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Is The iPad 2 Something Every Photographer Should Own?

Is the iPad 2 the best tool a travelling photographer could have? David Clapp finds out.

|  Tablet Devices
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Words and images by David Clapp -

iPad 2

Many photographers are perhaps considering the iPad 2 as an addition to the travel kitbag, whether home or abroad; but come on, it's just a glorified iPhone right? Wrong, very wrong indeed. If you want to change the way you work and give yourself true convenience, information on the move and much, much more, then read on, as this could be the ultimate photographic tool for the travelling photographer.

Before we go any further, this isn't a review of how the iPad 2 can be used photographically, for editing pictures or even a close look at its camera. This is about the iPad's usefulness as a photographer's aid.

The iPad 1 is now cheaper so wouldn't it be better to buy that?

I would suggest getting the iPad 2 not the iPad 1 as it's much slimmer, lighter and more powerful. Forget the reduced price deals you find online, most are not that much cheaper anyway. Retailers know when the iPad 2 goes out of stock, customers will buy any version in desperation. Remember, the iPad 1 is heavier and has a slower processor and reduced battery life (but it's still great).

Where do I buy one? They all seem out of stock.

A fair question. Tip - Apple stores are naturally full price, others seem cheaper, but you run a risk especially online. Before buying an iPad that is apparently 'in stock', make a phone call first. Ask the retailer if it's actually is in stock to start with, record the conversation with your phone (I did this for training purposes). Why? I was once sold a laptop, over the phone, that was never in stock at all. It took over a month to get my £750 back. ALWAYS buy with a credit card for extra protection and release the hounds on them as soon as you are in trouble.

Also, ask if it has a UK power adapter and the expected delivery time. Then you will know if it is coming from the USA or not. With imported versions there are known SIM incompatibility problems with the 3G versions. This can leave your new iPad 2 unable to accept UK SIM cards. Ask all these questions first; if it's an online company with no phone support, you take a huge risk, the result of which can become extremely irritating.

Which model would I need?

This entirely depends on how you would use the device. The 64Gb could be overkill if you use an iPhone or another MP3 player for in-car music for instance. Perhaps 32Gb is a fair mid ground, which will cost less. I have hardly any apps and data on my iPad at the moment and have used very little of the 64Gb, but that's not to say I won't... (read on).

iPad 2 with or without 3G?

Definitely with 3G, you'd be mad not to as a modern digital photographer. It makes the iPad the most usable 'photography support machine' you will ever own. Have a coffee in a café after a morning shoot and do your admin, answer emails, browse the net for weather info, without all the nonsense of looking for WIFI. If you own an iPhone, you will look at it wondering how you ever managed after using the iPad for just a few hours. It seems positively toy-like when you send a text message or email.

My iPhone is now somewhat redundant, just a music machine and a phone, nothing more, all because I bought the 3G version. Also, 3G is super quick these days, readily available and this makes the iPad 2 total bliss to use (even in Devon) and highly practical for the photographer on the move. I think I used my laptop twice on my latest trip to Morocco, that's twice, just for backing up work. The iPad has been used for hours and hours. (More on 3G abroad with the iPad below).

What SIM card is inside?

It is a micro SIM, which means it's smaller than conventional SIM cards. It is possible to buy adapters to convert micro SIM to standard SIM, so the card can be used in other devices. (Again, more on this below).

What's it like for running your photo business?

I have had the iPad 2 for about two weeks and I am totally convinced. It becomes super easy to email / browse / Twitter etc. from it, in fact, it is a total joy. The on-screen keyboard is far form cumbersome, well arranged, being both simple and easy to type with. The same predictive text issues still occur, but it's nothing too difficult to overcome. I have used it for all correspondence on my latest trip to Morocco, emailing from the passenger seat of cars, airport lounges and restaurants. No need for BTOpenzone and other paying airport hotspot equivalents.

