A review of a compact digital camera that might be good for families: the YI M1 mirrorless digital camera!
Today I’m offering something a little different here on the blog: a review of a digital camera! I’m always asked by my clients for recommendations on cameras they can get to help document their daily family life. While we all love our iPhones as the cameras on them are pretty great these days, there’s room in every family’s bag for these video cameras which offer a bit more power and options. Even with all the great professional camera equipment I own, I’ve also been on the hunt for a more compact camera that can fit in my purse for outings, but that’s better than my phone. Because while my Canon 5D Mark IV is like an extension of my right arm, even I don’t want to lug that thing around Disneyland all day…
Enter the YI M1– a mirrorless, digital camera. It’s a compact camera that the maker touts as being built to deliver professional-feeling images with a system that’s more intuitive and thus, easier to use. I was intrigued when my husband (my own personal tech guru and founder of the tech blog GoGoDadget.com) pointed me toward this camera. He obviously knew I was looking for a more compact camera to accompany our family outings, and this seemed like a promising option! I was even more excited when they agreed to send me the camera and two lenses for free in exchange for my honest thoughts on what it could offer parents like me who want a great camera to document daily life and a beautiful way. (Read: sponsorship disclaimer.)
So, here it is… my honest thoughts on the YI M1 mirrorless digital camera (and the two lenses they included: the 42.5mm f1.8 and the 12-40mm f3.5-5.6) and why I think it might be a great option for people looking for a step up from their camera phones! Read on to see samples of images taken on this camera (no editing at all!) as well as to hear what I like and don’t like about it! (Note: All product photos of the YI M1 in this post were taken on my Canon 5D Mk IV.)
First thing’s first. The camera is pretty. It has a sleek and simple design and it’s a great size! It easily fits in my purse and I don’t even use a large purse most days! It’s lightweight (relative to my bigger camera, but obviously heavier than a phone) and is compatible with a wide array of interchangeable lenses which makes it super versatile and adaptable to various situations!
I like that it has minimal physical buttons, it helps achieve the minimalist design the company was going for and I love. It has a large, 3-inch touchscreen on the back that is a great quality and the simple dial on top makes switching shooting modes really easy.
The one drawback for me was the quality of the strap that comes with it. The first outing we had with it, my daughter was carrying it around and somehow the piece that attached the strap to the camera broke. I don’t think she was being too rough, I think she just pulled at the perfect angle to pull the flimsy little rivet that kept it secured. Thankfully, she had a good hold of the camera and it didn’t fall, but I would like to see the strap have a better attachment mechanism to keep the camera more secure.
Other than the strap issue, the YI M1 gets an “A” from me in the looks department!
Technical Specs and What They Basically Mean
While I think the look and feel of a camera is important, knowing the way it functions and the quality of the image it produces is obviously crucial. Many people reading this are not pro photographers and I know don’t really understand what it means when I say it’s a “micro four-thirds camera,” but I’m going to go ahead and do a brief overview of the specs in very simple terms here anyway in the interest of being comprehensive.
YI M1 Mirrorless Digital Camera Specs
– 20MP (high resolution images)
– Sony Micro four-thirds sensor
– Shoots 4k/30fps video
– Shoots to various file formats (JPG, RAW, etc.)
– 81 Auto-Focus Points
– ISO Range of 100-25,600
– Shutter Speed up to 1/4000
– Electronic Image Stabilization
– MFT Mount for a wide variety of lens options
While some of that may sound Greek to many of you, basically, this camera packs a lot in a small package. The image resolution and file formats you can shoot are both great. The video quality is amazing. The ISO range means that it should do well in low-light, which is good because this camera does not come with a built-in flash. However, there is a flash attachment that can be purchased separately.
The 42.5mm f1.8 lens that was also given to me is a great portrait lens! Being on a cropped sensor makes it feel more like an 85mm lens or similar (which is an awesome portrait lens and often my go-to for professional work). This lens isn’t super versatile, so also owning the 12-40mm lens offered by YI would be ideal to make sure you could use it in more scenarios.
The YI M1 does have electronic image stabilization, but to be honest, I wasn’t super impressed by it. I felt as though at shutter speeds of 1/160 (which is not a very slow shutter speed) or less, I found the camera detected a bit of movement in the subject if there was any slight movement at all, resulting in a slightly blurred image. I’m used to my Canon L series lenses where the stabilization is great for shutter speeds at 1/100 and higher, so I know my bar is high for this sort of thing, but thought it was worth mentioning. This blur was not super noticeable, but compared to the crispness of an image I can usually get on my Canon 5D Mk IV, the difference was noticeable enough to me. Especially when photographing my wiggly kids indoors. This was the one thing that I was not impressed by in some of my images because of the way I’m used to shooting on my professional gear. But, with some adjustments to that style of shooting, I think I could prevent that slight blur in the future.
