ND – Gorgeous Hot Sunny, Blue
I previously wrote…
…about whether an Apple iPad would be a useful tool for me or a
white brushed aluminium elephant. Over the last few years I’ve had a good experience with an Apple iPod Classic (before it was known as “classic”), an Apple iPod Touch (iTouch), an Apple iMac and an Apple iPhone 3Gs. The iTouch and iPhone in particular opened a world of portable connectivity, even if the iTouch is largely tethered to my home WiFi, but there was always an ultimate usage issue caused by squinting at and interacting with such tiny displays.
A tool needs to last all day…
I have been using this iPad for two days now. When I unpacked it less than 48 hours ago, the battery indicated 97% and I thought I’d put it to the “runs all day” test and started using it in anger without bothering with the charge cable. Indeed, the included “free” charge it arrived with ran for 6 heavy hours on Day 1 and 5 more on day 2 before it had dropped to 19% and I finally tethered it to some juice.
Those eleven hours were almost totally online, one of them was spent watching a documentary on the BBC’s iPlayer. How iApt 😉
So it lasts all day, does it do the things I want as a blogging photographer. That was almost profane!
To be clear I had to decide which device to buy. With different storage size options and the choice of 3G connectivity or not, I had a range of prices to deal with. Honestly, given the list of Apple devices I’ve already mentioned I didn’t need another one to load up with music, though a few classic Yes and Pink Floyd albums made it on so that I could stream them in the background as I type. Ditto video.
Which brings me to photos. If the iPad had a killer connection to my camera, with indispensable tethered features then it would have been a great tool and having a large storage capacity would have made it a great backup device when out in the field. However, that’s not the case and Apple’s markup for more storage was steep.
In the end I decided that the primary photo usage on my ‘Pad was dealing with small JPG’s that had already been fully processed and destined for Flickr and this blog.
I’ve also had limited success with 3G services and my iPhone is regularly unable to suck data down even in the middle of Britain’s second city. Plus the price again was steep on top of my iPhone contract. Apple, if you are reading this, WHY CAN’T I TETHER MY IPAD TO MY IPHONE FOR WHAT LITTLE 3G ACTION I CAN GET?
A 16GB WiFi-only iPad is now mine 🙂
Nikon DSLR connectivity…
The first big thing I needed to know was, could I tether it to my Nikon cameras?
I grabbed the (overpriced, £25) Apple Connection Kit and a spare USB cable and plugged the iPad directly into my Nikon D700 digital SLR. The iPad automatically recognized the camera as a camera device, but that seems to translate into “a storage device with picture files in a recognizable format has been attached”. I could copy or move the files to the iPad, even though they were all in Nikon’s NEF RAW format.
For the record I disconnected the Nikon and plugged the USB cable into a USB Card Reader (and tried it with SD and CF cards), my iTouch and iPhone. They all appeared as dumb storage devices and would only be recognised for use if valid picture files were found for copying or moving. This is pretty much the limit of connectivity. No movie files or files of any other sort were accessible. Also, and rather annoyingly, I could not copy/move any of these files back off the iPad to an external storage device, so only the iPad’s spare internal storage can be used to back up or buffer my external devices, rather than having a portable USB Hard Disc Drive that I can move things to.
Given that the iPad is a portable device, I had hoped it would allow me the lightweight portability, in conjunction with the previously mentioned devices, to go away for a couple of weeks or more and be able to shoot photos, check them out and play with them, and backup or store them off camera without worrying about hitting my capacity limit. I can to a degree with the iPad’s free storage, but to utilise my 400GB USB HDD I need another computer. So the iPad is not a laptop replacement, and will partner my trusty ASUS Eee 901 PC.
Also, as far as picture files go, you can not review them remotely from the iPad. Being able to blow up a Nikon RAW file to full size on the iPad screen while it still lives on the Nikon was not going to happen. Shame, it would be a great feature. Also, even when you copy/move images to the iPad from your camera, if you’re dealing with RAW files as I do, then the iPad does NOT directly show images from the RAW data. Instead, it shows the small JPG thumbnail image that’s embedded in the RAW file, and leaves the full resolution RAW image file alone. This means that to open a RAW file directly does not allow you to blow it up to full size to check for image sharpness or anything else.
Luckily, there’s a solution but it adds an extra step which does not aid workflow in the field. That step is to have an App that does utilise the RAW data itself, and my current App of choice is the simple but really quite excellent Photoshop Express.
Adobe Photoshop Express App, Image (c) Adobe Inc.
