The world of photographic equipment is very traditional and calm – here new names rarely appear, and the Korean-Chinese expansion spreads anywhere, but not here. Even Samsung, with all its resources and ambitions, failed. Now we have a new ambitious newcomer – the company Yi, which previously tried to press on GoPro in the market for action cameras
The company Yi in every possible way refuses to communicate with Xiaomi – on the official website the main brand is not mentioned anywhere, the domestic startup of a well-known Chinese company tries to live on its own. Nevertheless, the roots are seen perfectly – and on the lens, and on the body of the camera are the marks “Xiaoyi”. Why do we need such secrecy? Perhaps, then, to more easily enter the international markets? And then Xiaomi has problems with this due to the low volume of the patent package. Reply is difficult, but Yi representatives usually even ask not to mention Big Brother in the articles. I have already violated this “rule”, we went further.
The first market, which encroached on Yi, is an action camera, where GoPro still serves as a household name, although every year the American manufacturer has more and more competitors. Nevertheless, the Chinese have not yet radically changed the alignment of forces in this market.
Now they are entering the world of amateur cameras with interchangeable optics. Based on the system Micro Four Thirds, which is used by Panasonic and Olympus. The sensor is purchased from Sony (CMOS, 20 megapixels), and in design Yi focuses on Leica. The emphasis is not on the physical controls, but on the touchscreen, and the bayonet fits as its own optics (so far two lenses are produced), and a decent park of third-party lenses for the MFT bayonet. Yes, here you can attach any lens from the same Panasonic, Olympus or third-party manufacturers – and it will be fully functional. All this is flavored with the classical advantage of Chinese technology – relative cheapness: at the start of Yi-M1 it costs about $ 500.
But the cameras are not smartphones, they can not go very far on one of the characteristics and price: a lot of things are solved by very small details, the quality of performance and even the trail of reputation. Let’s see if Yi managed to make at least a little competitive apparatus.
Look for elements of appearance, which the Chinese “again licked”, first, fed up, and secondly, wrong. This is a dead-end approach – industrial designers, of course, follow the creations of colleagues and are inspired by some examples that seem to them the most successful or just close. Companies with long-standing traditions in addition to this, there is already some sort of elaborate style that can be appealed to. If this is your first product in some category, then you are looking for it actually to the touch. And of course, you are oriented to someone. In the case of Yi-M1 – on Leica.
The rounded edges, the position of the selectors and keys on the top panel, almost completely covering the rear surface, the touch screen is directly sent to the Leica T. This is not direct copying, there are enough differences: a grip projection covered with rubberized material, two-color solutions, a video recording start button inscribed In the mode selector, two physical keys near the display. Not to mention the materials – the body of the Yi-M1 is made of plastic, due to which it was possible to dramatically reduce the mass of the device. Together with the battery, but without the lens, it weighs 281 grams. For the “mirrorless” system Micro Four Thirds is a pretty good figure. For comparison: Panasonic Lumix GF9 weighs 269 grams, and Olympus PEN E-PL8 – is already 374 grams.
There are two color solutions Yi-M1 – silver-black, like ours, and completely black. In the manner of smartphone manufacturers, Yi gives the names of the colors: Ice Silver and Storm Black, respectively. It’s probably beautiful, but still stupid.
The mentioned ledge, for my taste, is rudely executed, the line is too much for the grip. At the same time, the grip itself is reliable, you can work with the camera with one hand – it allows you to shoot “offhand”. On the back side there is an emphasis for the thumb – plastic, not covered with rubberized material, but with pimples, from which the finger does not slip.
The build quality is not bad. Slightly upsetting the plastic case – to magnesium alloy in dealing with cameras of very different levels quickly get used to, especially since the Yi-M1 – still not the cheapest device. But there are no questions to the execution of individual elements of questions. The camera is going, by the way, not in China, but in Indonesia – the time has come when the Chinese transfer production somewhere else for the sake of economy.
On the front panel we see the bayonet, the lens release button and the autofocus illumination lamp. On the left – only the speaker holes, and on the right – interfaces covered by a single cover (microUSB and microHDMI) and a slot for a memory card. The decision to remove a memory card from the battery compartment looks very correct and logical – so it does not overlap access when placing the camera on a tripod.
On the top panel there is a stereo microphone and a “hot shoe”, as well as a shutter release button with an activation lever, a mode selector with a video activation button and a single navigation disk. On the bottom panel there is a battery compartment and a tripod socket.
The back panel there is a touch screen and two keys: one for playback of the footage, the other for switching the autofocus modes.
