YI 4K Action Camera Review

June 13, 2017 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The YI 4K Action Camera is a small action camera which boasts a 12 megapixel Sony sensor, coupled with an f/2.8 wide angle lens. YI is bold enough to claim that the camera is “the best action camera ever. period.”, with other features including a 2.19-inch Gorilla Glass Retina Screen, inbuilt Wi-Fi and a 2 hour battery life (when recording video constantly). As the name implies, you can record 4K video up to 30p, while there’s also Full HD video recording in a variety of frame rates. There are 9 different shooting modes, which includes a mode which allows you to take stills photos. In terms of the competition, probably the closest competitor for the YI 4K Action Camera is the GoPro Hero 4 - the company’s second to last flagship camera. The YI 4K Action Camera costs around £175 / $199.

Ease of Use

The YI 4K Action Camera is neat and tidy, and is small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. As the lens protrudes just a little from the front, it might not fit in a super tight trouser pocket, but looser ones, such as jacket pockets, should be just fine.

It uses a basic rectangular design, and in fact there’s only one button on the YI 4K Action Camera. You’ll find this on the top and is used to switch on the camera, as well as to start video recording or to take a photo.

On the back of the YI 4K Action Camera is a 2.19-inch screen, which is toughened Gorilla Glass, designed to resist scratches from daily impact. It is a retina display, and is viewable from a 160 degree angle. It’s also touch-sensitive, and it’s via the screen that you’ll make any changes to settings that you need to.

YI 4K Action Camera
Front of the YI 4K Action Camera

To switch on the YI 4K Action Camera, hold down the power button for a couple of seconds, and you should see the rear screen burst into life. There’s not too much cluttering the display, but you’ve got a good array of information in a small space. You can see how many pictures or video are already stored on the memory card, and how many you have left. You can see the status of the battery, and whether or not Wi-Fi is switched on.

Along the bottom of the screen, you’ll see the things that you can touch. There’s a playback icon, which allows you to view any images or video that you’ve already recorded. There’s a settings icon (shaped like a cog), which enables you to change the settings of the particular mode you’re working in. Finally, in the middle of the bottom is the photo mode. Give this a tap and you can choose between the different options available.

Here you’ll find Photo, Timer, Burst for stills shooting, and Video, Time Lapse Video, Slow Motion, Time Lapse Photo, Loop and Video and Photo modes for video recording. It's also worth noting that if you swipe right or left from the main screen you’ll be able to switch between different photo modes. This is useful, but it’s also quite easy to accidentally do this, while you’re just holding the camera. It’s worth quickly checking therefore that you’re in the mode you want to be before you take a shot or a video.

YI 4K Action Camera
Rear of the YI 4K Action Camera

Swiping down from the top of the main screen will also reveal a few options. You can switch Wi-Fi on and off, search for a bluetooth remote control, lock the camera, or switch it off.

In the Photo mode, you have a good amount of options, considering this is an action camera. If you click the cog icon, you can change resolution (the maximum available is 12MP), shutter speed (from automatic, to lengths starting from 2seconds, going up to 30 seconds), metering mode, white balance, ISO (Auto, 100 - 800 is available), exposure compensation and you can choose to add a time stamp.

There’s a second menu page, which contains other options including switching on or off lens distortion, adjusting the Wi-Fi settings, formatting the memory card, whether the camera returns to the same shooting mode when you power it up, screen brightness, volume, and options including setting the date and time and so on. It’s a fairly straightforward menu that doesn’t take much to get used to. The screen itself is also very responsive when you’re tapping it, so it’s not particularly difficult to change whichever setting you need.

If you’re in the Video mode, you have a similar array of options which you can change. You can set the resolution and frame rate, metering mode, white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, and add the time stamp. It’s not possible to turn lens distortion correction on when shooting in video, however.

YI 4K Action Camera
The YI 4K Action Camera In-hand

At the base of the YI 4K Action Camera, there’s a door which you need to slide open to reveal the battery and the memory card slot. The camera takes MicroSD cards. The battery door is slightly flimsy, and it can be easy to knock it open when you don’t want it to. Luckily the battery and memory card are held in place well, so there’s not really a worry that anything is going to fall out, but it’s still a little bit of an annoyance. Remember that the YI is not waterproof straight out of the box, but you’ll need to add a waterproof case if you want to use it underwater.

