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Tablets for photographers: Versatile tools when shooting

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Many photographers find tablets a useful tool when shooting. Would one benefit your capture workflow?

If you've never considered using a tablet in your regular photographic workflow, now might be a good time to start. Tablets are versatile tools, more so since camera and accessory makers have begun embracing wireless in DSLR and mirrorless models.

Why use a tablet? The tiny LCD of your camera is holding the details of your 24-megapixel shots captive, and the cumbersome user interface (even on touchscreen cameras) can make checking focus or inspecting noise a chore. If you're willing to insert a tablet into your workflow, such tasks become trivial, and lightweight hardware and software make for a less cumbersome experience than a laptop.

The available selection of accessories, apps and supported cameras is constantly changing, but between tablet-ready apps like iPhoto, multi-platform heavies like Lightroom and supportive devices like Triggertrap, there's already plenty to boost your tablet use further.

Here we'll focus on how to integrate a tablet into a live shoot with a DSLR — post processing and other tasks will be covered in subsequent articles. We'll also be mainly looking at Canon and Nikon DSLR systems, as they are the most commonly supported by tablets and smartphones — but don't worry, mirrorless systems and other brands will get consideration soon as well.

Platforms

Our primary consideration here is which platform is best for on-shoot purposes, as opposed to storage, presentation or social promotion.

iOS is a good all-around choice, first because it is often the first to be supported by camera manufacturers and software developers. This could change, but for now it's the most common case. In addition, the high resolution Retina Display makes viewing and editing images a pleasure. That said, many Android and Windows tablets have equaled or surpassed the Retina Display.

Windows 8 Pro, newly at home on tablets (but not to be confused with the less capable Windows 8 RT), should also be considered, especially by people already working in the Microsoft ecosystem. It's not a lightweight solution (and some of the tablets are heavy themselves), but having instant access to Lightroom's full curves or brushes could be fun for experimental photographers or perfectionists, or for when certain processing steps can't wait until you're back at your desktop.

Android, at the moment, is not as well supported as either Windows or iOS when it comes to official and name-brand apps. However, users interested in remote shooting will want to consider it anyway, as there are cheap or free tethering apps for both Canon and Nikon. A plethora of modestly-priced tablets sweetens the pot for shooters who might not want to invest too much or want interoperability with their other Android devices. But keep in mind that older tablets and ones using third-party app stores (like the Kindle Fire) may not offer or support the apps you need without a bit of tweaking, though they are perfectly suitable for other purposes.

Which you choose is up to you, and since a good tablet can cost less than a cheap lens, it might not be a bad idea to give something new a try next time you have a little budget to spare.

Comments

Total comments: 50
Lui3
By Lui3 (10 months ago)

I'm using digiCamControl on D800 with USB 3.0 tethering (just storage & preview) and I think that Surface Pro 2 will be a perfect match.

0 upvotes
Jim T
By Jim T (10 months ago)

I use my Panasonic GH3 connected by WIFI to my Android using the Panasonic app and find it quit useful. There are other camera companies other than Canon and Nikon.

0 upvotes
luminis scripti
By luminis scripti (11 months ago)

I'm interested in which tablet can deal help with the photojournalist's workflow: mainly, provide a larger preview of all shots so that I can choose the best 5 and email to the editor ASAP while still on location.

Therefore, no need for tethering, image editing, or softboxing. But definite need for USB (or an SD card slot), a fast image viewer, and either cellular or wifi access (given that I can use smartphone as hotspot).

So far I haven't found any review that can answer that...
Any ideas??

0 upvotes
NoelIthall
By NoelIthall (9 months ago)

Lumi,
Great minds think alike...I'm looking for the same thing. A larger (lighter is OK, too) screen to view initial shots and get them sent off by 4G. Hate to pay for a full laptop as I don't want to do all editing in the field but need to find a balance between capability and price...if you find it and it works, PLEASE let me know what, why and how.

0 upvotes
LjajaG
By LjajaG (11 months ago)

No mention here about Sony Nex free app 'Smart Remote Control' which let control the Nex with a smartphone or a tablet (iOS or android) running the PlayMemories Mobile 3.2 thru WiFi.

0 upvotes
cosx
By cosx (11 months ago)

Although not on a tablet, but on a Mac, but here is one you might want to consider: http://www.kuuvik.com/capture/ if you work with Canon.

1 upvote
PSeliga
By PSeliga (10 months ago)

It is what I was looking for! Thanks!

0 upvotes
mustaphapashu
By mustaphapashu (11 months ago)

What is up with this photo?

The scene being shot is different than the two images shown on the computer / iPod screens.

