Over at Macworld, Roman Loyola reviewed the Seagate Wireless Plus Wi-Fi hard drive. Although he doesn’t mention this specific purpose, the Wireless Plus finally delivers on the promise of being able to transfer files from the iPad so you can back up the photos you import. See “Seagate Wireless Plus Appears” for more detail. I’ve been using the drive and like it.
Walking around the neighborhood, I took advantage of the fact that the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and haven’t yet been blown off by the wind or rain. This was shot with a Nikon D600 and then, at a nearby café, I used Nikon’s WU-1b wireless adapter to transfer the image to my iPad. I then did some minor adjustments in Snapseed and uploaded it.
The Nikon app that communicates with the WU-1b is just an iPhone app, so it doesn’t take full advantage of the iPad’s screen. But it does have a really nice feature: I can selectively transfer images. (I think ShutterSnitch has this capability, too, but I need to test it out.)
Well this is interesting. My iPad app updates today revealed an update to the Seagate Media app, formerly known as the GoFlex Media app. Aside from the name change and a new icon, the app reveals this little nugget:
Upload Photos and Videos Straight from iOS Device (for Wireless Plus)
The Seagate Media app enables you to upload photos and videos from your iOS device to your Seagate Wireless Plus drive in full resolution and quality, perfect for offloading files to free up space on your iOS device or keeping an extra backup copy.
I had high hopes for the Seagate GoFlex Satellite drive, which was originally designed so that you could store lots of high-capacity media (videos and photos) on the drive and wirelessly stream it to an iOS device. You wouldn’t have to use up all of your device’s memory to store that stuff, great for people who own 16 GB iPads. In the book I describe using Photosmith to go the other way: the developers worked with Seagate to transfer photos from the iPad to the GoFlex Satellite. It was a genuinely great way to back up the photos you import into the iPad from cameras.
But there was a problem. It didn’t work reliably. The Photosmith guys ultimately pulled the feature because files were getting corrupted in transit. And if even an occasional file was corrupted, it couldn’t be trusted.
Now, with this news Seagate is introducing a new device: the Seagate Wireless Plus (price not specified yet). The GoFlex Satellite is being renamed to the Seagate Wireless—no “Plus.” That means the new hardware will be able to support wireless media backups, but not the original hardware. I suspected that the problem might be in the Seagate firmware; I’m also disappointed that the company seems uninterested in updating the firmware to make this feature compatible.
Still, I’ll be ordering a Wireless Plus when it’s available, since having an on-site backup for photos when you’re shooting without a laptop nearby has been the missing link of a good iPad photo workflow.
[This article originally appeared at TidBITS on 12 November 2012]
Like a lot of other people, I’m getting familiar with a new iPad mini during this first week of its availability, and so far I can unequivocally state that my wife will steal it from me if given any opportunity.
But while other writers are thinking about how it fares for average customers (my take: people are going to love it), I want to look at the iPad mini in terms of how it would work for photographers.
After using iPads since the original model, I’ve become convinced that the tablet is a great addition to a photographer’s camera bag, regardless of whether you’re a pro or casual shooter. In fact, I was inspired to publish a book earlier this year, “The iPad for Photographers,” that goes into depth on the topic.
The iPad mini will appeal to photographers much in the same way it appeals to most potential customers: the smaller size and reduced weight is a draw for folks who want a better look at their photos when shooting in the field, but pros who need to show off their work in the best possible way may opt for a full-size iPad with a Retina display. When I wanted to shoot the last day of my daughter’s soccer league, for example, I could have brought either model, but my instinct was to reach for the iPad mini. Because the iPad mini does everything the full-size iPad does, I had no concerns about being limited later when I would review and share photos from a coffee shop.
iPad mini in the Field — Photography involves gear. That could involve capturing photos with a point-and-shoot camera, or carrying a DSLR, several interchangeable lenses, a portable lighting kit, and more. And digital photography — which has mostly become a redundant term — also involves a computer of some sort for storing and working with the photos you shoot.
