News by Luke Jones on Thursday October 09, 2014.
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HTC did not just roll out a new smartphone yesterday, the company also released the RE, a brand new asthma inhaler, I mean toilet pipe, I mean a periscope, I mean camera. Yes, the phallic design of HTC's new camera is hardly in keeping with the company's solid reputation with aesthetics, and that's coming from a fan of HTC hardware. So, what does this camera offer that other point and shoot, actions cams, or even smartphones do not?Sadly for HTC, nothing, and that's instantly where the RE falls down. That design is likely to divide opinion, but while we could scoff at it all day, it is impractical too, even if it does make holding the RE easy. The circular design makes finding your target a lot harder, and on a personal note, I would have liked to see the top rotate automatically for smooth panoramic shots. Forget about a viewfinder to line up your shots too as the RE does not have one. Some action cams compensate for this with laser pointers, such as the Contour+2, but the HTC RE does not even get that. It also lacks the GPS feature found on action cams such as the Contour and GoPro, an odd omission considering the RE is perhaps more in tune with a smartphone than those rivals. So, that's the point, is this really a new action cam alternative? Well, mounting it to a helmet would not work, although it could clip to the chest. However, it is just too limited, and while it is waterproof it does not look like the most rugged piece of kit either. There are some good points of course, such as The RE's ability to upload directly through Wi-Fi to the phone, while the Wi-Fi webcasting feature on YouTube once that works will be a good touch. It is pretty safe to say you will not be ditching the familiar action cam names in favor of the RE, so what about normal point and shoots? Sadly for HTC it is not a good story here either as compared to even basic point and shoot offerings, this lacks some core functionality. I have already mentioned the lack of a viewfinder, but there is not even a screen on this device, something the normal user would deem a necessity these days. Worse than that though is the lack of optical image stabilization, something that most good smartphones land with now. Without OIS you can forget about fancier features like a sub 2.0 aperture, super mechanical image stabilization and/or 200mm zoom or something. Lytro-like capture, super color depth, ultra-high framerate, or IR / thermal vision are also missing from the party. They may be take them or leave them features, but ultimately HTC needed to make the RE stand out from the crowd in terms of function and feature. However, all of the above problems pale into insignificance next to the big one... there is simply no market for this type of device. Yes, the action cam market does okay for a niche, but this is not an action cam. It is more of a point and shoot (albeit limited as well) and that area of the photography market is currently dead on arrival. Consumers would rather buy a smartphone with a solid snapper than a separate point and shoot, and the RE is going to do little to change that. In fact, there are probably much better camera experiences on several smartphones at the moment and there is no reason to get the RE unless you simply must have the latest thing. It is not category defining and is not creating its own niche either, it is stuck in a strange limbo and obviously does not know what it is. HTC, a company struggling to make ends meet at the moment would have been better served focusing on smartphones, tablets, and even wearables before going into this area. And to top it all off, the Taiwanese company is charging $200 for this. Am I wrong, would you consider the RE over other cameras?
Luke Jones is the Managing Editor at MobileBurn.com and is the person you need to speak to about the content on the site. Luke studied creative writing at degree level before carving out a reputation as a freelance tech writer. He settled here at MobileBurn, where he reviews devices and contributes to the news, as well as overseeing the site's content and direction.