Finally, the fact that there is no viewfinder (you have to use the screen on the back of the camera to frame your shot) is a little different for me. It’s much more similar to shooting on a phone, but still took some getting used to for me because I’m so used to the viewfinder. Plus, though the images are better, the screen isn’t as high resolution as the retina display of my iPhone 7 Plus so that takes some getting used to.
Overall, the specs are great for a camera like this and make the camera great for various situations depending on the lens you have attached. Considering all the lens options available, this camera has a great potential to work well for many different types of shooting.
Comparison of Images: iPhone vs. YIM1 Mirrorless Digital Camera vs. Canon 5DMkIV
Ok, so all of that was a lot to read. But sometimes, just visually comparing photos of cameras makes it so much easier to understand whether a camera is a good purchase or not. So, below are two rows of sample images that show the exact same scene with the exact same lighting and very similar camera settings. The far left shows shots on my iPhone 7 Plus. The far right shows shots taken on my Canon 5D Mk IV with a Canon 50mm f1.2L lens (if you’re not a pro-photographer reading this, the Canon 5D Mk IV and 50mm lens are amazing pieces of equipment and set the bar high for comparison here!) Finally, the middle of each set of images shows the image taken on the YI M1 with a Xioayi 42.5mm f1.8 lens. Just take a look at the images! All of these are straight out of the camera with absolutely no editing or adjustments made, only resizing to fit on this post.
In this first row of the leaves above, I’m particularly impressed by the tones the YI M1 could capture. It definitely has more color depth than the iPhone 7 Plus image on the left. And it even has richer colors than the tones of the Canon 5d Mk IV on the right! I feel that overall I like the depth capability of my Canon (it’s hard to beat the beauty of that 5omm f1.2 lens!) But, between the YI M1 mirrorless digital camera and the iPhone, it’s no contest for me… YI M1 wins for sure!
In the above series of photos of the vase in my office (again, totally untouched and straight out of the camera), I’m actually blown away by how similar the YI M1 image (center) is to my Canon 5D Mk IV (right). The depth of field, the color tones, and quality are all very similar! Once again, the limitations of an iPhone camera are seen here in comparison to both the YI and Canon images… the quality of tones just isn’t there and the image feels much more digital with the contrast ratio and evidence of both that digital noise and slight artifacting in the shadows and around the highlights. The YI is much more smooth over all has a better, softer contrast ratio which more closely resembles the high-end Canon camera, though does fall short in the highlight areas a bit. I’d say that the YI and Canon here are almost tied, which I think is incredible for a micro four-thirds sensor!
More Sample Images from the YI M1 Mirrorless Digital Camera
Here are a few more sample images that my family and I have taken using the YI M1 the past few weeks. All of these images are straight out of the camera with NO editing at all. Only resizing to be included here.
To be sure this camera has the intuitive usability that it claims, I didn’t want to be the only one to test the camera. So, I had my husband do a few photos (he has some experience with cameras, but not a ton) and I also had my six-year-old daughter try it out quite a bit, which she loved! I also did tests of the camera in manual mode (my favorite for total control over the exposures of the images) as well as in automatic mode to see how good the camera was at detecting proper settings. Overall, I was super impressed with automatic mode on this thing! Scroll to see the sample images we all shot over the past few weeks and my thoughts on each one along with the settings used.
First up, our cat Comet, who loves a cardboard box more than Amazon does… My husband got this shot using the YI M1 in automatic mode. He used the 42.5mm f1.8 lens at 1.8, 1/80 and ISO 1000.
Below is my daughter practicing her illustration skills. Momentary humble parent brag… she’s six and is already an incredible artist! I love seeing her artistic skills blossom! I shot this of her in our dining room with the YI M1 in manual mode to have more control over the exposure. The image on the left was shot on the 42.5mm f1.8 lens at 1.8, 1/80 and ISO 400.The image on the right was shot on the 42.5mm f1.8 lens at 1.8, 1/80 and ISO 640. I’m really impressed with this lower-light image on the right and the clarity even at ISO 640! And the depth of field thanks to the longer lens at f1.8 is great.
Below, more shots of my daughter taken by my husband in automatic mode. Left: taken on 42.5mm f1.8 lens at f8, 1/320 shutter speed and ISO 200. This was taken in bright sunlight in the afternoon. It’s a bit cool for my liking given that the sun should have given warmer tones, and its leans a bit too green, but exposure and quality are great for automatic mode. On the right, this image was taken in much lower light indoors at night. Taken on 42.5mm f1.8 lens at f1.8, 1/80 shutter speed and ISO 1600. The clarity and minimal noise at ISO 1600 for a cropped sensor is great here. There is, however, that slight softness/blur to the image I was mentioning since the shutter was a bit on the slow side- the stabilization didn’t do a ton here.