Laptops make this process easier, but they also involve gear, especially if you’re shooting on location, or going on vacation where you may want to avoid any temptation of work. Portability becomes paramount, and although the 9.7-inch iPad is a big improvement over laptops, the iPad mini is a revelation. It occupies less space and weighs far less than a regular iPad, while still giving you a screen for reviewing photos that is far better than the tiny LCD on the back of most cameras.
The extra gear required for an iPad mini could fit into an envelope. A sync cable and power adapter for charging, and some way to get photos directly from a camera onto the iPad. Apple now sells two camera adapters: the Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader and the Lightning to USB Camera Adapter, each priced at $29. If you already own the iPad Camera Connection Kit (also $29, but you get both USB and SD adapters) for older iPads, and you want to continue to be able to use both adapters, you’ll need to buy a Lightning to 30-pin adapter (available as a $29 one-piece adapter or as a $39 0.2m cable). Or, you can get an Eye-Fi wireless SD memory card for your camera and transfer photos via Wi-Fi.
With 10 hours of battery life (which some people are reporting is a conservative estimate), the iPad mini doesn’t demand that you scramble for a power outlet after just a few hours of use. When you do have to recharge the device, it doesn’t take as long as the Retina iPad models, which contain massive batteries that can take 6 to 8 hours to fully charge.
Non-Retina Isn’t a Problem — The top criticism of the iPad mini is the screen. Or rather, it’s the screen it doesn’t have: a Retina display. The iPad mini’s screen has the same resolution as the iPad 2 at 1024 by 768 pixels, though the pixel density is higher, at 163 ppi, thanks to physically smaller pixels.
People accustomed to Retina displays will notice a difference when reading text, but photos look great, even when you zoom in to check whether an image is in focus or to spy details. And in general, I’m noticing that the more I use the iPad mini, the less I care about the reduced resolution compared to my third-generation Retina iPad; it’s a jarring adjustment at first, but my eyes have adjusted.
Resolution aside, the screen on the iPad mini is still very good. When I compared some samples with the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display, I found the iPad mini to be a bit cooler (or the Retina iPad a bit warmer), especially when looking at an app like iBooks.
For photos, the Retina screen fares better in terms of saturation and warmth, but not dramatically so. This comparison shot, taken with a Nikon D90, makes the effect more pronounced than it appears in person.
You’re definitely paying more for a better screen in a Retina iPad, but for more casual use or for getting a better read on how images are shaping up in the field, the iPad mini is perfectly fine.
It’s the Ecosystem — Perhaps the most important aspect of the iPad mini is that it’s still a fully functional iPad. Too often we think of something “smaller” as having fewer features, and Apple certainly could have made a single-purpose device like an Amazon Kindle. But the iPad mini runs the same software as its larger siblings, which gives you a portable photo studio in your camera bag. You can review, rate, and tag photos using an app such as Photosmith; edit them in iPhoto for iOS or dozens of other apps; and post them to your favorite photo-sharing sites. That’s in addition to using the device for keeping up with email and news, storing ebooks and camera manuals as PDFs for easy reference, and, of course, playing games during downtime.
Many photographers may not be interested in the iPad as a photo studio or in-the-field reviewer, but they do see it as a great portfolio presentation device. It’s so much more convenient to meet a potential client in a coffee shop with an iPad instead of a bulky photo album.
The iPad mini runs dedicated portfolio software such as Portfolio for iPad, so you can definitely keep your best photos at easy reach. However, the larger screen of the Retina iPad makes for a more dramatic impact if you’re selling your photos and ability. I expect pro photographers will stick with a Retina iPad for this purpose.
iPad mini as Camera — I admit I cringe when I see people holding up a 9.7-inch iPad to capture a photo (it was worse when the only option was the iPad 2, which has a crummy camera), but I’m seeing that happen more often. The smaller physical size of the iPad mini should make shooting photos more tolerable, both in the sense that the cameras have improved — the FaceTime camera on the front is quite nice for video chatting — and that taking photos won’t be as socially awkward; people behind you won’t be watching your iPad as if it were a small Jumbotron.