Speaking of the waterproof casing, which is available directly from YI - or you can get third-party cases if you prefer, you’ll need to take the camera out of the casing any time you want to change a setting. That can obviously be problematic if you’re already underwater when you want to change the setting. To get round that, slightly, there’s an underwater mode which means you can use the shutter release button to switch between photo and video mode.

You won’t find any mounts for using the YI 4K Action Camera with a helmet or handlebars in the box, so while the camera may seem like a value for money proposition - remember you don’t get anything in the way of accessories. The good news is that a standard tripod thread is found on the bottom of the camera, which means that you can use mounts which are compatible with such.

YI 4K Action Camera
Top of the YI 4K Action Camera

On the front of the YI 4K Action Camera is a small LED light, which is joined by another which is part of the shutter button. These glow different colours depending on what the camera is doing.

Connecting the YI 4K Action Camera to Wi-Fi is quick, easy and reliable. There’s a free app which you can download which allows you to control the camera from your phone, or to transfer images and videos across to your phone for social sharing. It’s a simple app which is pretty self-explanatory, and is very useful if you need to shoot from afar, or perhaps even from an awkward angle.

In terms of operation speeds, using the YI 4K Action Camera is quick - it’s simple to move between the different modes, while scrolling through images in playback is also pretty swift. Battery life is also pretty impressive, being able to last for 2 hours of pure recording, or up to 8 hours of standby time. That should be more than enough to capture a day’s worth of short clips.

Image Quality

Considering the YI 4K Action Camera occupies the cheaper end of the market than something like the Go Pro, image quality is actually excellent. You can shoot 4K at up to 30fps, and you’re left with smooth and fluid video. If you’re prepared to shoot at 1080p, you can increase the frame rate to 120fps, and if you’re prepared to go even further and shoot at 720p, you can even have 240fps for slow motion shooting. 

It’s not quite on a par with the GoPro Hero 4’s results, but the difference is only hugely noticeable when comparing videos side by side - in isolation, it’s unlikely you’d really be able to tell too much. For the average holidaying photographer who likes the idea of an action camera, you should be pleased with what it can do. 

Although it’s not particularly marketed as a stills camera, it is of course capable of taking them. Again, the quality is surprisingly good. You may not want to use it as your main camera, but in good light, you can get some nice shots which display a good depth of colour, and are well exposed. You may want to use the wide-angle to your advantage for grabbing the odd landscape shot and so on. In low light, the camera doesn’t fare particularly well, but it’s not awful, so you could even break it out for that usage if you really wanted to. 

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the YI 4K Action Camera camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 23 second movie is 168Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1280 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 16 second movie is 91.3Mb in size.

This is a sample slow-motion movie at the quality setting of 1920x1280 pixels at 120 frames per second. Please note that this 16 second movie is 123Mb in size.

This is a sample time-lapse movie at the quality setting of 2560x1920 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 8 second movie is 46.3Mb in size.

Product Images

YI 4K Action Camera

Front of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Side of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Side of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Rear of the YI 4K Action Camera / Turned On

YI 4K Action Camera

Front of the YI 4K Action Camera / Shooting Modes

YI 4K Action Camera

Front of the YI 4K Action Camera / Main Menu

YI 4K Action Camera

Front of the YI 4K Action Camera / Image Displayed

YI 4K Action Camera

Top of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Bottom of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Side of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Side of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Front of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Front of the YI 4K Action Camera

YI 4K Action Camera

Battery Compartment


There’s a lot to like about the YI 4K Action Camera, but unfortunately, there’s also a few little niggles that stop it from being the perfect budget option. 

While it is cheaper than the GoPro Hero 4, you will need to buy additional items, such as waterproof housing, and mounts, to enable to use it as a true action camera - all of which bumps the price up. 

Although overall the YI 4K Action Camera seems to be well built, the battery door is far too flimsy, and it popped open on several occasions. If you’re shooting somewhere that could introduce sand or dirt into the camera, that could be very bad news. 

The YI 4K Action Camera’s touchscreen is very easy to use, but there’s arguably an over-reliance on its use, with only one actual button. Furthermore, it’s very easy to accidentally swipe the screen while you’re holding it in your hand and change the shooting mode. 

