M1, The Hybrid Camera Chinese Yi That Tackles The Japanese Monopoly

Fruit of the subsidiary ‘camera’ Xiaomi, YI M1 is the first hybrid camera developed by a company of the Middle Kingdom. An arrival that clashes in an environment totally dominated by the Japan.

M1, The Hybrid Camera Chinese Yi That Tackles The Japanese Monopoly

Photokina 2016 has resulted in a deluge of ads on the part of all manufacturers of camera in the world… so Japanese. Or almost: Chinese Yi technology (also called Xiao Yi, “Ant”) announced its M1 Yi, a box hybrid interchangeable standard Micro 4/3 lenses, the same used by Panasonic and Olympus (and Kodak for its unique case, Take S1). Equipped with a 20 Mpix Sony sensor, this camera clashes less for its technical specifications as for his nation of origin, China.


The notable exception of Leica, venerable German brand, there are no other major brand of photography out of the Japanese archipelago – Samsung has thrown in the towel and Swedish Hasselblad outsources the production of its cases to the Japanese. There are many designers of optics in Korea and even in Europe, but if you go to an electronics store or a photography specialist, 99.9% of the cases are developed in Japan, even if a large part of the production is now distributed between China, the Thailand or the Philippines.

Yi M1, purified DNA of smartphone case

The M1 is not a freak of technology and does not repel the known limitations – no burst of madness, no autofocus combat. The data sheet is far from obsolete: equipped with a Sony IMX269 20 Mpix processor, the M1 runs in 4 K/30 p video what number of Japanese boxes still do not and it is based on the know-how in the smartphones of the mother house (see below) since it is compatible Wi – Fi / Bluetooth and has a full touch interface to the image that Leica has already proposed with his Leica T. The parallel with the German brand is not in vain as sleek the design of this box of 280 g (body only more battery) is not unlike some Germanic boxes. And this isn’t the Red of Yi logo that will dispel this impression of déjà vu…

Yi, subsidiary of Xiaomi

The M1 is the fruit of Yi Technologies, a subsidiary of the Chinese smartphones manufacturer Xiaomi. The company that weighs heavily in China launched two years ago his camera for action and develops its activities in the surveillance cameras and drones. Xiaomi breathed his M1 part of its know-how in the field of the smartphone by developing 100% touch (off mode dial) and a guide to shooting smartphone application.

Xiaomi arrival on the photo market, segment loss of speed and ultra competitive, is a surprise because technical challenges… in addition to the commercial difficulties and legal. On the one hand the number of know-how that is digital photography is huge – development of optics, image processing, design or control of sensors, processors – but increasingly, number of patents, including autofocus, are locked by the Japanese giants. A lock that feels to the reading of the data sheets.

Absent stabilization?

Yi Technology has developed (or is developed, you never know in the world of photo) two lenses for the launch: a generalist zoom 12-40 mm f/3.5-5.6 (24-80 mm equivalent) and a 42.5 mm f/1.8. An equivalent 85 mm (Telephoto portrait) who has a macro mode. Two approaches to launch it’s little, but the case is standard Micro 4/3 and so can enjoy over 50 compatible optical (Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, Kodak JK Imaging, Voigtländer, etc.).

The problem is that neither the housing nor any of the two approaches appears to be stabilized, a very big flaw that had cost the Leica T when we had tested it. Technology of stabilization of the sensor as well as stabilization of the lenses are subject to many patents and Sigma, yet Japanese, had in the past fined to Nikon for patent violation. The absence, on the sheets of a stabilization of the Yi M1 device is a cruel lack that cannot be solved by new (not easy) patents, by negotiating with the Japanese (expensive and not necessarily easy) or by the patent infringement.

Not yet formalized in Europe, Yi M1 will be launched in China and in the USA on October 12, 2016. In the land of Uncle Sam, the M1 is at $ 499 with the zoom 12-40 mm f/3.5-5.6, €599 with the 42.5 mm f/1.8 and $ 699 with these two approaches. According to several concurring information, prices would be much lower in China, makes salivate many cases Micro 4.3 lovers.c