HTC RE Camera Review

Companion app and connectivity

The companion app connects to the Re with Wi-Fi Direct and it is not instantaneous in displaying photos. You also use it to adjust the camera’s settings.

The companion app is an essential part of the Re experience and it’s something that is missing on rival products like the Polaroid Cube, for instance. It’s a free download on iOS and the Google Play Store (requiring iOS 6 and higher, or Android 4.3 and newer), and has a fairly simple interface that gets the job done with no bells and whistles. What’s the job?

First, the app provides a remote viewfinder for the Re camera, in case you need it. There is a very noticeable lag between what's in the viewfinder and the actual movements of the camera, and that’s something that you need to keep in mind. Next, the app is the place where you adjust settings for the camera. You don’t have any manual control over ISO, exposure, and white balance, so your options are limited, but here is what you can do:

  • set video resolution (1080p 30fps, or 720p 30fps)
  • set photo resolution (high, 16-megapixel with 4:3 aspect ratio, medium, 12-megapixel with 16:9 aspect ratio, low, 8.3 MP at 16:9)
  • ultra-wide angle toggle
  • camera sounds
  • add phone location to images
  • video stabilization toggle
  • time lapse countdown light toggle
  • auto flip vertically toggle

With a built-in wireless (Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n) module, the Re creates an ad-hoc wireless network (Wi-Fi Direct) with your smartphone, and transfers images and videos quickly (but not instantaneously). With a microSD card slot, it's up to you to specify the amount of storage. A nice option to help you manage photos easier is the automatic deletion of images upon transfer to the phone via the Re companion app (this option is turned off by default, you turn it on in the app).

Photo and video quality

The Re captures images of good, but not great quality: it lacks in detail, and colors appear a bit washed out.

Before discussing the actual quality of photographs and video recording on the HTC Re camera, let’s look at the technicalities. The Re comes with a fixed-focus camera, and that’s important. It means that everything that is not extremely up close (forget about macros) will be in focus on images. It also results in images that lack that ‘shallowness' in the depth of field, and instead look very flat.

Digging deeper, we see a 16-megapixel 1/2.3-inch Sony CMOS sensor (the same size as the sensor in the Sony Xperia Z1/2/3, the biggest one in Android land), and that works out to a pixel pitch of 1.34 microns. That is more than the current trend of 1.1-micron pixels in flagship smartphones, and theoretically, this is good news for low-light photo shooters. On top of that sensor is a 146-degree ultra-wide angle lens with an aperture of f/2.8. Speaking in 35mm equivalents, the lens has a focal length of 17mm, quite the wide-angle shooter compared to smartphone cameras like the 31mm on the Note 4 and the 29mm on the iPhone 6.

There aren’t many controls on the Re itself: pressing the one-way shutter key shoots a picture, and long-pressing it records video (4x slow motion if you have pushed the front trigger button). You can also shoot time lapses, but for that you’d need to go into the companion app.

What we love about the Re camera is how inconspicuous it is. You can turn off shutter sound altogether (by default, you have a ‘loud’ sound, and you can also switch to a quieter, ‘soft’ one).

Still Image Quality

The image quality out of the HTC Re Camera is decent, but if you obsess over image quality, you’d notice quite a few issues with it. It falls short of the main camera in current flagship smartphones like the Apple iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 that we compared it with.

The 16-megapixel image stills come with colors that appear a bit dull, and detail rendition is below average - everything looks smudgy and there are very noticeable sharpening halo artifacts, and this applies even in photos taken outdoors. The very wide-angle lens also introduces barrel distortion, noticeable even in more central parts of the image.

Go indoors and in lower-lit environments, and taking a sharp image becomes particularly hard - shooting blindfolded without any viewfinder you end up with a lot of very blurry, unusable photos. Noise is also an issue in lower-lit situations, and if the light is scarce it often makes no sense to use the Re camera as image don’t turn out very well.

Keep in mind that those are the impressions that you get after comparing the Re with the main cameras of smartphones, but given that a big part of the Re’s suggested use is for selfies, we should say that the selfies that you can capture with it are much, much better-looking than what you can shoot with the front-facing camera of any smartphone.

Video Recording Quality

You record video just as easily and quickly as you snap photos on the Re - just hold the shutter key for a second and recording starts. You can record 1080p or 720p video at 30fps on the Re camera, but you cannot take still images while recording video.

New opportunities: more shooting angles, quick shooting, more shots

If you’ve got a kid or a pet, you’ll appreciate how easy it is to shoot down low, and you can also shoot from up above you for a new perspective on your environment.

