Monday, June 22, 2015

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera: Non-Technical Review, Sample Video

Xiaomi Yi Action Camera: Non-Technical Review, Sample Video and Why I Bought Xiaomi and not GoPro.

A quick word about this post - this is a super non-technical review of the Xiaomi camera filled with personal feedback from a very casual consumer. There are several really technical articles available via a quick Google search detailing all of the differences and specifications of Xiaomi Yi Action Camera and competitors; this is not one of those. Additionally, I don't intend to bash on GoPro or Xiaomi Yi in any way – while I think the 2 cameras are marketed in the same “action cam” category, they are worlds apart in quality, purpose, functionality and their features and are in fact completely different products that should not even be compared side by side (although I am doing just that...) The Xiaomi Yi action camera (for me) is like a Honda Civic and a GoPro being a high-end Mercedes. They both get you from point A to point B to good video very well, but one is going to have way more technology and features that you are paying for.

Why I Bought Xiaomi Yi Action Camera (and not GoPro)

Just to get it out of the way - I know GoPro is a great camera – and I always want/wanted one, but I could not justify the price point, not only because its expensive at a few hundred dollars, but because I expect to break and damage my camera sooner than later. Additionally – I specifically wanted a cheap camera, because I simply don't need all of the functionality that a GoPro offers. For that reason, I am willing to forgo the countless hours of research and development, build quality and image quality that GoPro offers. I want to be able to beat on the camera, get some great footage and not worry about it getting damaged knowing that the replacement will be cheap.
If (or when) my Xiaomi gets lost – no worries, if it gets stolen, I won't be upset for too long. Conversely, if my GoPro was stolen, I wouldn't immediately want to spend a few hundred dollars again.

For these reasons, my basic requirements for purchasing a camera were:

  • Less than $100 (I paid $68 for Xiaomi Yi + Kingma Waterproof Case)
  • Shoots great 1080p (up to 60fps) video
  • Small Form Factor and Easy to Use

Set Up and Configuration:

Camera requires iPhone or Android mobile application to configure and re-configure. Surprisingly, the app is actually not at all bad – and very intuitive, even when setting up for the very first time. What this means is that in order to make configuration changes to the camera's settings (like changing from 30 fps to 60 fps) you have to press a button on the side of the camera, wait about 10 seconds for wifi signal to normalize, pull out your phone with the Yi app, connect to your camera via Wifi and finally change the settings. This REALLY sucks, because its inconvenient – BUT, I have not had to do this at all, I “set it and forget it” on one mode, for example Video 1080p @ 30 fps and never change it. Now, I believe there may be a way to switch the camera without a phone application between the Photography and Video modes, but I have not figured that out yet. While not being able to quickly change modes and settings does not hinder a casual user – this is probably a big limitation for advanced users and a major disadvantage as compared to GoPro. I am a pretty casual user and the lack of this functionality is not at all an issue for me – inability to quickly change modes and settings has not been a nuisance nor warranted spending more for the GoPro – although clearly GoPro is superior here.

Video Quality and Operating the Camera
There are technical articles detailing the quality of both Xiaomi Yi and GoPro and which one may be better. I am speaking strictly from my own experience – for $68 I spent on Xiaomi Yi, this thing is meeting and exceeding my expectations. I don't need to compare pixels and sensors, I don't need to compare depth of color and contrast. The bottom line and probably the most important question about this camera is really simple – does this cheap camera shoot/produce good video? In my opinion – absolutely YES. With a press of a button it shoots good 1080 video up to 60 fps and at the end of the day – that's all I want from it.

Xiaomi Yi Sample Video (Video was cross-processed via LightRoom)

Xiaomi Yi Photos:

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