We don’t carry point-and-shoot cameras anymore because we have smartphones. But the problem with that is our devices are either in our pockets or occupying our attention with something else, to the point where we miss the moments happening right in front of us. Go to any concert, sporting event, or rally and you’ll see the phenomena first-hand.

HTC, typically known for smartphones and the occasional tablet, wants to free you from your smartphone burden with the RE, a new inhaler-like camera that promises to make documenting your life much easier.

The problem with smartphone photography is that it’s not always the most seamless experience. You have to fetch your phone from your pocket, wake the device, open the camera app, wait for it to focus and then snap a picture. That might not sound like a huge deal, but it could be the difference between missing your kid’s first step and capturing it for a YouTube audience. Or, worse, you could experience moments in an almost second-hand way, watching your son or daughter’s milestone achievement through a glowing digital screen.

HTC’s solution is a device that’s incredibly easy to use, and surprisingly well-executed (if a bit rough around the edges).

The first and most obvious thing folks will notice about the RE is how it looks. Like an inhaler or mini periscope, the design is all about ergonomics. Sure, it looks strange, but pick it up and it fits perfectly in your hand, with the main camera button placed right where your thumb naturally rests. It’s also really light, while the glossy plastic feels sturdy and durable. That’s what makes the RE so easy and fun to use.

There are two hardware controls: the main chrome button is how you snap both photos and video; tap it once for a picture and hold is for a few beats and it’ll switch right over to video. The RE will beep at your to indicate what mode it’s in, clearing up any confusion over what you’re actually doing. Without a viewfinder or LCD screen, it’s a little awkward at first when controlling the RE, but the learning curve is minor.

A second button is placed on front just below the 146-degree wide angle lens, which allows you to easily switch between slow-motion and regular video recording modes. There are a few LED status indicators just below that (meant to tell you when you switch modes and when battery is low), and on bottom there are microUSB and microSD card ports.

One really neat thing about the RE is that it turns off when you set it down and wakes up when you pick it back up. This helps the device conserve its non-removable 820mAh battery, which HTC claims will get you about 1,200 pictures or 100 minutes of video recording. The RE is also water-resistant down to 1 meter for 30 minutes, meaning you’re good to take it in the ocean or on your next fishing trip to the river.

HTC also made the RE compatible with an app that’s available for iOS and Android, which allows you to tweak settings and see a livestream view so you can more easily compose shots before snapping a picture or recording video; you can also set image quality, adjust time lapse settings and so much more. The app will also integrate with HTC’s Zoe app, and down the road the RE will let users stream live video directly to YouTube, which we can’t wait to try out.

We’ve haven’t had a ton of time to test the RE out, though our early experiences have been positive. We have noticed some issues with blurry photos, though video so far hasn’t been bad at all. There’s a charm and randomness about the RE that makes using it fun. Rather than taking your smartphone out to record a quick video of your dog, you can just keep the RE in one hand without really having to think about it. Just hold the button and you’re good to go.

The RE will retail for $200 when it’s available, which is definitely on the more expensive side. However, if you constantly record video and snap pictures, and don’t want to be shackled by your phone, the RE might be a good alternative. Right now you can pre-order the white model on HTC’s site.

HTC RE specs:

  • 16-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch Sony CMOS sensor
  • 1080p, 30fps FHD video
  • 720, 4x slow motion video
  • 146 degree super wide angle lens with f2.8 aperture for low light usability
  • 820mAh battery rechargeable battery
  • Expandable microSD storage
  • Tripod hole
  • Time-lapse recording
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Wi-Fi Direct

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