YI Cameras Review (Including Kami)

We tested these cameras for a few days to see how they stand up to the competition.
Top pick
YI Dome Camera U
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Wired power source
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Privacy mode
Outdoor pick
YI Outdoor Security Camera
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Wired power source
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Bright night vision
Wireless pick
Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera
Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Wire-free power source
  • Icon Pros  Light
    Flexible mounting

After spending a few days testing Kami and YI cameras, we understand why most of them are so inexpensive—and it's not all good news. If you need a cheap security camera that streams good video quality to a mobile app and records to a microSD card, YI is more than enough to meet your needs. But you should look elsewhere—like Wyze—if you want affordable cloud storage and robust customer support.



Compare YI security cameras

Top pick Outdoor pick Wireless pick Budget pick Front door pick
YI Dome Camera U
YI Outdoor Security Camera
Kami Wire-Free Outdoor CameraKami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera
Yi Home Camera 3YI Home Camera 3
Kami Doorbell CameraKami Doorbell Camera
Price
Power sourceWiredWiredBatteryWiredWired, battery
Weatherproof
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Learn more

*Amazon.com list price as of 05/17/2021 at 11:07 a.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

What to expect with YI security cameras

In general, YI cameras are good for folks looking to spend as little money as possible. Let's dive into why they work well for basic recording, where they can improve, and some differences between the models in our review.

Are YI cameras good?

For most people, the core features are probably enough to seal the deal, and we can't fault YI and Kami for nailing the basics:

  • Built-in Wi-Fi and mobile app (actually two apps—both the Kami Home and YI Home app work with all of the cameras)—the app is great for adjusting settings and watching videos from your cameras.
  • The 1080p video resolution looks sharp day and night. It holds up well to most other camera brands but lags behind Arlo, Google Nest, and Reolink.
  • There's a microSD card slot for local recording without a cloud storage plan (except on the doorbell camera).
  • Two-way audio allows you to use a camera as an intercom through the app.
  • Motion-activated recording with person detection, sound detection, and adjustable sensitivity allows you to customize what and when the camera records and sends you motion alerts (except on the Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera, which has fewer options).
  • Basic smart home integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant allows you to watch camera feeds on compatible smart displays.
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Like what you see?

If you don't need anything more than the above features in your security cameras, feel free to skip to the individual reviews below and choose the YI camera that best fits your budget.

Where can YI improve?

If you don't have much experience with security cameras, YI seems like a great deal—the perfect impulse buy. But they lose a lot of luster with the cloud storage and customer support resources.

Kami Cloud plans

FreeEntryCVR-EntryStandardPlus
Monthly cost
Annual cost
Number of camerasUnlimited1155
Video history1 day*7 days7 days15 days30 days
Phone support
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Mobile alerts
Icon Yes  LightWith cooldown
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Icon Yes  LightYes
Emergency service
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon No  LightNo
Icon Yes  LightYes
Learn more

Info current as of 05/17/2021. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*Limited to 6-second clips

Kami Cloud is expensive for what you get and is one of the least competitive cloud storage plans on the market. Exorbitant Cloud subscription fees are how YI can afford to sell its cameras for less than any other brand—including some Wyze models:

  • The Free plan limits clips to six seconds and stores them for up to 24 hours. The clips are long enough to figure out what's happening on-screen but don't capture much detail, thanks to a mandatory cooldown between recordings. This also limits how often you get notifications.
  • The Entry plan costs about $5 a month for a single camera, whereas competitors like Arlo, Wyze, Ring cost $3 a month or less for the same benefits and more than seven days of video history.
  • Recording multiple cameras on a single plan kicks in on the Standard plan, which costs a whopping $12 a month and limits you to five total cameras. By comparison, Reolink's five-camera plans start at $5 a month, Nest and Ring record unlimited cameras at $6 and $10 a month, respectively, and Arlo's five-camera plans start at $10 a month. In every case, Kami Cloud is more expensive (even if you score a discounted annual plan in the YI app).
  • The emergency service on the Plus plan uses Noonlight monitoring to put you in touch with first responders, similar to a home security system. Unfortunately, it costs two to three times more than matching options from Arlo and Wyze.
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Our advice

If you're still committed to YI after our doom and gloom—skip Kami Cloud altogether. Instead, buy a 64 GB microSD card for local video storage if your chosen YI camera supports it. (Sorry, Kami Doorbell Camera fans—it doesn't support local video storage.)

