In 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, Apple’s legendary tablet, saying that the world needed something "better than a laptop, better than a smartphone," yet living in a space between the two. While the iPad has become increasingly powerful, it still has fallen short of being a professional device.
Jobs said that the first iPad had a set of tasks it had to do better than a laptop or an iPhone: browsing, email, "enjoying and sharing" photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games and reading ebooks.
Just five years later, when Apple’s current CEO Tim Cook unveiled the new iPad Pro—a supercharged and supersized version of the iPad—he said Apple’s new tablet was the start of a new vision of personal computing. Adobe, in a blog post about the iPad Pro, said, "Creative potential cannot be chained to the desktop. Such limitations defy all we know about creativity, namely that inspiration strikes where you least expect it, and we are most creative (and productive) on our own terms, which has new meaning in a mobile world."
Make no mistake about it, the iPad Pro marks the start of the extinction of the Mac or Windows machine you use today. This transition won’t happen overnight, but with the new iPad Pro, users—especially photographers—not only can see the future on the horizon, but can actively move away from the traditional computer.
Certainly, this first iPad Pro isn’t powerful enough toreplace desktop computers for professional photographers, but it’s an incredible new tool to become part of a photographer’s workflow.
For Apple’s vision of the future of personal computing to come to pass, there’s a lot more work that needs to be done. The iPad Pro, though, is the first mobile device that’s powerful enough to be used in place of a laptop—and, in some cases, a desktop—and the most interesting manifestation of Apple’s plans to make the computer and interface the same device.
The iPad Pro uses Apple’s new 64-bit A9X processor, which the company claims is not only 1.8x faster than the A8X processor in the previous iPad Air 2, but is faster than "80 percent of portable PCs" and that the graphics in the iPad Pro is faster than 90 percent of portable computers.
It’s hard to test if the iPad Pro’s processor is indeed faster than most portable computers—it’s not even clear if Apple is counting the myriad low-power netbooks on the market as being "portable PCs" (they likely are, which would explain how the iPad Pro gets such a high percentage). If most portable computers sold today are low-end netbooks, then the iPad Pro certainly bests them.
What’s clear is that the iPad Pro is not only powerful enough to do the majority of business tasks a photographer faces each day (email, contacts, spreadsheets, location scouting, etc.), but is also powerful enough to become a major creative tool for the studio.
The iPad Pro has some other highend features, including a 12.9-inch LED backlit multi-touch display that’s 2732×2048 at 264 ppi. It has an 8-megapixel camera with backside illumination (for better low-light quality) and a five-element lens at ƒ/2.4. It’s also able to capture full HD video at 30 fps.
These specs aren’t as fast as, say, the MacBook Pro’s, but they’re at least as powerful as the company’s MacBook. And, thanks to the multi-touch display and the new Apple Pencil—the company’s new stylus for the iPad Pro—it can do some things that a laptop can’t.
As Apple begins to move people from a personal computer to a mobile paradigm, the iPad Pro becomes a central piece in that strategy. With a new pro model available, a new breed of apps will become available, giving the iPad many of the tools found on desktop or laptop computers—and some things they can’t do.
With a full suite of productivity tools from Microsoft and others, and a range of creative tools for the photographer, it’s already possible to use the iPad Pro for a budget spreadsheet one moment and then as a canvas for an illustration or a watercolor the next.
More importantly for the photographer, the iPad Pro, with its large, clear display, becomes an ideal mobile editing tool. Thanks to cloud-based systems like Adobe’s Lightroom Mobile and Creative Cloud, it’s possible to start editing images on a desktop and then continue to work on them on the iPad Pro—anywhere you happen to be.
Adobe Lightroom Mobile, which was released in 2014, allowed photographers to sync libraries with their iPads, enabling mobile editing and rating. The update to Lightroom and to their Creative Cloud services makes it much simpler to work with images on the iPad. All Collections in the Lightroom desktop now have an icon next to them, which, when clicked, syncs the collection to the cloud. This works with a single image or a thousand images.
Lightroom Mobile is particularly useful for rating images and culling down a shoot because it’s easier to rate images using swipes than keyboard shortcuts. But Lightroom Mobile doesn’t just facilitate rating, it’s also possible to edit and adjust images in the app, and adjustments are carried back to the desktop.
What the iPad Pro adds to this workflow is an incredibly large screen on which to do edits and the power to make image adjustments without bogging down the system. It’s likely that Lightroom Mobile will add more powerful editing and adjusting to make use of the iPad Pro’s speedy processor.
"…the first mobile device powerful enough to be used in place of a laptop—and, in some cases, a desktop—and the most interesting manifestation of Apple’s plans to make the computer and interface the same device."
Adobe has also released several design tools specifically for the iPad Pro, three of which were showcased at the launch. Adobe Photoshop Fix is an exciting new mobile retouching application that allows for some Photoshop editing on the iPad Pro that wasn’t previously available, even on a desktop. Photoshop Fix, for example, uses face detection to speed up retouching and correcting portraits.
The company also showed off Adobe Sketch (a drawing program that uses the pressure and tilt-sensitive Apple Pencil) and Adobe Comp CC, a tool for quickly building magazine or website comps on the fly and sharing them over Creative Cloud.
Adobe won’t be the only company to leverage the power of the iPad Pro. We expect to see a flood of programs that allow for both photographic editing and illustrations. What’s exciting about these new programs is that they have the potential to do things that personal computers haven’t.
Apps like Procreate, Paper and others (including Adobe’s new Photoshop Sketch) turn the iPad Pro into a simulated art studio, and the ability to work with much faster response from the input device will make these tools even better for the creative.
With built-in WiFi, the iPad Pro is also a great companion for photographers using cameras that have WiFi transfer built in. It will be possible to move images from a camera over WiFi to the iPad Pro, edit them using touch, gestures or by drawing with the Apple Pencil, and then share them with clients on social media with no wires or card readers.
That sort of streamlined workflow can radically transform working for clients. Several years ago, I worked on a social-media j
ob that had to stream photos in real time. To accomplish this, I shot images and then handed off my SD cards to an editor. The images were transferred via card reader to an editor’s computer where they were adjusted and captioned. Then the images had to be exported and emailed to the social-media editor’s phone to be uploaded onto Instagram.
With the iPad Pro, I’d have been able to shoot and then wirelessly transfer images to my iPad, where they could have been edited, adjusted and uploaded—all on the same device. That’s a huge change.
As the first generation of Apple’s "Pro" tablet line, the iPad Pro is at least un-mature. There will be a number of improvements necessary for the device to really meet its potential. Future models will need to have even more powerful processors, more RAM, and the ability to connect to HD or 4K displays and other input options, among other things.
The iPad Pro, though, is already much more powerful than the first "Pro" Mac laptop, and the touch technology and built-in connectivity would have made Apple’s first portables jealous.
By creating a Pro device, though, Apple has indicated that they’re in the process of changing not just how the average computer user interacts with computing devices, but with the way that pros do so, as well.
The company, better than almost anyone else, knows what the professional creative needs to get work done. It’s telling that the first apps displayed on the iPad Pro were photography and design apps. It shows that Apple is looking to change how photographers get work done.
We might be a few years away from that vision becoming fully realized, but the iPad Pro is already an incredibly strong tool for the photographer, thanks to its versatility and power. By integrating Apple’s new tablet into a photographer’s workflow, it’s going to be possible to perform many tasks faster and with far greater flexibility than is currently possible.
A decade from now, people are going to marvel at the fact that we used personal computers in a professional photography environment the way that some people marvel that we ever used film. Technology is changing, and the iPad Pro is at the forefront of a new creative era.