YI M1 Mirrorless Camera

My blog is about action cameras, and the following camera is clearly not an action camera. So why am I writing about YI M1 mirrorless camera?
I’m often approached by users which action camera to get for holiday and family pictures. Situations I wouldn’t use an action camera. Why?
Action cameras have certain characteristics: Fixed wide angle lens, fixed aperture and limited controls. Features needed to be close at the action, but obstructive for general photography. For reviews, product photos and family pictures I don’t use my action cams, I use my mirrorless camera (a Sony a6300 currently). Because mirrorless cameras offer more features for that type of use, a zoom lens for example.

So I’m making an exception as the price of YI M1 attracted me and for some users it might be a better choice than an action camera:

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera

 

YI M1 Specs

Sensor

YI’s first mirrorless camera features a 20 MP Sony Sensor (IMX269). M1 offers super fast continuous shooting, RAW support, 4K Video shooting and ISO up to 25600. YI M1 offer approx. 20.16-megapixel effective pixels, approx. 21.77-megapixel (5280×3956) total pixels.

 

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera features a 20 MP Sony Sensor

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera features a 20 MP Sony Sensor

 

Lenses

M1 will come with a zoom lens or in a set with zoom and prime lens: The two lenses are a

  • 12-42mm F3.5-5.6 zoom lens
  • 42.5mm F1.8 prime lens (for portraits)

MTF (micro four third) has a crop factor of 2.0, so the lenses equal 24-84mm and 85mm compared to 35mm film. As MTF is a standard bayonet (lens mount on camera) you can of course use any other MFT lens. Over 50+ lenses are compatible with MFT lens mount. YI lenses seem to be very well made, YI cooperates with a well known lens manufacturer. Both lenses feature auto focus.

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera - 12-42mm zoom & 42.5mm prime lens.

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera – 12-42mm zoom & 42.5mm prime lens.

 

Display

On the back of YI M1 Mirrorless Camera is a large 3″ touch screen. You can either select shutter and aperture via screen or use the two dials on top of the camera:

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera - Touch Screen

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera – Touch Screen

 

YI M1 Mirrorless Camera also comes with wifi and bluetooth for wireless connection to you smartphone via App (Android & iOS). So you can easily copy the images to your smartphone, edit them and share them online.

The camera is very lightweight with only 280g and is available in “Ice Silver” and “Storm Black”.

 

Retailer / Price

YI M1 with 12-40mm zoom & 42.5mm prime lens

YI M1 with 12-40mm zoom lens




 

Body, Buttons & Ports

YI M1 - top view

YI M1 – top view

The top of YI M1 features a minimalist design for simplicity and ease of use. You can power on YI M1 with a switch, that holds the shutter button in the middle. On the left sits the control dial, which sets aperture, shutter,… depending on what you selected via the touch screen.  The mode dial offers 8 shootings mode to select and embeds the video record button.  M1 also holds a hot shoe for an external flash, as there is no integrated flash.

 

YI M1 - Bottom view

YI M1 – Bottom view

On the bottom you will find a 1/4″ standard photo tripod thread and the battery door. Battery has a capacity of 900 mAh and lasts for 380 shots (according to YI). I experienced battery life to be sufficient, if you are recoding videos, battery will not last very long, extra batteries are recommended.

 

YI M1 - Ports

YI M1 – Ports

On one side you find the door for SD card slot, micro USB and micro HDMI port. YI M1 reads SD/SDHC/SDXC cards with a capacity of up to 512 GB, Unfortunately there is no 3.5mm jack for mic input or a jack for headphones. These jacks will be missed by users who want to shoot videos with the camera.

 

YI M1 backside - 3" LCD touch screen

YI M1 backside – 3″ LCD touch screen

The backside holds the large 3″ touch LCD screen with 720×480 resolution. Next to it are just 2 buttons, one to enter the library of pictures & videos taken and a mode button.

 

Features & Functions

Shooting Modes

YI M1 Mode Dial

Via mode dial you can select 8 shooting modes, some of them are standards for mirrorless cameras / DSLR, with one new feature by YI:

  • Automatic mode: M1 configures itself automatically (Aperture, Shutter,…) with the best settings for the current scene.
  • Program Mode: Camera automatically sets the optimum aperture and shutter shutter speed.
  • Aperture Priority Mode: You set the aperture manually, the camera chooses optimum shutter speed.
  • Shutter Priority Mode: Shutter is set manually while the cam chooses the best aperture.
  • Manual Mode: Set Shutter, Aperture, Iso and other parameters manually to get full control.
  • Panorama Mode: Pretty much works like on a phone: Hold the shutter and turn and the camera creates a panorama photo.
  • Scene: Offers a bit more predefined settings apart from the ones in the image below (screen menu).
  • Master Guide: use of templates – more on that later.

