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Yi 360 VR hands-on review, specifications, features, sample videos, tutorial, guide and complete information (updated May 20, 2018)

YI 360 VR In-depth hands-on review and sample video
YI 360 VR In-depth hands-on review and sample video

Here is a hands-on review of the Yi 360 VR with the key specifications, features, tutorial, sample 5.7K 360 videos, links for software, and other information.  I also compare the Yi 360 VR briefly with other popular 360 cameras including the Garmin Virb 360, Insta360 ONE, Ricoh Theta V, Xiaomi Mijia Mi Sphere, and 2017 Samsung Gear 360.   Note: this page will be continuously updated so pls. boomark it.  Changelog at the end.  Most recent update: 1/9/18 re exporting stabilized video.

Yi 360 VR stabilization
Yi 360 VR stabilization

Table of contents
Background
Specifications and features
Image quality and sample videos
Workflow and tutorial
Accessories
Summary


Background

In March 2017, I posted about a rumor from a Yi insider about two game-changing announcements on April 24.  Yi did not disappoint 😀

At that time, I surmised that the two announcements would be Yi’s Google Jump rig and a 360 camera.  It turns out that those predictions were spot-on.  At NAB Show 2017, Yi made two 360-related announcements: the Yi 360 VR and their version of the Google Jump rig called the Halo (which I’ll cover in a separate post).

Yi 360 VR at NAB 2017 (c) 360rumors.com
Yi 360 VR at NAB 2017 (c) 360rumors.com

However, what I did not expect that the Yi 360 VR would be the highest resolution consumer 360 camera with 5.7K resolution, higher even than the 5.2K resolution GoPro Fusion which grabbed headlines in April.  To put that resolution into perspective, the Yi 360 camera’s resolution of approximately 5760 x 2880 is 16.6 megapixels – higher than the photo resolution of the Ricoh Theta S (5376 x 2688) or the 2017 Gear 360 (5472 x 2736)!

Yi 360 VR specifications and features

Here are the key specs and features:

LensesTwo 220-degree fisheye lenses
Aperturef/2.0
Sensorstwo 1/2.3-inch Sony 12MP CMOS IMX377 sensors
ProcessorAmbarella H2V95
Video resolution5.7K(5760x2880)/30FPS
5K(5120x2560)/30FPS
4K(3840x1920)/30FPS
2.5K(2560x1280)/60FPS
2.5K(2560x1280)/30FPS
2K(1920x960)/60FPS
2K(1920x960)/120FPS
Photo resolution5760 x 2880
Live streaming4K (3840 x 1920)
up to 6mbps
Facebook, YouTube, custom
ISO100 to 800 (photo)
400 to 6400 (video)
Wi-Fi802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz & 5GHz (BCM43455)

100mbps
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2
CompatibilityiOS, Android, Windows
Dimensions102x53.2x29.6mm
Weight170g

Here is my interview about the Yi 360 VR with Yi’s Marketing Director at NAB Show 2017:

The camera is a little taller than a deck of cards and seems like it could be pocketable with the right kind of case.  I tried using it briefly and it seemed easy and intuitive to use with a backlit LCD display, and the shutter button and up and down arrows to navigate.

One of the most startling specifications is the price: $499 (originally announced to be $399), currently scheduled to be available in October 2017.  That is the same or less than some 4K cameras such as the Kodak PIXPRO Orbit 360 ($499) or Nikon Keymission 360 ($499).  It is almost half the cost of the Garmin Virb 360 ($749) and costs substantially less than the GoPro Fusion ($699).

Besides live streaming, special functions include time lapse mode with intervals of 0.5 seconds to 60 seconds.

Here are other facts about the 360 camera:
– removable battery
– removable storage (Micro SD)
– has a Micro HDMI port
– USB Type C port

According to Yi’s representatives, the camera can record for “hours” without overheating (limited by the battery life and the storage).  It can also supposedly live stream for one hour.  Yi’s representatives said the app will be on iOS and Android.  The specs say PC is supported, without mention of Mac (although the videos can be stitched on a phone).

