Monday, February 1, 2010

Will the iPad fulfill photographer's travel computer needs?

iPad photo courtesy of Apple Inc.Last week, I watched Steve Jobs introduce the Apple iPad with great anticipation. As the iPad presentation continued, I wondered if it could meet the photographic needs of travelers; vacation, amateur enthusiast, or professional photographers.

Since its introduction, I've analyzed how well the iPad might fulfill my needs as a business traveler, and travel photographer. While there is no doubt the iPad is built for travel, I’m not so sure it’s right for the travel photographer.

Over at Consumer Traveler, I’ve reviewed the iPad from the viewpoint of a business traveler, in my Monday column. I’ve reprinted that article here on the NSL Travel Photography Blog this morning, to make it easy for you to peruse it.

The article, “Is the iPad a road warrior's dream come true?” will give you a run-down on the iPad’s general specifications and attributes, so there’s no need to repeat that here. It delves into numerous issues I found with the introductory models of the iPad as a travel device.

It’s important to understand what the iPad is, and is not, to be able to decide whether it can meet your specific travel photography needs. The iPad is a small, lightweight, but high functioning combination electronic entertainment, communication, and computing.

iPad photo courtesy Apple Inc.The iPad, in my opinion, is aimed squarely at the “netbook” which hasn’t fulfilled my travel or travel photography needs.

I believe the iPad meets travel photographer’s needs as an entertainment device, but is deficient as a communication device. It also has major deficiencies as a computing device for travel photographers.
  • Ergonomics — the iPad can rest on a tabletop, or be held in one’s hands, which isn’t very good for viewing photographic images for basic post processing, such as straightening, cropping or small color correction, prior to showing them off while traveling. An iPad case is required to put the iPad in a good working position. The case can double as a stand for typing or viewing.

  • Dongles — other than its headphone adapter, the iPad has only one connector for everything else, the typical “i” device connector. If you want to connect your camera, or an SD card to the iPad, you’ll need some dongles and cables to connect them. The iPad camera kit can only hand camera SD memory cards. It’s unknown if any card reader manufacturers will produce readers for the iPad, so right now, if your camera uses a compact flash card, for example, you’ll have to connect your camera directly to the iPad via its USB dongle.

    By the time you have the case, perhaps the iPad external keyboard, dongles, cables and docks, you’ll need another case, making the small thin iPad not travel so well anymore.

  • File Formats — even after you bring your photos into the iPad, you may not be able to view them. The iPad displays .jpg, .tiff, and .gif file formats. JPG files are used by most Point and Shoot cameras. If you have a DSLR, and save your photos in the more flexible RAW format, right now, you won’t be able to be view them on the iPad.

    If you have a digital video camera, or a Point and Shoot or DSLR camera which can shoot video, the iPad can display some video formats; .m4v, .mp4, and .mov. Other video formats, such as Microsoft Windows’ .wmv and the popular .avi format are not supported on the iPad at this time.

  • Storage — for vacationers with Point and Shoot camera, the upper end models of the iPad with 64GB of storage might have enough storage. JPG files take up much less room than RAW files. A typical Point and Shoot JPG file might take up 5.5MBs of space. That would mean that 20GBs of the iPad’s space could hold about 3,600 photos, enough for most vacationers. On the other hand, my RAW photos use about 16MBs of space. That would mean those same 20GBs of storage would only hold 1,250 photos. On my France/Belgium two week trip last fall, I took about 112GBs of photographs. The iPad doesn’t have enough storage for me. I could have filled almost two iPads on that trip. I sincerely doubt that the iPad’s storage would be enough for amateur enthusiasts, or professional photographers, especially if they shoot in RAW format.

  • Photo Software — I’ve looked at many of the iPhone’s software apps, the only photo apps available for the iPad at this time, to manipulate photos, including Photoshop Mobile. You can crop, straighten, rotate, and flip photos. You can frame them and do all kinds of fun manipulations and effects, but if you’re trying to correct typical problems of your travel photos prior to showing them off while traveling, the iPad’s software, and the iPad itself doesn’t cut it. Moreover, if you’re taking photos in RAW, the iPad offers no software for you.
iPad photo courtesy of Apple Inc.Forgetting for a moment any of the iPad’s general problems or issues for the typical traveler, unless you shoot only using an iPad compatible photo format, and unless your storage needs are that of a casual vacationer, the first models of the iPad don’t meet your photography needs. The iPad’s other issues outlined in my Consumer Traveler review may cause even casual vacationers to pass on it at this time. Nevertheless, the iPad has great potential. I know I’m very interested to see how Apple develops future models.


James said...

When I read about the new iPad I was really excited. I'm tired of toting around my laptop and want something smaller which can provide me with entertainment, and allow me to use the web and email as I travel. I thought I'd buy one until I read your useful article.

