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Tuesday, 04 March 2014


If I ever find someone who takes photos with a tablet complaining that DSLRs are too big and inconvenient, I swear I'll strangle him!

Although it's not very popular yet here in the States, it's nothing new with foreign tourists visiting here. I saw this for the first time in Yellowstone two years ago. Although they weren't as ubiquitous as the smart phone snappers, at virtually every popular attraction there was at least one tablet photographer.

I know it's really not that different from composing in an optical viewfinder or on the LCD of a point-and-shoot, but because of the large screen, it struck me as comical; almost as if they were previewing the world in HD TV.

Curmudgeon alert...

This trend is truly bizarre, in my view. I suppose people will try anything once, but I can't imagine a more awkward device to regularly take handheld photographs with than the iPad (Well, my LCD TV fitted with a lens and sensor in the back might be a challenger). I think Alfred Stieglitz's turn-of-the-20th-century Graflex had better haptics.

Maybe it has possibilities on a tripod, but handheld in the field? On the street?? Imagine what HCB would think about that.

I am wondering how long it will take for someone to actually attach the i-Pad to the back of a Deardorff V8 and capture direct to the computer?

I find that the ergonomics of tablets for photography are abysmal; it's hard to hold the tablet stable (a fingertip grip around the frame, arms stretched out) and tapping the release on the touch screen is hard while holding the tablet steadily. Combine this with the image quality not being any better than my phone (in some cases worse!), I really see no incentive whatsoever in taking photos with a tablet.

It's also worth to note that I have my phone with me virtually all the time, but I don't bother carrying a tablet, since its significantly bulkier and won't be needed all the time; another point for the phone.

Nick Cutler, that's genius. Don't forget the virtual loupe that we'd drag around with a fingertip.

But, seriously, after looking down my nose at tablet photography for years, I'm starting to see the value of the large screen for composition (maybe because my eyes are aging?). It makes even more sense if the tablet is that person's primary means of looking at photographs--you can't get more WYSIWYG than that, and you don't need a lot pixels, either.

Actually, something close to the view camera idea is inevitable, where high-res high-gamut tablets become the preferred viewfinders/monitors for critical shooting when cameras are mounted tripods or rigs. For all I know, it's already happening.

@Nick Cutler I think you could save money and just lock the rotation. No app needed!


its very good for folks who have limited near vision anyway. When viewfinders were common, the optical systems of the viewfinder presented a view at a distance (10') which didn't present problems for the farsighted.

The small screen on the back of a camera or phone doesn't do favors for older people. A tablet is a nice screen you can hold at a distance your eyes can focus.

A pal went all over Europe with an iPad and shot all their pictures with it, and said they were allowed in areas to take pictures that others were not because they didn't know it was a camera too...the work was decent too, the color way better than my Nikon on "auto-color", it really corrected some inside churches in Europe, but not "over" corrected until it looked too blue...someone over there knows something...

I was leaving a photogenic ancient fort which happens to be on the beach at our nearest seaside when I saw an older woman (mutton dressed as lamb), who looked just the sort to splash out on Apple products, holding her iPad at arms length trying to compose a photo despite the bright sunshine.
I was so tempted to walk up to her and say "Did you know you could buy a camera to do that?".

However, having laughed at that incident, my cousin used his iPad to document some work being done to his house (real camera left at his other house!)and it did a perfectly adequate job.

We'll get used to it soon but as Dave in NM says for the moment it looks comical.

My wife recently bought a Nokia Lumia 1520, known as a Phablet. It has a 6" screen, and when first handled feels ridiculous, until you start using it... then things get good, very good. As a camera, it ironically reminds me of using a sheet film camera, looking at a big screen to compose. Great photographic experience. Reviewing photos is a real pleasure. So is reading email, visiting mobilized websites, etc. If you have a purse to put it into, I don't know why you would select a different size 'do-it-all' phone.

If you are a wedding or event photographer, or you are hired to shoot concerts, beware the sea of screens in your way.

I have dozens of photographs depicting guests concentrating on their pads, pods and phones, missing the event they are there to see. Of course they are not only preventing me from doing my job but they block the view of everyone behind them.

I am typically being paid to "capture" the event and that is a whole other mindset. I have to be "in the moment" while recording the moment.

I do love the concept (haven't done it yet) of using my iPad Mini as a viewing screen (Camranger) when shooting static subjects however.

Edward beat me to it with his note on the "phablet." My last family vacation I lugged a camera, phone and tablet and thought several times one well-designed device should be able to replace the three with one.

Or then there are the Sony camera modules that clip to a phone. I like the idea, but not sure how well it works in the first generation.

Hopefully I'm a cool enough guy not to block other folks view, or photo opportunities.

I've seen people shoot with tablets for a long time now. Works for me--often, what would be a boring tourist pic becomes a street shot because of tablet photography:


The first time I saw someone taking a photograph with an iPad I thought, "this it it" that's what I want.

OK, I shoot with a view camera and want to put my iPad on a tripod with a high res camera with interchangeable lenses on the front, lens tilt and rise and fall would be a real help.

But still, the idea of having a decent viewfinder is pretty seductive, and obviously I don't mind throwing a dark cloth over it if the light is difficult.

And maybe not for fast work, I like to stare at the scene and at the ground glass for a while, sometimes a long while, I do ask my clients for two hours of set up and camera fiddling, not a problem most of the time.

