Smartphone-maker HTC is taking a gamble on a non-smartphone product: A digital camera/camcorder called the Re Camera. At first it seems like a silly move when every smartphone has a camera with recording built in.
However, the "standalone camera" market is working very well for GoPro, maker of rugged cameras for recording extreme sports and outdoor activities. So HTC might have a shot with the Re Camera.
At first glance, I will give HTC credit for making something unlike anything else on the market. It looks like a glossy, colorful upside-down asthma inhaler. There's no screen and it only has two buttons.
The large rear button starts and stops recording and the front button switches to slow-motion mode. There's a light that blinks red during recording and blue during slow motion. That's about it.
HTC says this makes it easy to use one-handed and record at the spur of the moment. Plus you can keep your attention on the real world rather than be buried in an LCD screen.
To compensate for the lack of a viewfinder, the Re Camera has a wide-angle lens (146 degrees) so you can point it in a general direction and get what you're after.
The 16 megapixel sensor records up to 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second or 720p at 120 fps.
To see what you've recorded, you can link the Re Camera to an Android or iPhone using Wi-Fi and an app from HTC. You can also use your phone as a remote viewfinder to trigger the camera.
On the go you can record up to 1 hour and 40 minutes of footage before the battery dies. The microSD slot can hold up to a 128 gigabyte memory card, which is good for hours and hours of video.
When it comes to being rugged, the Re Camera is water resistant for 30 minutes on its own and has an option waterproof case. There are also plenty of add-ons for attaching it to bikes, backpacks, tripods and other places. However, just note it probably won't fare as well as a GoPro for seriously extreme activity.
That brings us to the Re Camera's price: $199. That's the same as a base model GoPro Hero3.
Even though the Hero3 is bulkier and only has a 5MP camera to the Re Camera's 16MP, the Hero does have a viewfinder, adjustable field of view and a larger battery along with a microphone input and A/V out.
Plus, if you already have a newer smartphone, the camera on that can probably do just as well as the Re Camera for everyday use. And it won't be another thing to carry around. The only thing you can't do with the smartphone is record in the water, unless you get a waterproof case.
The Re Camera arrives next month. If you have your eye on it, I say wait a little while to see how it work for other people. It might turn out to be a great little gadget, or more likely ti will be a dud.