Image quality is very good, although not quite on a par with the more expensive Hero 4 camera, and it’s unlikely to be a match for the even newer Hero 5. 

If you’re looking for something which offers good value and is easy to start using straight out of the box to take on your next holiday, the YI 4K Action Camera is a good option. The impressive battery life means you can sling it in your bag and not worry too much about it running out of power while out and about. You can also charge it with a portable battery charger via the USB port should you find that you are running low. 

While the term GoPro has become synonymous with action cameras, it’s important to remember that there are plenty of other options on the market. While the YI 4K Action Camera isn’t likely to steal the thunder too much from the GoPro it makes a very good crack at it, producing excellent videos, with plenty of options to satisfy the casual action camera user - it’s a shame that there are no mounts included in the box though.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the YI 4K Action Camera.

GoPro HERO5 Session

The GoPro HERO5 Session action camera features a 10-megapixel sensor, a single control button and voice control. It can shoot movies at 4K/30fps, is waterproof to 33ft/10m, and can upload photos and videos to the cloud while charging. Read our GoPro HERO5 Session review now...

Nikon KeyMission 170

The KeyMission 170 is Nikon's first attempt at an action camera, featuring 4K video recording and a 170-degree lens. Can it compete with the similarly priced GoPro Hero 5? Find out by reading our Nikon KeyMission 170 review.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the YI 4K Action Camera from around the web.

trustedreviews.com »

When it comes to action cameras, GoPro undeniably leads the pack. The company’s cameras are so well known that "GoPro" potentially risks becoming a generic term. However, there are plenty of alternatives out there that give GoPro’s Hero cameras a serious run for their money. One such model is the Yi 4K Action Camera. On paper it goes toe-to-toe with GoPro’s Hero4 Black, and in some area even manages to best it. Of course, the playing field has now changed somewhat with the launch of the GoPro Hero5 Black.
Read the full review »

wired.com »

FOR NEARLY TWO years GoPro’s Hero4 Black has been the standard-bearer for action cameras. It can shoot 4K at 30 frames per second, 1080p at a blistering 120fps, and the footage from both looks fantastic. Two years is a long time to be sitting on a throne, though, and it gives potential usurpers ample time to learn your secrets. That’s just what’s happened with the Yi 4K Action Camera.
Read the full review »

techradar.com »

Can YI Technology's latest challenge GoPro? This well constructed POV cam shoots the same 4K 30fps video and 12MP stills as a GoPro Hero5, yet has a bigger touchscreen and a lower price. There's no voice control, but aside from that the YI 4K is a polished performer, and terrific value.
Read the full review »


Processor Ambarella A9SE (Latest Processor)
Sensor Sony IMX377 12MP 1/2.3" (Latest Sensor)
Display Built-in 2.19-inch retina widescreen with touch. 640-by-360 pixels at 330 ppi
Battery Life 120 minutes 4K/30 video recording *
Wi-Fi module Broadcom BCM43340 dual-band, 802.11a/b/g/n, 2.4GHz/5GHz, above 3MB/s download speed * (High Speed)
Battery 3.85V 1400mAh 5.39Wh
Gyroscope/Accelerometer Embedded low power high resolution 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope
Microphone Dual microphone
Remote Control Low power Bluetooth remote control
Power consumption and heat management State-of-the-art low power 28nm A9SE chip . High performing cooling system enables stable video recording
Power on Speed 3 seconds
Timer Mode Countdown timer 3, 5, 10, and 15s before shooting
Slow Motion Mode Supports 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 speed slow motion directly. No need to edit later
Lens Distortion Correction (LDC) Built-in support
Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) Supported
Lens 7 glass, 155 degree wide-angle
Video Mode Up to 4K 30fps and 720p 240fps
Photo Mode Up to 12-megapixel photo
Burst Mode 30 photos per second
Time Lapse Video Mode Built-in support for 0.5/1/2/5/10/30/60s intervals
Loop Recording Continuous recording
Auto Low Light Automatic low light detection and frame rate adjustment to ensure good exposure
Manual Mode Supports manual setting for shutter/ISO/EV/WB

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