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HTC’s new screenless action camera can use an Android phone as a viewfinder

HTC is now making an action cam, although the company says it’s less oriented “for adrenaline junkies” than GoPro cameras are. The Re doesn’t have a screen and is shaped like a little pipe. The design is reminiscent of a periscope, and in shape and size the camera resembles an asthma inhaler. On one side of the pipe is a 16-megapixel camera with a very wide-angle lens, and on the other side is a standard tripod mount.

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The [company]HTC[/company] Re will cost $200 when it goes on sale.

Without a screen, there are only two inputs on the camera. There’s a large shutter button on the back. A click takes a photo and a long press starts recording 1080p video. The button on the front is used for configuration. There isn’t an on and off switch, but embedded sensors will sense when someone picks up the camera, and it will be ready to take a photo almost instantly.

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The main way that users will interact with the photos the Re camera takes is through HTC’s Re app, which works as a viewfinder when connected to a smartphone over Wi-Fi. You can also trigger a time-lapse mode on the app. But you don’t need to have the app working to use the Re as a camera. And the app won’t be exclusive to HTC cameras, either. At first it will be available t0 devices with Bluetooth 4.0 on Google Play, and an iOS version is in the works. It’s not HTC’s first app for devices it didn’t make, but it does mark a shift in direction for the company.

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You can also back up photos from the Re to Dropbox or Google Play, and there’s a Micro SD card slot for local image storage as well.

How will the Re be used? Well, that’s yet to be decided.

It’s waterproof and pocketable, so it could work well in a party or sports situations, although you’d have to assume that action sports types would use a GoPro and party people on the go would simply use their phones. But it can also be worn in a shirt pocket, as a kind of lifelogger. A future software update will allow the Re to livestream video to Youtube. Its small size and discrete shape also raises questions about using the Re for secret recording for nefarious purposes. While the Re is recording video, there’s a hardwired LED on the front that will light up.

Picture quality is also a question. At 16 megapixels the files will be large, but we’ll have to see how well the Re handles color or how sharp the finished photos will be. The 146-degree lens gives every photo a fish eye quality, although the Re app will have a feature which tries to digitally correct distortion. But picture quality is a secondary consideration on a device like this, at least to start. The photos will be good enough for sharing on the internet.

HTC simultaneously announced a photo-focused Android smartphone, the HTC Desire Eye. It’s a big, well-constructed 5.2-inch polycarbonate smartphone with the same [company]Qualcomm[/company] Snapdragon chip that’s in the HTC One M8, so it should be fast. Its main differentiating feature is a 12-megapixel camera on the front of the device in addition to a 12-megapixel camera on the back. More megapixels doesn’t necessarily translate to better photo quality, but the bigger sensor and lens should produce clearer photos than the video-conferencing based front shooters on a lot of phones. The Desire Eye could find a niche as a slightly less expensive version of HTC’s flagship that happens to take a beautiful self-portrait. It’ll be available on [company]AT&T[/company].

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