Customer support resources

If you want to contact a real person for customer service, you have two options: visit the YI Community forum or pay for a cloud plan to unlock phone support. (It's not worth it.) The YI Community should be your first stop if you have a question about your camera since you can connect with YI Technology representatives and other customers on any topic.

You might want to familiarize yourself with the mobile app's FAQ section and save the manual that comes with your IP camera because they're essentially the only official resources worth using. Both explain how to set up the cameras and offer some troubleshooting tips but in a better format than you'll find in the Kami Help Center.

Sure, the Help Center covers all of the same topics, but it's disorganized and doesn't add much depth. We like that the resources don't beat around the bush, but they mostly feel like an afterthought compared to the app and manual.

There's also a support chatbot in the app and when you select Customer Support on the Kami website. The bot doesn't accept any questions beyond the ones it presents you. This makes it useful for looking up quick answers about some common issues but not for anything else.

Checklist
Setup and installation

All of the cameras we tested were easy to set up using the mobile app—which scans a QR code on the camera and then creates a QR code with your Wi-Fi credentials for the camera to scan. The setup process uses clear instructions and takes less than five minutes per camera. Depending on how you mount your camera, you can expect to spend, at most, another five minutes finding the right spot to place it.

Similarities and differences

There aren't many differences between the YI cameras in our review, but here are some things to keep in mind when buying.

  • Smart detection: Most of the cameras come with smart detection (people and sounds) except the Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera. Some cameras have face detection and recognition (Kami Mini, Kami Doorbell Camera, and YI Dome Camera U).
  • Privacy mode: Some of the pan-tilt cameras (YI Dome Camera U and YI Dome Camera X) have a privacy mode that physically hides the lens to prevent it from recording video in a room.
  • Batteries vs. wired: The Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera and the Kami Doorbell camera use rechargeable batteries, while the other cameras require a power cable.
  • Weather protection: Three cameras have built-in weather protection so you can use them outside your home: Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera, Kami Doorbell Camera, and YI Outdoor Security Camera.

YI and Kami camera pros and cons

Pro Heading
Pros
Pro Bullet Unbeatable price
Pro Bullet Core features are good enough for most people
Pro Bullet Local video storage
Pro Bullet Person and sound detection
Con Heading
Cons
Con Bullet Pricey cloud storage
Con Bullet Pricing doesn't always make sense
Con Bullet Bare-bones support resources online

YI and Kami security camera reviews

YI Dome Camera U: Top pick

Top pick
YI Dome Camera U
Pro Bullet Wired power source
Pro Bullet Privacy mode
Con Bullet Indoor only

The YI Dome Camera U is one of our favorite security cameras, thanks to its privacy mode, which allows you to hide the lens behind a physical privacy shutter. This is great for folks that want a little more control over what the camera sees and don't plan to use the camera continually.

We also like that this pan-tilt camera can look around the room for movement—you don't need to point it anywhere specific in this mode since it patrols for you. After spotting movement, the camera's motion tracking follows the subject—like an unwelcome guest or seeing where your cat prowls during the night. Both of these features are common in pan-tilt cameras, like the Wyze Cam Pan.

Because this is a newer YI cam, it can also use AI smart detection to categorize videos with faces, people, pets, and sounds for easy review later. It offers clear 1080p resolution day and night, though it lacks the color night vision of Reolink and Wyze's latest products.

Overall, the YI Dome Camera U is an affordable security camera that performs well and is a good alternative to the Wyze Cam Pan. But it's unlikely to outshine the Reolink E1 Zoom, our favorite pan-tilt camera.

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Other YI Dome Camera models
YI sells various Dome Camera versions. Aside from cosmetic changes and minor features, they're identical to the YI Dome Camera U. Here's a quick breakdown of how they compare.
  • YI Dome Guard (about $30) is newer and cheaper than the rest but lacks a privacy mode to cover its lens.
  • YI Dome Camera X (about $50) is older than the U but has identical features but no face detection—we don't recommend it.
  • YI Dome Camera U Pro (about $48) is the only real upgrade, thanks to a higher 2K video resolution.