In terms of image quality, the iPad mini’s 5 megapixel iSight camera performs decently; the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display shares the same camera specs (although the good folks at Boinx discovered that the larger iPad’s camera takes slightly better photos while the iPad mini has a wider field of view).
It’s better than having nothing at all, of course, but my iPhone 4S captures better shots, and I would assume the iPhone 5 (which I haven’t used) improves upon that. But really, serious photographers aren’t likely to buy any iPad for its photo-capture capabilities.
A Photographer’s Companion — If your most important consideration is size and weight, the iPad mini is an easy choice — and it’s less expensive than a full-size iPad, too, although in either case we’re still talking about spending several hundred dollars. The iPad mini isn’t using the latest, fastest processor, but I haven’t found areas yet that suffer from the difference. Developers must design their apps to work within tight memory and processor restrictions as it is, so it doesn’t feel as if buying an iPad mini means making a significant step down in terms of performance. The simple truth is that you’re using an iPad, only this one happens to be smaller and lighter for those who value those characteristics.
[Republished from TidBITS#1150/12-Nov-12; reuse governed by Creative Commons license. TidBITS has offered years of thoughtful commentary on Apple and Internet topics. For free email subscriptions and access to the entire TidBITS archive, visit tidbits.com.]
I flew down to San Jose yesterday to watch Apple’s introduction of the iPad mini, but more importantly, to get some hands-on time with the new device before it arrives next week. I like it, and will be ordering one when pre-orders begin on Friday. Read about my experience using the iPad mini in the Seattle Times: “iPad mini looks like a good fit.”
Also, a bit of fun. Here’s a photo (taken by Macworld’s Dan Moren) of me and Apple CEO Tim Cook shortly after he appeared to do a photo op in the demo room. I asked him if the build process for the iPad mini is the same as the iPhone 5. He said it’s similar.
The replay of my Peachpit Photo Club webcast is now live. See how to wirelessly transfer photos from any camera to the iPad — live! Watch as I edit photos in iPhoto for iOS! Marvel at how I can start the presentation without realizing that I hadn’t yet shared my screen with the rest of the webcast! (Whoops. Thanks to my wonderful editor for breaking in and pointing that out. It’s just the first couple of minutes.)
I had a great time doing this presentation — enough to consider doing this type of thing more often. Maybe a few Google+ hangouts going into more depth on some features? Let me know in the comments if that’s something you’d like to see.
The developers of Photosmith 2, which I feature heavily in Chapter 3 of the book, can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In a blog post today, they reveal that Photosmith has reached Final Candidate status and will soon be submitted to the App Store.
Software development is hard work, and Photosmith is a deep app. So it’s disappointing but not surprising that one cool feature won’t be available at launch: backing up photos to a Seagate GoFlex Satellite drive. The feature works from the Photosmith side (I’ve gotten it to work in an earlier beta), but a bug was discovered in the drive’s firmware that compromised the data integrity—and if a backup isn’t reliable, then it’s not really a backup, is it? It’s a really great feature, and I’m looking forward to Seagate squashing the bug and seeing the feature return to Photosmith.
Now this looks interesting: TriggerTrap Mobile is an app for iOS that lets you trigger your camera’s shutter remotely. In the book I talk about DSLR Camera Remote HD, which requires that you tether your DSLR to a computer; the iPad communicates to an application on the computer over Wi-Fi.
TriggerTrap takes the computer out of the loop. Using an adapter and a cable (also sold by the company), you can connect the iPad (or iPhone or iPod touch) to the camera and control it there. (Or, just use the software to control the camera in the iOS device.) TriggerTrap Mobile offers a bunch of options for firing the shutter, too: The GPS capabilities of a cellular iPad enable you to specify that a shot is taken based on distance, such as every 100 meters. Or, use facial recognition, motion detection, sound detection, timelapse, and other methods—12 in all for the paid version ($9.99), 3 for the free version.
(I mention a similar product in a tip in the book, iOShutter. It looks as if their cables are finally shipping in some markets, but possible US Customs delays are holding up shipments in the United States and Canada.)
TriggerTrap Mobile looks pretty snazzy, and I’m looking forward to playing with it.