Remember that unwieldy seven-pound laptop you used to haul with you as part of your photo gear? What? You say you still do? It’s time you considered a tablet! There are a lot of tablet options out there, some more or less adept as a true photographer’s companion—we have limited our selection here to models that have the ability to import photos directly from your camera.
Still the tablet to beat, outselling the competition by about 2 to 1, according to a recent IDC report, the latest iPad (technically, the iPad 3, but marketed as simply "the new iPad") is available in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB variants. We recommend choosing the largest capacity for your budget because, unlike many tablets, there’s no SD card slot to add storage. You can choose Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular models (with service from AT&T or Verizon). One of the top features of the new iPad is the ultra-high-resolution Retina display; with 2048×1536 pixels—almost double the resolution of other tablets—your images will look stunningly good. The Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29) lets you import photos from your camera’s SD card, or connect your camera via USB directly. Operating System: Apple iOS. List Price: From $499 (16 GB Wi-Fi).
REASONS YOU WANT A TABLET
|1 | Backup & Review. Import photos from your camera or memory card, and you have a convenient backup, plus the ability to review images on a large screen—especially nice when traveling.
2 | A Great Portfolio. Want to show your best images to friends or a potential client? Photos look amazing on tablet screens.
3 | Easy To Share. Another great feature when away from home, you can email photos, post on Facebook or upload to your Dropbox from almost anywhere.
4 | Tons Of Apps. There are currently more than 3,000 photography apps for iPad alone. Granted, not all of these are going to be useful for photographers, and some are downright silly, but you can do some pretty amazing things with your photos right on your tablet. There are also great apps for travel, too.
MOTOROLA XYBOARD 10.1
Motorola’s XYBOARD 10.1 can be had with Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + Cellular. The Wi-Fi only model offers 16 GB of internal storage; the Wi-Fi + Cellular option is available with 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB of storage, and requires service through Verizon. You can expand your onboard storage of any of these models by adding an SD memory card. XYBOARD 10.1 features a 10.1-inch display with a resolution of 1280×800. Though it ships with Android version 3.2 (Honeycomb), it can be upgraded to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). The Camera Connection Kit for Motorola tablets ($19) lets you connect your camera to transfer photos. Operating System: Android 3.2 (Honeycomb). List Price: From $499 (16 GB Wi-Fi).
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 10.1 (WI-FI)
The Galaxy Note 10.1 is a Wi-Fi-only device, meaning there’s no option for cellular service (you have to step down to the smaller, older 7.7-inch Galaxy Tab for that). Still, Wi-Fi is so widely available these days, you may not miss the cellular data option. The display is 10.1 inches with 1280×800 resolution, and there’s 16 GB or 32 GB of storage built in, which can be expanded by adding an SD card. The standout feature of the new Note is the S Pen, developed with Wacom. This pressure-sensitive pen can be used for photo enhancement with Adobe Photoshop Touch, which comes preinstalled. The USB Connection Kit ($19) lets you import photos from your camera. Operating System: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). List Price: From $499.
|KEY SPECS||Screen||Storage (GB)||SD Expansion||Size (HxWXD)||Weight|
|IPad||9.7 in., 2048×1536||16, 32 or 64||No||9.5×7.3×0.4 in.||1.44 lbs.|
|XYBOARD||10.1 in., 1280×800||16, 32 or 64||Yes||10×6.8×0.3 in.||1.33 lbs.|
|Galaxy Note||10.1 in., 1280×800||16 or 32||Yes||10.3×7.1×0.4 in.||1.31 lbs.|
WHAT ABOUT BLACKBERRY PLAYBOOK AND MICROSOFT SURFACE?
|BlackBerry’s PlayBook is a solid tablet for business use, especially if you’re already a BlackBerry smartphone user. But it lacks the ability to import photos directly from a memory card or camera—you can only sync photos through your computer—making it a less useful traveling companion. This feature may be added to the platform in the future, but for now the PlayBook is missing an important capability for photographers.
Microsoft recently announced a new tablet of their own, dubbed Surface, which appears promising from the proposed specifications.
Acknowledging the success that Apple has achieved by building both the software and hardware for a tightly integrated final product (unlike Microsoft’s usual approach of building the software and leaving the hardware up to manufacturing partners), Surface will make an interesting competitor to the iPad and Android tablets, assuming the device materializes as planned. Surface is scheduled to be released in October 2012.