iPad photography – why not?

Sections: Features, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials, Originals

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Since Apple added cameras to the iPad 2, something of a meme has developed that only a dork would be seen in public snapping a photo with an iPad. For example, PadGadget’s Bill commented: “The iPad is not as convenient to carry as my iPhone or digital camera and the dork factor of using the iPad as a camera is simply too high.” CNET’s Scott Stein counseled to “Never be that person taking photos in public with an iPad.” Gizmodo’s Joel Johnson observed: “Show most of my friends a picture of a person taking a snapshot with an iPad or a tablet and they’ll laugh. Actually open their mouths and point it out. ‘Look at that jerk.’ ”

I think that’s ridiculous. For the record, so does Johnson, who notes reasonably:

But I just don’t get why am I supposed to be huffy about some person using a gadget not just suited but designed for taking pictures to, you know, actually take a picture with it? How are they harming anyone in the slightest?… There’s really just one response merited: who cares?…  If the delta of dorkiness for you can exclude a cameraphone but not a tablet, you have a very specific and arbitrary threshold for what triggers your own self-consciousness. … You wouldn’t suggest that a device that has a camera should never be used as a camera? Because that would be insane.

Well said, but the meme persists.


I find my iPad very useful for taking photos because A) it’s really easy and low hassle, B) it gets the photos onto my iPad without the intermediate step of downloading them from my camera, and C)—perhaps most importantly—I often have the iPad with me when I don’t have a camera handy. If I’ve looked like a dork to somebody while using it to take those shots, too bad. I’ve long since outgrown caring about such things. As Joel Johnson observes, “Better to get the shot than worry that some punk with nothing better to judge cares how you got it.”

In my estimation, the strongest argument against using my iPad 2’s camera is that it’s a mediocre camera with 2 megapixel resolution, similar to the one used in the contemporaneous iPod touch. That matter was addressed to a degree with the iPads 3 and 4, which got the same 5 megapixel camera that you get in an iPhone 4. Still not outstanding compared with the iPhone 5’s 8 megapixel shooter, but workaday usable, especially for images to be used on the Web.

The current 5 megapixel iPad rear-facing camera features a backside illumination sensor, and the Retina display becomes a big, beautiful viewfinder giving you plenty of room to compose your shot, sort of like a view camera’s groundglass focusing and composition screen on the focal plane, only you don’t need a hood cloth over your head, which I suppose looked dorky, too, back in the day. It also features autofocus, tap to focus and tap to set exposure functions, as well as built-in face detection that automatically balances focus and exposure across up to 10 faces.

I’m hoping the iPad 5 will inherit the 8 megapixel jobbie from its iPhone series number namesake, which would help tip the scales for me in choosing it over a Certified Refurbished 4th-gen unit as my next iPad.

But I’m curious; the iPad 5 is rumored to be physically more compact than its predecessors, so will that make iPad 5 photography look somewhat less dorky? So-called phablets being popular over on the Android side and somewhat larger than typical smartphones, is taking photos with them considered dorky or at least dorkier than shooting with a smaller-sized phone by those who decide these things, whoever they are? Where exactly is the dork-line drawn?

Reductio ad absurdem.

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  • Bill Mattocks

    It is dorky because it’s dorky. The person waving around an iPad might just as well be holding a lawn chair over their heads. However, I extend the umbrella of dorkiness to those using iPhones and other phones to take photographs as well. It’s not photography. It’s vernacular snapshotting, and not very good snapshotting at that.

    And frankly, anyone who wanders around in public with an iPad attached to their hip? Dork.

  • Matthew Howell

    Didn’t “Techies” once say that Phablets looked just as dorky?

    How times have changed….

  • Ddog

    The iPad camera is great for evernote in all meetings.

  • TemporalGrid

    actually as long as all you ipad fans stop using them to take pictures and video in dark settings where an 8×11 glowing screen is so distracting I’ll be happy. But these days I can’t even see my daughter’s ballet recital because of all the massive screens glowing in front of me.