Yi 360 VR image quality, sample videos, and comparison with other 360 cameras

Yi 360 VR comparison with other 360 cameras
Yi 360 VR comparison with other 360 cameras

On paper, the Yi does look amazing.  But what ultimately matters is of course image quality, and that’s actually the headline feature of the Yi 360 VR.  Here is a sample 5.7K 360 video with an analysis of the Yi 360 VR’s image quality and a comparison with other popular 360 cameras:

At 5.7K you can see details not otherwise visible
At 5.7K you can see details not otherwise visible

Photo quality: For photos, the Yi 360 VR is competent but not impressive. The photo quality comparable to the Ricoh Theta V. It does have much better flare resistance and less chromatic aberration, but the Theta V looks sharper. Theta V also has better in-camera stitching and has built-in HDR. Here is a screenshot from my comparison tool.

Photo quailty: Yi 360 VR vs Ricoh Theta V
Photo quailty: Yi 360 VR vs Ricoh Theta V


Image Stabilization

In desktop app 1.0.3, Yi enabled exporting of stabilized videos.   You simply have to check a box to enable stabilization.  Please note the desktop app is Windows only. For Mac users, Yi recommends Mistika VR (tutorial here).  Here is a sample with image stabilization.

To summarize, as of May 2018, it has the second best video quality among the more than forty consumer 360 cameras I own (second only to the GoPro Fusion).  Here’s why:
– The Yi 360 VR has very high detail.  Compared to a 4K 360 video, it looks more crisp.  You can see small details not visible in 360 videos from a 4K camera, like the thread pattern on my collar in the screen grab above (note that it’s only a screengrab from YouTube so it’s not even the original quality).
– Excellent edge-to-edge consistency in sharpness. There is no drop in sharpness even near the stitch line (with other cameras, most notoriously the Keymission 360, the sharpness drops as you move closer to the stitch line).
– Dynamic range:  can cope with backlighting and difficult lighting situations.  But the dynamic range is nowhere as good as GoPro Fusion or Insta360 One.
– No chromatic aberration or purple fringing.
– Excellent flare resistance with no reduction in contrast, but a few flare artifacts.  In my comparison against competing 360 cameras, the Yi 360 VR had the best flare resistance.
– Excellent consistency between exposure and color of the two lenses, even when one lens is facing a strong light source (with some cameras, you can see a difference in exposure or color between the lenses, usually most noticeable at the zenith).

Regarding stitching, the Yi 360 VR can stitch videos in-camera automatically but the stitching is template-based and looks poor.  However,  if I use the optical flow stitching from the supplied desktop software, the stitching looks seamless, even for challenging scenery such as repeating backgrounds.   It is also possible to stitch on a desktop with template-based stitching for faster stitching.

Here is another sample video from the Yi 360 VR by InfinitelyFinite, in overcapture style:

As with my sample video, the sample shows very high level of detail and edge-to-edge sharpness.  The images are completely free of chromatic aberration or purple fringing.  The dynamic range looks pretty good. The stabilization is also very good.

Yi 360 VR software, workflow, tutorial, and controls

Where to download the apps and software:

– iOS App:  from the App Store,
– Android app: from the Google Play Store.
– The desktop stitching app is for Windows only at the moment.  For Mac, you can use third party stitching software.

Tutorial:

Here is a tutorial by CreatorUp’s Hugh Hou (he is using the iOS version):

As you can see, using the app is pretty straightforward.  One note is that when establishing a wireless connection to the camera in the Android version, you can do it directly from the app, by simply tapping on the + button on the main screen (you don’t have to manually switch Wi-Fi networks). BTW, the default password is 123456789.

Other controls include:
voice control (to take a photo, record a video, or turn off the camera).  However, the voice control is not always reliable.  I sometimes have to say the command a few times, especially in noisy environments.
– specifying the ISO for photos (100 to 800) or videos (400 to 6400), and exposure compensation (+/- 2EV in half stop increments).
– changing the scene mode (auto, stage, or night).  Stage is for brighter conditions, and night is for dark conditions.
– controlling the exposure metering mode (center, spot, or average)
– changing the stitching distance (selfie, indoor or outdoor)
– a function for removing yourself from the photo.  You tap a person icon beside the shutter.   It will take 3 shots, 5 seconds in between, and you move to different positions for each shot (do not overlap the positions).  It will create a composite that removes you from the background based on the differences between those 3 shots, similar to an app for the Theta called Vanish360.   This is handy if you don’t want to be in the shot and there’s nowhere to hide.