YI Outdoor Security Camera: Outdoor pick

Outdoor pick
YI Outdoor Security Camera
Pro Bullet Wired power source
Pro Bullet Bright night vision
Pro Bullet Indoor and outdoor

The YI Outdoor Security Camera is one of the most affordable outdoor cameras you can buy. We like it for its clean bullet camera design and powerful night vision. When you compare it to other YI cameras, this unit has more night vision LEDs, which gives it brighter nighttime videos on the whole.

Its wired power source means you have fewer placement options, but it saves having to recharge batteries like on the Kami Wire-Free. At least the power cord is 10 feet long, which means the power outlet doesn't need to be right next to the camera.

Barring the occasional sale or lightning deal, you can buy this camera for around $40 most of the time. This is a bit pricier than other wired budget cameras like the Wyze Cam v3 and ZOSI C190. While we lean toward Wyze for budget security cameras, the YI Outdoor Security Camera is certainly a compelling alternative to more expensive offerings from Arlo, Ring, and Google Nest.

Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera: Wireless pick

Wireless pick
Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera
Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera
Pro Bullet Battery life up to 6 months
Pro Bullet Flexible mounting
Pro Bullet Indoor and outdoor

The Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera skips the power outlet and cord in favor of rechargeable batteries. Unlike the proprietary battery packs most other battery-powered security cameras use, the Kami Wire-Free uses four 18650-type lithium-ion batteries. These high-power batteries are popular in flashlights and RC cars, making it easy to buy spares from various third-party brands.

We like that Kami includes the batteries and a charging station, but there's no way to recharge them without unmounting the camera—it doesn't have a charging port (this means no solar power either). Still, the freedom you get from battery power makes it easy to mount this camera where you need it (and as long as there's a Wi-Fi signal). This is great for cameras on the perimeter of your property looking toward the house.

This is one of Kami's more expensive offerings (around $85), costing over twice as much as the YI outdoor camera. And, while it works well enough, there are better wireless cameras that cost only slightly more: Ring Stick Up Cam and Reolink Argus 3 Pro.

Still, you might consider the Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera if you already have other YI/Kami cameras and want a wire-free option with more installation flexibility (without relying on another camera brand).

YI Home Camera 3: Budget pick

Budget pick
Yi Home Camera 3
YI Home Camera 3
Pro Bullet Wired power source
Pro Bullet Smart detection
Con Bullet Indoor only

The YI Home Camera 3 is one of the best security cameras you can buy for $30—not that there are too many options for this price. Still, the good video quality and smart detection features make it a worthy adversary to the Wyze Cam v2. (It's not waterproof, so the newer Wyze Cam v3 ultimately pulls ahead.)

More than YI's other security cameras, this camera's greatest strength is numbers:

  • Two for the price of a Ring Indoor Cam
  • Four for the price of a Reolink Argus 3 Pro
  • Six for the price of an Arlo Pro 4
  • 10 for the price of a Google Nest Cam Indoor IQ

We recommend this home security camera for folks wanting an easy option to check on the house when they're out of town. It also works well as a baby monitor for the nursery. Learn more in our YI Home Camera 3 review.

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YI's other sub-$30 cameras

YI sells two other cameras for less than $30 that are about the same as the YI Home Camera 3:

  • We tested the Kami Mini for this review, and it was great. We can't tell if it's different from the Home Camera 3, but it's not available outside of a 4-pack right now.
  • The YI Home Camera 1080p is cheaper than YI Home Camera 3 but has less powerful night vision.

Kami Doorbell Camera: Front door pick

Front door pick
Kami Doorbell Camera
Kami Doorbell Camera
Pro Bullet Wired or battery power source
Pro Bullet 160º field of view
Pro Bullet Outdoor only

The Kami Doorbell Camera helps watch over your porch for guests and packages. A unique thing about this doorbell is that you can pre-record quick responses for visitors. Most other doorbell cameras with quick responses don't have custom recordings but use preset options instead.