I can load and view the RAW files, edit them, produce JPG’s and get them into a state suitable for posting on this blog or Flickr. However, there are obvious limitations here and the App only gives very basic editing functions. You can crop and straighten, adjust brightness, contrast and hue and add some silly effects, but the more heavy-duty post processing I sometimes do is not available here, and there’s no way to tack my little copyright message onto a bottom corner either.
Here is a really bad photo of a wine glass across a very dark room that I quickly snapped with my Nikon D700. I didn’t bother with the settings all that much, or in fact the composition or anything else, I was just after a rubbishy test photo to see what the iPad would do to it when I attached the Nikon to the iPad. Actually, I almost didn’t even do this. I was sitting on a sofa, the D700 was next to me and I looked around to find the glass. If these random events hadn’t have happened then this awful waste of a shutter action would never have been inflicted on the world.
Having copied it to the iPad I opened the Photoshop Express App and played around with the settings. Some saturation, contrast, cropping and straightening later produced this monochrome image.
Another set of adjustments which altered the colouring and added a nasty white border resulted in this.
A great little App, badly mishandled by my cack-handed foolishness on Day 1.
Ultimately though Photoshop Express does allow me to zoom the RAW file to full size, but the whole workflow is a little tardy for rapid feedback during a shoot.
…is pretty basic. As mentioned I can’t tether the iPad for 3G connectivity when I’m innevitably away from a WiFi hotspot, and the range of options is limited to just one and it is unidirectional at that. If I connect my iPhone through the connection kit (I still can’t get Bluetooth to work, and have never had any significant success with that across a range of devices over the years) I can copy/Move picture files to the iPad, but can’t put any back into the iPhone.
…updates from the iPad are also possible, but not quite as rapid or fluid as using my iMac (or a PC). Uploading images is quick and easy, but block handling them for adding Tags, or adding them to Sets or Groups is painful with a lot of mucking about. Copy/Paste with a mouse/cursor arrangement is generally simpler.
One of the things that slows text input down in particular is how the iPad handles editable text boxes within a web app. On my iMac, if I hover the cursor over a text box and simply scroll the little ball on the top of the mouse the text box scrolls up and down without affecting the web page around it. If the box has a vertical scroll bar then it’s also easy to grab with the cursor and slide it yourself. But the iPad doesn’t have the cursor/hover dynamic and the current solution is painful.
Touch a text box to highlight it, touch and hold to get the cursor positioning loupe to appear, or double tap a word to highlight it and grab one of the bookmarking blue blobs to drag it further and you discover the awful world of slow scrolling. Drag your finger to the top or bottom of a text box and watch as it eventually starts to wake up to understanding that you want to scroll, and then watch it as it scrolls raggedly a fraction of a pixel a second. It is a horrendous experience to navigate around a piece of text that is inevitably longer than the input box.
This is a huge pain.
Of course there are App alternatives to just logging straight into Flickr in Safari, but both the official App, along with the somewhat prettier FlickStackr have limitations and don’t cover all areas of Flickr updating as smoothly as you would like.
However, these apps, particularly FlickStackr, look great on the iPad and make viewing your Flickr account, or someone elses a real pleasure.
…(cutting to the chase) also has a dedicated App, and after fighting unsuccessfully with it on both my iPad and iPhone for a while now I’ve finally given up with it. It is so buggy, wouldn’t let me log in to my account for some time, and when it did the functionality was limited followed by regular crashing. Come on WordPress, you can do better than this unusable and embarrassing mess.
WordPress is obviously important to me as it powers this blog, and is an otherwise excellent service; Well Done WordPress People 🙂
Unfortunately for WordPress, it uses embedded scrollable input boxes more than Flickr does. Text input on WordPress in text boxes is far worse than on Flickr because a blog demands more text than a simple picture comment. Also, the scrollable boxes for ticking boxes against predefined categories and tags don’t scroll at all.
I’ve persevered though because the iPad has changed some of my experiences, fitted in with my time more easily and allowed me to nibble away at writing articles, reading emails and generally getting on with lots of little tasks as and when I have time to do them.
Instead of waiting for a computer to boot, I can genuinely pick this device up, read something, update something else, check on stats, respond to Flickr comments and have an always on, all day connected experience.
Which is what the iPad was for in the first place 🙂
This entire article…
…was created on my iPad. I used a Nikon D700 to (badly) shoot the wine glass on my dining table in very low light with (deliberately, and without getting off my sofa) the wrong settings on the camera. The image RAW file was copied across to the iPad with the Apple Connection Kit, processed with Adobe’s Photoshop Express App on the iPad, and uploaded to the blog. All work on the blog was (mis)managed through the iPad.