Stitching

In-camera stitching is template based and is in realtime, but limited to 4K.  If you choose not to stitch in-camera, you’ll get a double fisheye file (interestingly, it is portrait not landscape orientation).  The desktop app can stitch with a template (for faster stitching) or with optical flow (for seamless stitching at various distances).  The desktop app can batch stitch photos and videos, which is a tremendous timesaver for your workflow.

The issue with the Yi 360 VR’s workflow is that it takes a very long time to stitch videos.  Part of this is because it doesn’t seem to use your graphics card (if you have one).  Among the stitching software I’ve tried, it’s the slowest.

Because the videos are unstitched in the camera, they can be stitched using third party software such as Mistika.  In fact, Mistika has a template for Yi 360 VR.  Third party software will allow customized stitching for difficult stitching situations such as when objects are in close proximity to the camera and are within the stitch line.

Google Street View

Yi 360 VR is compatible with Google Street View Mobile.  From the Street View app, you can connect to the Yi 360 VR and take either single photos, or interval photos.  In the latter case, it will automatically take photos based on a distance interval (not time interval, so if you’re stationary it won’t take additional shots).  In either case, the photos will be automatically stitched and sent to the Google Street View app, ready for upload.  If you took interval photos, they will be automatically linked.

Street View can automatically stitch and link mapping photos from the Yi 360 VR

Accessories

Yi 360 VR now supports external microphones
Yi 360 VR now supports external microphones

In firmware 1.1.41, Yi added support for external microphones.  The microphone would have to be plugged to a USB Type C to stereo adapter.  The external microphone support is very useful for live streaming, when an external recording device is generally not an option.   The Yi 360 VR becomes one of only a small handful of consumer 360 cameras with external mic support (the others include Insta360 4K, Kodak Orbit360, and Ricoh Theta V).

I tried a couple of USB Type C to stereo adapters, and the only one I found that worked is Yi’s own adapter, which is fortunately reasonably priced. Note also that the microphone must be TRS. If it is TRRS then you will need a TRRS to TRS adapter.

Summary

In summary, the Yi 360 VR is the most affordable 360 camera for high resolution 5.7K 360 video.  Despite its affordability, it offers amazing video quality with nearly flawless optics, excellent detail and dynamic range.  It has since been surpassed for video quality by the GoPro Fusion, but the Fusion costs more and for all intents and purposes requires a dedicated graphics card, so Yi 360 VR is more affordable.  For photos, the Yi 360 VR is competent but not impressive.

If you are looking for an affordable 360 camera with high quality 360 video, this is it.  The Yi 360 VR is now in stock on Amazon and in Microsoft Stores.  You can also try B&H Photo here (not yet in stock).  Here is a new Facebook group for those interested in the Yi 360 VR — I’ll be posting info about the Yi360VR there.

Changelog:
– 1/9/18: added info about stabilization on export
– 12/13/17: added info about external microphone and built-in image stabilization.
– 10/6/17: added more info about the function for removing yourself from the photo; and added info about Google Street View Mobile compatibility.
– 10/4/17: revised the price based on information received yesterday; added a screenshot showing level of detail, more info re image quality.
– 10/3/17: added sample 5.7K 360 video with detailed analysis of image quality.

  • 8.3/10
    Photo - 8.3/10
  • 8.8/10
    Video - 8.8/10
  • 7.9/10
    Usability - 7.9/10
8.3/10

Summary

Photo
+ consistent sharpness, edge to edge
+ excellent stitching on desktop
+ excellent flare resistance
+ low chromatic aberration
o dynamic range similar to Theta V
– slightly less sharp than Theta V
– mobile app stitching is poor

Video
+ excellent detail — second only to Fusion
+ excellent stitching on desktop
+ excellent flare resistance
+ low chromatic aberration
+ decent stabilization
o dynamic range is average in 2018

Usability
+ app is simple to use
+ has a desktop software for PC
+ intuitive in-camera menu
– hard to see the LCD display in daylight
– no desktop software for Mac
– takes a very long time to stitch videos

About the author

Mic Ty

47 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • I am disappointed with the resolution of the still photos? It is basically the same as the Ricoh Theta S for still resolution. Also does it have an intervalometer?

