The HTC RE is a brave little camera that reinvents point and shoot photography


HTC is a remarkable company that thinks there's nothing remarkable about taking photos the old, time-tested way - whipping out a camera, switching it on, gazing through its viewfinder, tuning the picture, taking the photo, and whatever follows next in this complicated, yet so ubiquitous chain of events. That's why it dug itself deep into research & development, and emerged from the other side with its most eccentric product to date. It's a snorkel! An inhaler! No, it's the HTC RE – a "remarkable little camera" that wants to reinvent pointing and shooting. What's up with the looks, though? We figured that, and the actual purpose of this thing need a proper explanation.

The RE cam wasn't made to hang from your neck or tug your shoulder from a carrying pouch. It's also not especially concerned whether it's paired with a smartphone or not, although it happily takes advantage of HTC's bespoke Android & iOS app if you like it that way. The RE is made to be held, fitting into your palm like a well designed instrument. A hammer doesn't have an On switch, and neither does the HTC RE. Instead, it has a built-in grip sensor which kick-starts it into photo taking mode the moment you grab it. 

Of course, every self-respecting gadget needs a button - everybody loves buttons for they make awesome stuff happen - so HTC added a big circular shutter key that you reach for with your thumb. A quick press nets you a photo, and a longer press starts video recording. There is no view-finder. Seriously, there's no view-finder - HTC wants it obsolete! 

In terms of dimensions, the RE cam measures a tiny 3.8 x 1.04 inches (96.7 x 26.5 mm) at 2.31 oz (65.5 grams). Obviously, you shouldn't worry about dropping it due to excessive size and weight, but even if you do and it hits water, don't worry - the RE cam is rated IP57, meaning it's good for at least 30 minutes under 1 meter of liquid gadget death.

Photos and videos are taken care of by a 16MP 1/2.3" CMOS sensor with a 146-degree wide-angle lens (f/2.8) and 1080p video recording capability at 30 frames per second. HTC has thrown in simple slow-motion and time-lapse recording options to make those videos more interesting. Apparently, slow-motion video is slowed down four times and rendered in 720p resolution. And, strangely enough, there is no flash of any kind. We're curious how HTC has dealt with that.

RE stores photos and videos on a microSD card (an 8GB card is included), meaning you can have up to 128GB of storage on it. Power is supplied by a frugal 820mAh rechargable battery that should be good for taking up to 1200 16MP photos in a single session, or 1 hour and 40 minutes of continuous 1080p recording. Hey, that's enough to make a movie! Sound is fed through a HD microphone, and heard through a tiny speaker. Connectivity-wise, the RE is fitted with Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, a microUSB port, and a 1/4-inch tripod connection to appease photographers.

Now, what about that app we mentioned? The RE is compatible with Android 4.3 and above, or iOS 7 or later. And So is the RE application, which HTC designed for syncing photos, videos, and time-lapse recordings from the camera to your smartphone or tablet – seamlessly, over Wi-Fi. The app also works in concert with HTC Zoe, making for easy making and sharing of video highlight reels. You can also control the RE cam through your tablet or smartphone, using it as a remote control and viewfinder. Other notable features on the app front include real-time streaming video to YouTube, and a partnership with social platforms Tencent and Instagram. Neither have been detailed at this point.

The RE cam will hit the US market by the end of October, with other markets to be announced later. A price hasn't been mentioned, but HTC has shown some of the accessories it will sell together with the cam. There are items like a dual port charger, charging station, head mount, arm and neck strap, and three clips (simple, bar, and suction cup) that let you attach the HTC RE to many various surfaces and objects. The head-mount alone could be enough to turn the HTC RE into a viable alternative to the eponymous GoPro camera. Whether it will succeed as such, it remains to be seen.

Check out all official photos of the HTC RE and its accessories in the gallery below.

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