Battle of the cheap GoPro stand-ins

The GoPro Hero is a great camera and it is most likely the action camera that’s providing the best quality currently possible, given the constrains defining the category. However, the GoPro Hero is also expensive, which becomes a considerable issue, when an action camera gets mounted on a multi-copter, which happens to crash and also so called fly-aways, where the copter becomes unresponsive and continues to fly in it current direction until running out of power, are not unheard of.

There are GoPro alternatives available, like for instance the Mobius ActionCam or the Xiaomi Yi. Each of these cameras is available for under $100, but how do they perform on a multi-copter?

All but the last two images on this page are un-edited and copied straight from the micro SD-card to the web server. Moreover, the cameras had to perform under the harshest conditions, mounted direct to an arms of a multi-copter, without any vibration or shock absorbers.

Mobius ActionCam

mobius-left

  • Highest resolution for photos : 2304 x 1536
  • Highest resolution for video: 1920 x 1080 at 30 frames per second
  • Weight: 50g
  • Standard A Lens – 86°

Xiaomi Yi

  • Highest resolution for photos : 4608 × 3456
  • Highest resolution for video: 1920 x 1080 at 60 frames per second
  • Weight: 70g
  • Lense f/2.8 – 155°

After looking at the results (see below) of the quadcopter flight that carried both cameras, I decided to go through the daunting process of refocusing the Xiaomi Yi Camara as is outlined here: Fixing Xiaomi Yi Out of Focus Problem

 

Before Takeoff

Mobius Before Takeoff
Mobius Before Takeoff
Xiaomi Yi Before Takeoff
Xiaomi Yi Before Takeoff
Xiaomi Yi Before Takeoff (after refocusing)
Xiaomi Yi Before Takeoff (after refocusing)

Facing the Sun

Mobius facing the Sun
Mobius facing the Sun
Xiaomi Yi facing the Sun
Xiaomi Yi facing the Sun

More Photos ..

Mobius ActionCam
Mobius ActionCam
Xiaomi Yi f
Xiaomi Yi
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)
R:295,G:256,B:404
Mobius ActionCam
DCIM101MEDIA
Xiaomi Yi
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)

Zooming-in to pixel level 1×1

Mobius ActionCam
Mobius ActionCam
Xiaomi Yi
Xiaomi Yi
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)

Enhanced and 2×3 Aspect Ratio applied

Mobius ActionCam
Mobius ActionCam
Xiaomi Yi
Xiaomi Yi
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)
Xiaomi Yi (after refocusing)

Final Thoughts

While neither camera can match the image quality of the GoPro Hero 4, both cameras are fine alternatives, especially when considered for an treacherous environment. For video captures, the Xiaomi Yi is able to deal with vibrations much better than the Mobius ActionCam and the Xiaomi’s much higher resolution, when capturing photos needs to be considered, especially if photos have to be printed. On the other hand, the Mobius ActionCam has a higher dynamic range and images appear sharper and contrast richer, even before editing.

Refocusing the Xiaomi Yi was a daunting and tedious task, but worth the extra effort. In the meantime I found some software hacks that promise to further improve the image quality. When using a multi-copter to capture images that will live on the Web, the Mobius ActionCam seems to be a fine choice. For capturing video or images that need to be printed, I’d probably much rather use the Xiaomi Yi. But what do you think, after seeing these images?