What’s the iPad? Well, cynics would say that it’s an oversized iPod Touch. Add in a faster CPU and an HD screen and the cynics are absolutely correct.
And that’s a good thing.
Viewing images on an iPad is a wonderful experience compared to the iPod Touch. Photographs look better presented on it then on a physical print. But with the larger screen real estate and faster processor alongside the multitouch interface, how well does the iPad work as an image editing tool? The answers are: awesome, adequate, and abhorrent. To break it down without the alliteration:
Imaging & Editing Tools
At the time I am writing this article I am primarily shooting digital with an Olympus E-P1 and a variety of lenses, mostly adapted from my rangefinder kit. On the iPad, my primary image editor is Photogene. I also have Camerabag and Filterstorm installed, both of which are more-or-less one step filter apps and don’t have much in the way of editing functionality. Of course, iPhoto comes installed and is an excellent image browser, modeled directly off the OSX version.
Probably the best thing about the iPad with regards to photography is it’s native support for RAW file formats. This doesn’t just mean the ability to browse RAW files in iPhoto, but edit them too. Of course, the same iPhone OS limits as other image formats still apply (see under the abhorrent heading), but it’s still pretty wicked. Thanks to the snappy processor, my 15MB files opened up quickly and editing them was fast, too. The image below was opened from it’s RAW (.ORF) file in CameraBag and a variation of the 1974 filter was applied.
As mentioned toward the beginning of this piece, the screen and touch interface also deserve to be listed under “awesome”, especially when using apps like FilterStorm, which allow you to “paint” on effects using your finger. This more direct experience then using a mouse or tablet isn’t as accurate, but gives you a feeling of being more connected to what you are doing.
When it comes to large sensor RAW files, having 16, 32, or 64GB storage isn’t impressive and I suspect the iPad doesn’t make a good archival tool. However it is more then enough to store a good portfolio on along with a few images to play with. You also have the option of installing the free Dropbox app for a little cloud storage (see RAW file caveat in abhorrent, below) or buying the camera connection kit, which will allow you to utilize SD cards and a limited number of USB storage devices. Either way, you still have to move the source file to your iPad in order to edit it, but once finished you can always move it back to the card/device.
Photogene, as well as other mature image editors available in the iTunes store, provide all the basic functionality you use regularly in Photoshop but not much beyond that. Fast access to curves and the channel mixer is there as are the required filters such as unsharp mask. Really, for quick editing and for only around 5 bucks, I should be putting this under “awesome”.
This was done in 5 minutes using Photogene, and involved the native “Heat” filter, text overlay, and finally a resize for posting here.
For me, the worst thing about editing images on the iPad has nothing to do with the available editors and their functionality, but with what seems to be a restriction of the iPhone OS. No matter how large an image is, it can’t be saved larger then 2048px and only as a JPEG. What this means is that I can edit a 12MP (4032px) Olympus RAW file just fine, but when I want to save it I can only do so as a 2048px JPEG image. In addition, images cannot be upsized, only downsized. On the plus side, edited images are always saved as a new image in a “Saved Images” album, so the original image is preserved. What this really means is that the iPad is limited to being a place to model edits before getting to a desktop to do “real work”, edit images meant for presenting digitally via a projector or the iPad display where you would never really need anything greater then 1020px, or edit images for use in social posting or digital publishing as I am doing for this blog article. It is my sincerest hope that this limitation disappears in the v4 release of the OS.
Now on to a couple of minor complaints aimed at specific apps.
Dropbox, RAW file support is built into the operating system. What’s keeping your app from recognizing them as images so that I can move them into iPhoto?
Photogene, take a look at this image fully edited in your almost-brilliant iPad application:
You know what it needs? Take a look at the right side of her face. A DODGE TOOL! While you’re at it, throw in a burn tool, too. Seriously, that’s basic photo-editing 101 stuff.
In conclusion, the foundations are there and there is a huge amount of potential (*cough* Liveview *cough*) so my fingers are crossed for some improvements in future OS updates and until then I’ll just play happily with what’s available so far.