Today Apple released the iPad. I can’t say for sure (who can?), but I suspect that April 3, 2010 will go down in history as marking the beginning of the end of paper media. I don’t think that’s a bad thing for photographers. It may mean we’ll have to change the paradigm, but the potential opportunities are limitless. From porting old media over to iPad to creating entirely new media, the possibilities are wondrous indeed. The iPad is a true game changer. Up until now I have avoided Apple’s i[fill in blank] revolution, but not for much longer.
What Is It?
For those of you who have been living under rocks for the last couple of months, here’s a brief introduction to the iPad. The iPad is a tablet computer constructed out of aluminum and glass that weighs 1.5 pounds, is 9.56 inches high, 7.47 wide and 0.5 inch deep/thick. Think of it as an 8x10 sheet of Hanumaule photo paper on steroids. It has a 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy touch display with a resolution of 1024-by-768-pixels at 132 ppi. The display is coated to be fingerprint resistant. The iPad does not use a hard drive, but instead sports 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash drives. At 1GHz the Apple A4 processor is plenty fast. Power is supplied by a built-in 25-watt-hour rechargeable lithium battery. Apple claims up to 10 hours of power on a fully charged battery. Charging is accomplished via a power adapter or USB connection to a computer system. Insofar as connectivity is concerned, the iPad uses wireless via WIFI, a proprietary 30 pin docking connector, USB using a standard iPhone/iPod type connector and an accessory SD card reader. The iPad comes in two flavors, WIFI and WIFI+3 G and is priced from $499 to $829. To date, only a few accessories have been released for the iPad, including a dock, full sized keyboard/dock, a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and headphones. That probably won’t last long since both Apple and third-party vendors will see loads of opportunities.
What will really make the iPad sing is the availability of a wide range of fun and useful applications (apps). Happily, the iPad can run almost all of the more than 150,000 apps currently on Apple’s App Store. It is undeniable; however, that the primary function of an iPad is as an electronic reader. Apple will offer its own iBooks app/store and both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble will have apps for buying and reading electronic books, even though both companies sell their own e-reading devices. Panelfly will offer a digital comic-book reader. Finally, Major League Baseball, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Time and National Public Radio all have apps for the iPad.
So much for reading, what about all that other stuff I do? I think everyone will find something to like about the iPad. To begin with, there are the usual suspects. Web browsing is done using Safari and Mail handles the e-mail chores. The iPad has video covered too with HD video support and a You Tube app. Use Notes, Calendar and Contacts to organize yourself. Download and listen to music using iTunes (or not, I prefer CDs). Need to write an article? Download Pages for $9.95. What to use a spreadsheet? Buy Numbers for $9.95. But, enough about all of that, what about photography?
I’m An Amateur
So, how can amateur photographers utilize an iPad? I envision that it will be similar to a laptop, Laptop Lite if you will. The iPad does not have a camera, so inputting your images will be the first challenge. One option is using a wireless connection from your computer to the iPad. That doesn’t help much in the field though. For that, you can use a wireless SD card from Eye-Fi. They just unveiled two new cards, a 4GB ($49.99) and an 8GB ($99.99). Eye-Fi claims faster wireless photo and video uploads, improved performance, and virtually endless storage capacity with Endless Memory mode.
The best option would be an SD card reader or USB connection. Problem is, the iPad has neither of those. Not to worry though, simply purchase the soon-to-be-available iPad Camera Connection Kit from Apple. The iPad Camera Connection Kit allows you to attach a camera or reader through a USB port or an SD card reader directly through the docking connection.
Once you’ve got your photos uploaded, what will they look like? The iPad features a high-resolution, 9.7-inch -backlit LED display using in-plane Switching (IPS) technology with 178° viewing angle. Apple claims that it is “remarkably crisp and vivid” with “excellent color and contrast”. One unique feature of the display is that there is no up or down. The iPad changes to the correct orientation every turn you turn it; perfect for viewing a mixed bag of images.
To my mind, the biggest question is: How much image processing can I do with the iPad? The answer, of course, depends upon the software. While the iPad uses an operating system similar to the iPhone's, it is not OS-X. The various imaging software packages that we are used to using (Aperture, Lightroom and Photoshop) won't run on an iPad, at least not in their present versions. Hopefully, Apple, Adobe and Phase One will port them over to the iPad a la Photoshop Mobile. In the interim, each iPad does come with Photos, which is little more than an image organizer. Not nearly enough to do the heavy lifting most of us will demand.
I’m A Pro
Congratulations. The recession is winding down and Apple is bringing the iPad to market. It’s a great time to be a pro. It is with no small amount of dismay that I have watched print media wither on the vine; once great magazines reduced to mere pamphlets. Fewer media outlets equal less work. Hopefully, that downward spiral is over. As media companies face the new realties and transform themselves, that should free up working capital to actually spur the growth of electronic versions of old media. Photographers will have to get on board the convergence train. Editors of e-magazines are going to want to take full advantage of the media to turn on readers. For example, a photograph of a ski jumper in an article about the Winter Olympics can be transformed to video with a finger tap. So you better get familiar with the video capabilities of your DSLR. Otherwise the photographer that does will eat your lunch.
Freed from the shackles of paper, it is difficult to imagine where e-publishers, both old and new, may take the media. You can get a glimpse in this video clip about VIV magazine. And consider that VIV is an outlet that didn’t even exist a few months ago. One can only wonder how many other Vivs there will be within a few years.
And, if nothing else, the iPad is a great way to show off your portfolio.
Having never handled an iPod Touch or an iPhone, I came to the iPad as an iVirgin. The first thing that grabbed me was the sleek and clean design. I have always liked Apple’s design gestalt and the iPad is no exception. With the exception of a single button, the front is dominated by the display. The back is spotless sculptured aluminum. The iPad begs to be picked up and used. The next thing that struck me was the size. The iPad is T-H-I-N, really thin. Overall it’s about the size of an 8.5 x 11 legal pad. It’s perfect and is seemingly weightless in your hand. Being familiar with OS X, navigation was fairly intuitive. Pressing the button on the front brings you back to the home page. Insofar as the pre-loaded apps are concerned, Photos is simple to use and allowed me to test the display, but that’s about it. One thing I really liked was the ability to change the orientation from landscape to portrait simply by rotating the iPad in my hand. Occasionally it got confused, but recovered very quickly with some coaxing. The display itself is a good news/bad news story. Bad news: It’s glossy. In the store, I could clearly see reflections. I have no idea what it would look like in the field. Perhaps someone will come up with a matte screen protector to address any issues you might have. On the bright side, the resolution appears to be equal to my iMac, which is to say very good for viewing images. In addition, the fingerprint resistant coating really works. The machine I tried out must have been handled by a hundred people with nary a print.
What I’ll Be Doing
So, did I line up to buy an iPad earlier today? No, I’m afraid not. Not even Apple is immune to product introduction glitches. Remember the original iPhone? The problems that I had with Leopard and Snow Leopard are still too fresh in my mind to jump on the bandwagon so soon. I made a promise to myself after Snow Leopard to stop being an early adopter. You pay for the privilege with both money and wasted time. So let Apple get a few million iPads under their belt. Iron out the kinks and bring some great apps to market. I figure fall may be the right time to bring one home. Just in time for Christmas.