I took the below image of my husband and son at the Halloween parade at my daughter’s school. You can see how excited my son was to be there waiting with us… haha! I took this one on the 12-40mm f3.5-5.6 lens at 12mm (the widest it will go). I shot this on automatic just to see what would happen and the settings determined by the camera were f5.6, 1/250, ISO 250. I really am impressed with how this camera did with the settings and the bright highlights behind them in the background. This shot is fully unedited, of course, but I could see with just a little editing it could be a really great image.
Below is a photo of this gorgeous Joshua tree at my parents’ house on Thanksgiving Day. Taken by my husband in automatic mode on the 42.5mm f1.8 lens at f2.5, 1/200 shutter and ISO, 200. The sharpness isn’t quite there and I see artifacting around the edges of the tree, but I do think the shadows and highlights have nice balance that we wouldn’t see with an iPhone photo.
A shot of the desert skies after sunset. This was taken in automatic mode on the 12-40mm f3.5-5.6 lens all the way zoomed in at 40mm. It was shot at f5.6, ISO 400 and Shutter 1/4000. A nice freeze frame of that bird flying at 1/4000th of a second!
Ok, so I know posting a photo of myself here is weird and it wasn’t the plan. But, my husband got this shot of my son and I as we were waiting for a photographer we hired to do our family photos to arrive to the location. I had my hair and makeup done and my son was giving me an epic cuddle after just waking up from a nap, so let’s be honest… it’s a photo I’ll keep forever. He had the camera shooting on black and white mode (he loves playing with those modes while I prefer to shoot all color and then play with black and white as an option in Lightroom!). I thought for this post it was worthwhile to show an image taken in black and white mode in the camera because I think it does a really great job with contrast and tones in that mode! I truly feel like I wouldn’t do much to edit the tones or exposure of this image so I was impressed, because I’m a little picky about my black and whites!
It was taken on the 42.5mm f1.8 lens at f2.5, 1/500 shutter and ISO 200.
The below images were taken by my daughter! I love that the YI M1 mirrorless digital camera is manageable for her to hold and operate! My Canon 5D Mk IV is just too big and heavy (plus it gives me a little anxiety letting her use it too far away from me-just thinking about it crashing to the ground is enough to make me wince). But, she LOVES using the YI M1 and that makes my mama-photographer heart so happy. She took the below images right after our family shoot together. She’s a girl who loves nature so much and I love seeing these images- it’s like seeing nature through her eyes. <3
The below image was taken by me of my husband and son. It was just about sunset time in the shade of a big mountain so light was going fast. I shot it quickly on automatic mode on the 42.55mm f1.8 lens at f4, 1/100 shutter and ISO 640. It shot pretty cool in the cooler color temperatures of the shade, which is to be expected. And again you can see the slight softness/blur created because of the slower shutter speed where that stabilization leaves a little to be desired. But with a little warming in post, I’d keep this one for a family album, for sure. 🙂
Conclusion: To Buy or Not To Buy?
So, I know what you’re thinking. “So, should we buy this thing or not?”
Honestly, for the price ($599 including the two lenses I used here in this review! Only $299 if you want just the camera with the 12-40mm lens I mentioned) the YI M1 mirrorless digital camera is a great buy! It certainly has it’s limitations and by no means would replace my professional gear for the very important images I want of my family. But, it’s a great camera to have in my bag for a day out with the family and certainly offers better image quality and more versatility than my iPhone! Bonus: my daughter has loved using it and I’ve loved being able to see her develop a love for being behind the camera!
Is it the BEST compact mirrorless digital camera on the market? I couldn’t say because I honestly have never used another one… I like the images we were able to get in most situations. Using it feels smooth but can feel a little slow (again, compared to my Canon 5D Mk IV, and I’m not sure any other compact mirrorless camera would match the Canon). But, I can certainly say that if you’re looking for a camera to upgrade from simply taking family photos on your iPhone all the time, the YI M1 is a really great option at a great price-point. The size is great, the functionality is easy even for a novice, and it’s at a price-point that makes it more desirable to take out on treks with the family and not be terrified of something happening to it.
So, in conclusion, I’d want to test out another mirrorless camera or two in this price range to really have a great feel of how it holds up, but seeing as how I’m more impressed by these images than my iPhone in most situations, it’s worth the upgrade!
Click here to see more about the YI M1 Mirrorless Digital Camera on the YI website including more on the specs and sample images, etc. A special thanks to YI for trusting me to give an honest review of this little camera! I really do love having it in the family. 🙂
Have any other questions about my experience with the YI M1 mirrorless digital camera? I’m happy to answer questions! Simply leave a comment and I’ll respond as quickly as I can!
What’s the compact digital camera you have and love? I’d love to hear thoughts on others out there and why you like them!
This post was sponsored by YI Technology.