A Photographer's First Thoughts on the New iPad (And Apple Pencil)
It’s been a while since I’ve had a new iPad. In fact, it’s been a while since I had an iPad that was actually usable. I hadn’t upgraded since the iPad 3 as I had nothing but trouble with that model, and it kind of put me off. But with the numerous apps coming out on iOS for photographers, I was starting to feel a little left out. I had been considering an iPad Pro, but I just couldn’t afford it. So when Apple announced the new 6th generation iPad with Apple Pencil support, I decided it was finally time.
I’ve had it for a week now, and so far I love it. I can’t get over the difference between this and my old iPad. I hadn’t been able to use the latest version of iOS, so I was missing out on a lot of the optimisation. Using a current iPad is a significant change, and it’s like a completely new class of computer compared to the old one. Coming from a much older generations tablets, it was like taking a leap into the future. The excitement I feel using it is like when I first got the original iPad all those years ago. I feel like the new one is fulfilling the promise of the tablet from back when the iPad first was introduced. Of course, much of this is down to the fact that I have been out of touch with the platform.
Regarding general use, there’s nothing to complain about. It’s very fast and responsive. The screen is great. In fact, I can’t get over how much the screen has improved over the years. My iPad 3 had terrible trouble with the screen. The backlight was two-toned, and the top half of the screen was pink and the bottom half green. I had replaced it only to get another one that was equally as bad, and the Apple repair people here in Ireland refused to change it again saying that it was within specification. That whole interaction put me off getting a new one for so long, but I’m glad to report that the current generation doesn’t have that problem.
There are only two real issues with the display as far as I can see, and neither of these are problems per se, but rather a feature of the technology. The first is the reflectivity. The highly glossy screen reflects the environment to a significant degree, and this, in turn, affects the perception of white. It is in no way a problem, but rather it’s something I notice after years of being a designer and photographer working with calibrated displays. But it’s much better than my old iPad 3. (Let it go, Thomas.) This is something that’s addressed on the iPad Pro with the less reflective screen and the True Tone display. To be honest, even if you’re sensitive to this issue, you only notice it in very specific conditions.
The other minor thing that I’ve noticed in regards to using the Apple Pencil, and that is the slight parallax caused by the non-laminated glass. Again, this is something that the iPad Pro solves, but still, it’s such a minor issue that it’s not going to affect you most of the time. I only really find it a problem when doing very fine strokes when working with the Apple Pencil.
Speaking of which the Apple Pencil is fantastic. Having worked with Wacom tablets for years, the responsiveness of the Pencil is remarkable. It was truly a genius move on Apple’s part to bring the Pencil to the masses. I’ve used a number of different apps with it including paper and Procreate, and it really is excellent for drawing and sketching. The combination of the two doesn’t really feel like an entry-level product. It feels like something much more high end.
I was also keen to try out the new iPad for photography applications, and this was one of my main reasons for getting it. My old iPad couldn’t really run any of the most popular apps, and even my phone struggles with most of them. So far I’ve tried VSCO, Snapseed, Affinity Photo and LightroomCC. All work remarkably well, with the exception of Affinity Photo which I found a little sluggish. I tried both RAW and JPEG files in VSCO, and it's entirely usable and fairly fast. The results are great. Just as a side point, I really don’t understand why VSCO have never made a desktop version of this software, as it produces really excellent results.
I’m considering doing a guide about processing images on an iPad in the future so if you have any questions, please let me know, and I’ll endeavour to answer them, or include them in a future article. I may also do an iPad version of my Fuji guides too if this would interest anyone, although I’d like to make it less camera specific.
The other main reason that I wanted one was for writing. I actually wrote a good deal of my Aperture book on my old iPad, and I have a few writing projects in progress, so I wanted to have that experience again. This may seem like an odd thing to want an iPad for, but I actually like writing on it as it’s small and neat and you can just throw it in your bag. And while you could argue that you can do the same with a MacBook Air, or MacBook, they are much more expensive. I do have an external keyboard that I use with it (an old Apple one), but I actually write a lot with the onscreen keyboard too. Again the changes to this (in whatever iOS updated that improved the iPad keyboard) are a big difference compared to my old one and I can type quite fast on the onscreen keyboard. In fact, I’m writing this article on it now. I also edited some of the images used in this article on it too, using VSCO, Lightroom CC and Snapspeed. (The others were done in Lightroom on my Mac)
I still have lots more to test, and I’ll be posting some more articles soon. In the meantime, if you have any questions or apps that you would like me to try, please leave them in the comments below. I may not answer immediately, but I will endeavour to include them in a future update.
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