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Thursday, 27 February 2014


A dirt cheap bluetooth keyboard completely transforms the experience of email and other writing on iPads and other tablets and phones.


I've also experimented with RAW processing (PhotoRAW) on an iPad 3 (the first Retina model, but without the Lightning port) for some Olympus OM-D E-M5 images, because my 2008 Macbook Pro was too big and heavy to take with me on vacation. It turned out to be pretty unsatisfactory.

1. It was slow. Maybe a later iPad will be faster, but this was slow --- much slower than the 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo in my Macbook.

2. Image quality was lacking compared to Adobe, which is my usual RAW developer. Things weren't as detailed, which is the only thing I couldn't fix in post, and not as colorful, or contrasty, both of which I could fix in post. Maybe I'm just used to the Adobe look. With some effort, I could get the images to be how I wanted to look, but that leads the the 3rd point.

3. Post-processing was a PITA: the touch interface is not great for precision movements, so dodging and burning were kind of rough and approximate. Tone curve controls were also pretty limited. Compared to Lightroom's recovery controls, the iPad tools were downright primitive and limited.

Anyway, it doesn't matter now because I've discovered the Macbook Air! Along with the small Intuous tablet, a 13-inch MBA is almost as packable and far, far more powerful than an iPad system, and I get to use the regular Adobe tools.

Merging back the Lightroom catalog once I'm home is painless, so I don't have to try to replicate the edits I've done. And the MBA's high-speed ports (USB 3 or Thunderbolt) means you can also add a very fast external drive, like one of those tiny SSDs from OWC, and edit well on that drive.

The only downside is cost.

I read, from allegedly reliable sources, that Olympic photographers were expected to turn in selected and edited results 14 minutes after the end of their event this year.

That seems...difficult.

Apparently the main trick is to use down time during the event to do in-camera rating settings (which my camera doesn't do; though I can mark files as "protected", which may be good enough).

I bought my daughter a 13 inch Macbook Air last spring, the base model with 4 gigs of ram and a 128 gig ssd. I took it on a one week fall color trip through Alaska with several photo-club friends and in the evenings I would have my EM5 and E5 images loaded and be editing raws in Lightroom while everyone else was still waiting for Windows to load (they all had regular hard drives, which makes all the difference).

It sounds like the ipad is getting closer. Certainly it has some impressive power now. What I would likely do in your case (for a slideshow) is shoot good quality jpegs with conservative settings (low contrast, low saturation, low NR, low sharpening) and then edit them to taste in any number of ipad friendly editors. Keep the raws on the card for later at home.

I was impressed at how quickly photos are imported on the iPad, even RAW. Disappointed that neither Photos, nor iPhoto can resize photos. Fortunately Photogene deals with RAW, and can resize, and is only $.99, for a fairly complete editor.

I too, am incresing the actual "work" that I can do on the ios devices, though they are still not a replacement for a desk or laptop. Close.

Interesting ideas. I bought an inexpensive bluetooth keyboard for my Nexus tablet and find it now meets my travel needs.

Like you, I never seem to have the time for serious photo editing (or even writing) on the road, but with the tablet and a couple of simple photo programs I can do some culling and sorting and post a few "snapshots" from the road. The keyboard works well enough for email and social sites. With the right software it might do for small amounts of more serious writing.

For photos I sometimes use an Eye-Fi card and sebd JPEGs to the tablet as I shoot. Full-size JPEGs go to the tablet almost as fast as I shoot, about 6 seconds each, so the full shoot is available only a couple of minutes after I put down the camera.

As to the future, a laptop has been my main computer for the last year but I'm going back back to a desktop. I no longer need the laptop on the road and I never liked carrying around all the files and data. Too much risk of loss or theft. If it's going to stay home anyhow I can get more computing power for the money in a desktop.

For the road, I'm very interested in the "phablet" large-screen phones coming on the market. A phone with a 5 or 6 inch screen could meet all my needs on the road. Whether I'd want to deal with something that large on a daily basis could be another matter, though.

I'm so glad somebody mentioned Photogene, it's a fabulous app but Snapseed always seems to get the publicity.

On Android, I've edited raw images using a Nexus 7, USB-OTG cable with SD card reader (which costs a few pounds - how much is the Apple CCK? ;) and apps such as Nexus Media Importer, PhotoMate and Snapseed. E.g.: http://goo.gl/uLZhR0

The results never quite compare to even basic adjustments in a desktop package, but if you can't immediately make that comparison then they're certainly decent enough to throw up on Flickr while travelling.

Have you tried out the Fotopedia app? It helps create photo stories, right from the iPad.
It has a great reportage look. You should try it.

I use Aperture on an iMac and it does everything I need, but I wonder about configuring a portable set-up for myself now and then, just in case I ever need one. Friends have iPads, I think they may be useful generally, but it seems like Aperture doesn't run on them. Now I read about these other Apps I might need to get if I had an iPad. I thought the idea was that computer solutions were supposed to make life easier for us.

Just curious, have you tried the Wacom pressure-sensitive stylus for the iPad?

iPhoto for iOS isn't free. It's $4.99.

And it's still $14.99 for OS X unless it already came with your Mac.

