By Brendan Moyle 07/11/2017


The launch of the new iPad Pro this year piqued my interest.  My old ultrabook was at the end of its life. That produced a bit of a dilemma. My ideal device had to be very portable.  I’ve been traveling a lot of late for my fieldwork.  Sometimes that puts strict limits on what I can carry. And often I’d rather have more camera gear than computer gear.  The ultrabook just wasn’t portable enough.

Portable devices however, tend not to have the processing power I also need. I did get an iPad Mini a few years ago. It was a nice introduction to what the iPad can deliver.  And it is also a superb e-book reader.  Nonetheless, one long afternoon typing out a report in a hotel overseas brought home its lack of computing power.  It had no chance of being included in my photography workflow.

What made the new iPad Pro 10.5″ appealing was that finally, it seemed to have the combination of power and portability I was after.  First up, it has 4 GB of RAM.  That’s a lot less than my main PC of course, but it is double that of the 2016 iPad Pro.  It’s a workable number.  The second is the new A10X chip.  This is fast. Very fast. Benchmark tests show it to be an exceptionally powerful microprocessor.  The third bonus is that it is USB3.0 compliant.  That means that when combined with the latest lightning to SD card reader it avoids lengthy photo download times.

Uses of the iPad: Photo Backup

One rationale for the iPad was to backup photos I take on expeditions.  The option of getting a 256 GB (or greater) iPad was persuasive.  This was more storage than the 40 GB portable drive I used to use as backup, and more than the ultrabook I used.  Photos, even in raw format, can be downloaded on to the iPad with the SD card reader.  These can also be sorted in idle moments, poor photos deleted and good photos selected.  By increasing the drive on the iPad Pro to levels on par with many SSD laptops it starts to look more like a PC replacement.

Uses of the iPad: Dual Monitor

Once I used to run a PC with two monitors. This made processing photos with Lightroom easier. Nonetheless, for the last 2 years I’ve been using a computer with a 27″ monitor. My workspace doesn’t allow for a second monitor.

If you load up with a suitable app (I use duet display) then the iPad can act as a small, but useful second monitor.

Ipad Pro as second monitor

Uses of the iPad: Raw Converter

If you’re not a JPEG shooter, then being able to convert camera raw files is a vital part of the photography workflow.  There are however few apps that can handle camera raw files.  One of the reasons is that these are very taxing on the power of the device. Nonetheless, the iPad Pro now seems to be at a level where it can handle raw conversions with (relative) ease.  My PC is a lot better at it of course, but if you had to rely on the iPad Pro, it could do the job. Or if you wanted to do a few pictures in the field, it will handle it.

Some apps that convert raw files include the Adobe mobile apps (Lightroom, Photoshop Express), as well as Snapseed.  These however, seem to export the files to JPEG in a fairly compressed form.  This is likely because they’re mobile apps and space, normally in a smartphone or tablet, is at a premium.

One app that gives more quality options for JPEG is PhotoRaw.  It is however, a fairly basic raw converter.

The most important thing it seems, to using these apps is that the photos you take come close to the proper exposure when you take them. There seems to be a bit less latitude at correcting images later.  These apps have less functionality than a proper desk-top program.   So getting the shot right, or very close to being right, is going to help.

Uses of the iPad: Photo Editor

Similarly you can use the iPad as a photo editor with some of the apps available. A lot of photo apps though just seem to be simple filters to create photo effects.  Apps like  Snapseed are a little more powerful.  The ability to make changes directly on the screen is quite handy.

Editing photos in a Cafe

Use of the iPad: Taking photos

I’ve heard people can do this, but I don’t. I’m not quite sure why cameras are important for tablets, albeit have found some use for them at conferences recording some video clips.  But in general they seem far too cumbersome to be used for taking snapshots.

One good use for them however, is as a remote for cameras.  Some cameras also come with apps that allow you to use WiFi to take photos.  The ability to see the scene you’re photographing on a large screen, rather than a small camera screen, is quite useful for landscape photography.  I often combine the Sony a7R with the Sony PlayMemories App to take photos.  I’m sure there are analogous Apps for other camera brands.  Nonetheless, the smartphone makes a simpler and more portable remote.  The iPad is more useful for framing landscapes.

Conclusion

Well, I’ve taken the iPad Pro with me to China. I could still use Office 365 and my OneDrive there, and the iPad had enough power to run PowerPoint and MS Word easily (or at least the mobile versions).  It might need to be added that all things Google are pretty much impossible in China.

You do need base more of your photography on the cloud.  I didn’t take a lot of photos, but it still worked out well as a backup storage device.  I was also able to convert and edit some photos to send home, or to Instagram.  The weak point remains the photo editing and raw conversion.  Currently the apps for this are too limited.  Spot removal/healing isn’t as good as a PC software. Noise reduction is an issue.  In effect, it is still excellent for mobile photography and perhaps if you stick to shooting in jpeg.  It still falls a bit short of what a laptop could do, in part because the apps for it just aren’t there.  If they catch up, it could be a lot better.