Ever felt that taking photos with your smartphone is kind of cumbersome? Most of the times you need to use two hands to keep it still while touching the screen for focus and taking the photo. Or you simply want to take a few photos where it could get... wet. And (most) smartphones don't like "wet".
The HTC Re camera comes to help here. It will not be the highest quality mobile camera you can get but it can probably be the most fun. I know because over a couple of weekends meeting in-laws I simply handed the HTC Re camera to our daughter and her little cousins (ages from six through ten) with a mandate to go and take photos.
The results were great. Lots of selfies of the cousins together, photos of a few coloured sheep (they were "painting" the sheep with chalk), photos and videos of their games and so. Also during family gatherings we just took lots of photos.
The HTC Re camera has a f2.8 aperture and because it lacks a flash it will get better results when more light is available. It comes equipped with a 16 megapixel 1/2.3" Sony CMS sensor. While you can get higher quality 4:3 16 megapixel photos you can drop the quality a bit to get 16:9 images.
The IP57 means it is protected from limited dust ingress and can be used in water up to a metre deep.
The HTC Re camera is usually in a "sleep" state and automatically comes alive when you grab it, thanks to a grip sensor that turns on the device when it is picked up.
Operation is pretty simple then: point the camera in the general direction of the subject and tap the button on top of its body for a photo. Alternatively you can press the button until you hear a tone indicated it's now recording video - at 1080p 30fps.
Because the camera uses a 146 degree super wide angle lens you have not to worry: if it is pointing to the subject it will capture it. You might get some distortion though, reduced for long distance subjects. The camera doesn't have manual or automatic focus.
The small battery allows for up to one hour and 50 minutes of continuous video recording.
The smartphone app (available for Apple iOS and Android) is easy to use and allows you to control the camera configuration and some functionality. The app communicates to the HTC Re camera via Bluetooth 4.0 (low energy), WiFi or WiFi direct.
It also allows you to set an automatic backup so that if your phone connects to the camera it will automatically start copying photos and videos to its local storage. You have the option to remove or leave those in the camera after the operation is finished. You have the option to manually copy these files if you want to select which ones you want instead of copying everything.
Copying files over WiFi is fast but I still find faster to just copy directly from the card to my laptop. Unfortunately the HTC Re camera doesn't appear as mass storage if you plug it to your PC's USB port, so I used a microSD to USB adapter and copied the files this way.
The camera comes with a 8GB microSD but supports up to 128GB cards. Next to the microSD slot you will find a micro USB slot used to charge the camera and a standard tripod hole.
Using the app you can also set a password so other people can't connect to your camera, or change the camera audio volume.
In case you really need a live view you can use the app to see what the camera will capture. A button on the screen will then act as the shutter button and you cake photos or record videos from your smartphone.
In the settings section you can find an option to check for firmware updates. I recommend doing it because the first time I connected the camera an updated firmware was available with a new feature: live streaming to YouTube.
The live streaming to YouTube requires your YouTube channel to be properly configured and the app will guide you through it. Once this is done you can start streaming to your channel. This works only over mobile data though. You have the option to notify via SMS a list of contacts so they can receive a link to the live event when it starts. Unfortunately you can't schedule an event on YouTube and get the camera to live stream to that event. The software will always create a new event.
Overall it is a great gadget when you consider that it is a lot smaller and lighter than a point and shoot camera, or sometimes you don't your phone being passed around, or you want to take some photos on the beach or pool.
Below are some photos - click through it to see the originals. Also below is a short video you can play to see how it performs in a city environment (you need HTML5 support for the stream to work).