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Gear & Apps

New iPad Pro | With Astropad & Camranger, Is It The New Must-Have Tool?

By Kishore Sawh on March 22nd 2016

Since the first iPad was introduced, oh so many years ago now, its application as a tool for photographers was immediately assessed, but over the course of its young life, its relevance has been continually addressed and called into question. One can draw rather obvious conclusions about the utility of an iPad for someone in the photographic industry, as a brilliant screen that allows for ease of transportation, pinching and zooming of images and so on, it quickly became a portfolio display, but as for daily use in the field, there were issues.

Its compatibility with other software, its initial inability to directly take data from SD cards, its inability to store RAW or be tethered to, and the lack of proper editing software seemed to dampen its allure. Then, of course, there’s the price, seeing as though it’s not insignificant.

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But then things began to change, as EyeFi released an app that would allow JPEGs to be sent directly to the iPad wirelessly, and it became a decent in-field reviewing tool, if slow. Then, of course, iPads got more powerful, so more software was able to be used, and developers started making better photo-centric applications; we now have a suite of Adobe applications that are coming truly into their own and allow for a decent level of control. And if that wasn’t enough for you, there’s Astropad. So is now the time you should seriously consider getting one? It just may be.

iPad As A Wacom Intuos Pen Tablet For Retouching

Astropad rather effectively turned your iPad into a retouching pen tablet the likes of which often draws comparison to Wacom’s Cintiq line, and those start at higher price points than the iPads begin. Astropad allowed you to use Photoshop and Lightroom or whatever, very similarly to a Cintiq, where you could use your iPad screen to look directly at while retouching – it works as a connected workspace, and having used it myself I can tell you, it works. Many, including myself, will still prefer to use the Wacom tablet but there’s no denying the experience of using the iPad as a retouching tool is getting better and better, and with the new iPad Pro, it becomes true competition. Astropad even updated their app just for the Pro.

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The iPad Pro was building strengths in the areas photographers always wanted, culminating currently in the new iPad Pro. With photographers becoming more color aware, and with prints making a comeback, it matters even more. The new iPad Pro has a color gamut that equals the current 5k iMac display, with better color saturation that the iPad Air 2, is brighter, and significantly less reflective. Apple’s also adjusted the touch-sensitivity of the iPad to disregard input from your palm and fingers when using the Apple Pencil, meaning you can really begin to use this as a Cintiq-like device.

Check our more about Astropad here.

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The closest thing in the Cintiq lineup to the new iPad Pro is the Cintiq 13HD Touch which retails for a not bad $949, and while it has a larger screen, the resolution is less. But, its pen doesn’t require charging as the Apple Pencil does, and it has hard buttons which I’ve sung the praises of for ages. The new iPad Pro 9.7 inch version starts at $599, but even at the mid-range $749, it comes in much cheaper than the Cintiq, with a higher res screen.

With something like Astropad, this may turn out to be a true-to-form replacement for a Cintiq for certain people. Do I think the Cintiq is a better retouching tool? By all accounts, yes, but damn if Apple hasn’t presented somewhat of a challenge now.

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iPad As A Tethering Tool Display

There’s something else too, and that is the iPad can function outside of the parameters of a retouching tablet. Returning to the idea of using the iPad as a reviewing screen in-field, where Eye-Fi dropped off, CamRanger picked up, turning the iPad into a device that could remotely control a DSLR, even allowing for focus stacking and as a tool to wireless tether at speeds greater than Eye-Fi. This appeals to studio photographers, wildlife, wedding photographers, Astro-shooters, and so on, and then even if you’re into videography, there exists now the Manfrotto Digital Director. Digital Director allows you to focus your camera by tapping on the screen and essentially control the rest of it as Camranger would, and since it shows real-time video feeds, it turns the iPad into a beautiful and large touch display for videographers.

CamRanger to iPad
CamRanger

There’s one issue that may throw some photographers off, however, and it’s a new feature that essentially white balances the screen. Using two 4-channel ambient light sensors, the iPad Pro now measures the brightness and color temp of the environment in which it sits, then it adjusts the display for a ‘paper-white’ viewing experience. In one respect, this is akin to calibrating a monitor with something like the beloved Spyder System, but with the auto-system in the iPad, it would seem there’s no way to assure consistency.

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While the viewing experience may be better to view a finished product, the creation of the image may not be. I would actually suggest to keep it off if possible while doing editing, and even while using the screen as a monitor for shooting, as I can’t imagine having the iPad screen adjust to show something that isn’t actually what the camera captured would be useful.

[REWIND: LIGHTROOM’S DARK KNIGHT | THE TRANSFORMATIVE ALT/OPT KEY [PART 2]]

So what do you think? A sensible piece of kit for $599, or would you rather get another lens or something else?

Incidentally, we’re quite fans of Camranger, and you can see Pye’s video review below:

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Bryan Dockett

    Sounds like it almost there but not yet and yes I’m a bit biased I’m a PC guy. I recently invested in a surface pro 4 as more mobile solution. I can do everything above with the full desktop apps I think it’s the matter choice right now.

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  2. Mark Henry Dela Torre

    Still they should remove the Pro badge because it doesn’t have a full OS on it.

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  3. Tyler Friesen

    I use the iPad Pro, Pencil and AstroPad for retouching and I love it! it has improved my workflow immensely. I also got the CamFi which is an awesome knock off of Cam Ranger for $100. Amazing combo.

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  4. Mark Romine

    Impressive, the ever changing landscape of technology.

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  5. Njoi Fontes

    The ipad is a very limited device and the ipad “pro” does not change that. A photographer would be much better off in investing in a surface pro 4 which give you the full power of full windows (not to mention actual ports) and is able to replace not only your tablet but also your tablet. If you what something smaller you can get the surface 3 which is considerably cheaper than the ipad pro and also runs full windows. \

    Only apple seem to be able to fool people into thinking that a tablet that runs a mobile os can ever be a pro device, but anyone on this site should know better. I used a surface pro 3 for a year and now use a surface book, fantastic devices on a class of their own and infinitely more useful than an ipad will ever be

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    • Michael Dawes

      Except the stylus it incredibly superior on the iPad. (More useful for drawing than photography, but still.) The battery life is better, and it’s just more immediate in general. Of course it works well as a pro tool in certain circumstances. And a lot of people don’t want it to be a full laptop replacement. :)

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  6. robert raymer

    Considering the disastrous end to my old iPad (left on top of a car while attempting to herd 2 rambunctious kids into the vehicle then driven onto a mighty) I would love to get a new one, but though the price isn’t bad, I just don’t think its in the cards for me. Sounds like this has a lot of nice upgrades.

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