Xiaomi Yi Sports Camera - Review

reverend

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#1
Introduction
Right then, I've had some serious fun with this little camera over the last few weeks so it's finally time to get my review out of the way.

First things first and for total transparency, this camera was supplied to me by Gearbest.

I'm doing a slightly different spin on this one in that it's an action camera so that's how I'm reviewing it but I have tried it as a dashcam and footage is included.

The Xiaomi Yi Action Camera / Sports Camera has a lot of coverage at the moment and is basically playing in the same market space as the GoPro and SJx000 series cameras. What sets the Xiaomi Yi apart from most is that they have focussed more on the hardware in this one and you get a lot of camera for your money, but no accessories at all other than a single battery (which lasts for around 90 minutes) and a small USB cable.

Like many variants of the GoPro this uses the Ambarella A7LS75 chipset combined with a Sony Exmor R IMX206 CMOS sensor which supports 1080p60, 720p120 and 480p240.

Unlike lots of Chinese clones these are real supported modes and not frame doubled.

At the time of writing the Yi costs just £73.67 / $108.69 from Gearbest.
http://www.gearbest.com/action-cameras/pp_153556.html
It is currently on offer right now:
Xiaomi Yi Camera for $89.99 with free shipping- Coupon code: XMXYCAM
Xiaomi Camera with Selfie Stick for $104.99 with free shipping- Coupon code: XMYSS


Video quality in the daytime is really great, and night time is also better than a lot of similar cameras due to the Sony sensor used here.

It's not finetuned to be a dashcamera but that's because it's an action camera and the fact it doubles up as a dash camera is just a bonus, but as things stand you would have to manually process the video afterwards as there is no capability to flip the video upside down as it would usually be mounted.

Size
Size wise this thing is tiny. I've never had a GoPro or any of the SJ range so it caught me by surprise but it's 60.4mm x 21.2mm x 42mm / 2.4 x 0.83 x 1.7inches) and it easily fits into your pocket.

Weight
This is quoted as being 72g with the battery fitted - as a comparison for the guys wanting to use this with drones etc the Mobius is 38g, but doesn't have the higher frame rates offered by this model.

Stock photos
xiaomi-yi-sports-camera-2.jpg
In-Stock.jpg
02-03-15-10.jpg
1425507157024-P-2446928.jpg
1425507157058-P-2446928.jpg
1425507157129-P-2446928.jpg
1425507424976-P-2446928.jpg
 

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#2
Feature list
  • Ambarella A7LS ARM based CPU (http://www.ambarella.com/uploads/docs/A7LS-Brief-121713.pdf)
  • Sony Exmor R IMX 206 16.35Mpixel Image Sensor (4672x3500) - (http://www.sony.net/Products/SC-HP/new_pro/december_2013/imx206_e.html)
  • Builtin WiFi for connection to Android (4.1+) and iOS (TBC - due April 2015) - this allows live view, remote control (ie start and stop video, take a picture etc) and transferring of videos from the microSD card to your supported phone or tablet.
  • Builtin Bluetooth (haven't seen this enabled yet as of 1.0.7)
  • 155° Ultra Wide Angle Lens - F2.8
  • Multiple photo modes - single picture, time lapse or burst mode.
  • Panasonic LiPo Battery - 3.7V 1010mAH, 3.74WH (lasts around 90 mins on a full charge)
  • Supports microSDXC exFAT memory cards (ie greater than 32GB cards are supported)
  • A standard 1/4" tripod mount is fitted to the base of the camera.
  • Share to social media - this functionality is for the Chinese social media sites and the camera also includes a low resolution video file that can be quickly uploaded so you can share your videos of cats eating toast quicker than ever before.

Video modes
The following video modes are supported (these are real frame rates and not frame doubled)
  • 1920x1080 @ 24 / 30 / 48 / 60 fps
  • 1280x720 @ 48 / 60 / 120 fps
  • 848x480 @ 240fps

Bitrate Information
1920x1080 @ 30fps - 12Mbps
upload_2015-4-6_21-36-51.png

1920x1080 @ 60fps - 25Mbps


This can be increased to 30Mbps with my custom firmware which you can find later in this review.

