Monday, 6 December 2010

iPad - big iPhone or small Laptop? Well, both really ...

There's not much that creates such extremes of reaction like Apple products do.  And the iPad must be the one that has created even more extreme (and often ill-informed) opinion than anything before.  And yet, those who use it appear to love it - so what has it got that these users feel is worth the five-hundred or so quid it costs?

Now, let me say that I am neither an Apple lover nor an Apple basher.  I have an iPhone - I love it; I have a MacBook - I rarely use it.  I have a desktop PC - I used to use it all the time.  And now?  I have an iPad - and wild horses will not drag this from my tightly gripped fists.  And yet, it doesn't really do what I wanted it to do very well!  Let me explain ....

I want to download images from my camera and view them on a bigger screen to check for focus, exposure, etc.  Now, it will download images very quickly and in all formats (including RAW), and you can view them on that 'gorgeous 9.7-inch iPad display', but if you're in bright sun then forget it - you can't see a thing!  Time to dive under a coat or blanket.  Also, you can't really check focus very well as the images you view are reduced in resolution - so photos that are actually pin sharp look soft on the iPad screen when zoomed in ['soft' - photographer's technical term for 'close but no cigar', unless of course you were going for that soft focus look deliberately - yeh right!]

"OK, so not a good start.  So what else did you plan to do with it?" 
Come In Number 27!
I also wanted it to be able to review and select images anywhere when I had a few minutes, such as when, well - you know, 'on the throne' (Andy - too much information!) - oh, sorry - let's just say 'anywhere' when I had a few minutes.  But, with the installed Photo App there's no easy way to rate or select images other than scribbling down "Number 27" although 'Number 27' isn't necessarily the 27th image you've taken depending on how they're being viewed!  "There must be an app for that" I hear you say - you would have thought so!  But at the time of writing there is no such App (though there is one that comes close but still not quite there - you'll have to wait for a later blog for me to explain that one).

"OK - so the main things you wanted the iPad for do it doesn't so very well - so why keep it?"
Good question - glad you asked.  Like the iPhone it doesn't do Flash, but despite this it makes a really nice and functional tablet-style PC so you can do your email and surfing from the comfort of, well, just about anywhere!  Lazy?  Indulgent?  Maybe, but to grab it, turn it on and check a website or read and reply to an email in a matter of seconds has become so second nature that I would really miss it.

Battery life is very good though the whole thing is a bit heavy as a result.  Not ideal if you want to use it as an e-reader.

Albums are easy to browse

Back to the photography - browsing images is quick and very easy, and when showing models or customers their pictures it has definitely generated interest straight away (although these are unedited from the camera so to be used judiciously). There is the added advantage that once you've downloaded the images onto the iPad you have a full-size backup in case of a problem with your memory card - or you could even use it as file storage until you get back to base.

My Photo Apps
And of course there's the ever-growing range of Apps available at usually very reasonable prices.  I'll review some of those I've chosen to use in future blogs.

I've also found it useful in my day job - for 'just' £5.99 you can download the usefully featured word processing app iWork Pages which will transfer documents across to WORD retaining all formatting!  I was able to type a fairly lengthy report while stuffed in a plane seat where I would not have had room for a laptop.

Corporate presentations look good!

For a similar price you can get iWork Keynote, the presentation app, which will import a PowerPoint format presentation and (with a little tweaking of unusual fonts) show it with all animations and transitions, making it very useful and extremely portable for one-to-one discussions.

So, is the iPad expensive - YES! Does it offer value for money - jury's still out on that one. What it does it does well. But it doesn't do Flash, its biggest shortcoming IMHO, you can't see the screen in bright sunlight so useless for viewing photos on location without a head under the coat, and it doesn't show high resolution detail so not good for checking fine focus. All big issues for me.

But I love it! I'm a PC man at heart but decided to try one for myself to see how good it was with the view I would sell it after a while, but now there's no chance of that - it's here to stay! But it's best features are not photo related.