The best part about having an iPad 2 with 3G is that I am free at last. No more concerns about interrupting the flow of the day, trudging off to drink awful coffee just to get WIFI in McDonalds etc. Whenever you are lost, bored or just interested to see what's happening elsewhere, it's the first device you will grab. It's far from 'a massive iphone', that's total nonsense, it's a media, entertainment and business machine bar none, light as a feather and very powerful. No boot up times, open the case and it is switched on and ready to go.

What about sending images and documents? Surely it can't do that?

It can, but it's more complicated. It can't support an external hard drive of images being connected and it won't even take a USB keyboard unless it's bluetooth (with the Apple connector kits it is possible to use a USB keyboard if you add a powered hub). For the digital photographer, a laptop will never be redundant, or let's say 'not redundant yet'.

A laptop will always be essential for me when travelling, as it provides image backup solutions to external drives that an iPad cannot as well as chances to process imagery on the move. Consider facilities like Dropbox, a universal multiplatform app that make file transfer a complete joy. Then there is secure cloud based solutions, hosting backups of your work...hmm. Why send anything at all? It may well be simply a case of sending clients encrypted links to hosted imagery rather than uploading to Dropbox or similar. Why bother with disk storage at all? This is the future after all and it's something I am thinking about carefully.

What about writing on the move, is it tedious?

Well, I wrote this article using the iPad 'Notes' app, which is in essence a straightforward word processor. I haven't tried using 'Pages' or similar word processing programs on the iPad yet, but I am certainly considering it as an option. As a 'first cut' approach, the iPad is certainly a useful writing tool indeed, especially with a small bluetooth keyboard.

So it does have a GPS, yes?

Sure does and its very accurate and power efficient. It works brilliantly with Google Maps and a whole host of other programs.

The Photographers Ephemeris needs no introduction or indeed explanation as to why this is a brilliant device on the move. Not surprisingly, it is far more usable on the iPad than the iPhone. Sleak graphics and user interface make this a must have app for the iPad.

I am still unsure, why should I get the 64gb version?

My main photographic reason was to use it for digital mapping, which can take up a lot of storage. Knowing how quickly I filled my 16gb iPhone, (mainly with music I have to say) I considered the 32gb as a minimum, but the differences between the cost of 32-64gb were negligible, so I bought the largest version as a fail safe. Programs like MemoryMap and other mapping software have considerably large maps, so I got the 64gb version with this in mind. Remember the iPad doesn't need a phone signal to run these, just a GPS signal, which again makes it super versatile out in the field, or when hiking into remote canyons.

You travel a lot, how do you use it abroad? Surely it's expensive.

Not in the slightest. Forget the hassle of WIFI, buy a 3G SIM from a foreign provider like I did here in Morocco, it's that simple. I bought a SIM for £10 (thanks Younes), an unlimited bandwidth unlocked 3G SIM; a tenner for one month! It has made the iPad an utter essential. Naturally there are no data charges, so no nervous anticipation of post holiday call charges. It was a total joy for maps on the move, info on the move, weather data, emails, all free from extortionate costs of data roaming abroad from UK service providers.

Got a problem on the roadside or perhaps you cannot work out where you are on the map? Need Google maps to tell you how far away a remote canyon is? Easy. Never bother about finding WIFI again, just flow with the camera and concentrate on your trip, not, using rest periods to grab the iPad and keep yourself up to date. New country? Just get a new SIM. Keep the SIM and just top it up if you return, or buy a new one. Communication is getting cheaper than ever.

Use it for Skype and Viber

It can be used as a phone too. I have both Skype and Viber loaded onto the iPad, so should I need to make a call back to the UK, or indeed anywhere in the world, I can use Skype credit to ring any landline for 1p/min. This only works well over WIFI and 3G, but text typing to Skype friends works perfectly well anywhere.

Viber is becoming all the rage right now. Once installed on your mobile device, it allows you to make calls to anyone else who has the app installed. It works wonderfully over wireless, but it also works well over 3G. Imagine, you can make a call iPad to mobile, or mobile to mobile, anywhere in the world. If you partner has 3G at home and you have a 3G signal, you can speak for an unlimited time for FREE.


