The YI M1 has an 81-point contrast-detect AF system with touch-to-focus/shoot. The 'touch' features make choosing your focus point fairly easy, but if you swipe to access either of the main control menus you can end up moving your focus point by accident in the process. It's also worth mentioning that the M1 lacks a dedicated AF control switch, which makes switching AF shooting modes a bit difficult. You can switch from single point AF to continuous AF by pressing the 'O' button in the bottom right corner of the camera, but you are unable to switch between manual and auto focus without navigating to the AF menu.

The M1 also offers face detection and both AF-S and AF-C shooting modes. The face detection works fairly well: once a face has been detected the camera does a fairly good job at following the face throughout the frame, although getting the face in focus could be a bit problematic at times. It's important to note that the AF lacks any sort of subject tracking outside of face detection.

AF performance

We found the AF to be fairly accurate in good light, but it would occasionally fail to focus on the desired target. While in AF-S, the M1 sometimes resorted to focusing on a target in the distance or just wouldn't refocus at all, which made capturing subjects exhibiting any sort of movement fairly difficult. As expected with a contrast detect system, locking focus on low-contrast subjects proved to be somewhat difficult for the M1, although this has seen considerable improvement with progressive firmware updates. In terms of AF-C performance, we found it to be very unpredictable and mostly unusable due to slow and inconsistent focusing. In fact, the camera completely failed every iteration of our bike test, so we've chosen not to include a rollover of (very) unfocused shots here. We would recommend sticking to AF-S.

It's worth noting that the AF indicator light would sometimes blink 'green' for focus confirmation even when the desired target was still slightly out of focus while shooting static or moving subjects. This resulted in capturing out of focus shots that you had assumed were actually in focus at the time of capture.

Manual Focus

Magnifying while in live view to determine if your subject is in focus isn't currently possible while shooting with autofocus enabled, which can be frustrating if you want to make sure that your subject is in focus before taking a photo. If you're shooting in manual focus mode the camera offers 2x and 4x magnification, which unfortunately is fairly low in resolution, so it's quite hard to tell if you're actually in focus, even with peaking enabled.

The 42.5mm F1.8 prime kit lens doesn't have a true manual focus ring as the ring is there purely for cosmetic purposes. As a work-around YI developed an interesting way of 'manually' focusing the lens via the touchscreen which features an 'Up-arrow' and a 'Down-arrow' when the prime lens is attached to the camera and you are shooting with manual focus enabled. Using these arrows you are able to adjust your focus point by making small, or very large adjustment in focus via a short or long press of the button, respectively. This feature can also be used while using the 2x and 4x magnification mode via a press of the 'O' button on the back of the camera. Unfortunately these features are not available during video capture.

Low-light Autofocus

Focusing in low light proved to be fairly difficult for the M1, as the AF often struggled to acquire focus and would sometimes miss its mark. The AF started to fail between 1 and 2EV, which is slightly worse than we would expect from a contrast detect AF system. It often took more than one try to acquire focus in low light and sometimes the AF would just give up all together. Occasionally the camera would even confirm focus when an object was still clearly out of focus in the resulting image.

Novices coming to the YI may find they'll need to pay more attention generally to autofocus than they did with their smartphone, checking to ensure focus or selecting high-contrast targets for the camera to more easily focus on.


The M1 has several video shooting modes, the highlight of which is its ability to shoot in 4K/30p, albeit with a severe crop. It also offers 2K/30p, Full HD 1080 and 720 at 60, 30 and 24p. Unfortunately, the M1 doesn't offer any video stabilization while in 4K mode but it does offer a very rudimentary form of digital image stabilization (sensor stabilization is not available) while shooting in Full HD mode that seems to be very inconsistent. If you hold the video record button down you are able to preview the crop mode in each of the video recording formats. Once you begin recording, you can start and stop the video by pressing the record button a second time. The video doesn't feature any menu settings outside of choosing your recording format and the video itself is shot in full-auto mode.

In terms of video quality the 1080/60p video looks quite good and keeps up with the competitors in the market. The sharpening isn't quite as aggressive as some of the competitors, but the footage does look fairly nice. The 4K video footage shot with the YI 42.5mm F1.8 prime is really nice: the lens exhibits some ghosting but, overall, the 4K footage keeps up with the competition in terms of detail. Ultimately, though, it still falls behind the industry leading Sony a6300.

It's also worth noting that the M1 has difficulty controlling the white balance while in 4K recording mode. The fluctuation of the white balance causes flickering in the video that is not evident in the 1080/60p footage.

It's important to mention that the 4K video is automatically shot with the lens set to the maximum aperture, meaning the quality ends up being defined by how good the lens you use is when it's shot wide open. This is fine with either of YI's own-brand lenses but may not be with all the lenses you mount, since you don't have the control to stop down for a better result. The additional demands on the lens brought by the aggressive crop only exacerbate the issue.

Video Autofocus

Autofocus is available while shooting video in the form of full-auto AF. You can choose your focus point prior to entering video mode, but the M1 takes control thereafter giving the user no ability to choose or modify the focus point while recording. Generally speaking, the AF tends to hunt a fair bit before locking focus and this becomes even more apparent in low-light, which can give your footage a distracting, wobbly appearance. The AF point isn't visible during video capture, which makes determining what you're actually focusing on impossible. If you're using the 12-40mm F3.5-5.6 zoom kit lens, you have the ability to use manual focus with focus peaking, which can definitely come in handy. The M1 only offers red focus peaking, which can be a problem if it matches the subject you're trying to focus on.

The video sample below was shot in 4K/30p and it demonstrates the tendency of the AF to hunt. The color shift in that the auto white balance causes can also be seen in the video footage. Also, note the lack of any apparent image stabilization while in 4K video mode (shot with kit lens).

Video demonstrating quality, autofocus hunting and white balance shifts during 4K/30p video capture. Download high-resolution video

An interesting glitch occurs when shooting video with variable aperture lenses. The camera's exposure gain appears to lag behind the aperture changing as you zoom in; resulting in flickering as you zoom.