Following a great number of rumors surrounding the possibility of such a device, HTC finally took the wraps off of its standalone handheld action camera at a special event in New York a couple of months ago. HTC has been on a warpath to showcase its prowess in the camera department, smartphone or otherwise, and is hoping to take on the likes of GoPro with this device. How successful will they be, and what does it have to offer? We find that out, and more, in this in-depth review of the HTC RE!
When it comes to the design, there have been a lot of jokes about the RE looking like an inhaler or a kitchen sink faucet, but unfortunately, that is honestly the best way to describe it. That said, it is very ergonomic, and capturing photos or taking videos with it feels quite natural, albeit maybe a little silly. The RE is compact and lightweight, making it comfortable in the hand, and also very portable, easily fitting into a bag or even a pocket. It is made entirely of plastic, but is still sturdy, and should handle accidental drops and bumps quite well.
Up top is a single microphone, and on the back is a large silver shutter button that comes with a built-in LED, which flashes red while taking pictures or video, and blue when capturing slow motion video. The LED light also serves as an indicator for how much battery life the device has left. Up front in the 16 MP camera sensor, with a button found below it to activate slow motion video recording. Below the button is another LED indicator for when you’re taking selfies, and a speaker.
At the bottom is the microUSB port, and a microSD card slot that supports microSD cards with a capacity of up to 128 GB. This slot is also covered by a flap, a contributing factor to the IP57 rating for resistance to dust and water, which means that it can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for as long as 30 minutes. There is also a standard quarter inch tripod connection available, letting you mount the RE on most available tripods, for more stable picture and video captures. You should be careful if you do use a stand though, as the plastic threads might get damaged.
Setting up the RE is fairly simple, and doesn’t take longer than a minute or two. Make sure that the RE is charged and that bluetooth is on. Then download the RE application from the Google Play Store, and follow the steps mentioned in the app to connect the device to your smartphone or tablet.
Once connected, you are now ready to start taking photos and videos, and the RE app has a lot to offer in this regard, other than just viewing, sharing, or deleting what you have captured. The app can also serve as a viewfinder that will let you remotely control the device to take shots and even time lapse videos. The viewfinder is extremely helpful when trying to frame your shots, and remote access means you don’t have to exclude yourself from any group photos.
You’ll also find various camera settings like video resolution, camera resolution, a toggle to enable or disable the ultra-wide angle capabilities of the RE, along with the option to back up your images to your phone, Dropbox, or Google Drive. The RE app also integrates with HTC’s Zoe application, allowing you to create zoes with the photos taken using the RE.
When it comes to the camera, you get a 16 MP CMOS sensor, with a 146 degree ultra-wide angle lens, which means you’ll be able to fit a lot into a single shot. The default setting for the camera is 12 MP, so it will have to be changed in the settings to take full advantage of the 16 MP sensor. Unfortunately, you are restricted to a 4:3 aspect ratio when shooting at full resolution, which a bit of a letdown.
The best part about the RE is that it does all of the heavy lifting for you, so all you really have to do is point and shoot. For such a tiny, portable camera, the picture quality is actually really impressive. The focus is always spot on and so photos are very sharp, colors are vibrant, and this camera has excellent dynamic range. Even in harsh sunlight, the camera does a fantastic job of handling exposure, so you’re always getting a well-balanced shot with a lot of detail. That said, without optical image stabilization, and an aperture of f/ 2.8, low light performance leaves something to be desired. The photos are usable, but there is a noticeable amount of noise, and a significant loss of detail.
One the aspects with using a device such as the RE is that for the majority of the time while using it, you don’t have the advantage of a viewfinder, and therefore, can’t exactly see how the shot is being framed. The good news is that the camera, for the most part, takes excellent photos, and with its ultra-wide angle lens, as long as you aim it at what you want to capture, the photo will come out exactly the way you want it.
Unfortunately, the quality of the 1080p video capture using the RE isn’t as good as its picture quality. It may be good enough for quick, short clips, but the digital stabilization doesn’t work too well, resulting in videos that look shaky, even if you are just walking. On the positive side, the microphone does do a good job in picking up audio. You can also create time lapse videos, and capture slow motion video at 720p. While the time lapse feature works well, and is a lot of fun to use, slow motion capture doesn’t come out quite as smooth as what you’d get with some other devices out there.
The HTC RE packs an 820 mAh battery, that offers a more than respectable amount of battery life, given the fact that it is a companion device for your smartphone. HTC claims that the battery life allows for taking up to 1200 images, and up to one hour and forty minutes of continuous video capture. Taking around 100 photos a day didn’t do much to dent the battery life, but if you want to capture a lot of video, you may find yourself needing to charge the device often. The standby time is also very impressive, with the device lasting over a week on a single charge, with minimal use along the way.
The HTC RE is available for around $200 from Amazon, or other stores like Best Buy. The price point is definitely quite steep, and if you already have a smartphone that features a great camera, you won’t feel compelled to pick up the RE. That said, it does offer something beyond just taking good looking photos, and that is the ability to take photos a lot faster, record time lapse videos, and use it underwater.
So, there you have it – a closer look at the HTC RE! It is a very small, pocketable, and portable camera, that really simplifies the photo taking experience, along with being a lot of fun to use. This is another attempt by HTC to branch outside of the smartphone market, and they certainly have a great product on their hands. With that price point though, it is not exactly going to be an impulsive buy, and HTC may have their job cut out for them in having to convince people to buy it.