For a long time, the market for action cameras has been dominated by GoPro, but that might be about to change. The unassumingly named Yi 4K+ is a stunning new action camera from a relatively unknown company and it not only matches the best GoPro has to offer on quality, but trumps it on price, too.
Who or what is Yi? It’s a company backed by Chinese firm Xiaomi, the world’s 5th largest smartphone manufacturer. So it’s no fly-by-night rebrander. This is a camera built and sold by one of the technology industry’s giants.
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Yi 4K+ action camera review: What you need to know
Basically, if you know GoPro, you know what the Yi 4K+ is all about. It’s a pocket-friendly action camera that records up to 60fps in 4K resolution, up to 120fps in 1080p and up to 240fps at 720p, making it the world’s first 4K 60fps action camera, although it’s now been joined by the recently announced GoPro Hero6 in that respect.
It has the right specs on paper and comes with a waterproof case, but doesn’t have built-in GPS. Most importantly, image quality is as good as, if not better than the GoPro Hero5 Black, and it’s cheaper too. In short, it’s currently the best buy in the action camera market, and that’s unlikely to change when the GoPro Hero6 Black arrives.
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Yi 4K+ action camera review: Price and competition
That’s because while the Hero6 Black costs £500 and the Hero5 Black is £380 the Yi 4K+ is a mere £300, which makes it an incredibly good buy. There’s also the £240 GoPro Hero5 Session, a smaller variant of the Hero5 Black, but that doesn’t have a display, and comes with a lower resolution sensor instead. Both GoPro models offer up to 60Mbit/sec recordings. Finally, there’s also the Sony FDR-X1000VR for around £320. The latter offers up to 4K at 30fps, an 8.8-megapixel sensor and records at 100Mbit/sec.
Yi 4K+ action camera review: Design and features
The Yi 4K+ is a compact camera that measures 65 x 30 x 42mm and smaller than the GoPro Hero5 Black. That’s primarily because it isn’t waterproof like the GoPro – you have to pop it in its case if you want to shoot in the rain or underwater, though this does negatively impact audio quality in recordings.
It follows GoPro, though, in terms of its overall design, with a rectangular body, protruding lens, 2.2in 640 x 360 touchscreen the rear and multifunction button on the top. A nice touch here is that the button has an LED embedded in it, which flashes red when recording.
On the left-hand side there’s a flap covering a USB Type-C port, which is used both for charging and audio input. Connect the bundled USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter and you can add an external microphone. You can also purchase a Type-C to RCA adapter. Underneath is a 1/4in tripod mount and this is where you’ll find the battery and microSD compartment.
Just like the GoPro, the Yi 4K+ is rather picky with microSD cards. Due to the sheer volume of data being transferred to the camera, you’ll need one of the fastest cards around – a U3 class card to be specific. There are a few compatible cards listed on the Yi website.
I found the Yi 4K+ interface very easy to understand, yet it still provides a deep level of customisation for budding enthusiasts. From the homescreen, if you swipe from top to bottom, you get a set of quick toggles. Swipe from either side and you can quickly switch between video and photo modes. Scroll upwards and you can to other modes, such as Time Lapse Video, Slow Motion, Burst, Timer and Live.change
Yes, that’s right. You can live stream directly from the camera to your Facebook profile, page or YouTube channel. You will, however, need to download the YI Action Camera App to set it up. This is great if you like sharing your moments in real time with friends, family or fans.
By touching the small cog on the screen, you’ll be presented with a flurry of options under the video tab, including the ability to record in flat colour mode (useful for colour matching in professional projects), adjust metering, ISO sensitivity and shutter speed.
If you find operating the camera too fiddly with the tiny touchscreen, you can control various functions via the Android or iOS app. This works flawlessly and connects to the camera via dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi. There’s also Bluetooth 4, which allows you to remotely connect to a remote, such as the Yi selfie stick.
And if you prefer to go hands-free, there’s a remote voice control option, too. This lets you start/stop recordings, snap stills and switch off the camera, all of which could come in handy if you’re using the camera on a helmet mount or in a car. You do need to be in a quiet environment and speak clearly, though, for it to work though.
The touchscreen and menu system is so responsive and usable, though, that I didn’t find this to be a particularly big problem and that’s thanks mainly to its quad-core Cortex A53 64-bit CPU. Unlike the GoPro equivalent, the Yi 4K+’s onscreen animations are clean, smooth and responsive to the touch.
Unfortunately, there are some limitations with the Yi 4K+. Its biggest flaw is that there’s no in-built GPS and this is where the GoPro Hero5 (and forthcoming Hero6) Black pulls ahead, with its integrated GPS, altimeter, compass and g-force indicator.
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