0 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (11 months ago)

Must be some kind of space time continuum they're working with.

0 upvotes
Johannes Zander
By Johannes Zander (11 months ago)

IPhone shutter lag.

0 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (11 months ago)

just a joke

0 upvotes
Joe fotosiamo
By Joe fotosiamo (11 months ago)

One thing to remember is that with the Windows 8 tablets you can actually use Spyder Pro or similar hardware calibration devices to calibrate the screen. Can't say the same with Android (I own a Nexus 7) and the implementation for iPads is limited as well.

Comment edited 36 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
MikeFairbanks
By MikeFairbanks (11 months ago)

I use my Ipad for some photo editing (and obviously some storage to show pics), and I have the Eye-fi card that loads the pictures to my ipad or iphone from my Canon almost as quickly as I take them.

But for editing photos, a true desktop or laptop is still far, far superior to any tablet on the market. It's not even close.

Using a DSLR I'll shoot raw, put it in my computer and I can make numerous layers and more to get the final look I want.

Tablets are useful for photography, but they cannot stand alone for serious photographers. A true computer (for lack of a better term) is required.

Comment edited 38 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (11 months ago)

Try Surface Pro.
Though even than - PC is a better option, mostly because of power / $$$ ratio.

Comment edited 10 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
M Jesper
By M Jesper (11 months ago)

Well yeah, Medium Format is far superior to Fullframe, but there's things either one can't do that the other can. :)

0 upvotes
nicolas guilbert
By nicolas guilbert (11 months ago)

I know the article was based on tools when shooting. but i would like to hear as well on tools to rate pictures. I usualy upload the whole content of a photoshoot on my iPad. it is frustrating not being able to rate pictures or at least get a file name info on the native apps. Any suggestions for an app doing that.

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (11 months ago)

"it is frustrating not being able to rate pictures or at least get a file name info on the native apps. "

Can you jailbreak? If you can, just use teh absolutely excellent and free(!) Photo Info. It, in addition to displaying the EXIF info (incl. even location display on the map), also displays the filename:

http://www.iphonelife.com/blog/87/review-photo-info-%E2%80%93-last-exif-information-and-map-location-images-iphone-only

1 upvote
nicolas guilbert
By nicolas guilbert (11 months ago)

Thanks for the useful links. I just bought photo manager pro, looks it gives me rating capabilities.

0 upvotes
JPR.lda
By JPR.lda (11 months ago)

on iPad try Photosmith, its great

0 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (11 months ago)

There are only 2 real, serious choices for photographers right now when it comes to tablets:
- iPad
- Surface Pro
Everything else is a waste of money that could be better spent in either of these two devices.

2 upvotes
BigBen08
By BigBen08 (11 months ago)

Might want to consider the new Samsung 10.1 2014 edition. 2560x1600 display.

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (11 months ago)

"Might want to consider the new Samsung 10.1 2014 edition. 2560x1600 display."

Yup, before the new Surface Pro announcement (when it still wasn't know whether the 2nd gen would come with 8GB RAM at last - the prev gen's 4GB was just unacceptable), I had also been comtemplating the purchase of the Note... however, taking into account that the new Note won't be cheap (it'll be priced similar to the iPad), I've decided to go for the Surface Pro route instead. Full x86 apps - Android can hardly beat it. And, for plain gaming / light Web browsing, I'll still have my "old" iPad 4 around.

0 upvotes
wansai
By wansai (11 months ago)

this is laregly more relevant for studio work. out in the field, it's a lot less useful unless you've got a whole team and setup.

also with newer cameras having connectivity built in, it won't be long now before it gets much easier. no fussing about with dongles and such.

also, for me, i wouldn't bother with anything outside of surface pro or equivalent. just shoot direct to the surface, do work on it or take it home and hook it up to a big external monitor and work. no fussing about.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Joe Ogiba
By Joe Ogiba (11 months ago)

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD should be great with the new Intel Core i5 Haswell CPU that has much longer batter life.
http://www.studiodaily.com/2013/09/microsoft-positions-surface-pro-2-for-4k-workflow/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7vypRNKVRQ

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (11 months ago)

Yeah... and Wacom - that's prolly the most important for me... something that the iPad will always lack and only high-priced Android tablets will have it.

0 upvotes
rossma
By rossma (11 months ago)

6D is not the only camera to work with EOS Remote. Just received the 70D today and can confirm it works fine with the app also.

