Earlier this month, I wrote about how photographers are able to carry more power and capacity with far less weight than ever before. That article was about how traveling with the new MacBook Air and mirrorless cameras isn’t a compromise. If you’re willing to compromise (a bit), the new iPad Pro 11 is compelling for photographers like me who put a premium on traveling light.
The functionality, even with a split screen, isn’t for heavy emailers or those who need everything open at once, but just for being creative—photos and what not. It’s what I think Apple’s product designers always had in mind when designing a tablet.
The fluid aesthetic of iOS 12 means you’re floating around bouncing between apps. It’s the first Apple device I’ve used that I felt was faster than me. The 120hz refresh rate on the Liquid Retina display takes care of that, which is also visually stunning with a thin bezel and rounded corners.
So far, working with it has been seamless. While Face ID is less tedious than a home button, there’s still much tapping, dragging, copying and logging in with your face, and so on. I pay for the Gigabit-class LTE to stay connected when hotel Wi-Fi is unavailable or bogs down.
I don’t use the iPad for taking photos or video. If I needed too, the 12 MP back camera delivers sharp-enough photos and 4K video. The 7 MP TrueDepth front camera is for FaceTime and Face ID. Smart HDR on both cameras brings more highlight and shadow detail to photos, but a photographer isn’t likely going to use those features instead of the camera they’re carrying.
The Smart Keyboard Folio has a simpler design and now supports two viewing angles—for the desk and your lap. Apple’s A12X Bionic chip with Neural Engine means no hesitation when typing. What Apple doesn’t market much is how their predictive-text software relies on machine learning and is at work in the background. Their predictive-typing model makes a significant but subtle difference because your fighting with the computer less to complete words.
I could rattle off the limiters of the iPad compared to a laptop, but as a photographer, what you need to know about the big advantage is this: The media-card previews are full screen now.
And, that’s great!
If you have a USB-C equipped body, like the a7 III, the import is direct from the camera. When swiping through files in preview, pinch-zoom and you’ll get a full-screen version. The iPad is showing you the JPEG preview and will import the RAW into the photos album.
And, there’s the rub for some photographers who want to browse the file system of a device. I’ll take the two steps of importing into the Photo app and then into Lightroom mobile for the benefit of not lugging around a laptop.
For the On-the-Go Creative
Again, if you’re a power user in email, the iPad workflow isn’t for you. If you’re at a media event and just doing creative work, it’s awesome.
You can simplify the workflow a step and even further by using RAW Power for iOS. It works directly with the Photos app and syncs changes with iCloud. It doesn’t have features you’d expect from Lightroom, like cloning, masks or shared preset libraries, but is a big step up from Photos.
It does have software hooks into Apple’s raw decoder, so you’re getting native iOS stuff that was in Aperture. I used RAW Power with the also new Apple Pencil to drag adjustment sliders back and forth. The pencil is pixel precise, magnetically attaches to the iPad and charges. In Lightroom, I drew adjustments masks with it, cloned and healed photos that required a bit more work than what RAW Power offers.
Editing RAW on an iPad wasn’t even a possibility until recently, and this iPad can handle it, but the files will fill up your cloud storage quickly.
You can also drive a 5k display with the iPad, but only mirrored unless the app is specifically written for it. You should expect those are being written now by developers.
If the camera body doesn’t have a USB-C output, this will require another set of dongles, either an SD card one or USB to USB-C. Then, you import into Photos and either import them into another app or use RAW Power. When Photoshop for the iPad ships, you’ll have even more choices. After a few simple edits in Photos or presets from Adobe, you can share to the social network of your choice.
Something else to consider with Capture One is to create a desktop folder that iCloud syncs. Then, step away from a desk after exporting the original files and be creative just on the iPad.
All the tech to enable this has gotten that good. Bandwidth is a prerequisite, of course.
As noted in my story about the MacBook Air, Apple’s transition to USB-C means you can carry just one charger for all your devices that are USB-C and they’ll charge each other. The iPad will even charge your phone with a USB-C to Lightning dongle. Carrying fewer gadgets is my thing, so that makes me happy.
- All-new, all-screen design – The 11-inch has rounded corners and is 5.9mm thin, with a bright, high-res screen.
- Face ID – It works just like a similarly equipped phone.
- A12X Bionic with Neural Engine – The iPad feels faster than my MacBook Pro because of the chip and 120hz refresh rate.
- Advanced cameras – I use these cameras for FaceTime and to record a launch.
- Four-speaker audio and five microphones – Enough audio for your hotel room, sure, and to binge-watch a series if your flight is canceled.
- New Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio – I bought both of those and use them extensively.
- iOS 12 – Apple’s latest iOS.
I eventually came to think of the MacBook Air as the computer I take with me to shoots and leave its larger siblings in the studio. The iPad is another iteration of traveling light and offers a minimalist photography workflow for those who embrace such matters. Like the MacBook Air, the iPad’s sound quality is remarkably good with four speakers.
Considering the models, I’d get the iPad Pro 11 with 256 GB, Wi-Fi+Cellular for $1,099 and offload the storage to iCloud or the cloud service of your choice.