I have been fascinated by the GoPro camera range for sometime now. However, I have resisted the temptation to buy one, for I am at the other end of the activity scale of an average GoPro user. Another minor detail is the fact that just the camera costs $400 + shipping in India.
This is why I was more than interested when I ended up covering the launch of a new action camera from HTC. The RE is an action camera, but it is meant for the average guy taking his daughter to the beach as well as the teenager who is going to attempt a silly aerial spin on his BMX.
I got to use the RE camera for around five hours, a day after it was launched in New York. The handheld camera is supposed to be used along with a smartphone app. However, app is still being finalised and i shot everything without the help of a preview. I had no idea what was being show until I loaded the SD card into a PC.
Design: The HTC RE looks like anything but a camera. It has a large lens and the idea was to build the device around it. The end result resembles an inhaler used by asthmatics, but it has a tubular body that give it a perfect grip in your hand. Most of the body is in your hand and pipe curves to point the lens towards the subject. To shoot, you have to just point the lens at the subject and press the button behind it — a single press clicks a still photo, while a long press initiated Full HD video. There is another button in front to switch on the slow-motion mode. There is a flap at the bottom where the SD card goes in. The device is waterproof.
Shooting: HTC has simplified, or over simplified, the process of shooting with a camera. There is no need to focus, frame a shot or adjust settings. Just aim the camera in the general direction of the subject and press the button. The ultra wide angle f/2.8 lens can capture anything within a 146 degree radius of the lens. But this means you need to have a reasonable sense of direction. Jet-lagged and sleep deprived, I at times ended up shooting just the legs of the dancer I was aiming at. You also stand the chance of including unnecessary elements in the frame, as is obvious from my trail video.
However, this is not an issue that is going to encounter the final buyers of the device. They will have access to the mobile, which will let them preview what they are shooting real time. I was able to do this for a while during the shoot and the results were much better then. You also need the app in case you want to shoot the time lapse videos. There is no way to trigger that from the device. The battery lasted the entire duration of my five hours with the device.
The one small concern while using the camera is that you are not sure if the device is recording as there is nothing to indicate that. When you are shooting slow-motion, a blue light blinks from inside the steel button. However, you will miss this if shooting under the bring sun.
Results: As you can see from the test video, the results were pretty crisp and clear. Though I felt they lacked the awesomeness of the some of the GoPro videos I have seen, they are more than sufficient to bring a smile to the family when they watch a home video of their last picnic. The one thing that I was not all that impressed by was the audio quality, especially when the subject is not all that near. The slow-motion is also pretty neat.
Verdict: Given the Rs 9,990 price tag, I think the RE is among the best camera options for those who love shooting video everywhere and don’t want to spend on a GoPro. This camera is also easier to handle and use with literally no set up required. Also, it can be used with most latest Android and iOS smartphones. Designed to be used with a mobile, this might just interest a lot of people who like to chronicle their lives with their mobile device.
Size: 96.7 x 26.5 mm
Weight: 65.5 grams
Memory: 8GB microSD included; Expansion card slot supports microSDTM memory card for up to 128GB additional storage
Sensors: Grip sensor; G-sensor
Cconnectivity: Bluetooth 4.0; Wi-Fi® (802.11 a/b/g/n), Wi-Fi Direct; micro-USB; 1⁄4” tripod connection
Camera: 16MP; 1/2.3” CMOS sensor; Ultra wide angle: 146° lens (f/2.8); 1080p, 30fps FHD video 720p, 4x slow motion video; Time-lapse video recording
Audio: HD microphone; Speaker
Durability: IP57 waterproof
Compatibility: Compatible with Android 4.3 and above (BLE equipped); and iOS 7 or later
Battery: 820 mAh rechargeable battery (1,200 16MP
photos; 1 hour 40 min of continuous FHD video recording); AC Adapter