 

Screen Menu

YI M1 - "home screen"

YI M1 – “home screen”

On the “home screen” you will find infos on settings in the corner, starting at to left clockwise: Metering, ISO, Focus Selection, Camera Mode, Battery status, Wireless Connection, Photo Format and White balance. You can’t enter the selection by clicking.

On the left side you will find the settings for Aperture, Shutter and Exposure Value. Based on the selection of camera mode, you can touch and change them by turning the dial on top.

When you touch the screen a grid appears and you can choose a spot where focus is measured. When enabled in the menu you can also take a photo by touching the screen. The camera focuses on the spot you touched.

When swiping left on the screen you enter a picture setting menu for predefined settings for Standard, Portrait, Vivid, Natural Black & White and High Contrast Black & White photos.

 

Settings

When you swipe left, you enter the camera settings. The following Settings are available:

YI M1 - Settings

YI M1 – Settings

 

ISO
Settings range from Auto, 100 (Extended), 200 (Recommended), 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800 to 25600.

White Balance
Auto, Sunny, Shadow, Cloudy & Incandescent. You can also choose custom white balance and change based on Kelvin.

Metering Mode
Multi Metering, Spot Metering & Center Weighted Metering

Focus Mode
Single Auto Focus, Continuous Auto Focus, Manual Focus, Manual Focus + Peak Focus. Manual & Peak Focus shows you a red line on focused objects.

Touch Shooting
on/off

Face Detection
on/off

HDR
only available for .jpg photos

Drive Mode
The title is a bit misleading, Here you can select single or continuous shooting as well as 2s and 10s delay

Connection Setup
to connect with your smartphone

Time Lapse
You can select interval time, shooting time and video output size ranging from 4K to 720p. Frame Rate is fixed to 30fps.

Video Settings

  • 3840 x 2160 30fps
  • 2048 x 1536 30fps
  • 1920 x 1080 60fps / 30fps / 24 fps
  • 1280 x 720 60fps / 30fps / 24fps
  • 640 x 480 240fps

Basic Setup
For Date/Time, Language, Shutter Sound, Sleep Mode, Auto Power off, Color Specs (sRGB or Adobe RGB), & LCD Brightness

BKT
AE or WB Bracketing to create your own HDR pictures.

File Format

  • JPG-S (Normal)
  • JPG-M (Fine)
  • JPG-L (Super Fine)
  • RAW (RAW) – 5200 x 3902 .dng – approx. 31,9 MB file

Unfortunately you can’t shoot .jpeg & RAW at the same time.

Image Aspect Ratio
Aspect Ratio size is based on the image quality. The following settings are available for 20M mode, recommended full sensor setting. I recommend shooting in 4:3 as it equals full sensor size and crop it afterwards.

  • 4:3 – 5184 x 3888
  • 3:2 – 5182 x 3458
  • 16:9 – 5184 x 2920
  • 1:1 – 3888 x 3888

Image Quality
You can set image quality from 50MP (8160×6120 px), which is interpolated,
to 20MP (5184×3888 px) which es the recommended settings and equals sensor size,
all the way down to VGA resolution (640×480) in several steps.

Flash Mode
You can select Auto, On or Off. Flash mode controls an optional flash attached to the hot shoe on top of the camera.

Card Settings
to delete all images or format the SD card.

AF Assist Lamp
You can turn on/off the red light which supports autofocus.

Auto Playback
You can select a time frame to review your last shot on the screen from of to 5 seconds.

Displayed Grid
Two options are given to display a grid: Trichotomy or Heaven and Earth wire.

Anti Shake Mode
Image stabilization for videos up to 2K video resolution

Firmware
for firmware-info of lens and body.

 

Connecting with the App

How to connect phone & camera:

  • First and important step: insert the SD card! It won’t work without card.
  • Switch on Wifi & Bluetooth on your phone.
  • Open the App an pair via Bluetooth with YI M1 (for the first time).
  • Follow the instructions on the screen, you need to connect via wifi.