Thanks Ned.

Techno Guy said...

I didn't realize the iPad couldn't display my RAW files. Thanks for the warnings in the article.

Les said...

I didn't realize that none of the apps on the iPhone could edit RAW photos. Thanks for the great article.

Warren said...

It's hard to believe the iPad doesn't even have a mini USB outlet. Apple didn't think this product through. Great article Ned. Thanks.

Vic said...

Great article Ned. All those dongles really do take away from the travel usefulness of the iPad.

Herb said...

No decent software, no decent storage, no RAW, no webcam, no HD screen, NO SALE!!! Great article Ned.

Victoria said...

I thought for sure I was going to buy the iPad until I saw the specs and read various reviews including your excellent review Ned. Now I'll be waiting until next year to see what iPad II is like.

Peter said...

Great article Ned. Like you, I'll be waiting for at least the next iPad. This one doesn't have what I want in it, and has OS shortcomings that hopefully will be addressed.

Patty said...

I'm disappointed. I really wanted one of these things.

Sam said...

Without Verizon in the picture, I won't touch the iPad.

Ned S. Levi said...

Hi Sam,

I feel I must comment Sam.

I know that at this time the overall quality of the Verizon network, especially with regard to overall coverage is better than AT&T. That being said, based on evidence from friends and colleagues on Verizon, it's data end of the things has a lot to be desired compared to AT&T. EVDO is significantly slower than 3G.

Yes I know Verizon's building their 4G network based on LTE. The thing is, it won't be ready for widespread deployment until sometime after 2012 and probably not until 2014. That's a long time from now and lots can happen. AT&T isn't exactly standing still. This year alone they will spend at least $18 billion on upgrading their network. They are moving to 3.5G which should be ready around 2012, and experts say it's equivalent to LTE 4G.

Personally, while I clearly can't prove it, considering how much Verizon throttles their current data customers with their unlimited data plans which are actually limited to 5GB, I suspect the iPad or the iPhone, or both, would bring Verizon's data network to its knees, even worse than the iPhone did originally to AT&T, and continues to have problems in a few key areas. (That should be cleared up sometime by the end of 2010 or 2nd quarter 2011.)

I suspect you'll be waiting a long time before you get an iPad with your stipulation, if ever, but I could be surprised, even though I doubt it.

Charles Lister said...

Great article Ned. I'll be waiting for at least iPad II. In the meantime, I'm very happy on the AT&T network with my iPhone. I have few problems, if any, and coverage hasn't been a problem for me.

I'm looking forward to 3.5G which I experienced last month in Europe. It's very fast.

Keep the articles coming. I read you very week here and at CT.

Larry said...

Ned, I don't see how Apple can stay away from Verizon much longer despite CDMA. They are loosing out on such huge marketshare.

I predict by June, Verizon will be in the Apple fold for both the iPad and iPhone.

Ned S. Levi said...

Hi Larry,

Would you like to make a gentleman's bet on that?

Apple has never been about market share. Apple has been about profit. That's what Apple gets with AT&T.

Unless Verizon is willing to cut Apple a deal similar to AT&T, their profitability will plummet. If they continue to sell through AT&T they will have to drop the price to them, equivalent to AT&T.

If they cut the iPhone price by 50%, for example, which is the price Verizon's discussed with Apple in the past, that would mean their sales would have to double, merely to gain the same profitability.

Look at the Mac. They keep the price high, which is one of the reasons the Window's PCs are so much less expensive than equivalent Macs. That keeps up their profitably. They would definitely gain significant market share if they dropped their prices, but they believe that would be less profitable, and they are probably right.

As I said, I don't predict that.

Shirley said...

Ned, I'm sticking with AT&T. I've had no problem with their service in the Chicago area. I love the iPhone, but will not be buying the iPad at this time.

Tim said...

Great article Ned. I was really disappointed with the iPad specs and features. I thought it would be much, much more. There is so much it's missing, and I can't figure out why they left it out, especially the webcam.

Paula said...

Ned, even as an e-book reader, I find the iPad doesn't cut it. While iBooks may be great, the iPad is too heavy to hold it for long, even with two hands.

Marv said...

Geez, not even a mini USB connector in the iPad? That's amazing.

Serena said...

Maybe the next version of the iPod will work for photogs, but I agree, not this one. It has too many deficiencies.

Barb said...

I agree that to a large extent the iPad, 2010 edition, is a disappointment since it could have been so much better, and I agree it's not a good tool for photographers, but I'm going to get one. It's a bit on the pricey side for this, but I'm getting as an eBook reader. It has all the ebook attributes I've been looking for. It should be great for that.

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