Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Apple iPad Announcement

Steve Jobs officially announced the impending launch of the new Apple iPad a couple of days ago.  This is the type of device I've been waiting to be released for a long time now.  Smaller & lighter than a laptop, but something that could potentially provide me with certain features and abilities that I often use a laptop for when shooting photographs.

From watching the keynote speech announcing the product, and various demonstrations from many different important people at Apple showing off how incredible it apparently is, I still have a few questions.  Some of them may be answered from reading up on the various sites I currently have open, but I still can't wait for it to hit the streets so I can check the answers first hand.

I'm not going to make any comparisons with the iPhone, partly because it's not intended to be a replacement, it's not a phone, but mostly because I don't own an iPhone.  I skipped the whole iPhone thing because I'm perfectly happy with my Samsung Omnia.

As noted above, I do have some very specific requirements & uses in mind for a device such as this (from a photography aspect), and I'm going to list some of them here and see if I can find out if it's capable given the information currently available.

Instant image review while shooting

When shooting tethered to a laptop with the D300s (or any other Nikon body), my main concern is being able to see my results on a nicely calibrated display immediately (well, within a few seconds) in order to get a better idea of sharpness & focus, checking the white balance, and being able to more easily see potential problems that may crop up as I move flashes around my subject.  Basically as a replacement for the camera's built-in LCD.  The problem with shooting tethered is that my laptop does not have an IPS display, so I have to now hook it up to the HP LP2475w IPS monitor so I can get a nicely accurate display.

The iPad comes with a 9.7" LCD (yup, a bit smaller than my HP 24") with IPS technology (score!).  If the iPad will allow me some way of shooting on the camera, and having it come up on the screen within a few seconds, then that will certainly fit the bill for me there, especially if shooting on location (kind of difficult to plug the HP into an electrical outlet in the middle of a field or a run down old building).  How it might be able to do this I've yet to determine.

Overall review of images at the end of the day

This is something else I often use a laptop for, again usually hooked up to the HP monitor.  Now, carrying around a big clunky monitor with me sort of negates the point of being "portable" with a laptop, so it's not something I prefer to do.  Also, it can make things difficult and awkward at a client's place of business to walk in with a bunch of gear, extension cables, etc, trying to find a clear spot on a desk to set it all up.

So, holding the iPad in my arm and being able to flick (literally) through images right there is a big bonus.  The only issue is how to (without a PC or laptop) transfer images from the camera to the iPad.  The D300s can use both CompactFlash and SDHC, although the iPad has built in readers for neither of these.

Again, we have a similar issue as to above.  How to get the iPad and the camera talking to each other.  But, if it's doable, the iPad will have the advantage of being able to flip it around so that either landscape or portrait images would be able to fill the screen (sort of).

Review of video footage shot on the D300s

The fact that video footage is not shot in RAW, but an 8Bit motion JPG format, getting accurate white balance that much more critical when filming.  I generally use a Lastolite XpoBalance card to preset my white balance beforehand, but perfect neutral lighting isn't always the effect you want to achieve depending on what you're shooting.  The built in LCD on the D300s seems to shift white balance to some degree depending on the angle you're viewing the LCD from.

As it's difficult to cart around a 32" 720p TV everywhere when you film (which is what I often use when filming in the studio) the iPad could hopefully at least give me some form of relatively immediate review of my footage to double check lighting and white balance on the scene in a more accurate fashion than the LCD.

If there's a way to stream liveview out directly from the D300s, either via its HDMI or AV output to the iPad display, that would obviously be the most ideal solution, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

So that's really my main required features for a device like this.  Instant image review while shooting stills, a quick solution to view video footage shot on the D300s on a larger and more accurate display, and to easily show a range of images to a client or model at the end of a shoot.

The only thing I've read so far is that it's not a widescreen display.  This isn't such a big deal for the review of images (as they're 3:2 anyway), but the widescreen video is 16x9, so when the iPad is oriented horizontally, it's going to bring the size down quite a fair bit.  Whether it's enough to care or not I'll just have to wait until I can get my hands on one to see for myself.

The iPad is expected to be released in the US within the next 60 days, with a 3G version coming out within the next 90 days.  In the UK, 3G versions are expected to be available at some point in June.  I haven't decided yet whether 3G is going to be something I'd want or need on this device (all versions contain 802.11n wireless networking), but it will really depend on the cost difference on the purchase of the device itself, as well as the various data package options available from the different mobile phone companies over here.

The iPad 3G is coming unlocked by default so that it can be used on any network, but due to a couple of different reasons, it appears it won't work on T-Mobile (my current mobile provider).  Whether this is just limited to T-Mobile in the US or T-Mobile in the UK, or what other providers it may affect int he UK I don't know.  Again, another one we're going to have to wait for to find out.

More to come on the iPad as I do some more research and figure out what it can and can't do to satisfy my needs.

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