Yi Lite Snap Verdict
When I looked at the Yi Action Camera back in 2016, I said it was GoPro’s most dangerous rival.
Two years later, and much has changed. GoPro doesn’t just have to worry about Yi; there’s a wealth of other contenders, especially when it comes to the top spot at the entry level.
In reality, when GoPro or Yi make a move the market shifts at speed to keep up. GoPro’s Hero upped the game by packing in insane features for the price. But then, Yi was already there with the Yi Lite.
At Sub £100, the Yi Lite is a fully fledged action camera like no other. It’s entry-level, arrives bare bones: just the camera, no mounts, waterproof case or accessories.
Everything is extra, but then if you’re upgrading do you need those additional mounts offered by its entry-level rivals. The Yi Lite is a formidable action camera, and nothing else sub £100 can touch it.
For Yi Lite
- Large touchscreen
- Full featured app
- Sub £100
Against Yi Lite
- 4K only 20fps
- Playback can look pixelated
- No waterproof housing
The action camera format is here to stay, and like conventional cameras, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
The last year has seen touchscreen, voice control and live streaming become the norm, but more than that, the market is no longer dominated by just one name.
GoPro may lead the field as the big name to live up to, but in a crowded market, there are two more companies that get action camera aficionados excited: Garmin and Yi.
Garmin are well known in the field; they are after all the GPS experts and brought us the first voice control. But Yi, up until a couple of years ago was all but unheard of.
Yi blasted onto the scene with the Yi Action Camera. At the time this was a £50 bare-bones camera with image quality the rivalled GoPro. It was just the specifications that held it back.
Then Yi released the 4K, and then the 4K+. These two cameras weren’t just good: they seriously gave GoPro a run when it came to outright image quality and features.
Strangely, the two companies almost work in harmony, and those who own both Yi and GoPro find a balance between the two cameras.
If you’re out shooting action, then you grab the GoPro, for everything else you grab the Yi.
The Yi Lite, like the GoPro Hero, is a stripped down version of the premium model. But at sub £100, less than half the price of the Hero the Spec’s list alone shows it as a serious challenger. Then once you see the Yi Lite video quality, you know that GoPro may once again be in serious trouble.
It seems that now is the time for the major action camera manufacturers to take a deep intake of air, pause for a moment before accelerating on to the next generation of cameras.
Yi and its competitors have now raised the bar so far that the cheap manufacturers are struggling to keep up. Each new camera and generation adds features and ease of use that only a short time before would have seemed impossible.
However, while speech control, GPS and live streaming are all very desirable traits, they’re not always needed by the mainstream action camera users.
Cheap no frills action cameras are doing a roaring trade, stripped down feature sets, no faff, just get out and ride.
This stripped-down simplicity is what’s trending for 2018, and the Yi Lite hits that simplicity head on.
This is an action camera with a proven pedigree that starts with the design.
Ergonomically there’s little difference between the Lite and the two 4K cameras, other than a slightly different texture on the front, the logo and a slightly smaller touchscreen.
The camera measures 65mm x 30mm x 42mm (W x D x H) and weighs in at 72g for the camera and battery.
Unlike many other action cameras including the GoPro, the Yi Lite is not waterproof and requires an additional waterproof housing before it can be submerged in water. This housing is not included and is an extra purchase.
On the front is the 150º field of view lens with f/2.8 aperture and features six glass elements.
Keeping things simple there is just one button on the exterior of the camera. This shutter button enables you to power up the camera and starts and stop recording.
All other controls can be made directly on the touchscreen or through the mobile app for iOS or Android.
The screen on the back is a decent size at 2-inches and enables full touchscreen control.
Image and control processing is handled by the Hi3556V100 chipset. I haven’t seen this chipset used a great deal, but have received several press releases recently with other new cameras also using this.
The image sensor is something a little more mainstream in the form of the 16MP Sony Exmor R CMOS BSI.
The camera also features it’s own ROM and RAM at 1GB and 4GB.
Video resolutions are also stripped back to the most popular options and run through 4K, 1080p and 720p.
Yi doesn’t seem to promote the 4K ability of the camera and rather concentrates on the 1080p at 60fps, but it is there. Part of the lack of promotion might be because it can only record at 20fps. So it’s fine for scene setting but not a lot else.
1080p comes in at either 30 or 60fps, which is an ideal range. It can also shoot 720p at 30/60/120fps, enabling plenty of scope for capturing slow motion. There’s also an 8X slow-motion mode that captures at 240fps, but only at 360p – that’s pretty low res.
Video is captured in the common H.264 mp4 file format. As well as the standard video you also have the option to shoot Time-lapse, Slow-motion and stills at 16 or 10mp.
A nice feature, especially if you like to use an action camera freestyle, is the built-in image stabilisation. This works for all bar the 4K resolution.
Alongside the standard features, the Yi Lite also enables some manual control with the ability to adjust White Balance, Shutter Speed, ISO value, Metering type, Sharpness and Exposure compensation.
Connectivity comes in the form of WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as a Micro USB.
Storage for footage is a microSD card, and the camera supports between 16-64GB FAT32 format.
Finally, there’s the small battery which is a 4.4v 1400mAh and will supply the camera with a good 130 minutes of use in all resolutions.