1 upvote
Christo256
By Christo256 (11 months ago)

I use Camranger quite often when tethering to a laptop is impractical. Although you don't see your image with any adjustments applied it is great for the client to approve the shot etc. Works well in environments where discretion is needed as well so the client can review what you're doing from the next room. I keep an eye-fi for when I'm not shooting to Canon, say on a reccy but I find it unreliable at times and just stops for no reason. The other time I use the Camranger is when I get the camera somewhere that I can't see behind like on a high stand or pushed right into a tight corner. To be able to change the focus point live through the iPad while the camera is 6 metres above you is a great feature. I just wish they would change the interface a little to make it full screen and implement the virtual horizon on cameras that have that feature. I highly recommend it but as a different tool to shooting to your laptop, it isn't a processing or image adjustment tool!!

0 upvotes
groucher
By groucher (11 months ago)

This is a classic case of a solution in search of a problem.

By the time you've messed around with all these toys, the bird/child/football match/animal/daylight will be long gone. Alternative strategy: grab your DSLR, put it into manual mode, learn basic photography, do the editing on your computer and enjoy yourself. You'll get better photos and more of them.

8 upvotes
AlanG
By AlanG (11 months ago)

I don't think those are the photo applications for this technology. However advertising shooters often work tethered. One can really judge and fine tune the photos. Plus clients can view and approve the photos while shooting. I have been shooting tethered with Capture One for 10+ years.

5 upvotes
Nigel Wilkins
By Nigel Wilkins (11 months ago)

I use my iPhone for landscapes with my 6D & it's usefulness can't be overstated...not for editing though, but for checking focus & framing at awkward angles or for getting out of the wind while the sun comes up.

3 upvotes
christiangrunercom
By christiangrunercom (11 months ago)

Why no mention of Capture Pilot, now when that's actually the app the guy in main picture is using?

1 upvote
fotosmontt
By fotosmontt (11 months ago)

Your main recommendation is Ipad...."In addition, the high resolution Retina Display makes viewing and editing images a pleasure. That said, many Android and Windows tablets have equaled or surpassed the Retina Display."
What? How could you compare Ipad with some Android tablets, like the Nexus 7 v.2013?
Please revisits your article "What the new Nexus 7 tablet means for photographers"
In this article yous site says: "First off, the 7-inch screen is sharper, ... The resolution is now 1920x1200 with a pixel density of 323 ppi..."
Take in account, from the same article, that the Ipad mini has only 1024x788 and 163 ppi.
The main factor to take into account for a photographer is the sharpness, clarity and fidelity of the image coming from the tablet. And, unquestionably, until we see the Kindle Fire HDX, the throne now belongs to the Nexus 7, 2013.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Nigel Wilkins
By Nigel Wilkins (11 months ago)

Colour accuracy is also important. The full size iPad retina display is one of the best factory calibrated displays out there as far as I know.

1 upvote
Plastek
By Plastek (11 months ago)

fotosmontt - difference between iPad with Retina and Nexus 7 resolution is nearly impossible to see, while iPad is more responsive and offers better colors.

"And, unquestionably, until we see the Kindle Fire HDX, the throne now belongs to the Nexus 7, 2013." - unquestionably it does NOT. Not even remotely close. Resolution is not everything. ESPECIALLY in photography. You should have known that better than any random person buying that.

2 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (11 months ago)

"fotosmontt - difference between iPad with Retina and Nexus 7 resolution is nearly impossible to see, while iPad is more responsive and offers better colors."

Agreed. I have both (iPad 4 and 2013 Nexus 7). The iPad 4's screen is definitely better - it's just more pleasing to the eyes.

Now I wish f.lux could be usable without jailbreaking. On Android (incl. the new Nexus 7), you can use similar tools without having to even root. It's pretty ridiculous similar functionality (or the permission to do it in third-party apps) is (also) missing from iOS.

0 upvotes
Ferling
By Ferling (11 months ago)

I'm pricing tablets now. I need Mobile tethering. Checking shots while the set is rigged and client is still present. I'm referring to the low budget shoots, or those on the run that would make gas generators, laptops and heavy gear prohibitive or beyond the clients budget.

As I shoot commercial, I like controlling the lighting and having all those things I normally get when doing well funded, corporate work. However, I do get a few jobs were some kid wants a few shots with his new car and he want's that "model status" look and big budget shoot feel. I also don't want my results to suffer to meet his budget. So out comes the speedlites and quantum batt packs. Suitable for an hours work.

With a tablet, I can wear it around my neck, check shots and allow the client to pick his selects before we wrap. Just like a big shoot, but much cheaper.

I was thinking Android, but the Surface seems like deal if lieu of using LR.

