The photographer and the iPad · Sep 26, 09:11 am
As a photographer, one of the things that attracted me to the iPad was the knowledge that you can upload pictures directly to it; this meant that no longer did I have to cart my laptop around with me on holiday trips for viewing and backing up photos (I don’t trust CF cards not to get corrupted, and my ageing camera doesn’t help matters there). As the last few blog posts will have hinted, I’ve just spent a long weekend in Paris trying out a new lens, so I had chance to try out the iPad as a photographers travel companion in anger, and I thought I’d write up the results, which were mixed.
To set the context here, I use a Canon DSLR (you can see above), I shoot in RAW, and then process pictures in Aperture on the Mac. However, when I’m away I don’t tend to process photos there and then, I just want to have a look at the shots at a reasonable size, and back them up. I’ve got the mid range iPad model with 32 GB of storage, and the Apple camera attachment kit, which I can hook a CF card reader up to in order to copy photos across.
On the basics, it all just works. I can take a bunch of pictures on my DSLR, and at the end of the day copy them all over to the iPad. When you plug the card in via the camera adapter, the iPad launches the photo app and lets you copy some or all of the photos off the card onto the iPad. Once this is done I can view the photos in detail (my aged Canon has quite a tiny view screen on it) and it handles the Canon RAW files with no issue at all. Each import ends up as an “Event”, so you can find a particular import easily enough. One oddity is that despite the timestamp being in the meta data for each photo, the iPad names each import “1 Jan 1970” (that’s the start of time as far as computers are concerned). This is but a tiny niggle though, and I can live with that.
So far, so good, and if your iPad has plenty of storage, then you’ve nothing to worry about until you get home. I found having the iPad to go through the days photos a great way to check what I’d managed to shoot, and what didn’t work; I had a new lens with me, a Sigma 10mm I’d hired, so I was particularly interested to work out what did and didn’t work so I could refine my technique for the following day. Even though I couldn’t manipulate the photos, I didn’t mind – I can do that when I get home. The iPad worked just as I wanted it.
At least, it did until I got low on storage. My iPad already had a lot on it – music, videos, old photos, several issues of WiReD, etc., so after a couple of days of shooting hundreds of RAW files, I eventually filled up my iPad and had no more room. At this point, the iPad’s dependance on iTunes rears its ugly head – it’s really quite hard to create space on an iPad when you’re away from iTunes. You can’t delete anything from your music library on the iPad, and you can’t delete photos synced via iTunes, only those you’ve manually copied to the iPad. In the end I was forced to delete apps I knew used a lot of space, such as WiReD and some games. I could have deleted previous days photos, but part of the reason for copying them to the iPad was as a backup, so I wanted to avoid that.
In the end I managed to just squeeze in all but the last days photos onto my iPad, but it was a frustrating experience trying to guess what apps I could remove to free up enough space. I’d have happily nuked sections of my music library or even all my old imported photos, but I couldn’t do that on the move. The iPad often feels like the whole computer, but it’s moments like this you’re reminded Apple have made it subservient to a desktop computer for certain key operations, and it’s very frustrating when your desktop is in another country.
The key lesson here is, clear out anything from your iPad you don’t really need before you go on a trip. My camera has a small sensor size by modern standards at 6.3 MP, resulting in just under 7 MB an image. At the rate I was shooting I needed to budget about a gigabyte for each day I was away. If you want to use your iPad as your portable daily review platform, I suggestion you work out your typical image size and shoot rate, and make sure you’ve budgeted enough space before you set out (and given you’re stuck with it, I’d make sure you’re generous with your estimate).
The only other niggle I hit was when I was finished, and I wanted to remove the RAW images from my iPad. In the end, due to how my day went when I got back, I’d imported all the images from my CF cards, rather than use the iPad, so there might be an easy way to delete all images after an import into Aperture/iPhoto/whatever. I do hope so, as using the iPad itself, there’s no way to delete an event’s worth of photos. I had to go through and manually select and delete just under five hundred photos. I did have a look in iTunes, and there wasn’t an obvious way there to nuke these pictures either.
Despite these niggles, I was generally satisfied with the way things worked – the storage space issue was a major pain, but at least I know to avoid that in the future, and doing a little thinning down of content on the iPad before a trip is preferable to carding my MacBook Pro on holiday with me purely to review photos. That said, there’s definitely room for improvement. This trip really brought home some of the areas where the iPad, despite the fact it feels like a stand alone computer, isn’t. Hopefully this is something that Apple will fix over time, freeing the iPad from the shackles of the desktop.