YI Technology Overview
Since the release of the YI Action Camera in 2014, YI Technology has been innovating and including new features at amazing prices, shaking up the action camera category. YI has camera products in a number of categories, but the action cam category is where they are putting pressure on GoPro to reduce prices or develop new features.
YI 4K+ Action Camera Overview
With the release of the 4K+ YI has not only matched the top of the line cameras, it has surpassed them. The 4K+ was the first action camera to be able to record 4K footage at 60fps. This is a groundbreaking innovation for action cameras, and beats out both the GoPro Hero 5 Black and Sony FDR-X3000 cameras, which top out at 30fps.
This increase in framerate translates to footage that is clean and smooth, even at high resolutions, while the electronic image stabilizer will help you keep your images still even when you get shaky hands. The YI 4K+ is also optimized for slow-motion shots with a 1080p at 120fps or 720p at 240fps.
The feature set alone should make this camera a contender for the best action camera, but the price is even more impressive. Many of the features included on the 4K+ are found only on cameras costing hundreds more.
Some of the main features of the YI 4K+ Action Camera include:
- Up to 4K/60fps
- 2.2 inch Gorilla Glass LCD Screen
- Electronic image stabilization (EIS) up to 4K 30fps
- 1080p/120fps & 720p/240fps for slow motion recording
- USB-C for quick charging & transfer
- Voice controls
- Dual Band Wi-Fi and BLE Bluetooth
At 65 x 42 x 30mm, the Yi 4K+ has the same dimensions as the older model, but the front-end branding is a lot simpler in comparison, and features a cool patterning. Apart from the cosmetic changes, the build is nearly identical.
At the back end of the Yi 4K+ is a 2.19-inch touchscreen interface which you can use to carefully frame your shots before taking them. This also makes it easier for you to navigate the available menus. Thanks to its Gorilla glass coating, the screen is really tough and can handle any type of abuse that action camera users often experience.
Excluding the shutter button, the touchscreen is what you’ll be using to control the camera, and it contains pretty much the same menu options as the ones found on the 4K Action Camera. You can tell when the camera is recording through the LEDs which are located on the front and back of the camera.
On its own, the camera body comes with a tripod thread at the bottom, so you might want to get a reasonably priced adaptor that’ll allow you to attach standard GoPro mounts onto the camera, which although widely accessible, will have to be purchased separately as well. Unfortunately, the 4K+ does not come with a mount of any kind, even when you purchase it with the Waterproof Case Kit.
The only downside with this kit is that the 4K+ waterproof case requires that you open it every time you need to use the touchscreen to change the settings, and that places your camera at risk when you’re using it underwater. There’s also a USB-C port located on the side of the camera that serves the dual purpose of recharging the camera and transferring data, which is an upgrade from the 4K Action Camera. Plus, you can use the USB-C port to attach an external microphone and improve the audio quality of your video footage as well.
On the bottom the camera is a small panel which opens up to a replaceable battery and the microSD slot.
Connectivity and App
The Wi-Fi connectivity on the 4K+ is pretty impressive when compared to similar action cameras. It includes dual-band Wi-Fi that allows you to effortlessly switch between 2.4 GHz range to 5GHz. The latter offers a faster and more reliable transfer speed.
You can even use voice commands to switch the camera off or get it to start recording, if you’re located at a reasonable distance from it.
Pair the Yi 4K+ with the Yi Action companion app, which is compatible with both iOS and Android devices, and it’ll be easier for you to connect to the 4K+ Wi-Fi. Through the app, you can control all the settings, frame your shot, and start/stop the recording. The app is a good alternative to voice commands when you are in a noisy environment or talking to your camera isn’t an option.
The app works pretty well for controlling the camera, transferring files, and updating firmware but hiccups do occur. Expect a slight delay from what the camera is seeing vs what is on the app, but it was minimal when we were within a short distance from the camera. YI is also working on updates to the app and firmware to allow live streaming directly from the camera, but as of early 2018 it still has not been released.
Video and Image Quality
To support the impressive frame rates and resolution the YI 4K+ can record at up to 120Mbps bitrate thanks to powerful Ambarella H2 SOC. This processor is a newer and more efficient processor than the one in the YI 4K. While the processor is new, the image sensor is the same Sony IMX 377 that is used in the YI 4K allowing for 12MP images.
Another exciting advancement on the YI 4K+ is the fact that you can now electronically stabilize the camera while still shooting on 4K at 30fps. This allows you to get a much smoother picture when hand holding the camera without a gyro.
The improved bitrate video makes for better video quality as well, especially when you compare it with the Yi 4K Action Cam, and the end result is usually very high-quality videos with deep vibrant colors. Sound quality from the internal mic is OK, but the ability to connect an external microphone makes up for that shortcoming. If you are using the camera with the waterproof housing it’s important to note that the sound quality will be compromised so a built-in waterproof capability would be a nice feature for the next version.
On the image side, the Yi 4K+ still delivers well-exposed and detailed images that can be even sharper when you shoot with appropriate lighting. Images taken in low light still exhibit the usual problem of residual noise, but it’s the same with any other action camera out there, plus you can correct the slight lens distortion caused by using the dedicated camera settings. There are also a few useful modes for doing more than just videos and image. Time-lapse mode allows you to capture a scene changing over time. Video + Photo mode available which enable you to capture accurate still images while recording video footage at the same time.
The battery’s ability to last depends on the type of format you’re shooting with. Recording 4K footage at 30fps you should expect a battery life around 80 minutes, while upping the frame rate to 60fps will bring run time closer to 60 minutes.
If you plan on using the camera underwater you will need to purchase a waterproof case since YI does not include one in the base package.
Should You Buy?
The YI 4K+ is one of our top picks and is highly recommended for fast action sports where the high frame rates can shine. Not many cameras are able to shoot at 4K 60 fps or 1080P 120 fps giving a unique options when composing your shots.
Video quality is among the best and the rest of the feature set compares strongly with any other action camera in the same price range. It is unfortunate that the camera itself is not waterproof, but the waterproof case works well and can be purchased as a kit with the camera for a slight discount.
YI raises the bar again with the first 4K 60 fps action camera. Excellent video quality accompany this feature packed camera that makes it a strong pick for anyone looking for top of the class performance.
- Excellent build quality
- High frame rates allow for slow motion video
- EIS up to 4K 30 fps
- Separate waterproof case needed
- Voice controls can be finicky
- Limited new features over YI 4K