The idea to bring all the controls to the touch screen no longer seems so original – they are indulged in among others by Leica and Hasselblad. For cameras that are designed primarily to work in automatic mode, this approach seems quite reasonable. As on a smartphone: put a shot at once in JPEG, shifted the selector to A – and you are happy. But we still deal with a camera with interchangeable optics, which, thanks to the bayonet Micro Four Thirds, you can hang and a manual lens.
And just for those who looked closely at the Yi-M1 as the original “carcass” for various experiments, we do not have too comforting news – for the convenience of control and depth of settings, the camera is really close to going away from smartphones. Change the basic parameters such as photosensitivity, white balance, or the metering method in one or two movements-for this you must necessarily go to the main menu and select the desired icon. And removing gloves, if it happens in the winter, – the sensor surface is capacitive and not too sensitive, it reacts only to the touch of your fingers. The expo is changed using the navigation dial – to select, the shutter speed you want to change or the aperture, or even enter the exposure compensation – you must select the corresponding icon, but in this case on the shooting screen.
There are very few settings. For example, the flash settings are three: auto, on, off. There is no built-in flash – this minimum is for external. By the way, with the synchronization flash synchronization – 1/125 seconds. There are only two types of bracketing: the exposure and the white balance. Autofocus is available only at one point or the entire field – you can not group points. There is no shooting mode RAW + JPEG – this is generally nonsense, this I have not seen. On the complete control of the whole process of speech does not go, Yi-M1 – this camera is purely for beginners. At least at this stage of its development. Probably, the software will be updated regularly, and the camera will constantly receive new features. Now it looks to some extent a beta version.
The interface itself is available in three languages: English and, apparently, two dialects of Chinese. It is decorated neatly and quite clearly – at least a huge number of tabs, the woes of many camera interfaces, developers Yi-M1 managed to avoid.
On the Live View main screen, we see the basic parameters of the survey, the level of charge and the included wireless connections. You can not display a histogram or virtual horizon on it. The grid was added with the new firmware (v1.2) already in the testing process. Svayp to the right – the main menu, about which I mentioned above. Svayp left – the color modes of shooting in JPEG. Again, the smartphone approach.
The display itself is not impressive. The parameters are quite standard: 3 inches, resolution 1,040,000 points (740 × 480). But it has no hinge and at the same time it has mediocre viewing angles – the picture is visible, but when the angle of view changes sharply the contrast decreases, as well as the color rendition is distorted. However, we must give credit – the screen is quite bright, does not blind in the sun, and the color rendition when viewed at an angle close to a straight, is quite accurate.
Yi-M1 uses Micro Four Thirds sensor – this is the Sony IMX269, which is familiar, for example, to the Panasonic Lumix GX8 and Olympus PEN-F cameras. The physical dimensions are 17.3 × 13 mm, the croping factor is 2, the effective resolution is 20 megapixels. “On paper” the use of this sensor looks like an excellent move – it has already proved itself in the market, and has shown very well. Nevertheless, the situation here is no different from what we regularly encounter in smartphones – just use a normal sensor a little, we must also “remove” the information from it. Yi uses its own processor – and it’s even a bit surprising that the company does not report the number of cores or anything similar; All the same “smartphone” approach here decided not to apply.
The shooting speed is 5 frames per second – that in JPEG, that in RAW. The duration of the series when using a UHS-I memory card is 3 frames per second when shooting in RAW and 5 frames per second when shooting in JPEG. More than average indicators for a camera of this format in our time. Direct competitors can shoot at much higher speeds: Panasonic Lumix GF9, for example, gives 10 frames per second, and Olympus PEN E-PL8 – 8 frames per second. The clipboard is also much larger. Both in terms of speed and length of the series, the Yi-M1 conforms to the standards of three- to four-year-old cameras.
The shutter is quite adequate – mechanical, works in the range from 1/4000 to 60 seconds. To expect a professional level of 1/8000 from a camera of this class, of course, was not worth it. But here’s an additional electronic shutter, which supports shorter exposures and allows you to shoot noiselessly, it would not hurt – this solution is actively practiced by competitors. Long exposure (Bulb) is available in the range of up to 30 minutes.
Autofocus uses contrast, with 81 points. You can not group them – or we hover over one point chosen by hand, or we give everything to the camera. The system is familiar from Panasonic cameras – and it seems like you should expect similar results: normal focusing in low light and not always stable, but fast operation in good light conditions. Unfortunately no. Autofocus Yi frankly failed: the camera fidgets and from time to time misses even in the simplest situations – for example, when shooting day landscapes. But this is rare, but the problems with shooting moving objects are constant and difficult to resolve – it is very difficult to get normal sharpness in such scenes.
