Good enough to ditch the desktop?
Since Apple’s first iPad came on the scene in 2010, people have wondered if tablets could stand in for computers. Few would argue they’re not up to casual tasks like Web browsing and emailing, but what about the more demanding ones? What about, say, photo editing? Until recently, that was firmly out of the question. The graphics and processing power of even the top tablets couldn’t hack it. But now, with the new iPad, I’m not so sure.
Apple’s latest slate boasts a Retina display with an astounding 2048×1536 resolution, all powered by an A5X processor with quad-core graphics. But as impressive as those specs are, if Apple had stopped there, so too would the question I’ve turned over and over in my mind. Without the proper software, all that hardware’s useless, and tablets wouldn’t be any closer to replacing their desktop cousins. Fortunately, that fact wasn’t lost on Apple, and it debuted a mobile version of iPhoto, Mac’s popular photo-editing app, alongside the iPad. The combination’s potent, but how potent?
With DSLR (Canon 7D) in hand, I was determined to find out if the duo could save me the trip to my desktop.
Because the Canon 7D only uses compact flash memory, and Apple’s Camera Connection Kit only supports SD cards or USB, I had to rely on a USB cable to import my photos. Many cameras, including our soon-to-arrive 5D Mark III, support dual memory cards, so for a lot of photographers, the process can be done wirelessly. But cable or not, it’s painless.
Getting pictures into iPhoto was a cinch, too. Once I plugged in my camera, the iPhoto app opened instantly and prompted me to import images piecemeal or all at once. And the speed with which iPhoto imported those pictures impressed me. In my experience, when transferring less than 100 photos, images showed up faster in iPhoto than they did in Lightroom.
The original image is on the left. You can see that the shadows on the trees are much more prominent, and the leaves have virtually no color. The sky is blue, but not as blue as I’d like, and overall the image could use an increase in saturation. iPhoto did a wonderful job here.
This vintage Bimmer is in desperate need of some TLC, but with the midday sun lighting up its trunk, it looked fantastic as is. The original image is nice, but I wanted to give it the warm, rustic look it deserved.
To get this effect, I did a little bit of sharpening, added a nice vintage filter, and threw in a vignette. One thing I would love iPhoto to have is the ability to control how much of the filter comes through. Camera+ does a great job of this, and I’d like to see it in iPhoto, too.
A good friend goofed off while I snapped away. This untouched picture stood out, but I was shooting for something more dramatic.
I really like how this photo turned out. It’s more powerful in black and white, and the vignette is the icing on the cake. Speaking of the vignette, the way it’s handled in iPhoto, with pinches, is simply amazing.
In another picture of a vintage BMW, I wanted to showcase iPhoto’s ability to increase color saturation and repair where necessary. In most instances, iPhoto’s repair option was okay at best, but it had little trouble shaping up solid colors, and removing the deep scratches from the trunk wasn’t a problem. I also applied a cooling filter to give the dated metal frame more of a pop.
I took this photo while driving up California’s 101. As you can probably tell, the horizon’s off. It’s not perfectly centered, and it could use some cropping and edits.
iPhoto did a wonderful job of automatically straightening my photo. It was also incredibly easy to crop and center the image to my liking, and a few more tweaks added just the right amount of depth.
All in all, I’m impressed with iPhoto on the iPad. It’s a great mobile solution for editing pictures, and I have no doubt that any photographer worth his salt could churn out quality images without running to his computer. But as big of a leap forward as iPhoto for iOS is, and as enticing as its portability can be, it doesn’t make a good enough argument for ditching that desktop altogether. Not yet. It lacks the options found in traditional photo-editing programs, and the new iPad, though powerful for a tablet, pales in comparison to the average computer. Nevertheless, I suspect iPhoto for iOS is a sign of things to come. The ability to literally touch and manipulate pictures is deliciously intimate, and years from now, when tablets have advanced and left behind today’s bottlenecks, I have a feeling many photographers will look no further than their slates for editing.