Overall, the Re fits comfortably in the hand, and it’s reassuring how you can have a tight grip on it. This form might seem like a superficial feature, but it’s about much more than just the looks. Having such a comfortable hold on a camera means that you can use it from all sorts of different angles that would be a pain to shoot in with other, more traditional cameras. An overhead shot? The Re makes that easy. Shoot close to the ground (particularly useful for taking pictures or video of pets and kids)? Not a problem.

The biggest highlight, however, is the lack of a viewfinder and a power button, meaning you don’t have to wait for the camera to start and then stare into a tiny viewfinder, thus wasting precious time to carefully compose your shot. With a built-in grip sensor that smartly automatically turns the Re on when you hold it, HTC has managed to do away with the power key. When it comes to the lack of a viewfinder, you still frame approximately with your eyes, but if you really need to see what it is exactly that you take a picture of, you can do so using the companion app and your smartphone as a viewfinder. We tried that, but most of the time ended up not bothering with the app. It’s surprising just how liberating the lack of a viewfinder can be. It took us a little while to get accustomed to the fact that you just take out the Re and shoot away, but after that short period, we found ourselves snapping a ton of images, multiple times more than we’d do with a regular camera. With the convenience of this form factor for selfies, we can honestly say that in an hour with the Re, we snapped more selfies than we have ever snapped in a lifetime.



1. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Does the Note 4 have a 16:9 or 4:3 sensor?

6. Lememurilo

Posts: 50; Member since: Oct 13, 2014

Note 4 have a 16:9...

8. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Ok thanks.

2. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2356; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

With all of those cons, I would think the rating should be more in the 4-5 area. I would assume an average rating would have equal amounts of pros and cons but this device has 4 pros to 7 cons. And they're not little cons either. PA I think you should reevaluate your scoring method on this one.

11. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Yea he's expecting it to do a lot more than its meant to do. I wouldn't expect it to take great low light shots (hello no flash), I wouldn't expect it to record fast sports well. I wouldn't expect it to have great audio and video and if the content is blurry that's on the user.

3. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2350; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

I seen this coming... A flop

4. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

For that price I would get the QX-10 if I was looking for something like this... Currently I have the QX-100 and it has exceeded my expectations even in low light situations... QX-100 Pros: - Fun perspective (overhead, down to the ground) pictures. - Remote shooting (beside timed). - Up to 200 pics from a single charge - Great 1" Sensor - Nice ISO of up to 12800 with low noise - Adjustable apperture, ISO, exposure, shutter speed. - Great OIS (OSS) Cons: - Slow startup, specially if you are going to use your phone as viewfinder. (can be used blindly) - Slow time between shots if pictures are being send to phone. (can be cancelled, turned off or set to a different image size for copies) - Not good for low light + movement - No RAW files, only JPEGs

7. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Is it really bad in low light? You would think that with the 1 inch sensor it would shine in the darkness (owww what nice words lol:). Anyway, the newer ILCE-QX1 looks pretty good.

9. CanYouSeeTheLight

Posts: 1122; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

Well the big sensor isn't all that counts for low light tho, my APS-C mirrorless also sucks for low light movement and i have to resort to pushing the ISO high and getting grainy pics, but better have grainy pics than blurred or no pics.

12. buccob

Posts: 2968; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

As CanYouSeeTheLight said, the sensor is not the whole story, the camera itself is wonderful and I have been able to take great pictures in Manual mode tinkering with ISO, but it is not its strong front... and I am not a professional either, just enthusiastic I became accostumed to take low light pictures without flash and they look awesome and natural... when there is little to no movement... but there are moments when Flash is a Must and thats where this camera fails... But for me it is like 5% of my situations...

5. amats69

Posts: 1527; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

at that price ill take a GoPro Cam over this one..

10. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Lol that's ummm...yeah...HTC

13. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Why buy this instead of an actual digital camera?

14. luis.d

Posts: 354; Member since: Dec 04, 2013

Vic has been running around the office "shooting" everyone with the RE like a man possessed! HTC, take it back from him already! :D

15. 1ceTr0n

Posts: 549; Member since: May 20, 2012

It watches you masturbate...

16. jimbob87

Posts: 1; Member since: Dec 23, 2014

Its RE-tarded!

17. HearMeHearMe

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 21, 2015

It really doesn’t look like much of a camera to me. The shape of it is goofy looking and to me looks like a camera for people to hold above their head in crowds at a concert or gathering and that’s about. I would rather have a GoPro for anything action sport-like or similar. I kind of agree with Poc Network // Tech Blog when they said that its mostly for social media nuts. Beyond that it sounds pretty cheap and way too much. Now everything is focusing on 4K this and 4K that and super high frame rates and what not. HTC focuses on re-releasing what everyone else already had.

18. Davidhd

Posts: 15; Member since: May 13, 2015

i like my ZZKKA brand waterproof case, i buy from amazom. if you guys how want it. i can do "zzkka" on haha.

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