It may look like an asthma puffer, but you can take it into the water, strap it to your bicycle or clip it to your shirt for a run -- all activities with the potential to leave you out of breath. Then you can share its video and photos directly from your smartphone. HTC's Re action camera is one of the smartest you can buy, even if the range of mounts available currently leaves a little to be desired.
What Is It?
- Resolution: 16 megapixels
- Sensor Size: 1/2.3-inch
- Screen: No
- Video: 1080p @ 30fps, 720p @ 120fps
- Lens Mount: N/A (fixed lens)
- Warranty: 2 Years
The $240 HTC Re is a periscope-shaped action camera with a maximum still image resolution of 16 megapixels and video recording at 1080p Full HD at 30 frames per second in its highest quality. If you want slow-motion video, you're able to select a 720p 120fps mode independently.
The HTC Re is simple. Really simple, to the extent that it doesn't even have a power button. To switch the action camera on, you grip it with your fingers and the HTC Re silently comes to life -- but you just have to trust that it has, because there's not even a status light to tell you what it's doing. There are two buttons on the HTC Re, actually -- one the camera's top, there's a large hemispherical button that you can tap to snap a picture or long-press to start and stop video recording, and a smaller button on the front that toggles slow-motion videos.
HTC sells the Re in three colours; my review unit was a dark blue but it's also available in orange and white. Each colour is finished in a beautiful high gloss, the lens glass is big, and the design is super simple -- there's not much that you could possibly dislike about the HTC Re.
Apart from those two buttons for regular and slow-mo video and photos, the rest of the action happens on the base of the HTC Re. There's a microUSB 2.0 port for charging or transferring your media files from the camera, a 1/4-inch tripod screw thread mount, and a microSD card hidden behind a waterproof door -- HTC includes a 8GB card with the Re. You can properly waterproof the Re by installing the included screw-in cover on the base, which also gives you facility to attach a wrist strap.
What's It Good At?
This camera is so easy to use. Pick it up and tap the button on the top to snap a photo, or press to start recording a video -- that's about the extent of what you need to do (or what you can do at all) with the Re. I haven't decided whether I'd use the Re primarily as a stills camera or an action video camera, but it's equally easy to do both and there's no complicated process for switching between the two a la GoPro.
Video quality is not bad at all, either. Both at 1080p and 30 frames per second, and in 720p slow-motion, the HTC Re captures generally clear and crisp and detailed video -- not quite up to the level of the latest GoPro Hero 4, but a fair way ahead of a generic smartphone camera. Photos are similarly clean, although there the gap between smartphone and Re is smaller.
Here are some sample images captured with the HTC Re in a variety of settings:
And here are a couple of videos in varying lighting settings, including one where we started throwing the HTC Re around to see what the resulting footage would look like. (Spoiler: not very good.)
You control almost every fancy feature on the Re using HTC's companion smartphone app, which for the most part is pretty good. It's simple, offers a giant infinite-scroll list of your photos and videos (with a little icon to denote video), and has simple access to camera settings. The most useful feature, though, is the ability to get a live feed of what the HTC Re is viewing, letting you compose your photos or videos with a little more care. It's basic, but it works well.
What's It Not Good At?
Because there's no power button, and one primary button that is quite easy to press, you'll find that you end up accidentally capturing a lot of junk photos with the HTC Re -- snaps from inside your pocket or your bag, poorly aimed photos, short video clips of complete darkness and unearthly, unidentifiable noises that may be from when you lent the camera to Cthulhu that one time. You quickly get into the habit of scanning through the Re app on your smartphone to quickly cull the worst of the worst, but you'll still end up with some worthless ones.
Similarly, pretty much all of the Re's complex features are handled by the smartphone app -- and that means you'll have to have a smartphone handy should you want to change anything, like the size and quality with which you're capturing all of the photos you take. Where a GoPro has a little screen that tells you what's going on, the Re is much more barebones. That also means it's more difficult than you'd expect to find out when the HTC Re is running low on battery or internal storage.
HTC has a small range of accessories available for the Re, but it doesn't have the diverse selection that longer-running competitors have. More importantly, no mounts are included in the box with the Re itself You can buy a bar mount, a clip mount, a suction mount, and others, and there's always the versatility that the tripod screw brings. But as it stands, the HTC Re doesn't have the range that a GoPro or Sony Action Cam has on offer, and those mounts are every bit as expensive.
The Re also lacks the serious video nous of these two camera competitors, but that's in part explained by the fact that it's both significantly cheaper and significantly simpler -- it's not necessarily made for professional video work. It would have been nice to have a 1080p 60 frames per second mode, though, to give a bit of slow-motion or video editing wiggle room as its broader competition has.
Should You Buy It?
The HTC Re, available for around the $240 mark depending where you buy it, is a versatile and exceedingly simple little action camera that is good purely because it doesn't try to do too much.
The design is incredibly streamlined and easy to understand -- and really quite cute -- and that means the HTC Re has a much lower level of assumed knowledge than any other action camera, and almost any other camera at all. And that's a good thing for actually getting out there and using it.
If you're so inclined, you can dabble into the Re's more advanced features with the companion app, which isn't necessary but comes strongly recommended if you want to share your videos and photos very quickly after capturing them. The live view feature will also keep anyone that wants to actually compose their photos happy.