Resting on its charging dock high on my bookshelf is an 8-year-old iPhone Shuffle. It has no screen, only 1GB of memory and complementary cheap headphones. It has followed me without imposition on wet morning runs, countless muddy bike-rides and on arduous hikes.
Nothing about the iPod Shuffle’s hardware screams cutting-edge — not even when I bought it 8-years-ago. But it’s a special kind of gizmo. Whereas other MP3 players distract with manageable playlists and options, the iPod Shuffle liberates me to focus only on finishing the last leg of my run.
Watching HTC’s Double Exposure event left me stirring with the same sensation. Sure, the company showcased a waterproof and camera-savvy Desire flagship, and some other intriguing software perks, but stealing the limelight was a little camera simply called Re.
Re looks nothing like a conventional compact camera. There’s no display and it has barely any buttons. The body is cylindrical and its only popping design trait is a large, peering lens. Frankly, it looks like a submarine’s periscope.
Smartphone company HTC has good reason for radically deviating from the norm. The company wanted a camera that would let people take a photo and live in the moment simultaneously. That’s typically tough to do when brain power is being wasted on the framing of a shot.
It is for this reason Re has barely any buttons. Instead of an on/off switch, the camera relies on a built in grip sensor that instantly activates the camera as it is picked up. Thumbs naturally rest on a large, tactile button that takes 16MP photos with a simple tap, and records 1080p video with a longer press. The user guide would probably be as long as this paragraph.
The pervasive question lingering on everyone’s mind is: how do we know what we’re taking photos of?
HTC has tended to this quandary by developing a custom 146 degree wide-angle lens for Re. To put that into perspective, online resource Wikipedia) claims people have an almost 180 degree field of view. Never has the label ‘point-and-shoot’ camera been more true.
There’s no guarantee the concept works, not until Good Gear Guide puts it through testing. Though, we remain hopeful.
Consider for a moment the potential of such a camera. Watching your favourite band live no longer has to be done through a camera’s screen. Point of view videos can be captured more frequently with less fuss. People will no longer take forty photos of the same shot hoping to nail the Vanity Fair look.
And this leads me to my next point. A camera like Re, with its discreet construction and lack of display, could restore spontaneity and truth to photos.
There’s more to Re, like its waterproof credentials, its shooting modes and how it sends snaps to your phone, but no feature is more exciting than capturing moments unstaged.
Only time can tell if HTC has shaken up the compact camera market, which has staggered following the popularity of smartphones. Re certainly isn’t the first radical camera too, but it certainly holds promise.
Read more: Apple iPhone 6: In-depth review
HTC hasn’t said much on Australian pricing or availability yet. We’ll publish news as it breaks.