HTC RE Camera Review

We often experience life through many fleeting beautiful moments, bu more often than not, our instinct is to take a photo or video to capture that instance. However, we spend so much time viewing the world through these viewfinders that we stop experiencing life and the beauty for all it has to offer. Life should not be viewed behind a screen. HTC wants to change that with the RE, still helping you capture the moment, but letting you experience the beauty with your own eyes first.

Gotta admit, the whole concept is pretty revolutionary. A camera without a viewfinder and offered in a unique preiscope design pretty much spells atypical. HTC thrown in some useful and considerate features too, good ergonomics in terms of button placement, good grip, and waterproof capabilities. Personally, I think HTC’s newest camera is one of the more interesting gadgets in 2014. It went against norm, designing a camera that doesn’t look like a camera.

Price & Availability

The RE Camera, launching Friday in Singapore today (19 December 2014) would be retailing at $349. That’s on the high side, and how does it fare, in terms of functionality and comparison to your smartphone or digital camera?

In a nutshell, things we like:
Lightweight.
Easy to hold.
Fast.
Good wide angle.

The things that weren’t so good:
Fixed focus.
no zoom.
no flash.
Composing shots can be a challenge.
Just an average quality lens for something that only takes photos/videos.

Design

Let’s talk a bit about the design first. Imagine a tube that’s bent on one end like a periscope. It looks a lot like an asthma inahler. The design of the RE Camera actually works quite well. It fits right into your hand and the periscope like shape for the lens also means it won’t get blocked by protruding fingers.

The end is fitted with a 16MP, f /2.2 146° wide angle lens. At only 65.5g, it is light and can easily fit in your pocket too. It has a standard camera mount at the bottom for you to affix your tripod or other camera accessories. The bottom of the RE Camera is the microSD slot which is protected by a seal, and the microUSB port for charging purposes. The RE is he capable of surviving a swim up to a depth of 1m for 30min and for even sturdier challenges, HTC offers an additional waterproof accessory lanyard, which screws onto the bottom, allowing it to survive to a depth of 3m for 30 minutes. It will come in three different colour options, red, blue and white, and all three in glossy plastic. Our review unit was the blue model.

htc-recamera-1

The RE is meant to be always ON and they have done away with the power on/off feature. The trick here is thaat there is a grip sensor within the RE, which wakes up when you pick it up. The big silver button on top is the perfect location for your thumb. Tap it for a photo, or press and hold to start video recording. There’s another button on the opposite which activates slow-motion recording (120FPS).

You can pair the RE camera with your smartphone through the RE app, it is available for all Android phones and iPhones. Once paired, the phone can act as live viewfinder and let you browse the existing photos you have taken. It also let you configure a timelapse action which can be useful for some interesting captures. Time lapse lets you choose the frequency of a frame capture, how long to run it for, and how smooth you want the playback to be as it stich the images captured into a video.

Camera Performance

Here are a few sample shots from the RE Camera. Thanks to HTC, they organised the RE Camera media event at the Ducati showroom and allowed us a demo ride on the Ducati with the RE Camera to capture the experience on the gorgeous Italian motorcycle.

RE Camera RE Camera RE Camera RE Camera RE Camera RE Camera

I find the camera performance to be comparable to a typical phone camera. It uses a 16MP, f /2.2 146° Sony lens. Decent shots in the day, but nothing extra ordinary. Night performance was mediocre though and due to the longer shutter times, its pretty easy to introduce motion blur to the RE, perhaps due to the weight or lack thereof. There’s digital image stabilization (not optical), which does help to reduce image blur somewhat. ISO can go up to 1600 for improved light performance but at the expense of noise. Video performance was overall good and provided clear captures – thought it handled dark to bright lighting transitions pretty well (video at 1:23).

The lens is wide-angled, which allows you to capture a field of view wider than what your eyes can see. The lack of a viewfinder on the camera itself could be a problem though. I only know that the pictures I taken were lousy when I reach home or had to fire up the app to check which is rather time consuming. So I ended up having to take more shots to compensate, but sometimes, things still do go wrong. There’s no zoom, but that’s where the 16MP lens come in handy, so you can crop your shots at a later stage. The best solution then is to go shutter spamming. Just take as many shots as possible, and pray for the best.You end up with many unusable shots that you need to spend time deleting.

Conclusion

As HTC suggested, the RE is suited for impromptu moments, like a firework display or stage performance so that you can capture the moment without a screen getting in the way. It is fast, much quicker than whipping out your phone, starting the app, and capturing the scene. But the quality is mostly average. It’s a camera for those who don’t care so much about the quality of the shot, but rather more suited for those wdhere it is just sufficient to capture the moment. The RE is just not designed for the photography afficionado where framing a shot is a testament to the photographer’s skill. But from a video recording perspective, especially action video, it’s fine, and just like the Go Pro, once you mount the HTC RE Camera, there’s really no need for a viewfinder. It’s easy to use, fast, easily mounted with standard accessories or build your own, I use wire ties and they work pretty well. Video quality was also decent

The HTC RE Camera will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the GoPro, but that is more suited as a companion for your adventure sports. The GoPro is also more expensive but has more features catered towards video recording and offers better video quality too. Overall, the HTC RE Camera stands out for simplicity. I appreciate the convenience of just grabbing the camera and I can start shooting. It can be a handy gadget to have, and I applaud HTC’s innovation in coming up with such an ultra-portable lifestyle camera, but I am not too convinced by the price.

Sean

Sean is a tech geek and star wars fan. He loves playing with new gadgets, writing little code snippets in Python, JS, and dabbling with Android programming from time to time, while keeping a lookout for the next biggest happening in the world of tech!

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