It's perfect. Not too big or small. Easy to type on too. If you want to, you can tether a bluetooth keyboard to it.

Which case did you get?

Buy a case immediately or watch it get scratched to bits as it slides out of the side of your bag. It is super slippery, like a large and very expensive cigar case.

Ok, what about the downsides?

I can find only one. The Wifi receiver built in is less powerful than the laptop. Still it's not a problem.

Some thoughts about UK SIM deals:

The best deal I have found is from 3 Mobile. PAYG is not going to work if you travel a lot, as the cost is extreme and the allowances are meagre. Be prepared to pay £7.50 for 1gb from most service providers, or even worse.

Here is what I did - I bought a Sim Only Deal from 3 Mobile for £15. This gives 10GB of data a month on a rolling contract. As it's a one month contract, I can cancel it when I like. Personally I think 10gb is excessive, but when you realise that £10 a month from O2 gives a monumental 2gb right now, it's the best deal you are going to get by far.

I also bought a 3G USB broadband dongle at the time of purchase. All I have to do is take out the SIM from the iPad, put the iPad's micro SIM into a SIM adapter, insert into the dongle and I can use my MBP online anywhere. This means full computer support for clients, unrivalled connectivity, all for £15 a month. Some people may still think this is excessive, especially on top of a mobile contract costs as well, so here's the good bit...If I am not going away for a while, I can stop the contract and then restart it again when I wish. Many comms companies try to get you you to buy the iPad through them, giving massive data deals which you will more than likely never use. You are locked into a 24month contract or even longer, so consider how fast technology moves before signing on the dotted line. The cost of purchase of iPad, SIM deal, works out the roughly same, whichever route you take. It just depends on whether you want to be locked into a contract. I personally do not.

Battery life?

It's outrageous. It's last for hours and hours of heavy comms usage. Apple claim a maximum of 10 hours battery life, but after reading tests, expect to watch video for about 8hours at max screen brightness. If you just use it casually, you will probably charge it twice a week. I have been playing RealRacing2HD this morning, emailing, using Twitter etc. for the last four hours plus and it's gone down about 35%. It's a revelation as far as I am concerned.

Words and images by David Clapp.

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KONIN 9 254 England
13 Jun 2011 8:07PM
all true i bought my ipad2 the day they came out so ive had mine nearly 3 months now and they are even better than david makes out .i bought the camera kit for mine allthough they support raw files and can view them full screen they tend to pixelate some what from my d7000 unless its the 16mp it cant handle,but jpeg are not affected at all the photos look FANTASTIC on them and he has not even mentioned the gyrescope screen view all in all dont pass up a chance to get one of these you wont regret it,my 6 year old watches films and plays games on it on longer car journeys and we dont here apeep from him its worth the price tagg just for that,marks out of ten i give 12. stuart towse,head of the clan
walkerr 18
14 Jun 2011 8:57AM
Don't get me wrong, iPad's are great - but if I have to carry 2 devices, it's a fail for me. The laptop I carry for USB drive access can do the skype, mail etc and I can run Lightroom on it. Sure, it's not quite as small as an iPad, and being Windows based, it isn't quite as slick. But it has a full keyboard, being a convertible tablet, and can take a 3G sim for direct access to broadband. Plus, even better, the USB is USB 3.0 which rocks for large file copies.

Plus, when I get home I just dock it and carry on working on my big monitor. I don't have to think which machine my files are on It's got a core i5 in it and 8Gb of memory, so it's also fine for full scale editing.

Gigabyte T1125 - check it out if you want 1 device with you, and are ok with Windows apps. You wouldn't force me to part with mine for 10 iPads.
danh 10 61 36 United Kingdom
14 Jun 2011 11:52PM
I was rather hoping there'd be something about the processing software it'll run... otherwise, why would I want one? With a 3G dongle on my laptop I have all the mobility I need, AND all my processing software.
walkerr 18
15 Jun 2011 2:01PM
Agreed. Seems a bit of an overreach to talk about an ultimate photographers tool if offload, processing and backup aren't included features
kit-monster 17 3.7k 2 Singapore
15 Jun 2011 7:48PM
Nice article but it sounds like an ipad fan justifying a purchase rather than a photographic tool.

