The latest product from one of the world’s biggest smartphone makers … is not a smartphone. HTC brought us to New York City –and even took us aloft in a helicopter– to show us the utility of its one-handed action camera, and we’ve got a hardware tour and some quick first impressions!

HTC RE hands-on

An inhaler. A periscope. A water pipe. The list of everyday objects the RE resembles goes on and on. But that weird form factor makes it easy to hold, and it also makes the RE stand out – or stand up, if you prefer. It fits easily into a pocket and it’s designed to be used one-handed, because HTC’s thinking with the RE is that a small dedicated camera does a better job of keeping you present in the moment than does burying your face in a smartphone to frame a shot.

To make sure you capture everything without a viewfinder, the RE features a 16MP sensor mated to an ultra-wide lens offering a 146-degree viewing angle. There’s no flash, and no optical stabilization; software smooths the shooting, and it also adjusts for the fisheye effect the wide-angle lens produces. The controls are limited to the shutter button under the thumb and the slow-motion trigger under the forefinger. There’s not even a power switch: sensors embedded in the casing detect when the RE is being held, and a quick flash of the color-coded LEDs tells you the battery level every time you pick it up.

Shooting is as easy as pointing the RE and pressing once on the shutter key for a still shot; a long-press starts a standard video, while pressing the trigger beneath the lens switches to video mode. The RE is IPX7 moisture-resistant, so you can also shoot underwater, and an available accessory case stands ready to make it IPX8 for deeper excursions. Other accessories include clip mounts, charging stands, car chargers and lanyards, and for those who like to bring their own tripod there’s a 1/4″ mounting socket on the bottom.

Photos and video are sent to an app on your Android phone or iPhone for sharing; the software also includes remote viewfinder functionality, the ability to create time-lapses, and some other perks – but unfortunately the app wasn’t yet finished at the time of our hands-on. Also, the software powering the RE itself was still being revised at press time, so you’ll have to wait for our full review to find out how well it works, and what we think of the final output. HTC has asked us to make clear that the sample shots you see below were taken with preproduction hardware and software; photos from the final product may differ significantly.

The RE goes on sale later this month (in three colors) in the US, and in other markets soon after. Again, stay tuned for our full review of a production unit, which we’ll have up as soon as HTC sends us final hardware. If you’re looking for more from HTC’s Double Exposure event here in NYC, check out our hands-on of the new HTC Desire Eye, available now on our front page!

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