Action cameras have become a rage and GoPro has clearly been the leader. The recentlylaunched Yi Action from Xiaomi is, however, a serious contender for the top slot, but is available for sale only in China. Compact and cute, you can easily be tricked into believing it to be a toy camera. But it has got all the essential controls - the power key on the front panel also allows you to toggle between still and video modes; the shutter button at the top is used for video recording; and a small button on the left to turn on the in-built WiFi while pairing it with the app. The Yi Action does not have an LCD display. Instead, you will have to rely on the mobile app to know what mode the camera is in (battery level, SD card capacity, etc). It, however, has light indicators around the buttons to show the status of the camera.
Pairing other devices is simple with Yi Action. After downloading the app from the Xiaomi website, turn on the Wi-Fi to pair it with the camera. It shows three options - photo, video and snapshot. You can see live recording by using this app. It can also be used to change settings, start and stop recording, taking snap photos, and even view or download photos and videos. While the interface is neat, the biggest challenge was its compatibility. It worked flawlessly with Xiaomi smartphones. However, every time I disconnected the camera, Android smartphones from other brands restarted automatically. When I tried to pair it again, it simply wouldn't. I had to reset the camera. I tested it with OnePlus One, Asus Zenfone 2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 - the results were the same. The application is available only in Chinese. Therefore, you might feel lost for a minute, but the app is user-freindly and you will get a hang of it within minutes. This is a small glitch, which can be fixed with an update.
The app is now in English and is easy to use. It is now available to download from Google PlayStore as well.
The performance of this action camera is worth praising. It has a wide-angle lens that captures great still images and videos. It packs in a Sony Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor and can capture images at 16MP. Videos too can be captured at different resolutions. The default setting is 1,080p (60 frames per second). When transferred to a big screen, everything appears to be sharp and crisp. There weren't any issues with the sound quality either. The app has a low-light setting to further improve the exposure when indoors. The colours looked natural and it captured good quality indoor videos without noise. Still images were excellent. You can only capture frames at 4:3 format but it offers great detailing.
This compact camera packs in a 1010 mAh battery that helps capture videos for close to an hour and a half. It does not have an internal memory and you will have to slide in a memory card to start recording. While it is great value for money, you will have to invest a bit in the accessories - the most essential ones are the lens cover and waterproof casing - which will truly make it a perfect action camera.
*Xiaomi has uploaded a new version of the app on its website that has solved the pairing issue. Now, the Yi Camera instantly pairs with any Android smartphone with the app. The interface of the app has also been enhanced making it more intuitive to use. The gallery and switching modes option too are easily accessible on the main app page. Under gallery, video are showcased but to watch them on the device, you will have to hit the download button.
BAG IT OR JUNK IT: A value-for-money action camera; cheaper and better than GoPro 3
PRICE: 399 CNY (approx. Rs 4,100)
PLUS: Size, captures great still images and videos
MINUS: No lens cover
*The story has been updated to include the latest on compatibility issue.