I was lucky enough to borrow one for a week, so had a really good play. I've used the original ipad too. It's very pretty for displaying your images on and can be a great sales tool. I can see many uses for people selling their photographic skills, discussing wedding shots etc.

If you're still going to lug a laptop around, then the new generation of android phones are a much better option. They can work as a 3g mobile wifi hotspot for your laptop. Using email / twitter / blogging is no different especially with sywpe keyboard. You get the added bonus of satnav and they're a phone. There's good mapping software that includes ordnance survey open data so excellent for logging photo locations. The camera is quick and easy to use and geotags images. And it fits in your pocket, so quickly accessible. . . . So if you're a mobile photographer, then laptop and smart phone are a better option than laptop, ipad, phone / satnav.
15 Jun 2011 9:11PM
There are few things which I think could be added or amended to this..

Something about the iPad screen - it's an ips screen which gives a good viewing angle. This was the primary reason for getting this rather than an android tablet, as viewing portfolios with clients was important to me.

It's not that necessary to have a 3G version in this country; I tether mine wirelessly with my Android phone when needed and the data usage comes out of my phone allowance. I don't travel outside of the UK a great deal, but I'd imagine that it would be easy enough to put the SIM in the phone.

The camera connection kit, as mentioned was a happy bonus. At the end of a portrait shoot (I only do this part time), I can leave my D700 photos uploading to the ipad whilst I pack away the studio lights, etc. Once home I can delete the obvious duds (say blinkers) as you can view the RAW files then import the rest from the iPad into Lightroom. My hobby is shooting cars/aircraft, so being able to preview and delete the missed and blurred ones before getting back to the computer at home is also a bonus.
You can buy some RAW editors for the ipad, but I'd prefer to keep that to my calibrated monitor at home.

My main job is in IT and I've found some great apps to do my PM job; and as part of this, I've found getting the apple wireless keyboard a must for note taking. You can get some cases with a keyboard built in (disappointing to see now details of what case the reviewer has bought). I have a neoprene case, plus a great case for my keyboard, and have just bought a dedicated non-laptop looking leather bag...

Biggest downside for me is the lack of flash support - like it or not, there's plenty of flash sites on the web. There are ways round this though - with apps, etc.

So it's not essential, but I am honest I have found a lot of use for mine - if that makes sense!
16 Jun 2011 12:45AM
Google maps may work for you in Morocco but down here in Oz there is just a big white space where I am going photographing in September. I have looked at iPads but cannot see any reason for me to buy one.
16 Jun 2011 1:24AM
In a review I read the GPS radio was a apart of the 3G package. So, no 3G, no GPS.
Is that true?
16 Jun 2011 7:45AM
No GPS, I suspect not, but I've not missed it. I personally think the iPad is a bit unwieldy to mount or have as a satnav in the car, my phone with either google maps or copilot is fine. YMMV of course Smile

Any location based services can approximate off your wifi so for obtaining local info such as weather, that works ok for me.

Forgot another thing last night about purchasing in the uk. All the reputable outlets will email you when it's back in stock. I set up emails for both John Lewis and tesco. Tesco came back first, I got 10 off with a voucher, double club card points and picked it up the next day - this was less than a week aftter launch....
DavidClapp 14 9 1 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2011 1:51PM
I am sure everyone has technology that suits their own lifestyles, so the article was never intended to do anything other than highlight the strengths of the iPad2 that I had uncoverd. With the incredible availability of dongles, laptops and other devices on the market, there are bound to be other options. As its a minefield of choice, I wrote this to highlight my experience, should others be considering the same.

When I travel, I do have a laptop back at my accommodation at all times. Its utterly essential. What goes wrong for me personally is that my day gets broken apart trying to run a photography business. Foreign call charges are criminal, data transfer even more so, so this not only replaces the frustrated phone fiddling, but it gives me a marvellous and responsive internet experience. I can keep thinking and reacting to weather and locations all the time, all on a large screen. It's not for everyone as everyone lives are different and many do not work in the manner that I do. I hope readers can take my experience of useful technology with them and perhaps consider it as an option to enhance their own photography experience, nothing more.

