While this is essentially a review of a small action camera, that produces both stills and video, I’m going to focus on using the little YI 4K Action Camera, to kickstart your love of time lapse photography.
YI Technology – YI 4K Action Camera
Time lapse photography can produce stunning results that can inspire you to travel, to capture behind the scenes of your photographic projects, even as a great way to capture your holidays. Your week at the beach might only last a few minutes as a time lapse (as opposed to a couple of hours of video to make your friends sit through!) However you use it, there’s no denying it’s fun to use, and fun to try.
Gear for time lapse photography
So, time lapse with amazing results requires a bit of gear, right? A camera that allows you to adjust your shutter and aperture. A trigger that allows you to set your camera to capture the time lapse, either indefinitely or for a certain period of time. If you want to take it further, you might look at something that allows you to have movement in your time lapse, rather than a static shot, just to add interest. (more on that, next article)
That being said, can you create a good enough looking time lapse, to start your journey into this fun and creative style of photography with an action camera? That’s the question I set out to find an answer to, with this latest hardware review.
I have a GoPro, it’s great! It’s the Hero4 Black, and it does time lapse, but it’s actually pretty expensive! Expensive enough, with some accessories and a spare battery, that you might actually consider just getting an entry level dSLR!
I also have a very brilliant Sony Action Cam 4K. Again, a spare battery and you’re up over half a grand. So, looking at options, I once again find myself wading into the “not really brand name” manufacturers of the lesser known! Enter YI Technology YI 4K Action Cam. There are a handful of reviews popping up online for this little camera, and most I’ve read or watched are positive. I’m not going to talk about the whole video side of the unit much, though it produces decent quality 4K footage for the price tag. This review is all about the camera’s time lapse ability.
The specs, in brief are as follows:
- Main Processor – Ambarella A9SE chipset, includes a 800 MHz dual-core. Cortex-A9 ARM CPU and a high-performance digital signal processing (DSP) subsystem with a 32-Mpixel image sensor pipeline (ISP), and an advanced H.264 encoder capable of 4K resolution.
- Image Sensor – SONY IMX377, 1/2.3″, 12 megapixels CMOS image sensor with Exmor R ability.
- LCD Screen – 2.19″, 640×360 resolution touch screen, 330PPI, 250cd/m2 brightness, 30FPS, 160° FOV, 16:9.
- Lens – Lens f/2.8 aperture / 155° wide-angle lens, 7G, f=2.68mm.
- Wi-Fi – Broadcom BCM43340 Dual-band 5GHz /2.4GHz, built-in (802.11 abgn), offers 30Mbps download speed.
- Weight – 3.4 ounces camera + battery (96.4 grams).
- Size – 65 x 42 x 30 mm.
Said to have a Gorilla Glass rear touch screen, and I’ve got to say, that it’s actually useable! Responsive and clear, and also quite good at playing back your Time Lapse sequence on the camera.
What’s it like to work on your time lapse creation with the YI 4K?
It’s actually very simple, there’s a touch screen rear display (as per above) and you simply tap it, select time lapse (either photo or video version of time lapse), dial in some adjustment, and press the go button! Now, the unit saves the time lapse in one of two formats, you may have noticed I said “Photo or Video time lapse” above, which is basically the output you get when you select either. In video time lapse mode, you get a single file at the end of your sequence, with photo time lapse you get the time lapse movie as the individual images.
There are benefits to both. With the video version of the sequence, you get a simple video at the end, that you can directly upload and share with your friends. The downside of this is that if you get a dodgy image (bird flies across, a drastic light change, etc.) in the middle of your time lapse, with the photo version you can simply delete the offending frame and you’re good to go. In video mode, you would need to edit that frame out with a video editor of sorts. Keeping in mind you may lose a little continuity in your time lapse if you delete more than a couple of frames, and you’ll see jumps.
I’ve made a quick example. At 1:03 in this video mode time lapse, someone over my back fence switched on their outside light and the white balance (auto, in video time lapse mode) jumped a gate and ran off into the hills! Take a look, you’ll see what I mean. It’s only 4 frames and I could edit it out, but left it in to show you what I mean. In photo time lapse mode, you can preselect the white balance and this wouldn’t have happened. My sweet darkening purples changed to blue.
Does the YI 4K work as an entry level time lapse camera? Absolutely it does, and with better specs than the current GoPro Hero 4 Black, it’s a decent little all-round package if you want something less expensive to document your photoshoots with too.
I really enjoyed using the YI 4K as I call it. It’s easy to use, produces a good result, and is very well priced for what you get. One other thing I really like is the inclusion of a 1/4 20″ metal tripod mount in the bottom of the camera. So, you can stick a tripod plate on it, or screw it straight onto a light stand for use on set, or just to get your YI4K up high for a time lapse.
I’m not about to bin my GoPro or Sony Action Cam, but there is rumoured to be a GoPro 5 dropping sometime very soon – we shall see how they stack up.
What I like about the YI 4K Action Camera:
- Simple iOS app to change all settings on the YI 4K.
- Good quality images from an Action Cam.
- Multiple options for time lapse (Video / Stills).
- Fantastic touchscreen included in device by default.
- Good battery life.
- Tripod mount on the camera.
What I’d like to see improved:
- More standard accessories
I’m not really thinking I should give this a star rating as I’ve really only used it for time lapse, but if I were to give it a rating, it’d have to be a 4.5 out of 5 I think! Good job, YI Technology.