How Lightroom for iOS 2.4 Changes the Mobile Photo Landscape

Birdhouses

Over at TidBITS, I write in more depth about the changes in Lightroom for iOS 2.4, and they’re doozies: Lightroom for iOS 2.4 Changes Mobile Photo Workflow.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, adding native raw file format support to Adobe’s mobile photo editor is a big deal, especially for people who are looking to use just an iPad or iPhone on photo shoots to minimize the gear they carry.

It means you don’t end up with separate edited copies of photos that are synced with Lightroom on the desktop—a raw file editing in Lightroom mobile is synced to your main library with edits intact. And the editing power takes a big leap in quality, pulling detail out of shadows without blocking up sections where JPEGs just don’t hold up.

For example, here’s an underexposed raw photo edited entirely in Lightroom on my iPad:

LRm24 raw before after

There’s a better example in the article that shows extreme pixelation in a JPEG.

I also talk about the new local selection tools, which are great for adjusting selected portions in linear or gradient areas. Here’s another before-and-after, showing the radial tools at work; I was able to bring up the exposure for just the birdhouses without overexposing the background.

Lightroom m24 local original

Lightroom m24 local radial

Overall, this is an exciting release, something I’ve been looking forward to for years. It streamlines the mobile photo workflow and does what I envisioned in 2011 when I wrote the first edition of my iPad for Photographers book.

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Lightroom for iOS 2.4 Adds Raw and Gradient Selections

Lightroom for iOS 2.4

Adobe just released a significant update for the iOS version of Lightroom, bringing two features mobile photographers are going to love: raw import and editing, and linear and radial graduated adjustments. The first could change how we work with photos in the field, and the second is a feature I use more and more on the desktop and have in the past resorted to interesting workarounds to implement on the iPad.

I need to dig more into this release, but it looks promising. Photos you import using Apple’s Lightning adapters are brought into the Photos app Camera Roll, and then recognized by Lightroom as raw. (Oh, but now I lament Apple’s choice of sticking with USB 2.0 speed for photo import on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.) This could mean no longer needing to shoot in Raw+JPEG just to get a high-resolution JPEG to work with on the device.

(Remember, until now Lightroom wouldn’t even display raw images when importing them from the Camera Roll, and in most apps, the JPEG preview the camera creates to display on its LCD is what’s used for editing.)

Adobe says the app supports all the same raw formats that Lightroom on the desktop supports; I had no trouble opening and editing a handful of raw .RAF files from my Fuji X-T1.

Lightroom ios 2 4 raw badges

I’ll be writing more about this, looking at how Lightroom syncs the raw files back to the desktop, whether it’s practical to import a lot of images or just selected ones, and what this means for Apple’s upcoming raw image support in iOS 10.

For now, here’s more information from Adobe: Lightroom for Mobile July Releases.

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Raw Support Coming to iOS 10

Well now, this is interesting. PetaPixel spotted a feature in one of the slides during yesterday’s WWDC keynote that reads: “RAW photo editing.” We don’t yet know the details, but if iOS finally supports raw images, that could be a giant leap for mobile photo workflows. Raw is typically where the iPad has thrown a wrench into the works (as I describe in my book and elsewhere).

iOS 10 is available now to developers, with a public beta coming in July. The update will be available for everyone in the fall when we’ll see new iPhone models. I would bet (and the PetaPixel article brings up) that we’ll see some sort of raw capture on the new iPhones and perhaps the iPad, too.

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The 9.7-inch iPad Pro Color Gamut

Harbor sRGB

I was working late one night a few weeks ago and saw a tweet by Craig Hockenberry that immediately piqued my interest. The new iPad Pro 9.7-inch model had just been announced, with an intriguing new True Tone display feature that adjusts the screen’s color temperature based on the ambient light in the room. And Craig, one of the first iOS developers outside of Apple, recognized what was going on:

I wrote more in “ColorSync Support in iOS 9.3 (!)” about why color management on an iOS device is a new and exciting development, particularly for photographers.

Soon after, Craig asked if I had any wide-gamut photos he could use to test with, and I happily sent him a few images. Many of them are HDR (high dynamic range) photos, which I supplied saved in both ProPhoto RGB and AdobeRGB color spaces. Each space includes more color than the standard sRGB color space used by all other iOS devices (including the 12.9-inch iPad Pro). He put one of the ProPhoto images onto three different iPads to see the immediate difference:

The iPad mini 2 can’t handle the ProPhoto color space at all, which is why the shot is so bland. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro does better, and you can see a little improvement in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro at the bottom.

If you have a 9.7-inch iPad Pro, you can see the difference for yourself: Craig set up a simple Web page that lets you load the images and compare against sRGB. You should also be able to see it on a 5K iMac, which also uses the same expanded PCI-3 color space, but I haven’t had a chance to view it on one.

