There is a new Chinese Micro Four Thirds mirrorless player. Yi Technology is based in Beijing and Shanghai and at Photokina this week they demonstrated their new 20 megapixel Yi M1 compact Micro Four Thirds body plus two Xiaoyi lenses. These are a 12-40mm f/3.5-5.6 collapsible kit zoom lens and a 42.5mm f/1.8 portrait and pseudo-macro lens. We visited their booth for a hands-on with the new camera and lenses.
The M1 appears to have contradictory specification. It sports the latest 20 megapixel Sony IMX269 Micro Four Thirds sensor, which we believe is directly related to the 20 megapixel imagers being used by Olympus and Panasonic in their latest top of the range cameras. However, the M1 is a budget-priced camera with a minimalist, if attractive, design. Silver and dark grey finishes are available for both lenses and bodies. There is no mention of image stabilisation in either the body or lenses, though a Micro Four Thirds lens with OIS from another manufacturer should work. There is also no support for dedicated flash and there is no integrated flash or even a bundled detachable mini flash.
The most connected mirrorless camera
Yi Technology describes the M1 as being the most-connected mirrorless camera. It not only has Wi-Fi but also Bluetooth connectivity, but NFC is not catered for. Bluetooth is used to maintain a link between the camera and your smartphone or tablet and enable fuss-free transfer for images from the camera when required. USB connection is via a standard Micro USB port and you can charge the battery via the same port using a standard Micro USB smartphone cable and charger.
Apart from the shutter release, on/off lever, mode dial and one adjustment wheel, there are only two other control buttons. These are on the rear of the camera. The M1’s design is centred around extensive use of the touch-screen display.
In terms of design and build, the M1 is a competitor to the Olympus Pen and Panasonic GF range. There is no eye-level viewfinder and the body is particularly light and compact. It’s an attractive design, with elements of Leica and I found it reminiscent of some Samsung camera designs. I believe the body is plastic but it is finished with a finish and has a feel that makes you think it’s metal. It feels solid but light. The Yi Technology product manager we spoke to on the booth says that great care was taken in choosing components down to how the screws looked.
The two lenses look superficially very similar at a glance. Both are extremely light. They are quite long compared to other more recent Micro Four Thirds lenses of similar specification and that’s even after collapsing the 12-40.The 42.5mm f/1.8 Macro looks almost twice as big as the Olympus 45mm f/1.8. But one thing that lens is not very good at is close-focusing, while the Xiaoyi 42.5 can, I’m told focus close enough for 1:2 semi-macro reproduction. Yi Technology are confident that their lenses will impress, performance-wise.
It’s ironic that the other Chinese Micro Four Thirds manufacturer, JK Imaging, is exiting the Micro Four Thirds market and still has unsold stock of its two year old Kodak PixPro S-1 while Yi Technology is confidently entering the same market. The Yi Technology product manager says his company has concentrated on making the M1 distinctive and high-specification, while keeping the price low. Shipment of the M1 is expected to start in November.
What do you think of the Yi M1? Let us know – comments welcome!