Yi 4K Action Cam Review: Better Than a GoPro But…

I have seen a lot of comparisons in the GoPro vs Yi 4K action camera category. The reason why is obvious: the Yi 4K competes with the (current) top of the line GoPro for about half the price. But this isn’t going to be a comparison article: instead it’s an actual review of how the Yi 4K works and what it’s like to use.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly 4K action cam then the Yi 4K is hard to pass by. The image quality plus the cheap price tag are what grabbed my attention in the first place — and I’m sure plenty of other people as well. So let’s start things off by talking about that video quality.

I’m only going to be writing about the 4K image quality in this review because, personally, I could care less about 1080p or other lesser resolutions. And the 4K quality of this camera is really good — for an action camera. I had to throw that disclaimer in there because, while this camera performs admirably vs other action cams, it is no match for, say, a micro 4/3 system that shoots 4K. In comparison, I think the Yi 4K footage tends to be more grainy at times and things like white clouds tend to get blown out more.

And then there’s that wide angle lends distortion. It’s an action camera, so it makes sense, but I wish that there was an option to turn it off or correct it in-cam rather than having to do that in post.

I really love the 4K time lapses this camera can shoot though. They’re pretty stunning. And it’s very easy to change the interval at which snaps occur. This is one thing I’d buy this camera for all on it’s own.

Now on the stabilization front, there’s some disappointment in the 4K department because, well, there is no stabilization for 4K footage. There is, however, for 1080p shots, but that does no good for someone with a 4K workflow like myself.

Even so, shots with the selfie stick do look pretty decent in 4K mode even without that stabilization. After doing some testing I think you can definitely come out with some footage that is completely usable — especially if you learn how to hold and position everything / how to walk with it.

But the selfie stick has a couple of issues. First, it’s incredibly slippery. There’s so little grip on it that I’m wondering how this made it out into the market. I mean, it’s usable, yes, but why?!

Second, trying to attach the remote to the selfie stick was one of the most annoying things I’ve done all year! It’s seriously a gigantic pain. If I end up using this enough to kill the battery, I’m dreading having to take it apart because I don’t want to have to re-attach it.

But on a scale of 1-10 I’d give this action camera’s picture quality a 7.9 out of 10 points. I saw a lot of really positive reviews on this guy but I ended up being just slightly disappointed in my own testing — still I’m going to end up using it quite a bit.

My favorite feature on this action cam is the screen. It’s pretty big and it’s nice not having to use an add-on pack to monitor shots. It’s also a touch screen which makes selecting menu items and viewing footage a breeze. But… fingerprints do show up like crazy.

I saw some other reviewers had complained about the screen not being very visible outside, but I actually thought it was pretty usable.

I have to say the interface is really easy to use but one thing I don’t like is the really loud beep when you start or stop recording — it’s actually ear piercing but thankfully you can turn it down or off.

The app also works exceptionally well for controlling the camera and adjusting settings but, and this is a big but (and I cannot lie), I really don’t care about the social features that come baked in. They kind of get in the way of using the functions I actually care about and cement the feeling that this camera is aimed at consumers rather than pros.

One of the bigger drawbacks to using this camera is that there’s no way to hook up an external mic. Fortunately, though, the built-in mic is pretty darn decent. It’s nowhere near as nice as using a high-quality external mic but I think this is definitely good enough for vlogging (at least in a pinch). And that’s without using the waterproof case, of course, which would significantly dampen the sound.

Speaking of cases, this camera doesn’t come with one and it really should — it feels solid enough, but if you dropped it without a case you’d be pretty sorry. The battery door in particular seems pretty fragile. But you can grab a case on Amazon for pretty cheap — there’s the official Yi waterproof case or a couple off-brand skin-like cases.

Finally, I love that this comes in a white option. Black can get boring after awhile. And, if you know me at all, you know if something is colored black and white like a storm trooper (like the new Xbox One S) I’m gonna be game.

In conclusion I’d like to point you to Brent Rose’s review over at Wired: the way he sums everything up is spot and and more than worth a read.