I too like the Photogene app. It's kinda Lightroom-ish...all your edits are non-destructive and are applied to a rendered version of each photo, leaving the original intact. More than worth the tiny cost. Snapseed, Leonardo, etc. don't work for me...they try to do too much. For RAW conversion I like PhotoRAW. Even on my old iPad 2 PhotoRAW can process Sony A7r RAWs (with some care), and on the new Air it zips along nicely. I also like that it doesn't auto-maximize tonal range by default...it assumes you know what you're doing. I wouldn't mind having white balance presets and clipping indicators, though.

Something that annoys me about tablet apps in general, and image editing apps in particular, is the utter lack of inertial characteristics in slider controls. It drives me up the wall when I lift a finger from a slider only to see the value jump way up or down from my desired target. My guess is this is OS-level stuff...but it should've been there in v1.0 and its continued absence is inexcusable.

I suppose if you are in an expedition or traveling in circumstances (long bicycle trek?) where every gram of weight and cubic cm of space must be conserved, then using an iPad for image processing would be useful.

Otherwise, tablets are for viewing content and laptops are for creating content. I have Adobe CC photography package on a 2013 13" MacBook Air. This is the smallest and slowest I'd want to go.

ps I know CC phones home occasionally to validate the license.

According to Adobe, "The desktop apps will attempt to validate your software licenses every 30 days, but for annual members, you can use the apps for up to 99 days in offline mode. Month-to-month members can use the software for up to 30 days in offline mode."

So if you travel for extended periods of time where internet connectivity is impossible, my approach in not practical.

Dear Huw,

So, an app that had essentially zero learning curve for me and let me put together a 250 photo slideshow in an hour the second time I used it seems “painful” to you? I thought I was a fanatic about usability, but I bow to you, Sir.

I've never been a Lightroom user. I've had Lightroom for, like, forever, but it doesn't seem to think the way I think and I haven't had any particular incentive to learn to think like it does.

I've been trying to figure out PhotoSmith, and probably I haven't got it sussed out yet, but so far I haven't found much in the way of image manipulation tools in it. It seems to be for asset management. Which is important to many people, but mostly not to me.

I could just be using it wrong; no doubt readers will put me on the right path if I am off.


Dear David,

Um, you're partially right… And I'm partially wrong. IPhoto is free if your device was purchased after September 1 of last year, which my iPad are obviously was. Which is why I didn't notice that it is NOT free on older devices. Thanks for catching that!


Dear Toto,

No I haven't. I'm interested in it, but it's quite expensive ($100) and only works with a limited number of apps. I don't think it works with any of the ones I'm using. I could be wrong about that, though…


Dear John,

I tried photographing RAW plus JPEG last time I did this and it messed up my workflow something awful. It would take too long to explain, and it likely wouldn't matter to anyone else anyway. But, I decided that R+J was not for me.

Fortunately the JPEG's that are embedded as previews in the RAW files are very decent; good enough, anyway, for presenting on the limited resolution screen of an iPad. Or, for that matter an HDTV.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Used Lightroom for this near real time event and it seems fine. iPad is too slow (mine is the -1 generation not the Air).

BTW, I found it is nearly impossible to use macbook of 15" as the font of a lot of the system is too small. How can you get away with that? (In apps only the content can be enlarged but not the menu or other system level character).

Interesting desktop/laptop vs tablet discussion.

Ever since I bought my first iPad, I have been using more photo apps ( Camera+, Snapseed, Afterlight, Luminance, Photo fx Ultra) and less Photoshop. Now, with the iPad Air and the just acquired 'Leonardo' app (best replacement for photoshop on the iPad, ever!), I think I can end my relationship with Adobe. For the desktop I use Pixelmator.
Writing can be done on Pages. Very pretty!

I have an iPad AIr and the camera connection kits, but I never use it for photo editing. I found iPhoto crashy in the past when importing larges number of RAW images, and in any case the lack of color calibration in iOS or Android basically renders it useless to me for editing purposes since white balance correction is a critical step in my workflow. I could edit on my Retina MacBook Pro, but I seldom do that either, and just wait until I return home to edit in Lightroom on my 30" + 27" dual monitor setup.

The part I find more strange is the dearth of good iOS photo sharing apps that are not tied to a social network. I host my photos on my own website, in a password-protected section, and refuse to upload them to Facebook, Google, Flickr, Adobe Revel et al due to their well-demonstrated record of privacy violations (or in the case of Adobe, sheer incompetence at protecting credit-card data).

Older iOS versions supported photocasts, where you could subscribe to a RSS feed with enclosures, i.e. the photo equivalent of a podcast, but that must have been too open for Apple because they changed it to tie it firmly into their proprietary iCloud photostream misfeature (and given Apple's track record of incompetence at running cloud infrastructure, I wouldn't trust them not to screw it up).

I would love to see an app where I can send a secure URL to my parents or in-laws, they import it into their photo app, and then they can browse photos of their granddaughter whenever they want, including when they don't have connectivity (unlike me, they don't have the 4G iPad).

The real solution to your workflow problem would be to use wireless tethered mode, using either a WiFi-enabled camera like the E-M1, or using an Eye-Fi card on your E-M5. Unfortunately there are no standards whatsoever for wireless camera protocols today, and camera makers couldn't design software to save their life (which in fact they need to if they are to survive the smartphone onslaught). I don't know how well the various tethered apps work with buffering for fast sports action shooting, but it certainly works well enough in the studio.

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