The difference is most noticeable in the Harbor photo: Look at the orange streaky reflections in the water at the center of the image and tap the Compare sRGB button. The other images aren’t as noticeable—I have trouble telling the sRGB differences, probably because the gamut is most pronounced at the red/orange end of the spectrum.

Craig writes more about it on his site, which I highly recommend: Looking at the Future.

Many thanks to Craig for featuring my photos in his explorations. As a reminder, I sell prints of my photos, so if any of those strike your fancy, contact me.

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ColorSync Support in iOS 9.3 (!)

Truetone cool warm

Shortly after Apple announced the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, I wrote a very quick take on the new True Tone display feature. True Tone automatically adjusts the color temperature of the iPad’s screen to complement the ambient light of your surroundings. For example, have you ever been in a room with warm light and checked email on an iPad, only to lose your eyeballs from the cool-bright burst of light? (Maybe I exaggerate…) True Tone is the answer to that.

However, my initial reaction as a photographer was wariness. If the color of the screen is changing depending on my environment, how can I do any sort of accurate editing? I confirmed that this will be a setting that can be turned off. And I continue to wait until I can get my hands on a device and test it out.

Well, True Tone turns out to be a lot more interesting. Developer Craig Hockenberry noted that the expanded color gamut of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro is just the beginning:

In order to make the effect work, iOS needs color management. And with iOS 9.3, that capability is now here—and open for other developers to work with:

The Open Radar report Craig created notes that iOS 9.3 now supports ColorSync, the technology found in OS X for managing color profiles.

Additionally, starting with iOS 9.3 ColorSync support was added to UIKit.

I’ve noticed that it works correctly for both UIColor in a UILabel and with a UIImage in a UIImageView. Are there any other places where ICC profiles are used?

In a conversation with Apple engineers, I also learned that some older devices do not match color. That’s fine, but devices should be listed so our apps can adapt gracefully to this situation.

Why is color management important? Until now, every iOS device ships with just one color profile, sRGB, which is a good general color space for drawing color on screens. The problem is that not all screens are built the same: the photo you view on your laptop may look different on a desktop monitor, which may look different still on a mobile device. Color management is a way to adjust each of those screens so that the image you’re working on remains consistent.

Apple’s screens are generally very good, but for photographers and other visual artists and designers, the inability to adjust the color profile has meant that the iPad is excluded from any serious image-processing workflows.

Now, with true color management possible on the iPad Pro, the tablet may find a place in that chain, and perhaps photographers will be able to do final adjustment work on an iPad instead of bringing a laptop.

We’ll see when the 9.7-inch iPad Pro begins to ship. As Craig notes in his report, it’s not clear whether this capability extends to other hardware or if this iPad Pro is the only one. But with a ColorSync foundation in iOS, it puts more “Pro” into iPad Pro.

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The 9.7-inch iPad Pro and the Missing USB 3 Speed

iPad Pro with SD Adapter side

I write this knowing that it sounds like I have a particularly odd spec fixation, but it’s something my brain keeps coming back to.

The newly-announced 9.7-inch iPad Pro (yes, that’s the official name) is in many ways just like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but with a different-sized screen. They’re both powered by A9X processors and M9 coprocessors; both support the Apple Pencil; both have four speakers that adapt to how the device is being held; and both claim up to 10 hours of battery life.

In some ways, the 9.7-inch model improves upon the larger one:

  • The True Tone display technology that adapts the color temperature of the screen based on the ambient lighting
  • A wider color gamut (the DCI-P3 color space, which is also used by the 5K iMac)
  • Better cameras—a 12 megapixel (MP) iSight camera with Focus Pixels on the back, and a 5 MP FaceTime camera on the front
  • A screen that Apple says is 40 percent less reflective than an iPad Air 2 (hooray!)

But in one crucial way—especially for photographers—the 9.7-inch iPad Pro lags behind the 12.9-inch model, and it’s almost enough to make me pause. Tucked at the bottom of the description for the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter is this caveat (emphasis mine):

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro transfers data at USB 3 speeds, while the 9.7-inch iPad Pro uses USB 2.

With so many shared components, why does the smaller model get stuck with slow file transfers?

If we were talking about laptops or desktops, this would be a bigger deal, because there are more occasions when you transfer data over USB. Looking at broader iPad usage, really not a lot of data passes through the Lightning connector other than if you sync to a computer using iTunes. Most people don’t need it.

But for photographers who want to transfer photos for review or editing from a camera to the iPad, this is almost crippling.

When I reviewed the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, I made a short comparison video showing import speeds using the old SD card adapter and the new USB 3-capable one. Transferring 1.5 GB of image files took 30 seconds via USB 3 and 2 minutes 20 seconds via USB 2. That’s the actual data transfer; just moving image thumbnails so I could preview the photos before importing took 23 seconds via USB 3 and 1 minute 16 seconds via USB 2.

