HTC Re camera review: A camera so simple it doesn't even have a power button

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The Good The HTC Re is a small, simple point-and-shoot video camera that's ready to shoot when you pick it up. It's waterproof to 1 meter without a housing, and its built-in wireless and the Re app let you see what you're shooting as well as view and download what you've captured to your mobile device.

The Bad There is noticeable shutter lag. Its video and photo quality aren't significantly better than a smartphone and audio quality is poor. Its battery isn't user replaceable or removable. Its shape is great for holding, but the body is a bit slippery.

The Bottom Line The HTC Re's features might not be as unusual as its design, but it's still a solid little camera that's easier and faster to shoot with than your average smartphone.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 7

The HTC Re isn't anything that didn't already exist in one form or another. It's basically an heir to the Flip-style minicamcorder or, more accurately, the pistol-grip Sanyo Xacti dual-cameras and a cousin to current POV action cams.

The little periscope-shaped shooter (asthma inhaler and right-angle flashlight are also suitable comparisons) is designed so that you stop watching and recording life through your smartphone's screen and get in on the experience instead by simply pointing the Re at what you want to grab and not worrying about framing.

However, the Re costs $199 in the US and £169 in the UK. The Re has just launched in Australia for an equally hefty AU$249. That's no small sum of money for something that duplicates capabilities already found in your smartphone and requires you to carry around a second device, even if it is very small and light.

As single-purpose devices go, though, the Re does what it does well, with at least part of the credit going to HTC's smartphone expertise.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

Though the body is certainly compact and lightweight, the large lens is tough to miss -- an ultrawide f2.8 lens with an 146-degree angle of view. Behind it is a 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel Sony-made CMOS sensor.

That sensor is bigger than what you'd find in almost all smartphones, but average for point-and-shoot cameras and action cams such as those from GoPro and Sony. And that lens is so wide that you can pretty much just aim it at your subject and you'll have them in the frame. Still, it'll take some trial and error to know what will actually be in your shot.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The vertical tube that bends down from the lens barrel gives you something easy and stable to hold for one-handed shooting, though the plastic gets slippery after some use. Your thumb falls naturally on the bend where there is a big shutter release/record button.

HTC pitches the Re more as a lifestyle cam like Polaroid's Cube than a rugged action cam for extreme sports, but the body is waterproof to 1 meter (3.3 feet) for up to 30 minutes without an additional housing.

That means capturing that time-lapse of a passing thunderstorm or a splash in the pool should be no problem. There is also an optional waterproof cap that lets you take it down to 3 meters (9.8 feet) for up to 120 minutes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

However peculiar it looks, the design works well for picking it up, pointing and shooting. Press the big button once and it captures a 16-megapixel photo in 4:3 format (12- or 8.3-megapixel if you opt for a 16:9 format). Press and hold for a couple seconds and it starts recording video at 1080p or 720p resolution, at 30 frames per second. You can choose from an ultrawide view with some barrel distortion, or a narrower view that's cropped in to correct the distortion.

A red light shines through the button's surface and blinks when recording; a second record light is on the front along with a speaker hole. The camera emits a bleep when you start and stop a recording or take a photo. This can be silenced, but the lights cannot be shut off.

Another button in the crook under the lens switches from recording regular video into a slow-motion mode capturing 720p video at 96fps. Press and hold the button and it changes modes, then just press the record button as usual.

There's no audio in this mode and it is straight slow-motion and not high-speed video that can be slowed down when editing. Also, once you stop the slow-motion recording, the camera changes back to its regular video capture mode.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Perhaps the coolest part about the Re's design is what's missing, though: a power button.

The body has capacitive touch sensors built into it, so the camera turns on as soon as you pick it up. And really that's one of the biggest advantages to grabbing the Re instead of your phone. There is no unlocking or launching of apps; you just pick it up and press the shutter.

There is no screen, so you'll have to get used to framing shots without one, which, again, is actually easier than it sounds given the wide-angle lens. If you want to see what you're shooting, though, you can wirelessly connect the Re to your smartphone.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

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