0 upvotes
Gryfster
By Gryfster (11 months ago)

If you are going to hang it around your neck then a 7" tablet is about as big as you can go. Which pretty much means your stuck with. Nexus 7 2013 model

0 upvotes
Ferling
By Ferling (11 months ago)

Thanks for the suggestion Gryfster, and I came that same conclusion. However, I lucked out on a Kindle Fire HD 16 GB for $60 at discount (an unused store demo still in the box)! This model has the dual band wifi. Seemed right for my needs in the field vs. something a 4x the cost and same hardware. I rooted it 4.2.2. I have two clients whom want "model status" with their Mustangs to try this out on. One's a friend of my Son, and I don't think he'll mind the extra time/hassle of me testing it out. :)

0 upvotes
G Sciorio
By G Sciorio (11 months ago)

Wow no mention of Lumix Link or Shuttersnitch?

6 upvotes
drrjv
By drrjv (10 months ago)

I agree - big miss by the author!

Here is the link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shuttersnitch/id364176211?mt=8

0 upvotes
Mike Sandman
By Mike Sandman (11 months ago)

I use a CamRanger and it's very versatile and helpful. Works great on both an iPhone or iPad, where the ability to see the image before taking the shot is great advantage. Highly recommended for night, landscape & architecture.

0 upvotes
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (11 months ago)

"It's [Win8 Pro] not a lightweight solution (and some of the tablets are heavy themselves)"

This is why it's worth going for the new Surface Pro and not a substantially heavier / heftier Win Pro 8 alternative from another manufacturer.

It's a real killer with its Wacom support, Haswell CPU, 4k-capable display output, USB3, full HD screen and lightweight body.

I think my next tablet with be a Surface Pro instead of the high-end iPad 5 or the 2014 Note 10.1 model - it's so much more versatile and only costs a little more. (And I'll still have the 64GB LTE iPad 4 around, of course.)

(I'd purchase the next Note for its hi-res screen and Wacom, which (the latter) I sorely need. But as I don't think it'd be much cheaper than the Surface Pro, I don't think it's a wise idea to pay almost as much for a significantly less capable Android tablet than for a true Windows 8 tablet capable of even heavy work.)

Comment edited 5 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
AlanG
By AlanG (11 months ago)

Plus one could use Capture One on it.

0 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (11 months ago)

Plus it offers more screen calibration options than ANY tablet on a market. Plus you can use pretty much every software you use on your regular PC for work.

1 upvote
Menneisyys
By Menneisyys (11 months ago)

AlanG, Plastek: exactly. This is why I'm looking forward for the new-gen Surface Pros.

Now, I wish there was an OS X tablet with similar hardware and price (I'm a Mac person and would prefer OS X to Windows). Too bad there isn't. The Air is just a joke compared to the Surface Pros - ridiculously low screen resolution and, of course, no Wacom / tablet functionality. I hope it'll be, in some way, possible to install OSX86 (Hackintosh) on the Pro...

1 upvote
AlanG
By AlanG (11 months ago)

Some of the post here show a lack of understanding of how a lot of advertising and commercial photography work is presently done. Higher end work also generally involves having a digital technician on the shoot. Even when shooting outside and working with people (usually models) I'll have a computer connected to the camera so that we (I, AD, AE, client, assistant, and possibly a stylist) can judge the photos. Some photographers set up a local network and use Capture Pilot to send the images to one or more tablets so that everyone does not have to crowd around the computer. Capture One lets me overlay the AD's layout so that we can compose the shots to fit properly.

Here is an interesting story about using the Surface Pro 2 with high end video from the Red Dragon.

http://www.studiodaily.com/2013/09/microsoft-positions-surface-pro-2-for-4k-workflow/

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
bawboh86
By bawboh86 (11 months ago)

Are there any good accessories I can use with my Sony SLT-A77? I see Nikon and Canon mentioned, but not a lot on how to get some of the functionality out of my Sony.

0 upvotes
jeffcpix
By jeffcpix (11 months ago)

Have you considered:

"portable 5" (diag.) LCD monitor is the perfect complement to your compatible DSLR camera or camcorder."

http://store.sony.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10551&storeId=10151&langId=-1&productId=8198552921666295823

0 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (11 months ago)

A77 doesn't support threatening, so there's very little you can do. Sony was suppose to release firmware update in August that would add threatening - but that didn't happen, so... IDK.

0 upvotes
Peter Albinger
By Peter Albinger (11 months ago)

Now this "threatening" feature sounds like a revolutionary development. I am trying to picture how it would work. "A77, if you don't take a great photo I am using my Nikon from now on. You better come through or else!"

1 upvote
Total comments: 50
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