The New iPad from a Photographer’s Point of View

So about two hours ago the nice FedEx man dropped off my new iPad. As many of my readers may remember, I was somewhat non-plussed by the iPad 2 and didn’t really see how it filled a hole in my computing world, and so I sold it a few days after buying it. Well it’s a year later, and a lot more people have bought iPads and I realized that as a photographer I need one to test my numerous websites and make sure everything works. So in this headspace I ordered an iPad 3 and I thought I’d take a moment and talk through what I think from a Photographer’s point of view.

I guess there are a few ways that a photographer would use this thing. One I can think of is as a portfolio or for viewing other people’s work. Next is as an organizing and editing device of some kind. And thirdly we have the gee-wiz stuff which doesn’t fit the other two.

Ok, let’s be honest, the only reason this new iPad is interesting is the new screen, and I’ll admit, it’s pretty great. 2048×1546 pixels of very tightly packed pixel glory. It really does get close to feeling like a living piece of paper. If you load up your photos using iTunes, it shrinks them down a bit before transfer. They’re still pretty big, around 4000×3000, but I don’t know why it doesn’t just send over the whole thing or at least give you the option. I’ve looked at a number of portfolio applications which look pretty nice, but I have yet to decide which $20 app I want to try. The reviews for all that I’ve looked at have been pretty mediocre. Any advice on this matter is appreciated.

So can this 10″ screen take the place of a printed book? Maybe for some people on both sides of the table. But it’s not without it’s problems. Most of that for me is the glare. If you have any light sources behind you be prepared for the mirror of death. I personally find this rather distracting and I think if there was gloss paper this reflective, it would probably be off the market by now. That said, it’s a HUGE step up from the last version and almost all other screens short of sitting a couple feet away from a good 30″ which still looks pretty good. And then there are those clients who still like paper. They’re out there.

For the record, the two versions of the picture above look almost identical in color and brightness. Something about taking a picture of a screen and a print at once made the camera in my iphone shift things a bit.

As far as websites go, they look great. Especially text which gets automagically rendered in super-high-def. As an artist myself, I’m a little concerned about posting 2048 pixel images on my website. That’s big enough to make a decent size print if someone were to do a screen grab. Too big to comfortably let out of my sight. I wonder how the rest of the industry is going to deal with it actually. Time will tell I guess.

Organizing and Editing.
So I’ve downloaded the new iPhoto. Neat? Sure. Especially the new little brightness/contrast slider bar widget they’ve come up with. And it’s definitely worth $5 if you’ve got an iPad 2 or newer. I could see it handy in a pinch, or as a laptop replacement on vacation when you just want to look through the pics, make a few adjustments and post them on the Facebook. It is not going to replace Lightroom and Photoshop, not for a long while for anything like the work that I do. First off, it’s a small battery powered ARM cpu. If my Intel i7 takes time with my 5D Mark II RAW files, this thing is not going to cut it. Plus Apple put a top end size of 19MP I think, which means stuff I work on would have to be downsized anyway.

The screen is great, but the editing tools are not going to have the responsiveness or control of a tablet anytime soon. So sure, global contrast and saturation, maybe some large regions, but I’m not going to use my iPad to do composites or local contrast edits. It’s not tough sensitive for one thing. It’s about the right tools for the right job. I just don’t shoot that way where I look at my files and tweak a little and they’re done. For some people this might be great. I could totally see my Mom using it for that, or an events photographer who just need to do a quick cut of an evening’s pictures.

You might be tempted to bring it to a shoot and dump stuff onto it as you worked. Maybe, but the camera connection kit is pretty slow from what I hear, and people who are really doing that will use a laptop so that they can backup to a couple of drives and that kind of thing. Plus, how do you get them to your big computer when you get home? iTunes? Ya, no thanks.

If there was a LightRoom Lite which you could use with small jpegs to do selects and ratings which could then sync back to your RAW images on your main machine when you got home, that would be awesome. I don’t think we’re there yet though. (EDIT: Apparently there is an app that does this called Photosmith, Thanks for the tip Gary!) Again, getting stuff onto and off of the iPad has been a thing for while. The cloud is great for text documents, but I can’t transfer an 16GB CF card that way.

And here’s the section for all the other cool photo things you can do with an iPad. There are apps that’ll keep track of sun position at different times of the day. That’s pretty cool but more useful on my iPhone because I went for the wifi only iPad.

There are camera remote control apps too, I haven’t tried them yet myself, but have heard mixed thing about them. If you were shooting with a tripod can could control and then see the results of the shots within a couple seconds at full-res, that would be super. Not the way I shoot usually, but for landscape and still life people it would be amazing. Essentially like shooting tethered with a smaller lighter device.

Speaking of tethered, a lot of people including my Circuitous Conversations partner Dan, love the idea of the Capture Pilot software you can get to complement Phase One’s Capture One. Apparently you can do camera control, as well as essentially broadcast your shoot to a iPad so the client can be sitting off to the side and see while your shooting without sitting over your left shoulder. Sounds both neat and invasive to me, but what do I know.

Everything Else
So what about the rest of the stuff on it iPad. Well my old impressions haven’t changed much. I can’t stand typing on the thing, the new dictation feature is handy, but makes just enough errors that you’ve got to go back and fix as to be less than useful to me. Browse the web? Sure. Triage email? Sure. Read books? Yes, unless an e-ink screen is available, though the high-res does help a lot, the glare is still a problem.

Overall a very neat device and I’m sure I’ll find more uses for it going forward. Still, I’m writing this post on my 13″ Air instead of the iPad, so that might tell you all you need to know.