That effectively means that when you want to transfer photos to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, you need to also come up with something else to do while that’s happening, because it’s not going to be quick. (And the 9.7-inch model also doesn’t benefit from the fast charging feature in the 12.9-inch model using an Apple 29W USB-C Power Adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable.)

Other methods of getting photos onto an iPad are available, such as transferring them via Wi-Fi to a camera or adapter that creates its own network or bouncing images to a cloud service like iCloud Photo Library or Lightroom mobile, but those aren’t as fast or reliable as a direct cable connection.

I don’t know Apple’s reasoning for demoting this promising new iPad in this way. Perhaps it’s a component space issue, having less room to fill compared to the 12.9-inch model. I hope it’s not a case of Apple wanting to eke out an extra 97-cents of profit by using cheaper parts. Is it an incentive to convince customers to spend more by buying a 12.9-inch iPad Pro? I hope to find out.

Putting a USB 2-speed Lightning port in the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro doesn’t doom it. My main reason for upgrading to one from my original iPad Air is for overall performance and the ability to use the Apple Pencil. But it does disappoint me that Apple could make a really fantastic tool for photographers by nudging it in a few directions—OS-level raw file support as in OS X, color profiles to bring the iPad into color management workflows, USB 3 speeds. [Update: And, ugh, it has just 2 GB of RAM, not 4 GB like the 12.9-inch model.]

I also recognize that those items really affect a small number of iPad owners. But as Apple says in their 9.7-inch iPad Pro video, “It’s where we believe personal computing is going.”

I just wish that could be a destination, and not just a direction.

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iPad Pro 9.7-inch and the Curious True Tone Display

iPadPro_97

Apple today introduced a 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro, and I think it’s the next iPad for me. Although I really liked the larger iPad Pro (see my review in the Seattle Times), I found myself drawn more to the traditional size of my trusty iPad Air. It was better for reading and certainly better for carrying around (considering that the iPad is not my main computer; your mileage may vary).

The new iPad has just about everything the larger iPad Pro does: faster A9X processor, four great speakers, Apple Pencil support, a Retina display (at 2048 by 1536 pixels), better cameras, and—surprisingly important to me—a Touch ID sensor; my little iPad Air is the first generation, which does not have Touch ID.

But there are also two details that I’m looking forward to learning more about and experiencing in person. The iPad Pro page reads:

A color standard big enough for Hollywood.

The 9.7-inch iPad Pro display uses the same color space as the digital cinema industry. This wider color gamut gives iPad Pro up to 25 percent greater color saturation than previous iPad models. So colors are more vivid, true to life, and engaging.

This sounds very gee-whizzy, and the optimist in me wonders if this could actually be a step toward having color profiles. The realist in me is pretty sure it means the display technology is just improved, and there’s just the one default (as has always been the case with the iPad models).

The other new feature, though, is even more interesting:

See things in the best possible light. Whatever the lighting.

People love using iPad everywhere. That’s why the new 9.7‑inch iPad Pro has a True Tone display. It uses advanced four-channel ambient light sensors to automatically adapt the color and intensity of the display to match the light in your environment. Which means reading is more natural and comfortable — almost like looking at a sheet of paper.

In theory, this sounds great! How often have we turned on the iPad and been blinded by brightness or the stark white of a minimalist app? Making the viewing experience more comfortable in a variety of lighting conditions is quite cool.

For photographers, though, this sounds like a giant hassle. If the color temperature of the screen is changing based on surroundings, that means colors are going to shift. Viewing and editing photos becomes more of a crap-shoot. I hope there’s an option to disable this feature (or maybe there will be an API call that would enable developers of photo-editing software to turn it off while the app is running). [Update: I confirmed with Apple that you can turn off the feature in Settings.]

We’ll see. I’m looking forward to some hands-on time with the device to check these out in person.

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How the iPad Pro Stacks Up as a Photographer’s Tool

IPad Pro with SD Adapter top

The iPad Pro has a lot going for it, so I took a look specifically in terms of how it can be used by photographers for a new article at Macworld: How the iPad Pro Stacks Up as a Photographer’s Tool.

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PhotosApp.Expert on iPad Mobile Workflow

The iPad Pro is prompting us to revisit mobile photo workflows using an iPad, and PhotosApp.Expert has just published a great overview of options: The Quest for a Viable iOS RAW Workflow. Definitely check it out.

I have an article coming soon for Macworld about how the iPad Pro stacks up for iPhoto photo workflows; I’ll post a link when it’s published.

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Quick Lightning to SD Card Adapter Speed Comparison

I’ve just received Apple’s newest Lightning to SD Card adapter, which provides USB 3 speeds when transferring photos to an iPad Pro (see more here).

I performed a quick import of 40 Raw+JPEG images totaling 1.5 GB of data using the new adapter and the old one on an iPad Pro. Watch here:

Results:

Loading thumbnail previews

Old/USB 2: 01:16

2015/USB 3: 00:23

Importing Images

Old/USB 2: 02:20

2015/USB 3: 00:30

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