Box contents
  • 1x Xiaomi Yi Action / Sports Camera
  • 1x USB to microUSB cable
  • 1x Battery
  • Optional Travel Package - 1x Selfie stick (I'm too old for these)

Mount details
A standard 1/4" tripod mount is fitted to the base of the camera - this is compatible with standard camera mounts such as the Joby Gorillapods and Mobius mounts - I've used the mini magnetic Gorillapod and Mobius suction cup windscreen cup for this review.

Ports and buttons
  • Front - power button - this is also used to change modes between video and picture mode.
  • Top - shutter button - this is used to start and stop video and to take pictures depending on mode
  • Side - WiFi button - this is used to enable WiFi and will turn blue when first pressed and then start flashing blue once the camera WiFi is enabled.
  • Bottom - the standard 1/4" tripod mount is on the bottom of the camera
  • Back - you will find a microSD slot, a micro USB port and a micro HDMI port.
Power button colours
The power button is surrounded by a ring of LEDs which indicate the battery charge remaining:
100% - 50% - Blue
50% - 15% - Indigo
Below 15% - Red

File locations
The camera saves all files to the \DCIM\101MEDIA folder on your memory card.
A MISC folder is also created and this contains a file called itm.bin which contains the settings for the camera.

Firmware
This camera shipped to me with firmware 0.7.13 and since then I've tried version 1.0 and am now running 1.0.7

Sample Pictures
You can download my raw JPG files straight from the camera here:
https://mega.co.nz/#F!pIUjETTQ!88YLybUo12fHH0PrBr4vhw
 
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reverend

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#3
Youtube Footage:
1920x1080p 30fps


1920x1080p 60fps
 
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#5
Custom 30Mbps Firmware
I have also created a firmware which records video at higher bitrates which is available here:
https://dashcamtalk.com/forum/threa...-bitrate-increased-to-30mbps-all-modes.10410/
I have noticed that when using the 848x480 240fps mode that the camera still only uses 12Mbps.

Firmware update issues
There have been reports of people having issues when updating the firmware via the Android app - when doing so always make sure you have power connected to the Xiaomi Yi camera and after the application shows 100% this means that the file has been downloaded and copied onto the memory card - at that point the camera reboots and then does the actual update while beeping - NEVER interrupt this process otherwise you will brick your camera. If you're lucky you may be able to bring it back to life by looking at this thread:
https://dashcamtalk.com/forum/threads/xiaomi-yi-sport-camera-died-after-firmware-update.10442/

You may want to be very careful when doing OTA updates or alternatively use the other methods of updating by downloading the full firmware file and then copying it onto your memory card as firmware.bin and then turning the camera on (always when connected to power).
 
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#6
Conclusions:
So what do I think of this camera - I absolutely love it :D

It's the most fun I've had with any camera I've had yet and I'll be having lots of fun with this in the future.

For something that is available for under $110 / £75 UKP it's a fantastic versatile little camera which is great fun to use.

The video quality is great in all modes - I've noticed it can be slightly softer in the 60fps modes (and higher due to resolution drop) so for the sharpest video 30fps is the way to go IMHO.

As an aside this is also the best video quality I've ever seen out of any Ambarella A7 class device - it seems like Xiaomi have found a way to get rid of the oversharpening that all A7 cameras suffer from - maybe it's a sign that Ambarella have fixed this in the latest SDK?

I think some users of the Mobius and SJ series cameras will like this due to the extra functionality such as WiFi but also the higher frame rates that are available on this platform.

You probably won't be using the bright green version of this as a discrete dashcam but that's not what it's designed for - it's a fun action camera and that's certainly what it looks like.

It's small enough to put in your pocket and has worked great with every microSD I've tried yet - below and above 32GB.

I've had no issues with stability and it has recorded every time until the battery runs out.

I'd recommend this camera to anyone in the market for an action camera for sure.

The camera doesn't come with any accessories and it seems that Xiaomi have focussed on getting something out of the door with a great retail price to lure people in, and then you can use standard accessories via the tripod mount on the bottom or you can buy accessories such as silicone cases or waterproof cases from places like Gearbest.com

Think of it like the Gillette business model :)