Great, just what the world needs - another way to take another 6 billion crappy photographs.

Where we should be going is to move the image editing functionality into the camera app live preview mode. Why not frame the shot using a Pad on a tripod, then adjust verticals, burn in a corner, apply a gradient, apply a filter, all before taking the picture. It could become plein air photography: a very pure sort of picture taking.

I have an irrational hatred of tablet photography/videography. When I see one raised it repulses me.

In the featured comments Joe Holmes said there was an issue with the iPad Air only having a 5 megapixel camera. Since it only has a 3.1 megapixel screen what is the issue? The device is self contained, the only other place these pictures may ever end up would be in e-mails or on the web at even lower resolutions.

Hi Mike. Some comments on the "iPad as camera" thing.

While on extended trips to the UK and Italy last year, my wife, who has zero interest in photographic gear, stopped several women and asked to see the photos they were taking in National Trust gardens (UK) churches (Italy) with their iPads.

She was so knocked out by the ability to view the shots on a large screen right after taking that she said to me several times, "I wouldn't mind one of those. The photos are great!"

I took the hint and bought her an iPad Mini for Xmas and she's now happily snapping away with it. She's a monstrous techno-phobe, but has figured out how to a) take a picture with her Mini, b) view it on screen, and c) e-mail it to friends and family.

5mp doesn't bother her and she's now doing something always delegated to me (i.e. documenting our lives visually).

Here's one vote for "tablet as camera".....


I have a Nexus 7 and have tried to take photos with it. As Oskar Ojala stated it is difficult to hold the tablet, keeping my fingers from blocking the lens, and doing some kind of yoga twist with another finger to take the picture. Half the time the subject has all disappeared.

While doing all this I'm in constant fear of dropping the tablet or having someone run up and grab it and off they go.

No thanks I'll stick with my old fashion Nikon D5100. It takes less time for me to get the photo with the D5100 than to turn on the tablet let alone getting the tablet in proper position to take the photo.

Now if only Nikon would shove a version of the Android OS into their cameras. It CAN'T that difficult.

Like Dave in NM, I noticed a significant number of tourists using iPads to photography in Yellowstone during last year's trip, most of them with cases hanging down as they hoisted the device. Anecdotally, the non-DSLR users were divided pretty equally between cellphones, tablets and P&S. Not surprising given the time and location. A much different pattern could be observed a sunup, when just about everybody was toting a DSLR and a tripod.

I'm waiting for the 24 megapixel iPad at which point I'll sell all the camera gear, all the computer gear and converge my entire life into one screeny apparatus. I will, however, retain my dark cloth from the Sinar in order to do good work in full daylight....

I remember shooting paper spit balls through a straw. Yes I was a precocious child. I think I will resurrect this long lost talent and begin plastering the iPad screens that are blocking my view.

I'm with Steve. When the Seahawks victory parade went through downtown last month, it was practically impossible to get a decent shot of the players through the forest of people shooting zombie-style, with their phones and tabs held in front of them.

Nick what a cool idea! I think it would be possible to take an old 8x10 field camera, make a film holder that would fit the iPad around the edges, remove the lens and presto! a 8x10 5Mp camera. Swings, tilts for your pleasure. Real retro with a modern touch. On the other hand a $100.00 12 Mp P&S might be handier?

My wife has used her iPad 3 to do a lot of impromptu photography and video capture, and while it looks silly while she does it, it does work pretty well, at least for web/TV resolution stuff. It’s not like any of it will be printed. (Though we could probably get a bunch of YouTube hits of our infant daughter spitting up like a fountain that she caught on video.)

I’m personally more interested in the ‘link camera to computer/phone/tablet realtime’ apps that are just starting to get usable. A small handheld like the Sony cameras or a micro43 camera that has an easy and immediate link to my phone with full or near-full control is very attractive. Right now it’s all still too difficult for casual use, but I can see an iPad/Camera combination being the logical ‘next step’ for people who are used to using their phones/pads as their main camera device, but want the next step up. I'd like to be able to buy a u43 sensor/transmitter/battery back which can operate my u43 lenses but which primarily acts as an interface to my phone or a tablet, or at least isn’t any bigger than a GM1, and costs no more than $300, $400 with a kit lens.

This is all very, very dependent on the camera makers getting the software and the link right, though.

Dear Folks,

A bit late to the party, having been in transit, but three thoughts on this article:

1) Coming from an era when "Hail Mary"s were only done by us desperate photojournalists, it really would not have occurred to me, back then, that this could ever become a problem of the commons. But, there it is!

2) The camera in the current iPad may not be as good as in the phones, but it is more than sufficiently good. See my review:


The HDR mode in the current version of iOS makes the exposure range about two stops better. The thing is, this camera produces entirely acceptable "5x7"'s, in every respect, which are rather larger print sizes than most consumers ever got or wanted. With better color and tonal rendition, to boot. So, ya know, there's better, but then there's good enough.

3) For those longing for a "view camera," I took the idea on big step further, here:


Keeping fingers crossed for aurorae...

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Followup comment- on my trip thru the south and Southeast in the last 10 days, I have seem half a dozen iPad photographers! Must be a trend. But I also noticed this trip that most DSLR users are not looking thru the viewfinder but are using live view! so why do they have a DSLR???

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