    • It has time lapse feature, and I asked them if it could save the individual photos, and they said they would consider it.

      Best regards,
      Mic

    • Hi Laurent! Yi 360 VR has much better video – sharper and more detailed, with better stitching (when using optical flow). The app is also less buggy.

      But for photo, Xiaomi is better – sharper, with better exposure controls. Xiaomi also has image stabilization. So it depends on your priorities. They complement each other very well I think – the strengths of one compensate for the weaknesses of the other and vice-versa.

      Best regards,
      Mic

    • Thank you very much Hama! I really appreciate your bringing it to my attention. Now it should be fixed. Thanks again!
      Best regards,
      Mic

  • what would you recommend as a entry camera for someone new to 360 cameras? The Yi 360 or Mi Sphere?

    Mi Sphere is available for around 210USD while the Yi is on pre-order at 399 USD. At almost 2x the price, would you think it is justifiable? especially for a new user? Thanks!

  • The Yi 360 VR is advertised as a having a USB type- c 2.0 connection.

    Yi says it supports USB type-c 3.1 which would be significantly faster

    Which is right?

    Thanks
    Alan

  • Hi. I have the camera now. When i shoot 360 Images there is no geotags in the Pictures itself. Is there a way to safe the GPS Location automaticly in the files?

    • Hi Nils. Are you shooting with the app, or with the camera by itself? I think the GPS works when you are shooting with the app.

      Best regards,
      Mic

  • Hi, how is the facebook live streaming option? facebook only support up to 720p so what about the quality of a 360 video in live mode? Please upload an example.

    And another important question, in streaming mode to FB live or youtube, can the camera record the footage simultanously to the sd to edit the content later?

    thank you in advance. And please tell us more about the external mic, would be very interesting to see how it works.

  • All sounds great except … I searched all I could, but no waterproof housing is available (1st or 3rd party).

    Another thing is, if you are looking to buy this camera with an extension pole/tripod or monopod, plus a waterproof housing, you should also seriously think about getting the GoPro Fusion, too. I mean, a good quality extension pole/tripod + waterproof housing will easily set you back another $150. That will bring the total to $550.

  • Hello Mic, I work for a tourist office and I personally own a MiSphere. At my job, they want me to make immersive videos. Would you recommend this Yi 360 VR or the Madventure 360? Thanks for your reviews.

    • Hi Webrunner. Thanks for reading 360 rumors!
      360 sounds perfect for your job! 😀 My suggestion is to shoot a 360 video with the Mi Sphere first and then determine if they are ok with it, or what they want to improve. Then that will let you know whether or not you need another camera. (BTW the madventure 360 has the same image quality as the Mi Sphere). Best regards, Mic

  • The new firmware update 1.1.53 for the YI360 adds Burst rate shooting 3fps, 5fps and 10 fps, do you have any idea what this is best used for, if it had bracketing that would be great for HDR, but so far it shoots multiple shots all the same.

    • Thanks Brian! I’ll check it out. Depending on how quickly it takes the photos, the burst mode might be useful for capturing action. If it’s slower, perhaps it is useful for selfies / group photos (press the button once, and it will take several shots, and you can pose several times). Best regards, Mic

  • Recently I bought a Yi360 and I must admit that this is one of the worst 360 camera I have in my hands.
    I working on a Youtube review. So details will be posted soon.

    I didn’t recommend it to buy. Beware!

    • My biggest complaint is the casing — it’s quite flimsy. At one point, I thought I broke the buttons. Another problem is the battery compartment, it’s actually possible not pushing the battery all the way in and still able to close the battery cover, making it possible that the unit won’t function at all.