For the record; I run an office with 2 supercharged PC's, a Mac Book Pro laptop, iPhone and now the iPad2. Technology is technology and I try to make it work for me any way I can, devoid of brand loyalty or fashion. The technology has to work. This runs true in my crazy array of lenses. I use Canon 21mp bodies on Contax, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Sigma optics. Its the quality and versatility I am interested in so if Android had grabbed my attention, I would perhaps be explaining my love of that instead.

Chris_L -
Quote:Is this article for real? Where's the bits about the photography? Can you use it to email your images? Can you back them up? Can it do anything with your photographs?

Perhaps you never saw this part at the start - 'Before we go any further, this isn't a review of how the iPad 2 can be used photographically, for editing pictures or even a close look at its camera. This is about the iPad's usefulness as a photographer's aid.'

As it happens it can be used for backing up and emailing your images with the Camera Connectivity Kit, but although some programs are now making processing a reality, it's certain something I personally wouldn't want to use it for. As I am uncovering, it could be used as a laptop backup with great effect. See 'Photosmith' App in particular.

Quote:Google maps may work for you in Morocco but down here in Oz there is just a big white space where I am going photographing in September. I have looked at iPads but cannot see any reason for me to buy one.

That's a shame and I can see your point.

Quote:In a review I read the GPS radio was a apart of the 3G package. So, no 3G, no GPS.
Is that true?

No it works fine. I was using it out on Dartmoor the other day and the GPS works without a signal.
The GPS is assisted by a phone signal or wifi if it can find it, making it lock onto your present location using all means possible.
19 Jun 2011 6:15PM
I'm sorry but I don't follow- how are any of the questions and answers that you've compiled useful as a photographer's aid?
The general tone of your article does come across as fanboy-ish, if you don't mind my saying so.

You're right in that everybody uses technology differently, but your article title is misleading- I don't see any compelling reasons for photographers in particular to own iPads just because you're utterly pleased with yours. I mean, good for you; I'm glad you're enjoying it and that it is supplementing your workflow, but how much of what you've written really applies to photographers?

No offense, but all you've managed to say is that you're now mobile with 3G and a tablet computer. OK, one can do the same with a USB 3G stick adapter and a laptop. If you already have a laptop (and I imagine that a lot of photographers do), then that even works out to be much cheaper.

I really don't see why every photographer should own it based on your experience with it, positive as it might be.

If anything, a much more compelling reason for me to pick one up is stuff like this:

....controlling your camera with your iPad and reviewing images on a 10" screen would be of much more use to a photographer than any of the above literature in my opinion.

Again, no offense, but if you wanted to highlight the iPad's general strengths, well then there are a plethora of tech reviews out there. I fail to see how what you've written is relevant to ephotozine.
5 Sep 2011 6:13PM
I'd been looking at an Ipad and an ASUS Transformer. From what you've written it's still just a smart phone with a bigger screen, and, as a photographer, and you also admit, it's no replacement for a laptop where I can view (raw) and edit photographs. So for me, it's still not much use, I have a smart phone, a laptop and an IPOD, and backup USB drives. I can also put CS5 on my laptop.
A thumbs down I'm afraid; I can't find a use for it, other than admiring its looks. IMHO.

I agree with akshay_jamwal that the ononesoftware might be a compelling reason ... but not for that reason alone.
What seems to be overlooked is the ability to read the actual RAW files. There is a comment above about RAW files being shown pixilated, this is because the iPad is displaying the JPEG sidecar file not the RAW file. These sidecar files are very low res JPEGs. If you are shooting in JPEG anyway then what you see on the iPad is the full JPEG file, hence it will look much better than the RAW sidecar JPEG. What is needed is an APP that can be updated via the Adobe Camera RAW Photoshop plugin. Does the free light Photoshop app accept ACR?

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