
In earlier version metering mode was located in the video section, which was later moved to camera section later.

 

Photo Section

In the next section you can control the photo options of your camera:

Yi Action Camera - Photo Settings

Yi Action Camera – Photo Settings

 

Resolution:

The following resolutions are available on your camera. All of them are in a 4:3 format; 16:9 formats available with firmware 1.2.0:

  • 16M (4608×3456 4:3)
  • 13M (4128×3096 4:3)
  • 12M (4608×2592 16:9) – new with firmware 1.2.0
  • 8M (3264×2448 4:3)
  • 5M (2560×1920 4:3)

Default capture mode:
You can choose from 4 photo modes:

  • Single
  • Time-lapse
  • Timer
  • Burst

Here you can select in which mode the camera should start, when selecting the photo mode.

Time stamp:
You can select separately if you want a timestamp in photos and/or videos.
Same as for video timestamp you can select date, time and date & time. Also there is currently no timestamp when “lens rectification” is turned on.

Lens Rectification off & Timestamp off - LR off & T on - LR on & T on

Lens Rectification off & Timestamp off – LR off & T on – LR on & T on

 

Camera Section

The next section handles general camera settings:

Yi Action Camera - Camera Settings

Yi Action Camera – Camera Settings

 

Preview Switch:
This option switches off the preview on your phone.

Auto Low Light:
When you select this option, the camera will adjust the frame rate according to the current light conditions.

In photo mode there seems to be a longer exposure and the picture gets brighter, but not much reducing noise.
In video mode the picture seems way darker than in photo mode, still testing on motion blur as frame rate will auto go down.

Loop recording:
In loop recording the camera is saving 5 min. clips and will start overwriting the oldest files. This option is useful for surveillance e.g. when you use it as dashboard camera.

Adjust Lens distortion:
Earlier it was called: Lens rectification or Lens Aberration Correction
The camera has a wide-angle lens therefore the image has a strong visual distortion. You can reduce this effect when selecting “adjust lens distortion”. The quality of the picture will be a little poorer as the picture is stretched. The image size will stay the same (4608 × 3456) when in highest resolution mode.

Adjust lens distortion - ON & OFF in video and photo mode

Adjust lens distortion – ON & OFF in video and photo mode

 

These 2 photos and 2 video frames ware taken from the same position about 1,5m above the floor. I think in photo mode it does a pretty good job as the lines are almost straight.

It seems that in video mode the lines on top and bottom are straighter but with an additional distortion in the middle. The image I posted in the timestamp section looks better than this one. I don’t know exactly how this is done technically. GoPro has a superview mode where the camera uses the full 4:3 sensor (xiaomi also has a 4:3 sensor) and stretches the edge to a 16:9 video picture.

Turn on Wi-Fi when device is on:
Not much to explain here: Wifi is turned on when you power up the camera.

AV Output:
This option came with firmware 1.0.7. With a special USB cable you’ll get a video output signal via USB. This is important when you want to use the camera for FPV. Via USB there is also no delay in video transfer like during the preview on your phone via WiFi.
You also have to turn on this option when using the 3rd party LCD display.

Video rotation:
You can flip the image 180° in case you mount your camera upside-down.
(Implemented in Firmware 1.0.9)

Metering Mode:
This option was located in the video section in earlier versions of the app. You can select:

  • Center metering
  • Average metering
  • Spot metering

With this option you can define in which area of the frame the exposure is measured.

Emergency Backup:

Buzzer Volume:
You can select how loud the camera should beep when pushing the buttons: high, low or mute.

WiFi Settings:
Here you can change the name of the camera’s wifi.
As well as the wifi password. (The standard password is 1234567890)

LED mode:
You can select All on, All off or Only status LED.
The option “Only status LED” can be very useful when the bright power indicator light is reflecting in your shot. The status lights refer to the 3 red LEDs at the top, bottom and backside; the wifi led is also turned off with this option selected!

Camera time:
Here you can select date and time – important when you use the timestamp!

Default camera mode:
Here you can select if the camera should power up in video or photo mode.

Auto Power Off:
You can select 3, 5 or 10 minutes after which the camera should power down when not in use or select off.

