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Tech Savvy: RE-imagining the camera

Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! This week we get to take a look at a fun little device courtesy of our friends at Verizon Wireless. I'm always excited when I get a box from Verizon because they always have some really fun things to test out - some of...

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Hey there, Tech Savvy fans! This week we get to take a look at a fun little device courtesy of our friends at Verizon Wireless.

I'm always excited when I get a box from Verizon because they always have some really fun things to test out - some of my favorite gear and devices have come from the goody boxes that Verizon has sent and this one was another winner - the RE camera by HTC.

Over the past couple of years HTC has reinvested in itself and has worked hard to bring their devices and gear to the forefront of the smart device world. Like many other tech giants, HTC started strong out of the gate but then got caught in the sophomore slump for a while. A couple years ago, you may remember my review of the HTC DNA, which is my current smartphone as well, and it was really the launching point of their re-emergence. The DNA is a rock solid device, great processing power, great responsiveness, one of the first phones to offer full 1080 HD resolution, and it had a fantastic camera. Some of my best pictures were taken with my DNA - hard to believe, but it simply takes good pictures.

When HTC then announced the RE camera coming out, I was excited to see what it would bring. If you've not seen one yet, or haven't heard of it, the RE camera is a portable, wireless camera designed for action. GoPros launched a craze to be able to take high quality video while on the move and other companies have since been trying to improve on the process, or come up with their own variation.

The device itself looks a bit like a periscope; it's a cylinder about an inch in diameter and about 4 inches high that curves out to a 90-degree angle for the lens. It is constructed of a pretty hefty feeling plastic material, with a light metal ring around the lens area presumably to help with protection as well as aesthetics.

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The RE fits comfortably in the hand, something I wasn't expecting out of the box. To be honest it looked a little funny, but as time has proven again and again, you can't judge a book by its cover, and it actually felt quite natural to rip. Depending on how rough and tumble you actually want to get, there are not any ridges, or rubberized pieces to aid in additional gripping power, so that's something to keep in mind.

There is a tripod adapter at the base and it comes with an adapter plug that you can use to attach a lanyard, which would definitely help with holding onto the camera. Tripod adapters for portable action cameras like these just makes a lot of sense now as there are so many options for ways to use that to mount them to different surfaces and items. For example, I can use the RE camera with the iStabilizer mounts that I reviewed previously and can then attach it to vehicles, bikes, canoes, etc., with minimal effort.

There is also a trapdoor on the bottom that houses a micro SD card for storage. The camera also pairs with a smartphone app that allows you to sync photos to the camera if you like, but having the micro SD card gives you storage on the go. The only other thing on the base of the camera is the micro USB charging port.

The rest of the camera is pretty sparse as well. There are two buttons, two LED lights and that's it. There is a larger silver button on the top; this is a multifunctional button as it acts as both the shutter button and the video mode activator as well. The RE is equipped with Grip Sensor technology that detects when the camera is picked up and automatically turns it on. Once on you simply press the large button on the top, which is easily accessed with your thumb, and it will take a picture. There is an audible shutter click so you know the picture was taken. To take video you simply push and hold the button until you hear an audible beep and then a light blinks orange to show that you are recording video. Press the button again to stop recording.

The only other button is a smaller button that is located on the front of the camera just under the lens area. This is your slow motion video button. Using the same press and hold process you can record video in slow motion. In my opinion having two separate buttons is nice; some of the other cameras you can get lost in counting how many presses you have done to activate which video mode, and the RE keeps it simple - this one for regular, the other for slow-mo.

The companion app is available for Android and iOS and serves a couple purposes. Since the RE doesn't have a display of its own, the app allows you to view the pictures and videos on the device, you can manage your gallery that way and delete pictures you don't want anymore and send pictures from the app to others to share. It's a really easy to use interface, and is an easy way to work with the camera. The other neat thing about the app is that you can use it to control the camera as well. This is handy if you have the RE in a mount, or if you are trying to shoot something that you can't get close to yourself, but your phone can. It can also help you adjust to not having a display to see what you're pointing the camera at. It doesn't take long to adjust to the idea of literally pointing and shooting, but it will give you a frame of reference to what is in your field of view based on what your natural grip is.

The RE captures in 1080p HD, 720 for the slow mo, and has a 146 degree wide angle lens. It causes some slight "fisheye" but I found it to be less severe than what is typical from a GoPro.

It has a 820 mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery that seems to hold a charge relatively well. The camera also has a time lapse setting so you can set it up and leave it for quite some time. Overall the camera weighs in at just 66.5 grams, which is 2.3 ounces, or less than one deck of cards.

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Picture and video quality was better than good - I wouldn't call it mind blowing - but it was certainly on par with other cameras that are filling this category. There is a built in microphone that does a pretty decent job actually of capturing sounds close up, but like other small mics, it can get overwhelmed easily in noisy settings. I imagine this would be a fun one for nature walks and things like that.

The RE is also waterproof up to 1 meter, so this makes it a great option for lake trips, maybe a fishing excursion, or easy to carry while skiing.

All in all the RE was a lot of fun, at $199 it comes in at about half the cost of the latest GoPro which makes it a viable option as an entry level higher end action camera. If you have wanted to get into action camera use, but haven't found the right one yet, the RE is definitely worth giving a look. Check it out at a Verizon store and see what the hype is all about.

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