The Yi-M1 can not boast of its outstanding low light capabilities either – autofocus works with light below 1 EV. A separate unpleasant moment is manual focusing. Firstly, it’s impossible to quickly switch to manual mode – there is no such button on the case, you have to climb deep enough into the menu. Secondly, there are no assistants, except for doubling or quadrupling the picture on a very low resolution screen. Focus peaking? No, unfortunately, this word combination Yi-M1 did not hear.
The mode of face recognition is (even if it works unstably), tracking focusing is also in place, but it is not worth waiting for serious help from it. Focusing system – perhaps the main Achilles heel Yi-M1.
There is no built-in stabilizer – you can count only on stabilized optics. Yi does not have one yet, but Panasonic and Olympus have one.
There is a Yi-M1 and one unique chip. This is not a post-focus mode or any special features when working with light, in the manner of Live Bulb from Olympus, for example. No, this is some sort of “guide” mode. Choose C mode on the selector, do svayp to the left – and on the screen there are different scenes for shooting portraits. You are encouraged to use the recommended optics and … position the model in the frame along the contour shown on the screen. The shooting parameters of the Yi-M1 will be set independently. It remains only to press the button and get a masterpiece. To be honest, this is some kind of strange killing of the creative process. Guide in the manner of Nikon, which tells about the laws of the construction of the frame, and the camera assumes only managing the parameters of shooting (and that is not always), looks much more attractive.
In the Yi-M1, both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth BLE are integrated. The first is needed for downloading the firmware and adding the just mentioned templates for shooting. The second is for background transfer of frames to a smartphone from Android, on which you need to install a special application. For the first time such a system was used by Nikon – there it is called SnapBridge. Yi does not have a special name for her – the camera simply sends the pictures. Remotely manage it with the application can not.
Yi did not depart from the general fashion at 4K and provided the camera with video support with a resolution of up to 3840 × 2160 and a frame rate of 30 frames per second. Due to the large matrix and the availability of high-quality optics, the Yi-M1 will make it possible to shoot video at a higher level than all modern smartphones, which also offer a 4K shooting. But to hope for this camera as a serious tool is not worth it.
The limiting bitrate is 75 Mb / s (although for 4К preferably at least 100 Mbps), the format is MPEG-4 with the codec H.264, the container is MOV. There is no headphone or microphone connector, there is only a built-in stereo microphone, giving a very mediocre recording quality.
Autofocus in video mode is ineffective – I already wrote about its bad reaction to moving objects in the frame. But with manual focus, the focus peaking mode is available – and it helps a lot when shooting.
The very quality of the video recording is quite worthwhile – the rolling shutter effect is almost not noticeable, the detailing is high. And when shooting Full HD, even activates the digital stabilizer (due to the picture’s crock) – however, not very effective. The camera is quite suitable for amateur video.
Yi made an excellent move, using the standard Micro Four Thirds. About the small size and excellent balance of the system I mentioned above, but in the case of the M1 model, the simple fact is that the market already has a huge fleet of optics for the MFT bayonet. Accordingly, the first camera of the newborn brand will not drown in the skepticism of the public about the development of the system. The Chinese at the start offered only two lenses, but this should not be a catastrophe for potential buyers – in the first place this camera was immediately considered as an inexpensive option for carcasses for Panasonic, Olympus and third-party lenses. There are no restrictions on the use of third-party optics – full functionality is retained with autofocus and built-in stabilizer, if any.
I checked how the Yi-M1 works with the Panasonic Summilux 25mm f / 1.4 – an excellent reportage / portrait lens: excellent sharpness, tenacity, detail. With Yi-M1 in combination with this optics I conducted MWC 2017 – and was satisfied with the result. Why is satisfied, not satisfied? About this just below. First it is necessary to say about those lenses, which by now released itself Yi.
Most of the photo for the gallery is made on the standard lens of 12-40mm f / 3.5-5.6. The standard combination of focal lengths and aperture, metal body, physical zoom rings and manual focus – it would seem, everything is as usual. But no, Yi prepared an unpleasant surprise – a large enough in the folded state of the lens, unfortunately, it is necessary to activate in the manner of “pseudo-pancakes” performed by Olympus or Panasonic. You can turn it on, however, just by turning the zoom, and then fold it back – only with a special lever. A cumbersome solution, not justified in this case by the size of optics.
The quality of the images is quite typical for the “staff” – the picture is very friable and pale, at a wide angle there are too noticeable spatial distortions for such a focal length. At the same time, the lens holds the backlight quite well and is fast enough.
