“Becoming a MoPho”: What the New iPad Means For Mobile Photography

By Anton Kawasaki

As usual with any new product announcement from Apple Inc, a great deal of excitement and awe was generated yesterday during the unveiling of Apple’s new 3rd-generation iPad (not iPad 3, not iPad HD, just… new iPad). The shiny new feature that’s gotten most of the media’s and public’s attention, of course, is the gorgeous new Retina Display that packs four times more pixels than previous models, and makes colors more vibrant. It will make your photos, most of all, really pop and appear more gorgeous than ever. Photographers of ANY persuasion will no doubt covet the new device as the perfect portable portfolio for their images.

The other significant feature upgrade that may (or may not) pique the interest of photographers is the new iSight camera. This camera is a bit of a hybrid — it has the same 5-megapixel resolution of an iPhone 4, but the more advanced optics (f/2.4 aperture and five-element lens) of the iPhone 4S, so it captures light better and produces a sharper overall image. 

It’s technically a better camera than the one on my iPhone 4! Honestly, it seems weird to know that someone using one of the new iPads will potentially be able to take a better QUALITY photo than I can. But as we all know, taking great photos isn’t all about the sharpness of an image. It’s WHAT you’re able to shoot (and in some senses HOW you’re able to), that matters. So… can the iPad really be used effectively (or be taken seriously) as a camera?

A back camera was first introduced in the iPad 2 last year, but no one really gave it much thought. A front-facing camera made much more sense to take advantage of Apple’s FaceTime feature. But a back camera — with a less than 1-megapixel resolution combined with the fact that it looked utterly ridiculous holding it up to shoot — was considered pretty much useless. That still didn’t stop people from taking photos with it on occasion, of course! Once in a while you would actually see someone using it on the street to take a picture of something interesting that was happening…and you’d think “Really, person? You’re using an iPad? REALLY?!?” One friend amusingly shared with me a moment when someone in front of him at a concert pulled out an iPad 2 to take a picture of the stage, entirely blocking the view of everyone behind. I’ve actually seen people take pics of gorgeous sunsets or family portraits or iconic monuments with an iPad 2, all the while wondering if the terrible and lackluster end result was REALLY worth the awkwardness and humilation the person must have felt while taking it.

However, now that the NEW iPad actually has a worthy, even GREAT camera, we now have to consider the ramifications that people really WILL consider using it more. There ARE many people that still don’t have smartphones with more advanced cameras, and who also don’t carry point-and-shoots, DSLR’s, or any other type of camera around on a regular basis. But these people MIGHT get a new iPad that they’ll almost always have with them…and if they see something that’s worth shooting, they’ll quickly come to realize that the ONLY opportunity they have to capture that moment is to raise a 9.50” x 7.31” piece of metal & glass up in the air, risking embarrassment and shame, while pushing the shutter button.

It’s been said a gazillion times already — that famous Chase Jarvis quote that truly defined the mobile photography movement: “The Best Camera is the One That’s With You.”

And, as weird as it is to admit, that still holds true here…

If I was in a situation where the ONLY photographic device I had with me was a third-generation iPad (my iPhone would obviously have to be drained of battery or something), and an amazing photo opportunity presented itself, than…yes — I’d be forced to use it, knowing I’d look like ridiculous. I would not pass up a great photo, and I’m guessing most people wouldn’t either.

          Photo from Have Snark, Will Travel

So now that iPadography is here to stay, let’s look at some possible pros to using the iPad camera (yes, there are some!):

Apple also updated their iOS to 5.1 yesterday, which includes a subtle but nice change to the iPad’s Camera app. Now the shutter button is located in a more more natural position on the screen as you hold it (in the middle of the screen on the right, where your thumb is most-likely to be — though I couldn’t see if there was a way to reverse the side for left-handed people).

One thing that Apple included in the iPhone’s 5.1 update, but did NOT in the iPad version, is the “quick flick” feature on the lock screen that allows you to more quickly access the Camera app than ever before. Apple figured (correctly) that this would be a much more useful feature for iPhone photographers, but that iPad users would probably not be whipping out their device to take a photo so quickly. Taking an iPad picture is most-likely going to be a more conscious, thought-out decision, rather than a quick impulse.

The one thing that most people feel is embarrassing about taking pics with an iPad is its enormous size compared to other cameras. However, the huge screen CAN actually be a benefit in some circumstances. With more details to see, you can definitely compose an image better. There may be distracting elements around that you wouldn’t normally want, and might not be aware of by looking into the smaller viewfinder of an iPhone or DSLR — but in the HUGE screen of the iPad (especially one with a Retina Display), they become way more apparent, and so you can adjust your frame and angle accordingly to get exactly the image that you want!

There’s also the fact that most processing apps are far more easier and better to use on the iPad due to its increased screen real estate. If there’s a situation where taking a pic with an iPad is NOT going to be met with derisiveness and mocking laughter, why NOT use it (instead of your iPhone) so you can then post-process it more easily? There are many processing apps that are ONLY available on the iPad, or have more advanced features then their iPhone counterparts.

I’ve always said that one of the most amazing things about mobile shooting is that it’s a very intimate and personal way to express yourself as a photographer. The “touch” aspect of it — from the initial press of the shutter to manipulating the image with your fingers in post-processing — gives me a closer bond to my “art” that just isn’t the same when using a regular camera. Importing, organizing and processing regular photos on a computer (and then using a mouse) feels so removed to me now — I don’t get that same sense of connection that I do with mobile photography. And because the iPad is so much larger than the iPhone, and more fun to use, I can almost see how photo-taking on it COULD actually be a pleasing thing to do some day…

…provided there’s no one around to actually see me TAKE the photo, of course… ;-)


So what’s YOUR verdict on the potential rise of iPadography? Will you take the plunge? Write us and let us know!

  1. mophoapp posted this