HTC's Re camera: Minimal design meets Android, iOS integration

HTC's first new connected product lets you take photos and video without having a big screen planted between you and your subject.

HTC announces Re camera: minimal design, Android and iOS integration

NEW YORK — Click. HTC unveils a camera. Yes, a camera.

After moving from original design manufacturer to branded smartphone maker, the Taiwan-based HTC now shifts into a new phase with the introduction of its first "connected product": The HTC Re aims to get shutterbugs out from behind their phones in order to capture moments more quickly and easily.

Many of us can relate to disappointing experiences where we have a smartphone or camera in front of us and are left to watch events through the small display instead of enjoying the complete, unobstructed event. I agree with HTC that this is a good issue to address and think the HTC Re may be a possible solution, at the right price.

At the company's "Double Exposure" event today, CEO Peter Chou explained the rationale behind a dedicated camera:

Today, HTC is once again changing the way that people think about technology. Back in 1997, we allowed people to leave their laptops at home in favor of powerful, pocket-sized smartphone computing. Today we are taking a similar leap forward. Combining incredible hardware with unrivaled software, HTC is reinventing the way we think about imaging. We are taking you out from behind the viewfinder and putting you back where you belong, at the heart of the action.

The hardware

The Re camera is dead simple: It sports a single large button on top, a small button on the front, a microUSB port for charging, and a microSD card slot hidden under a bottom door. It looks like small periscope or an asthma inhaler, but is really a great design for something that fits well into one hand.

There is no power button on the Re, which may cause some confusion for people used to power buttons. A grip sensor figures out when you grab hold of it; pressing the shutter button lets you capture your first photo within a second or two. There is no burst mode, so the time to capture may be a bit slow for some folks.

To capture a photo you simple press down once on the capture button. To capture video you hold down the button for a couple seconds to start recording, and press again to stop. To record slow motion video you first press and hold the front small button and once a blue light turns on you record video as you normally would.

The Re is made of glossy plastic and will be available in white, green, blue, and orange. The camera is composed of a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with 146-degree wide-angle lens and ability to record 1080p video.

Images and video are stored on the microSD card; an 8GB card is included. Content can be backed up to your phone as well. The device is waterproof so you can capture shots in the rain or even underwater.

The Re comes with an 820 mAh internal battery, rated for 1,200 16 megapixel photos or 100 minutes of continuous video recording. It connects via Bluetooth LE and WiFi to your iOS or Android device.

A standard quarter-inch tripod connection is embedded in the bottom so you can mount it and capture content with your phone serving as the remote.

Software

A Re app lets you view content captured on the Re camera, as well as serve as a remote control. A live viewfinder on your phone lets you capture the perfect still image, video, or time lapse sequence.

The app is also where you go to customize all of the settings. These include resolution settings, sound settings, backup settings, software updates, and time lapse details.

Accessories

There are a number of accessories being prepared for the Re launch, including the following:

  • Bike clip mount
  • Charging station
  • Head mount
  • Power extension
  • Suction cup mount

Even though some of these accessories may appear to target the sports enthusiast, the Re is not designed to compete with GoPro and other action-focused devices. The Re is a fun, simple camera for the person who wants to capture quick photos without sitting behind their phone or camera.

Usage and experiences

I spent the last couple of days walking around New York with the HTC Re camera and have changed my opinion of this new camera a few times. Without a doubt, I think the form factor is just about perfect for the intended purpose and found it very easy to use and capture still images and video.

The Re firmware is not yet final, but I was able to capture some decent photos (see my image gallery ) and video (watch my short video clip below). I do think the Re may have people getting creative with the camera and there is potential for it to do well.

The HTC Re is comfortable to hold in your hand and fits perfectly with your thumb resting on the button. The main single button is easy to use for video and still photos, but the indicator lights are sometimes hard to see under your thumb. The front button for slow motion took a bit of practice to understand and I never had a real-life situation to properly capture slow motion action.

The smartphone software is currently unstable, but when I was connected to the Re the software was quite useful and pretty powerful. The time lapse setup was very functional and is something I have always wanted to do with my cameras.

I am planning to purchase a Re camera for my two daughters in college. They have a GoPro they use for creating fun videos they share with family and friends, but rarely use it for extreme sports so the Re fits perfectly into their usage scenarios.

I personally have smartphones with better cameras and do not find myself missing too many shots due to the slow smartphone launch experience. Thus, I don't think the HTC Re camera is something for my needs at this time.

It will be interesting to see how the public perceives the $199 launch price. If it was $99, I would buy one for myself, too; but $199 is the same price most people pay for their subsidized smartphone and with all the focus on great camera experiences with your phone, the Re may be a tough sell at that price.

The Re will be available in the US starting in late October. Re will initially launch in the US at HTC.com and Best Buy, and in time for the holidays at AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Amazon.com.

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