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Hands On: YI M1 Mirrorless Digital 4K Camera

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After some time looking at digital cameras for the new VR World office, we came across YI M1 Mirrorless ILC and decided to try it out. YI is a mainland China-based company that has already made its mark in the action camera market. After taking a closer look at M1 camera we think they might have ambitions beyond the action camera market. The YI M1 is built around a Sony-designed 20MP “Four Thirds” CMOS sensor that boasts RAW capability in the form of DNG output files and the ability to shoot 4K/30P video. As with its action cameras, YI publicly lists where its key components come from and the Sony IMX269 instantly suggests good things about the camera’s potential.

This is not the only similarity to Sony, as the design reminds us of Alpha compact cameras, as well as the latest-gen Leica digital cameras – which as we all know, are manufactured in China. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs famously repeated. Getting back to the YI M1, the biggest advantage is an all-touchscreen interface. The body of the camera have only two physical buttons, bringing a user friendly concept for smartphone users. Sadly, UI this concept also brought out the question of autofocus. The camera can sometimes focus the wrong thing on screen, but this bug should be easily repaired with an firmware upgrade.

YI M1 comes with two lens choices. First lens is YI 12 – 40mm F3.5 – 5.6, and the second is YI 42.5mm F1.8 lens. Sadly, all good things come to an end here – the lenses are built with mediocre quality, plastic and lightweight. YI claims that camera will be compatible with more than 50 other lens options. Only problem that with the 42.5mm lens was no manual focus.

Photos taken with this camera can be really good, but there are some issues like performance in low light. Even thought YI M1 features Sony’s IMX269 image sensor, the same one as inside the Panasonic GX8. There are some minor issues that we mentioned, but overall this might be a really good and affordable camera for someone who doesn’t want to use it as professional photographer. You can see sample pictures taken below.

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YI M1 comes with a lot of potential, but ultimately lags behind even some of the smartphones. Perhaps the key reason to buy a discrete digital camera today is to augment the low light and zoom options that smartphones physically cannot fix. Sadly, the M1 doesn’t feature great low light performance and scales videos to Full HD although its advertised as an 4K camera. On the other side it has some features like sending photos to phone via Bluetooth or WiFi, has a good UI, touch screen is just like smartphone, and comes with two lenses. If you want to check it, you can do it here. This camera is on discount at Gearbest’s Sale Storm, and you can also check other deals from Gearbest here. It is up to you to decide should you drop $500 on a YI M1 or invest 25-50% more to get Canon, Nikon or Sony cameras.