HTC has announced the Re camera at its Double Exposure event in New York, expanding its offering beyond the smartphones the company is known for.
It's a standalone camera, although you need your Android or iOS device running the Re app to get to the full range of settings and controls, more on which later.
For those who are interested, HTC say the name comes from "rethinking" the camera, hence Re (say reeee).
Based around a really simple design, it's a refreshing change from the boxy slabs that are common in this sector. It's a cylindrical shape with a 90-degree bend at the top, making it easy to grip and point, avoiding the shortcoming of barrel-type cameras, which can be tricky to hold.
Yes, it looks a little bit like pushfit plumbing, an asthma inhaler, a periscope, or a cartoon worm poking out of a hole, but the design is cute and fuss free. There is no complexity, no complicated menu to navigate, no mire of settings to wade through.
Next to an inhaler, for scale
As such it has just two buttons, one on the front to engage slow motion and one on the rear that offers both stills and video capture. There isn't even a power button, as the device flips to standby when it's not being used and uses a "grip sensor" to wake it up again.
The Re camera exhibits the sort of industrial design we've come to expect from HTC and it feels good quality in the hand.
The perilous watcher gazes across the cityscape
The flat base means you can place Re on any surface to capture photos or video and there's a tripod screw mount too, should you want to attach it to something like a GorillaPod.
It's also waterproofed, so you'll be able to get it wet, but this isn't designed to challenge the GoPro as HTC isn't pitching this as an action camera, more as a casual device for those who want to escape from using their smartphone camera. That said, the polycarbonate body feels as though it won't mind getting dropped, so we're sure it will take some rough and tumble.
We can see that this type of device is going to be easier to put into the hands of kids and it's compact size means it's easy to slip into a pocket or bag.
The Re camera is designed to be used screen-free. It is, in its purest form, a point and shoot device. There is no display on it, so you won't know exactly what you're capturing, although from the time we spent using it, we haven't found that to be a problem, mostly thanks to wide-angle lens on the front.
It has a 146-degree wide-angle lens (we're not certain what it is in 35mm equiv) and that sits in front of a 1/2.3 16-megapixel sensor (from Sony). This is naturally distorted, although that can be automatically corrected in the device to avoid that barrel distortion typical to many compact video devices.
On the base is a Micro-USB port for charging/transfer and there's a covered slot for a microSD card. It comes with an 8GB card, but will accept up to 128GB.
There's an 820mAh battery on board, offering around 100 minutes of capture, or 1200 photos but we didn't have the chance to test those figures during our time with the Re.
The smartphone is still a big part of the puzzle, however, with a Re app - coming to Android and iPhone - opening the door to a lot of the functionality.
First up, the app can act as a live viewfinder, so you can make sure you're looking at the right thing. It can also be used as a remote trigger to start and stop capture. You don't have to though, as most of the time you'll just point Re in the right direction, hit the button on the back and you're in the action.
Within the app you get the option to turn on or off the distortion correction on the lens, so you can either have a "straight" image, or the fisheye effect you might associate with devices like the GoPro.
The app also acts as a control point for the images and video you capture, letting you preview and download Re content to your phone for further sharing. This will also have a hook into HTC's funky video platform Zoe - with Zoe 1.0 publically launching today, so you can quickly spin your photos and videos into cool highlights and share them.
There aren't a huge number of capture options, it's either 1080/30p, or 720p slow mo, as well as timelapse mode (also 720p), in which you can set the duration and the interval of capture, resulting in your cool lapse video.
In the future there will also be a live streaming option for YouTube and HTC will be opening up the SDK, so third-party apps will be able to integrate with Re.
It's all pretty straightforward, but as we said, you can't change any settings on the device itself without using the app.
Operation and performance first impressions
We're not drawing any final judgements of the Re camera's performance just yet, as the software isn't final and HTC are still pushing developmental updates. However, the operation is about as straightforward as you can get.
You simply press and release the rear button to capture a still, or use a longer press to initiate video. If you want slow mo, you have to press the front button first, then the rear button. There are illuminations to display that something is happening - a red flashing light front and rear to indicate video capture, for example - as well as corresponding beeps when you do something (these can be silenced).
The LED indicators can be a little indistinct and we found it very easy to trigger capture, so we have video of the inside of our bag, or photos captured when pulling it out of a pocket.
But we like how easy it is to use. Having used a number of wearable and action cameras recently - GoPro, Toshiba X-Sports, Panasonic A500 - the simplicity of the HTC Re is refreshing. It might not be positioned in the same space as these more sophisticated devices but you can't question how easy it is to use.
As we said, we're not going to pass any performance judgements just yet, as HTC has told us that it are still working on the software side of things to refine the quality.
We've cut together some of the footage we've captured using the Re in and around New York prior to launch, just so you can see the sort of thing you can expect.
There will be a range of accessories to complement the Re, such as mounts for your bike, a screw on lanyard so you can carry it around your neck and a charging dock.
We will bring you a full review of the HTC Re in the near future. The Re is expected to cost around $199, which we think is a little on the steep side, but we can't deny we've had a lot of fun with this quirky little device. It's expected to be available in late October.