      • My biggest complain is quality!
        Today I will shoot some additional sample photos and I’ll make review of Yi’s quality fu*k-up’s.

          • In short: I get both fisheye images with different colours, dynamics, gain, black level, etc. Regardless of Metering setting or any other settings.
            This cam is useless in professional applications.
            (at least with current firmware version)

          • Hmm what do you mean fisheye images? You mean you’re evaluating the video quality by looking at the unstitched videos?
            Also, did you see my sample 360 video? Is that not representative of what you’re getting from the Yi 360 VR? If it is, can you let me know which other consumer 360 cameras have better quality than the Yi besides Fusion?

          • Hi Jared. I don’t know if you saw my reply but I just want to ask again: are your criticisms based on looking at the unstitched videos? And if you saw my 360 video, are you getting different quality from what I got? Can you post a screenshot? You had a very strongly worded criticism, whereas I praised the Yi 360 VR’s image quality, so I am curious why there is a big difference in our opinion.

            Best regards,
            Mic

          • Hi Mic, yes I saw your comment. I must respond here, because I don’t see “Reply” button for your new comments.
            At this moment I have full of work (VFX industry), so I must put down making a review of this cam and fighting with Yi support for its terrible quality.
            But I attach here photos with long exposure taken with my Yi360: http://vr-show.pl/Yi360_crap_photos.JPG
            (I can’t publish RAW image, so I have must to mask big part of image, but strange behaviour is clearly seen.)
            As can be seen image from one lens is completely out of dynamics, levels, etc.
            But in normal, short exposure, day photos there are many glitches too. I’ll post this later.

          • hi Jared. So your short answer is that you’re looking at the unstitched photos and forming an opinion about the camera based on those. I don’t think that’s a fair approach. Moreover, since this was low light, did you use manual exposure? But there seems to be something strange in your photo, given the unequal exposure between them.

          • Bunch of new informations about Yi one lens bad quality issue:
            1. Other users on Facebook group confirm this issues and this is not only my defective unit.
            2. Yi officials behaves very strange – they put strong censorship on this issue – repeately remove my above photo from Yi’s Facebook official page and disallow me to post on official Yi group. Thank god, there are some uncensored places on the Internet like this.
            3. I’ll return this camera, because it is useless in professional appliances (like night shots, astrophotography, HDR, etc.).
            4. Manual mode, long exposure photos are much better in quality in Theta series. Period. Support by Ricoh is much higher level and more toward customers too.

          • Hey, Jared. As much as I don’t like the build quality of this cam, I believe you have a defective unit. I didn’t experience the problem you have in any of my pics/videos.

            Oh, I forgot to mention one more thing — one of my lens actually got a couple scratches in 2 weeks. I was using the Insta360 One during the same period. Both of them were handled similarly (in fact, I would say that I abused the Insta360 One even more harshly because once I found out the Yi’s build quality problem, I used it less), but the Insta360 is still scratch-free. It’s either the glass of the Yi’s lens are more susceptible to scratches or their design makes the lens easier to be scratched.

          • Hi Mic. Yes, I use manual exposure, because I can, and camera is suppose to use it. This unequal exposure is visible even on stitched photos – how it could not to be visible when unstitched SOURCE is unequal?? So nothing is unfair. This cam in long exposure photos quality is worst than Theta – which I used before.

            So you can forgot about photography of starry sky with this camera!
            And there is more serious flaws in this camera – coding artifacts are visible in day light too.
            But keep in mind, that I’ not a “family movies” user.
            So for professional uses I didn’t recommend this cam at all.

  • Hi Mic,
    I appreciate the information you’re sharing.
    I’m a long-time video professional, now exploring VR. I’ve worked with several camera and yesterday purchased the YI VR. I have not yet been able to view it on my Samsung VR Headset. Do you know what the problem is?
    I shot everything at 5.7K and stitched it at various resolutions and quality levels on my PC. So far none play on my headset through my Samsung Note8.
    LMK if you have any ideas.
    BTW I’m also a professional video editor, currently using Adobe Premiere. I think next I’ll try re-encoding the footage and see if that helps.
    Thanks,
    Craig

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