HTC RE Camera review: Fun to use if you're obsessed with yourself

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At a Glance
  • HTC RE Camera

    Greenbot Rating

    It's not for everyone, but if you like having fun and want something that syncs up to your smartphone, the HTC Re is worth adopting into your gadget family.

I exist in the Venn diagram overlap of two of the most annoying people on the planet: a narcissist and a millennial. That’s who HTC’s new RE camera is marketed towards and that’s probably why I like it. This $200 camera is meant to help document both the exciting-to-you aspects of your life in a candid and spontaneous manner—it aims to inspire the “selfie generation” to put down the viewfinder and experience life! I liked my life with the RE in tow.

Towards the end there, however, I realized that while the RE Camera is a fun gadget to have on hand, it’s never going to replace the need for a real camera—just like a smartphone hasn’t.

’Is that an inhaler?’

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It’s kind of handsome when you look past the fact that it looks like an inhaler.

At first I was skeptical of the RE Camera’s periscope-shaped design. It certainly didn’t help that I received confused looks from passersby when I used it out in the wild—one woman even asked if I had asthma when I brought the RE in with me into the yoga studio. 

It’s admittedly a really silly shape, but it fulfills its purpose. It really feels like a “camera gun,” thus inspiring you to shoot to your heart’s content. It’s also comfortable enough to use one-handed, facing any direction. 

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There’s a bit of weight in the Re’s base to keep it from tipping over.

The RE Camera is light, but sturdy. There’s a bit of weight concentrated in the base so that it doesn’t tip over on a wobbly table, for instance. You’d have to knock it pretty hard to do so. It also has a standard quarter-inch tripod mount on the bottom if you’re looking for a little more stability.

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The bottom of a RE Camera features a standard tripod mount, and a slot for an MicroSD card.

The camera offers several shooting modes, including video and time lapse. You can also choose to shoot in Ultra-wide angle from the official RE Camera app. Videos can be shot in 720p or Full HD, up to 30 frames-per-second, while photos top out at 16-megapixels with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

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HTC’s interpretation of Ultra Wide Angle is, like, super wide.

Easy to use, once you figure it out

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The RE's big fat shutter button.

Back when I wrote my initial hands-on with the RE Camera, I was a little confused about how to use it. There’s no viewfinder or LCD screen of any sort, and I’m used to previewing photos on a DSLR or my phone. However, once you peruse the little paper manual that comes with the RE, it all clicks: hold its touch-sensitive capacitative body and wait for the green light, then press the top button once—but briefly—to snap a photo, or long press it to start recording video. If you want to change to Slow Motion mode, press the little front button once.

The Shutter button is easy to press and there’s a tiny light indicator that lets you know which mode you’re shooting in, or whether you’re almost out of storage. I wasn’t too keen on that front button, though. I barely used it once.

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The HTC RE app features a live view finder mode. 

The HTC RE Camera is best used with a smartphone. The RE Camera app is available for both iOS and Android devices and though it was buggy at times, it gives the camera way more functionality. Once you connect it via Bluetooth, you’ll see a gallery of all the photos, videos, and time lapses you’ve taken.

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A handy gallery of all the photos, videos, and time lapses you’ve taken with the Re. 

Tap on the camera icon to go to the live viewfinder. Eventually, the RE Camera will support features like live broadcasting, but for now you can use it to frame your shot. I placed it on top of my cubicle wall so I could see what was happening on the other side of the room from my smartphone. I also used it as a security camera of sorts by leaving the camera downstairs to check and see if the cat was making a dent in her dinner.

The RE Camera app also lets you adjust each of the individual camera modes. You can switch the video mode to Slow Motion, for example, or adjust the timing on the time lapse settings. You can also use the app to check up on the battery status of the camera and set up where to back up photos: locally to your device, or online to Dropbox or Google Drive. 

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The HTC Re’s camera settings are all available within the app. 

The live viewfinder will eat up the RE Camera’s battery (and your smartphone’s, for that matter). Without pairing, the camera’s 820mAh battery pack lasts a few days without needing a charge, but if you’re going full-force by pairing it with a device and recording a ton of video, you’ll have to keep a close eye on that battery meter.

The test shots

While I had lots of fun using the RE Camera to snap photos for Instagram and spy on my kitty, the camera is mostly for documenting bits and pieces of your life, not for serious photography. And it’s definitely not the only camera you want to bring with you on a backpacking tour of Europe, considering its limitations.

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One of the first shots I took with the Re. (I don’t know who that woman is. Sorry, anonymous woman.)

The RE Camera worked well out in the city where there’s plenty of streetlight and the buildings are all lit up. Videos fared the same, and its Image Stabilization feature worked exceptionally well. But then I tried out the RE in a dark parking lot in the suburbs and in our lab, and I tried shooting videos of my kitty rolling around in my dimly-lit room. The results were disappointing, and since there’s no flash, you’re stuck unless you have an external lighting solution.

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Dark parking lot is scary and dark. 

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It came out sort of grainy and hard to see in our dark room lab test, too. 

Fun, but not for everyone

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“Use me.”

I imagine you must be wondering what the point of a camera like this is if you already have a very capable smartphone to shoot with. If so, you're not the target demographic. However, I am. I’m more inspired to document my life when I don’t have to think about it because then I’m not so self-conscious. With a smartphone, I have to whip it out of my bag, find the app I want to shoot with, and then frame the photo. It’s easier to press the shutter button on the RE instead of standing on a street corner, attempting to figure out how to frame a photo on my phone for my Instagram followers. And frankly, it’s a lot of fun to use the different modes and post dynamic photos and videos for all the world to see.

I’m confident the HTC RE Camera will find its place among the Polaroid Cubes and Go Pros of the world, and I don’t think it’s price point is any worse than a Go Pro. In fact, if what you want is a fun camera to shoot you, your friends, and your family, the RE Camera is worth it simply because it instantly hooks up to your smartphone and it’s made for common folk like you and me, rather than the professional sports-people hooking Go Pros up to their kayaks.

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At a Glance
  • Greenbot Rating

    It's not for everyone, but if you like having fun and want something that syncs up to your smartphone, the HTC Re is worth adopting into your gadget family.

    Pros

    • Easy to use
    • Syncs up with any device running Android 4.2 and up, or iOS 7 and up

    Cons

    • Low-light abilities are a bit inconsistent
    • Using the app in tandem will quickly run down its battery life
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