Thoughts on the YI 4K+ - What to expect (and what’s still missing)
The YI 4K+ was announced as the successor to the popular YI 4K action camera a couple of months back. So far there hasn’t been much footage taken with the newer version shown yet, except for a few marketing videos, so there’s no judging on how good this action camera will end up being. I’ve gone through the available material on the YI Technology website numerous times and will now present my thoughts on the as of yet unreleased YI 4K+.
YI 4K+ positives
You’d expect a new action camera to bring along a bunch of new features. The one feature that stands out here is 4K at 60FPS, but it’s not the only thing that has improved. The YI 4K+ is also bringing features that will please photographers and people like me, who don’t want too many cables in their bag.
4K in 60FPS
I obviously had to start with this one, as it’s the most headline grabbing feature. The YI 4K+ will be able to record at 4K resolution in 60FPS. As an action camera, this feature was needed. Videos of extreme sports just don’t look as good and smooth in 30FPS and previously you’d have to revert to 2.7K to achieve a higher framerate than 30FPS. There are no GoPros on the market that can record 4K in 60FPS yet, so I’m sure this will be the feature that Yi Technology will push the most. I’m also happy to see a significant increase to the bitrate. The YI 4K+ will record videos at 120Mbps which is higher than almost all action cameras on the market.
Finally, a YI action camera offers RAW support! Apparanently this feature will still be coming to the YI 4K but the YI Technology website confirms that the YI 4K+ will support RAW photos out of the box. This will allow editors much greater controlle over how the final image will look.
One port to rule them all! USB Type-C is taking over and that’s a good thing. According to YI Technology this will also allow the YI 4K+ to be able to record audio from an external microphone. I’m guessing they will also offer an adapter, just like GoPro does, for that. The audio quality was something I critisised in my YI 4K review so this can only be a positive development.
The YI 4K+ retains the same formfactor as the previous generation. While I’m not a massive fan of the YI/GoPro formfactor I’m happy to see that they didn’t do an Apple and make the new camera ever so slightly larger or smaller. This all means that all the accessories (namely the waterproof case, more on that later, and the gimbal) can be used with the new camera.
Sensor and lens
Despite nothing changing I’m counting this as a positive. The YI 4K+ will use the same sensor and lens as the YI 4K. The YI 4K was capable of capturing stunning footage despite its tiny sensor. Combine this sensor with a higher bitrate and your footage will be better looking than ever.
The jury’s still out
YI Technology have made a lot of promises about this camera. Will they all turn out to be true? I have my doubts. From the audio quality to EIS, I’m still not convinced that this will be the perfect action camera.
The internal microphones on the YI 4K+ were barely usable. The YI 4K+ should allow for external microphones to be connected through the USB Type-C port. Let’s not forget that twere still talking about an action camera and you might not want to carry an external microphone with you everywhere. I’ve not seen (or heard?) any proof that the internal microphones will be any better, compared to the last generation.
The YI 4K+ should offer better Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS) than the YI 4K. The EIS on the YI 4K was so bad that I’m not getting my hopes up just yet though. EIS will never be as good as Optical Image Stabilisation but there are ways to make it work.
A feature that was included in the latest GoPro will also be available for the YI 4K+. The action camera will support voice commands but nobody knows how good these will be. The website itself lists this feature as "available soon" and there’s no saying when soon is.
The YI 4K suffered from a lot of build quality issues. The YI Facebook group is littered with people complaining about cracks in the plastic chasis. I’m seriously hoping they managed to adress this issue and will ship the YI 4K+ with an improved build. According to the website the YI 4K+ is built using new materials so hopefully the cracks are a thing of the past.
YI 4K+ negatives
There were a few things I was hoping that YI Technology would adress in this generation of action cameras. Sadly, not all of my wishes were fullfilled. Below are things that I’m still missing from the YI 4K+.
The YI 4K+ will not be waterproof, or even water resistant, without the case. This is a huge disappointment. Though waterproofing does lead to worse audio recordings in most cases, the YI 4K had such a terrible microphone I don’t think that would have made much difference. Additionally, many waterproof cases suffered from cracks around the hinge, many buyers will have to buy a new case to go with their new camera.
No Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)
Sony was able to cram OIS in to one of their action cameras. Why wasn’t YI Technology able to do the same? EIS will never be able to replace OIS and the footage produced by the Sony action camera looks buttery-smooth. Despite YI Technology offering a compatible gimbal, I’d still prefer OIS. The point of having an action camera is being able to take it with you everywhere you go and not needing a bunch of heavy accessories (that need sepperate batteries).
I was hoping that a new camera would also bring along a new format used for capturing video. The H.265 is used in a few cameras right now (such as the DJI Phantom 4 Pro) and the difference in file-sizes is astounding. It’s not known whether this is a hardware limitation or a feature that could be added with a firmware updated.
The YI 4K+ looks to become a compelling little action camera. There are some solid new features when compared to the YI 4K. Will I buy one? Not right now. While I would appreciate the higher quality I don’t see the need to upgrade from the YI 4K yet. If I were to upgrade OIS would be more important to me than higher framerate. Of course a real judgement can only be made once real-world footage starts roling in.