The second lens did not work in the case – it’s a curious 42.5mm f / 1.8 portrait, lacking, of course, manual focus rings. None of the lenses has optical stabilization, which is very critical for the first optics supplied with an unstabilized camera. For 2017, a very annoying omission.
Let’s go directly to the conversation about the quality of shooting. Yi-M1, oddly enough, does not offer an abundance of software filters or color schemes, which could be expected on an intuitive level from an amateur Chinese camera that flaunts the mode of shooting portraits by pattern. No, there are at least a minimum of color schemes: standard, bright, portrait, monochrome and contrasting monochrome. Switch between them by swiping the screen to the left. Examples of pictures with different schemes can be seen above.
Also there is a mode of a panorama (it is included on the mode selector) and HDR, which should be activated already from the main menu. Additional settings (for colors, shadows, bracketing, dynamic range) simply do not exist – this is very stingy camera settings, perhaps the most stingy of modern “mirrorless”.
With the exposure, the automatics hardly misses, but for some reason the camera firmly believes in the photographer’s ability to control the trembling of hands, extremely lengthening the shutter speed – reaching up to 1/3. With an absent stabilizer, this leads to an abundance of greased frames and the need to take control in their own hands.
Separately upsetting the automatic white balance – he strongly “dances”, giving out an adequate, then completely insane result, literally on the neighboring frames made in the same conditions. Above you can see an example of two frames, made with a difference of three seconds from the same position. Such incidents happen quite often.
The camera can shoot in JPEG and DNG formats. The latter is very gratifying – this is the most common format for shooting without compression, that is, there will not be problems with recognition in all modern photo editors. I, for example, easily worked with the received on Yi-M1 RAW in Adobe Photoshop without installing additional plug-ins. But the mode RAW + JPEG is not supported, and, again, it is very unpleasant – you do not always want to choose at once. There is also no built-in RAW processing in the camera.
Yi-M1 produces a very decent RAW – here the well-deserved matrix Sony reveals itself in all its glory. Excellent dynamic range, normal detailing and good plasticity, which allows you to perfectly work with color and shadows already at the level of the editor of RAW. Above you can see several examples of RAW files, “pulled out” in Adobe Camera Raw with the default settings and, for comparison, processed to taste. The space for creativity is clearly there.
And here, where Yi took his own approach, – in the intra-chamber JPEG, – there is a failure. Striking extremely pale colors and activated already on the minimum ISO shumodav, which can not be turned off – it just kills the detail.
The Yi-M1 uses a BXM-10 battery with a capacity of 7.08 W · h (920 mAh, 8.8 V). Not at all impressive, given the complete attachment of the shooting to a large LCD, is not it? Nevertheless, according to CIPA standards, the camera, according to the manufacturer, is capable of shooting up to 450 pictures on a single charge. I could not repeat this result, but depending on the mode of operation and weather conditions for 300-400 images, you can count on it safely. For a compact “mirrorless” it is quite a worthy indicator.
In the end, a stamped phrase about the first pancake directly suggests itself. But all the same, today’s technology manufacturers do not live in a vacuum, and the creation of the first in the history of the company Yi “mirrorless” did not at all look so tricky in theory. We took a well-proven matrix, used a common and successful format for bayonet, copied control techniques from someone (in this case – from Leica) – and the base is ready. It remained only not to fail in the software processing of the signal from the matrix, with autofocus and settings.
And this, unfortunately, Yi did not work. As it turned out, simply to assemble a camera from the finished elements (as now often happens with smartphones) is impossible – it is necessary to understand all the subtleties. Such as, for example, the importance of shooting in RAW + JPEG format, the ability to manually control not only the main shooting parameters, but also small details, the relevance of the servicing auto focus and so on. Yi-M1 combines an interesting technical stuffing (I’ll separately mark the support for file transfer via Bluetooth BLE) and adjust the level of the middle of the two thousandth years with a few completely unexplained failures and strange positioning.
In a manner of use it is a pure amateur camera: a minimum of hardware keys, a touch screen, poor settings. But the only really working scenario for its use is shooting in uncompressed RAW format with subsequent processing of pictures in the editor; The JPEG received on the Yi-M1 does not stand up to criticism.
The camera sags between categories, getting into a very narrow niche – for photographers wishing to get an inexpensive carcass for optics of the Micro Four Thirds standard, which do not make serious demands on the camera’s reporting capabilities and its auto focus and are ready to shoot continuously in RAW in a measured mode – high level.
There is every reason to believe that the Yi-M1 will even work better during its life cycle: the manufacturer updates the firmware with great speed. But the cardinal breakthrough is to be expected only from future versions of the mirrorless Yi series – if such, of course, still exist.