XiaoYi M1 is a dead ringer for the Leica T but only at first glance
At the Yi Technologies stand at Photokina: “Isn’t your styling a bit like Leica”. “Yes, I suppose it is” came the frank response. Admittedly the red dot is more of a red square, but at first glance there’s enough of a resemblance to afford a double take.
The little Yi M1 (hmmm, they could have started with the M3 like any self-respecting camera manufacturer) turns out to be a rather nifty m4/3 shooter with a 20MP sensor and a very full set of functions including 4K video.
It comes with two rather flakey (at least on first sight) lenses, the XiaoYi 12-40 f/3.5-5.6 and the XiaoYi 42.5mm f/1.8 (respectively equivalent to 24-80mm and 85mm). Both are as light as a feather and feature ground-breaking plastic mounts. I don’t hold my breath on image quality but the good news is that there is a full arsenal of professional m4/3 glass that can be mounted on the camera. The only serious omission is the lack of a viewfinder but you can't have everything.
Nothing is said about licensing. I had always thought that the cosy Pana-Oly consortium was a closed shop. As far as I am aware, this is the first time we’ve seen an m4/3 camera from a third party. Even Leica, with its long-standing relationship with Panasonic, doesn’t seem to have permission for a system camera.
The M1 can be had in a very nice presentation case (shades of the Leica M-P Titanium) with camera and the two lenses. You can have it in either black or chrome, although the chrome version weighs exactly the same as black. No brass here.
The little Yi will be available in China at the end of this month and towards the end of October in Europe. The price is likely to be in the order of €700 (£500, $775).
Incidentally, it appears that Yi Technology is an associate of XiaoMi, the Chinese smartphone producer. The Yi lenses are marked “XiaoYi”.