You may know Yi Technologies from its action camerasor its fancy, carbon-fiber drones, but at Photokina, the company launched its first mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera, the Yi M1. Sporting a 20 mpx Sony IMX269 sensor, a high-quality 3-inch touch-screen and a raft of sharing-friendly features, its crashing into a space that has been stale for a while.
At launch, the company has two lenses available a decent all-rounder in the form of a12-40mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, and a portrait prime clocking in at 42.5mm f/1.8. The camera uses the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens mount, however, so its possible to tap into years and years worth of high-quality glass from a number of different manufacturers already.
I had a chance to try the camera and I was initially underwhelmed; weighingin at 280g, I found it hard to keep stable (it weighs a third of my everyday shooter, which itself is a tiny little thing carved out of a block of metal) and the controls were counter-intuitive enough that I didnt immediately make friends with them. As someone who handles a lot of different cameras; thats pretty rare and a little worrying.
Its possible that the company is falling victim to its minimalist design. Minimalist is all good and well, of course, until you need to quickly adjust the settings on your camera. For much of the same reason that it istricky to use Lytros Illum,controllingtheYi M1 feels a bit ham-fisted to experienced photographers.
Who is it for?
In not including decent controls on the camera, it makes you wonder who this little thing is for. Yes, its small and has a good sensor, so youd think itd be perfect for travel photographers, but because its lenses dont collapse out of the way, it isnt as portable as you might want.
DIYPhotography reports that the price for the camera plus a lens will be $499, although the folks manning the booth resolutely refused to comment on the pricing, saying it was still being confirmed. The company does confirm it is shipping the cameralater this year, however.
Given that Amazon is delighted to sell you any number of Micro Four Thirds cameras for under $500, its tricky to see where Yis new mirrorless beastie fits into the market. Itis the only 20-megapixel camera in thatprice bracketbracket Panasonics GX8 costs almost a grand, and Olympus Pen-F sets you back $1,500 but Id hope were beyond pixel-chasing by now. Most importantly, both of those cameras have the handling of prosumer-level cameras, which the M1 doesnt have.
I only spent a few minutes with the camera and it is entirely possible that it grows on you after extended use. Unfortunately,cameras arent bought on extended use, but on reviews and on first impressions in person. Yi had best cross its fingers for glowing versions of the former, because on the latter, it falls significantly short of the mark.