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HTC Re Camera Hands-on: A GoPro for the Rest of Us

RE: Your camera. If you've been using your smartphone to capture concerts, birthday parties and other life events, you've been doing it wrong -- at least according to HTC. The company is hoping to help you live in the moment instead of behind your smartphone with the HTC Re. This tube-shaped $199 point-and-shoot camera is designed to make capturing and streaming life events easy.

Design

You’re not alone if you think that the Re looks like a tiny periscope. I was definitely expecting a small submarine to surface. Despite the weird design, I couldn’t deny how comfortably the 2.31 ounce device fit in my hand.

The white plastic shell hides a capacitive panel that activates the Re as soon as you touch it. In case you’re wearing non-conductive gloves, the camera can be turned on with a quick press of the large chrome button at the top-rear of the device. The Re is IP57-certified, which means that it can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.

MORE: Best Point-and-Shoot Cameras

HTC has strategically placed an HD microphone along the top of camera to capture all your exploits. A microUSB port and microSD slot are located on the Re’s base, along with a tripod mount. The Re will come bundled with a 8GB microSD card, but the microSD slot can accept cards with up 128GB of space.

If white’s not your color, the Re will also be available in navy blue exclusively at Best Buy.

Camera

The Re is outfitted with a 16 megapixel camera with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and an ultra wide angle (146 degree) lens. The camera is capable of capturing stills and video (30 fps) at 1920 x 1080. HTC claims that the Re's large sensor can capture enough light without a flash to make shooting in dim settings possible.

During a brief demo, the Re live streamed fairly clear footage to a nearby smartphone over Wi-Fi, and it was in a pretty dim environment.

Features

The device has a few other tricks up its sleeve, including time lapse and slow motion recording. Slow motion mode changes recording from a standard 30 fps to 80 fps.

In time-lapse mode, the camera will capture one shot every minute, letting shutterbugs capture fun scenes like a sunset or morning dew as it condenses on a blade of grass. Once the process is complete, the Re will stitch your photos into a MP4 file.

App

HTC is hoping to provide customers with what it's calling “viewfinder-less” pictures, which means trusting that the Re’s wide angle lens will capture all the action while you go and actually enjoy your event. As great as that sounds, I find the idea of capturing photos and video without a viewfinder a little strange.

If you’re anything like me and you’re not confident in your camera placement skills, HTC has created a remote viewfinder app for your smartphone. Available for Android or iOS (coming soon), the app allows you to see everything your Re is filming in real-time.

The demo that HTC showed off on a HTC One M8 was still in beta, but it captured most of the room and the people in it. As an HTC rep turned the Re around for a slow pan shot, I noticed a second or two of lag that made for a jumpy presentation.

In addition to live-time viewing, the app can also be used to view previously shot content stored on the camera. It will also store all your footage in the cloud so you can erase old photos without fear. HTC has plans to allow Re users to livestream to YouTube in the future. However, the company did not disclose a release time for this feature. 

Battery and Connectivity

The Re is outfitted with a 820mAH battery, which HTC claims will let you shoot up to 1 hour and 40 minutes of full HD video. There will be several ways to connect your RE to your mobile device, including Bluetooth 4.0. Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n) and Wi-Fi Direct.

Outlook

The HTC RE provides a novel way to capture life's precious memories, but I'm not sure if consumers are ready for it. The 16-megapixel camera and its host of features are certainly compelling, but the idea of snapping photos or video without a viewfinder might be too foreign a concept for the average consumer. However, with its fairly competitive price, the Re could catch on with the lifelogging crowd. Stay tuned for a full review.