Today's announced HTC RE, which was so far rumored to be HTC's competitor to the GoPro camera, is everything but an action camera. I would call it a "convenience camera" which comes closer to the Flip cameras, some of you might remember. Quite typical for HTC, the RE comes with a stunning yet minimalist cylindrical design, which reminds a little bit on a kitchen sink or inhalator (and with its 96.7 x 26.5 mm, and a weight of 65.5 grams, it's roughly the same size even if it's a little bit heavier). Thanks to this design, the RE is made to be held naturally and comfortably in the palm of a hand and it allows to never worry again about missing a moment by fumbling between modes, as RE's built-in grip sensor instantly activates the camera as it's picked up.
It only comes with two buttons, one large one the back, which acts as the shutter button and captures photos with a single tap and videos with a longer press, and a second one on the front which allows to record slow motion videos. Other than that, the RE only features a couple of notification LEDs but that's it. There's no viewfinder nor anything else which requires your attention. Even if the RE can be connected to an Android or iOS phone, which allows to use it as the viewfinder, the main purpose is to "shoot blindly" to capture the scene, and this is working surprisingly good, thanks to 16 megapixel camera with 1/2.3" CMOS sensor and the ultra wide angle (f/2.8) 146° lens which allows to record 1080p, 30fps FHD video and 720p, 4x slow motion videos as well as time-lapse videos. On top of this, the RE is equipped with a HD microphone.
Above a short Full HD demo recording.
All the photos and videos are stores on a microSD card (8 GB microSD is included) which supports microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. The optional Android and iOS app allows to automatically transfer photos and videos to a connected smartphone. Photos and videos are transferred via WiFi Direct (supported are WiFi a/b/g/n), while the Bluetooth 4.0 connection is used to remote control the RE.
Above a time-laps demo recorded in Manhattan.
The IP57 Dust & Water Resistant IPx7 body (IPx8 with cap) last but not least features a ¼" tripod connection and HTC will also release a wide variety of accessories. The non-removable 820 mAh rechargeable battery is said to be good for 1,200 16 megaixel photos or 1 hour 40 min of continuous FHD video recording.
During the recent days, I had some time to play with and test the HTC RE in New York City and it left mixed emotions. My geek heart definitely says "I want it!", my brain asks "for what?" and that's definitely the point. It's neither a Sony QX cam, which also connects to my smartphone and which allows me to make creative photos, thanks to its optical zoom, nor is it a GoPro for heavy sportive outdoor use. It's something in between. What I definitely like is the easiness of use since it's more or less instantly ready to be used. That's pretty good for certain situations, like if you are hanging around with your children, or during festivities. But is it enough to justify the US$ 199 / 199 Euro? Maybe or maybe not - it's up to each and every user.
The results are quire decent, as you can see in the videos above, so it's not just another average camera you might get and it's basically small enough to be carried every day. But than again, I'm also carrying my smartphone every day but that's a different story. HTC said that the RE's purpose isn't to replace the smartphone camera, but to complement it - for situations where a smartphone might be not sufficient. Either because of its size, difficulties to use it proper or just the situation.
As I said, my geek heart still wants it, my brain says no. So far nobody of the two has won and I will see who will be right after I received one for further testing. Just for now, I keep it on my "virtual want list"; without any ideas for what exactly I will use it.
The HTC RE will launch first end of October in North America with other markets to follow later.
Cheers ~ Arne