The first time I held HTC's Re camera, I wondered why the company bothered.
As a camera, it was no different from the GoPro or Sony Action Cam devices.
These wearable cameras are small enough to fit in your palm or be attached to your body, are unobtrusive and meant to record images or video for activities that would be difficult for a regular camera to capture.
Think jogging, swimming, cycling or bungee jumping.
But just as you would not think about taking a compact camera for rock climbing, you would not take a GoPro to a wedding either.
With no viewscreen, users cannot preview photos or frame their shots. In fact, users are pretty much at the mercy of whatever subjects and objects that fall within the frame of the lens.
But HTC believes that the Re can be a regular camera; and it does not believe you need a screen to do that. After all, folks already lift their phones over their heads to record a performance, or choose to take a selfie, without once checking the screen to frame the shot.
To counter the idea that portable cameras are meant for rugged use, HTC has redesigned its wearable camera. Instead of a small cube, the Re camera looks like an inhaler, or a miniature periscope.
There is a small tube-like grip for your fingers and a part sticking out at the top where the lens sits, that leans over, like a periscope.
Point the lens at an object and press the metallic touch button just behind the lens to take a photo.
Directly under the lens is another button to toggle between stills and video, and you press the same metallic touch button to get video-recording going.
And that is basically all you need to know about the Re camera. Its use is deceptively simple and the camera goes just about anywhere. It is waterproof, so you can take it swimming and it fits snugly in your palm, so you can lift your arm to fire off a few shots, without anyone realising you have a camera tucked away.
Its barely-there profile means that few people will actually notice you are wielding a camera, so your unsuspecting subjects tend to behave more naturally.
The quality of the photos is as good as those taken with smartphones. With a 16MP CMOS sensor, it shoots full-HD (1,080p) video and is great for daytime shots, but falters in low-light conditions.
It has a 146-degree wide-angle lens. If you are shooting underwater, the clear water of a swimming pool works better than murky seawater. It helps if you have a light source in the pool.
You can pair the Re with an HTC smartphone, and use the phone as a viewfinder for the Re.
The unit uses a microSD card to store content and has no built-in storage. While it fits nicely into my pants pocket, the touch button is sensitive.
So if you accidentally wake your phone up each time you reach into your pocket, you are likely to do the same with the Re.
HTC also offers a selection of accessories for the Re. There are the usual helmet and body attachment accessories, as well as for bicycles and motorcycles.
If you have ever wanted a small camera like the GoPro, but found thatit to be too blocky in design, this is the more elegant solution.
Camera: 16MP, 1/2.3-inch Sony CMOS sensor
Features: 1,080p, 30fps Full HD video; 720p, 4x slow-motion video; 146-degree wide-angle lens with f2.8 aperture
Memory: Expandable microSD storage up to 128GB
Value for money 3/5
Battery life 3/5
This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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