I’m not quite sure why you have to connect via Bluetooth first and then via wifi.

The App offers templates for the master guide (see below). You can browse your photos, but only .jpg images not raw photos or videos, and download them to your phone for sharing.

 

Master Guide

Master Guide are templates you can download (via your phone to YI M1 camera) which offers a grid template to frame a shot:

YI M1 - Master Guide

YI M1 – Master Guide

 

There’s a huge library of demo photos on the app. If you want to copy a theme, download the grid to your camera. A few are already pre-installed. I think it’s a nice feature for starters to get some ideas how to compose a shot. I can’t remember who said it, but it’s a quote I really like:

We teach our kids the usage of a camera wrongly. We tell them to center a person and press the button. But that’s actually what you shouldn’t do. (rule-of-thirds,…)

 

Conclusion

YI M1 is a great camera for starters with an awesome image quality for its price. Experienced users may miss some features:

Price performance ratio is really great. The camera has a great sensor and the lenses also show high quality.

YI M1 is very easy to use. The menu is clear and comprehensibly. Here’s a comparison to my a6300’s menu structure. (a6300 doesn’t have touch screen).

Sony a6300 vs YI M1 - Menu

Sony a6300 vs YI M1 – Menu

 

 As Micro Four Third is a standard for lenses, there are plenty available that will work with YI M1.

 Auto-Focus on the touch screen works very well. Same as on your phone, point to where the camera should focus.

YI M1 is super lightweight, perfect for traveling but…

 … it feels a bit cheap. The finishing of the body just doesn’t feel like high quality.

Time-lapse feature creates a video which might be convenient for some users. I prefer to get several individual photos, which is not possible.

 You can only transfer .jpg photos to your phone. Neither videos or RAW photos. Unfortunately there is no RAW+jpg option.

For video use the camera definitely lacks some features: 3,5mm jack for audio in & headphone jack as well as visual audio levels. Also the settings for video are very limited.

 There’s no remote control for the camera. It’s not possible via app and no physical port to connect a remote.

 42.5mm prime lens doesn’t have manual focus control. The ring on the lens is just decoration and focus set via touch screen.

Conclusion II

Overall it’s a great camera for starters who want to move from smartphone photo shooting to a higher level. YI M1 is easy to use and similar to a smartphones in terms of usage. In terms of picture quality it is comparable to other mirrorless cameras! Most settings are changed via touch screen, which also can be used to focus your image. You can easily copy your photos from the camera to a smartphone to share it. M1 is super lightweight for traveling. Master Guide can help you to learn how to compose a shot.

Experienced users coming from other cameras will miss some features to fine tune their image. They might also miss more buttons to easily change settings. For me changing autofocus and other settings via screen takes too much time and I would prefer a button.

Video

The trend of DSLR videos picked up with Canon’s 5d mkII camera. There was no intention of pushing this DSLR to video filming, but it became a often used video camera. The large sensor shot beautiful videos with a shallow depth of field. Sony is now pushing its mirrorless cameras into that direction as the mirror from DSLRs is not really needed. Of course the main purpose of these cameras is still photography and often key features for videography are missing.

YI M1 does the basics but for only use as a video camera some key features are missing. As pointed out above: a 3,5mm jack for mic-in, headphone jack, audio levels, better manual and auto focus controls, HDMI live video out,… are just some features desperately needed for recording videos. Auto focus is available while recording videos as complete autofocus. You can switch to manual focus control on the zoom lens but not the prime lens. M1 offers focus peaking which is a great addition, but you can’t change the color and sometimes it is hard to spot.

Action Cameras

Coming back to Action Cameras. You can’t compare these cameras, so when is M1 a better choice? If you are planning to do holiday photos or taking pictures at family events, M1 is definitely a better choice. It is also “in the same price range at the upper end” of action cameras, but it has more to offer.

 

Demo Video

This is a short clip of some demo footage I took in low light conditions (4K – 29.97 fps):

 

Demo Photos

The following photos were shot in RAW and edited in Lightroom:

YI-MI-Demo1

 

YI-MI-Demo2

 

YI-MI-Demo3

 

YI-MI-Demo4

 

Retailer / Price

YI M1 with 12-40mm zoom & 42.5mm prime lens

YI M1 with 12-40mm zoom lens

 




 

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