We love that this camera has a wide 160º field of view—comparable to that of other video doorbells. The video is just as crisp as other Kami cameras, though we had some trouble at first switching it out of night vision mode during the day.

When someone presses the button, you get a notification on your phone, but the default chime noise isn't very loud, so you might need to use one of your phone's notification tones instead. We also found the speaker on the doorbell to be a little quiet. We tested this unit in the battery-power mode, so we don't know if it's louder when you connect it to doorbell wiring.

At $120, it's similar to the Ring Video Doorbell, but Kami's cloud storage plan is less affordable. This product is still fairly new, so we're hopeful that Kami will fix some of the performance issues in a future firmware update or the next camera version.

Other YI and Kami cameras we considered

Baby monitor pickDash cam pick
Camera
KamiBaby baby monitorKamiBaby
YI Nightscape Dash CamYI Nightscape
Price
Learn more

*Amazon.com list price as of 05/17/2021 at 11:07 a.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

  • KamiBaby: While any YI camera can function as a baby monitor, the KamiBaby has specific tools to help you watch over your baby, like sensors for temperature, humidity, crying, and breathing patterns. Like other baby monitors, it has lullabies and a night light you can use for your baby.
  • YI Nightscape Dash Cam: Dash cams like the YI Nightscape are useful for tracking the safety and security of your car. We like that this dash camera has a heat-resistant design to help protect it from hot cars.

Final word

Utilitarian is the best word to describe YI and Kami security cameras. The cameras perform their video recording task well and for a cheap enough price—most folks probably won't care about the expensive cloud storage and limited customer support. But, considering their price isn't too far off of Wyze's superior cameras, it's hard to recommend them as a better option.

YI Dome Camera U: Choose this option if you want an affordable pan-tilt camera with a physical privacy shutter to protect your personal space.

YI Outdoor Security Camera: Choose this option if you want a cheap wired camera that works outdoors or for garages and carports with less weather protection than the rest of your home.

Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera: Choose this option if you want to record outdoor video in your yard without power cables.

YI Home Camera 3: Choose this option if you want a fly on the wall at home when you're on vacation.

Kami Doorbell Camera: Choose this option if you want a decent alternative to Ring—we didn't say it was better.

Check out our Wyze cameras review for a budget security camera brand that's similar but sticks the landing better than YI. You can also compare it with other rivals in our cheap security camera review.

How we reviewed

Although we didn't use every YI camera in our review, we were able to test the Kami Mini, Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera, and the Kami Doorbell from a home office in an apartment. These three cameras were enough to give us a glimpse into the video quality, notifications, recording options, and support resources of this brand—and whether it's worth your time.

Cove security camera testing

Kami cameras during testing

The general lack of information and minimal customer service resources for YI and Kami cameras makes them nearly impossible to research. Still, we scraped together whatever we could find to write our comparison. Stop by our ranking methodology to find out more about how we test and review products.

FAQ

YI and Kami are made by the same company—two sides of the same coin, though Kami products are generally newer. They use the same apps, look the same, and have nearly identical specs. Honestly, whether you choose YI or Kami comes down to whichever has lower prices.

There's no subscription fee if you choose to record video locally on an SD card (sold separately) or use the limited-space free cloud storage. But you do need to pay a monthly fee if you want more cloud storage, especially on cameras that lack a microSD slot like the Kami Doorbell Camera.

You need the internet to set up the cameras, but they can record automatically without it—as long as you install a microSD to store video locally.

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Disclaimers

*Amazon.com list price as of 05/17/2021 at 11:07 a.m. (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

†Google, Google Nest, Google Assistant, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

John Carlsen
Written by
John Carlsen
John is a technology journalist specializing in smart home devices, security cameras, and home security systems. He has over eight years of experience researching, testing, and reviewing the latest tech—he was the Smart Home Editor for Top Ten Reviews and wrote for ASecureLife before joining SafeWise as a Staff Writer in 2020. John holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications, Journalism emphasis from Utah Valley University. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, photography, cooking, and starting countless DIY projects he has yet to complete.