Pros
  • Cheap in comparison to other 1080p 60fps capable action cameras - cost is kept down due to lack of included accessories but instead your money is buying a great little camera for the price where they have focussed on it's primary job - as an action camera.
  • Great video quality day and night
  • This camera supports real 60, 120 and 240fps video with no frame doubling to report.
  • Build quality has seemed fine so far with no issues to report - you're pretty much guaranteed to lose the little plastic door which covers the microSD, micro USB and micro HDMI port though - I already just leave mine off.
  • Good auto exposure seems to handle many conditions well - sometimes it's on the darker side but you can change metering modes via the Android application
  • Live view can be used from Android, iOS and VLC
  • Firmwares seem to be coming at a steady rate and Xiaomi seem to be really going for the jugular on the action camera market with this product.
  • Easy access to the microSD slot at the back of the camera
  • Battery LED on the front indicates how much charge is left at a quick view
  • Battery lasts around 90 minutes in 30fps mode and under an hour in 60fps - I'd suggest matching this camera with a power bank for now as spare batteries haven't really hit the market for this one.
  • No issues seen with stability when used either as an action camera outdoors or a dashcamera inside my car - don't forget I'm in the UK so a hot day to us is 20C!
  • If you like to tinker you can access the Busybox shell by telnetting to the camera - just login as root with no password required.
  • Great price for the Ambarella A7LS and Sony Exmor R sensor - you're not going to find anything better for the money on the market yet.
Cons
  • A few people have bricked their camera during the update process so the OTA process isn't quite there yet - this has potentially been fixed already and we're just seeing it in the first batch of cameras with 0.7.x when they update. No known way of accessing DirectUSB has been found yet.
  • The black plastic on the front of the lens could do with being slightly higher because as things are if you place this camera face down you're going to scratch the lens as it protrudes ever so slightly - we're talking less than half a mm but if the lens gets scratched you're in trouble.
  • No screen so all configuration has to be done via an application - to be honest once you've changed the settings once or twice to see what you're happy with this won't really be an issue as you'll just turn it on and use it
  • The red LED lights around the camera can be very difficult to see in the daytime so it's sometimes hard to see whether it's recording or not - Techmoan had a great idea in that maybe flash the front LED around the power button to make it easier to see as well (not sure how much effect this would have on the battery life.
  • A native iPhone app isn't currently available but is due soon - for now use something like LinkinEyes, AMK-icam or WeTrip.
  • No flip mode for people wanting to use this as a dashcam in firmware 1.0.7 - if using the Mobius style mount you would need to flip the video in software afterwards.
  • No auto record on power on for people wanting to use this as a dashcam.
  • Limited accessories - as this is so new accessories are just starting to hit the market.
This camera is currently available on offer from Gearbest here:
Xiaomi Yi Camera for $89.99 with free shipping- Coupon code: XMXYCAM
Xiaomi Camera with Selfie Stick for $104.99 with free shipping- Coupon code: XMYSS
 
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#7
1080P 60 FPS is a language i can undestand, sadly the prize is gibberish to my wallet :D

Anyway the Yi isent going anywhere, and i hope i will have luck with my job hunting soon.
 

mealto

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#8
So not being able to see the raw footage, how is 1280x720 @ 120 fps vs 1080 60p? Can you comment on that? I am curious to read a bit more before the camera gets here.
 
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#9
Raw footage is all here:
https://mega.co.nz/#F!5FN1mQxL!eYlUGQOJbLD5xR3sp1JQgw

It seems fine to be honest - when I've slowed it down in video editors you can see it's doing real high frame rates and I've checked every frame via Registrator Viewer and they're all different so no frame doubling going on.

Picture wise 60fps seems a bit softer than 30fps to me but it could have been time of day - at night time you want to be using 30fps and if you want to stop the camera from having the slow motion effect at night just turn off night mode via the app :)
 

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#13
Very nice review!

I am currently in process of finishing mine.

As you had more time to play with yours, what is your opinion on AUTO low light option?

I just cant figure out if it works or not. It seams that it makes videos less sharper for some reason..
 
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#14
Is there a way to change jpeg compression in picture mode? it seems to be overcompressed.
Mike
 

Niacus

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#15
Hello Rev,

Thanks for the review! Just received my camera today (3 days after ordering it!) and I'm having a bit of fun with it.
 
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#16
I've just been reading about some people with microphone problems, and it's sounding like on some of these Yi cameras they have a silicone surround around the mic which is enclosing it too much and causing muffled sound.

They've tried removing the silicone surround on the mic and seem to get much better sound quality afterwards, but there's the chance you're going to then introduce knocking sounds - swings and roundabouts.
 

GearBest

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#17
Anyone interested in the Yi waterproof case?

As the manufacture said that we would not get the case in stock before the end of this month, it's in presale on Gearbest now :)
 

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