 

Device Section

Last section of your app handles the device settings:

Yi Action Camera - Device Settings

Yi Action Camera – Device Settings

 

The model number is shown as well as your camera’s serial number.
The serial numer indicates the hardware version.
It’s the first 3 digits without the Z:

  • Z221xxxxxxxxxxx = Revision 22
  • Z22Lxxxxxxxxxxx = Revision 22L
  • Z231xxxxxxxxxxx = Revision 23
  • Z23Lxxxxxxxxxxx = Revision 23L
  • Z23Axxxxxxxxxxx = Revision 23A
  • Z23Sxxxxxxxxxxx = Revision 23S

Each hardware version has a different firmware. (That’s why you enter it before downloading on the website.)
Here you can find more info on the different hardware versions.

The current Firmware version is shown.
When selecting SD card you’ll see how much storage is left on your microSD card.
A nice option is “find camera”. When you select it the camera will start beeping. Well of course the camera has to be turned on (check auto power off). And it seems that it doesn’t matter which buzzer sound you have selected.
Unbind bluetooth devices – This setting is new with firmware 1.2.0 when the bluetooth remote was introduced.
Lastly you have the option to restore your camera to factory settings.

 

Demo Footage

This is a clip I shot after the 2K resolution was added to the camera’s options.
Xiaomi’s 2K resolution is a little smaller than YouTube’s 2K resolution, that’s why you see black borders:

 

Here’s a video of different Motorcycle Mounts where I also compared Yi Action Camera, Git1 and GoPro Hero 3 & 4:

 

Here’s a comparison with the new EKEN H9 4K action camera. The EKEN is cheaper than the Xiaomi Yi and comes with lot’s of accessories including underwater case. It is labelled 4K but can only shoot 10fps at this resolution, in 1080p it can shoot up to 60fps, same as Xiaomi Yi.

 

 read more about the EKEN H9

 

Known Problems

Some problems are discussed on Facebook & several websites:

Lens / Sharpness

There are some reported issues with sharpness and also some reports on how to fix it. It seems that the lens is not in the right position and can be repositioned by turning it. You have to loose the glue, turn the lens and fix it again. Here’s an instruction how to fix the lens.

Bad Microphone / Sound quality

There is some kind of plastic put over the microphone to protect it, but it also shields the sound making it dull and quiet. You can fix the problem when opening the camera and replacing this plastic with a piece of foam (found on headphones). Here’s an instruction how you can fix the sound.

image

WiFi sound interference

There are some sound interferences while recording when the wifi is activated. You can also improve the problem when placing adhesive over the antenna found on the cameras frontside (when opened). Here’s an instruction how you can take care of it.

 

Conclusion

On the one hand there are some problems with the camera, but fixes were found. It is the first camera from the manufacturer and my camera (Chinese version) was one of the first batches, so these things can happen. I received an International version and discovered that many of the early problems were solved.
There are also some minor issues in design which could be more perfect (thread not deep enough, status lights not very bright) but as well, there might be reasons why it was done this way and I never got a camera which was totally perfect for me.
The lack of a LCD screen might be very important for some users. I don’t have a problem with that. It saves battery which runs out fast on every action camera and there is a 3rd party LCD screen available if desired. You may also take a look at the Git2, which has the same Sony sensor, offers an LCD screen, comes with lots of accessories and has a built in gyro for image stabilization for a similar price.

On the other hand you get a really well built product, with great image quality for a stunning low price. My conclusion: It is not the same level as the GoPro Hero black 3 & 4 as well as the Hero 4 silver. But the cheapest of them is 5 times more expensive than the Xiaomi Yi, but it is not 5 times better.
If you want the best quality (4K resolution & 120 fps at 1080p) – you have almost no other option than the Hero 4 black.
If it must not be the best product specification wise, but the best product/performance ratio – go for the Xiaomi Yi!

 

Retailers / Price Comparison:

Chinese Version:
It seems that the Chinese version was unlisted at almost every online store. Here are the links with the last known prices:
Banggood: 67.49 USD – Gearbest: 69.99 USD – Geekbuying: 69.99 USD
On Aliexpress it can be found from now and then: 71.95 USD

International Version:

  • Banggood: 80.99 USD
  • Gearbest: 80.99 USD (official reseller)
  • Geekbuying: 80.99 USD (official reseller)
  • Aliexpress: 80.99 USD (official YI store)
  • Amazon (official YI store)



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