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the future of computing a few more thoughts

Recently I already posted some thoughts about the future of computing on my blog and the more I think about it the more I’m starting to see that for me this might be the perfect solution, and in my head I already made the following setup which I want to post here for your input, tips, comments etc.

Having 2 computers is a norm for many working professionals, one powerhouse in the studio and one mobile device for the stuff you can’t do on your iPhone or iPad, traveling often means you have to make sure your laptop and desktop are in sync, which of course now a days are not really a problem, and although some programs can be very tricky there is always a solution, which sometimes means paying an extra license (like for example with screen flow). When returning home copying from the mobile device to the studio machine is not really problematic, it’s a simple manner of connecting the thunderbolt cable between the two and there you go. For years this was my workflow and I never thought it would change.

However as an Apple user there are a few things that have struck me as odd, and even got me worried.
Apple always was the pro supporter, the one where the creatives went, it might not have always had the fastest hardware but thanks to a killer OS and great software my mac always felt much faster than any PC I worked on, but over the years things have changed… Apple seems to be losing track and although they still have a killer OS and great software like Final Cut Pro X (which is getting better over time) and of course plugins like Macphun which are Apple only it is getting harder to see a future where pros keep using Macs. Where windows users get more and more cool devices with touch, tablets, digitizers built in and INSANE speeds….. mac users get….. well a touch strip……. *play the pacman dies music…..

 

So do we abandon Apple?
Well no not yet.
The MacPro hasn’t been updated for a LONG time, I bought it the moment it was released and I’m glad I bought it with 2xD700 videocards because in all honesty working with the MacPro is still like a dream, the machine is blazingly fast… but with 4K it’s showing it’s age, I can still edit 4K without any problem even multicam, but rendering it and adding effects really shows the age of the machine, so at this moment in time I would be looking for an upgrade within 1 year. Seeing how Apple is performing at the moment I’m afraid that we can expect NO upgrade for the MacPro OR an upgrade that’s so expensive that if I would do that I would have to get another job next to my current job, which pays the bills but doesn’t make me able to shelve out 5000.00 in a heartbeat for some speed gain.
So let’s say the MacPro is out, this is my last MacPro, what now…
Well for mobile use I’m switching to Windows, I’ve tried it a few times which made me go back to MacOs within 6 months for the simple reason I couldn’t get the workflow right, the screens were too small, battery life sucked with no option for external power like the hyper juice, and the digitizers were VERY poor. But things change.

 

This could/should be your setup
Ok I know this is bold statement but I think when you read this you’ll agree or might at least think… “he has a thing going”.
As working photographers and educators we all need a mobile device that’s fast, handles all the files we shoot, can edit photos and videos and most of all is portable. For years this was the MacBookPro, but using a dedicated laptop means we also have to carry with us a Wacom tablet, and this means… editing in the field for a quick demo is out of the question, same as editing on a plane, in the passenger seat of the RV etc. And with Surface book pro’s coming out and similar devices it really really started to annoy me, long story short, when Apple didn’t incorporate the apple pencil in some form in the new MBP I knew I was going to skip that one (but I’m not quite… read on). My new mobile device will be the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16, not the 13 but the 16, I don’t just want to look cool in a coffeeshop checking my mail (that’s my iPhone or iPad pro) but I want real estate, and I need hardkeys for editing and retouching (a bit miss on the Surface pros, two buttons just doesn’t do it, and software solutions are cool for consumers but I need that room and tactile feel for speed), so that’s my new laptop.

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Now that we have mobile complete let’s look at home/studio
I’m now running a 4500.00 euro MacPro which still works, but has to be replaced within let’s say 1 year.
I could build a PC with killer specs, but that would mean loosing the system I’m used to, so that’s a “no go”, “thought about it for a second and woke up” scenario. Also I love using MacOs and Final Cut Pro X and MacPhun so MacOs it is. But what options do we have left as pro users…. And that’s were it actually get’s interesting.

Let’s say we buy a 15″ MBP with 16GB and a 512GB SSD. This is a very powerful machine, it has dedicated video that’s pretty fast and can do almost anything you throw at it, unless it’s the real power hungry stuff. I hear you saying… “Hey Frank you just told us you’re gonna switch to the Wacom for mobile use….?” yes indeed you’re right… I’m not going to use the MacBookPro for mobile use like the Wacom.

The MacBookPro will be placed in a dock (closed lid) and connected to 1-2 hubs, this would give me enough USB ports to connect all the gear I’m used to having and give me 2 TB2 ports for my external drive bays which I’m not willing to replace because they work great and in my opinion is a waste of money to upgrade. Also we connect a keyboard and the magic touchpad (which I absolutely love) with the new MacBookPro we can connect the 3 displays I’m using at the moment so also that is solved, this could be enough but it won’t beat my 2013 MacPro (R2D2) so how can we achieve this?

 

And this is where it get’s interesting
We need that extra speed for intense stuff like rendering, video effects, filters etc. now all/most of these work not on the CPU but on the GPU, meaning the videocards. The last few days I’ve been looking into the options for external GPU units and found that although there isn’t a lot of information about it online, there actually is some information which looks very promising. In the past most of these solutions were not easy to install and mostly just worked under Windows, which would make no sense, however things change and there are now solutions that actually are almost plug and play and also work under MacOs. And that’s where I started to think…… These boxes can make your mac up to 10x faster in heavy rendering solutions and filters, which is a HUGE boost compared to the MacPro I’m now using, even twice the speed would be awesome. BUT cost…..

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And now for the finale…. which is more interesting
If you read this far trust me you will be rewarded.
Let’s look at what we have now.
A Mac Pro which retails for 4500.00
A MacBook Pro which retails for 3500.00 (complete)
A Wacom cintiq which retails for 2500.00 (27″)
Total costs : 10.500 EURO

 

Now let’s look at the alternative solution
MBP 15″ 2016 : 3500.00
External GPU : 800.00 (they start at 599.00 actually)
Wacom Mobile studio Pro 16 totally specked out : 3100.00
Add some accessories like a dock, stand etc. : 500.00 
And we now have a total cost of : 7900.00

 

Ok so we save : 2600.00 which is already a lot of money, but we get a lot more.
As you see I left out my Wacom Cintiq 27″.
Now in all honesty I’m in love with the 27″ and don’t see myself replacing that one very quickly but for most photographers a 16″ 4K cintiq will be more than enough, and most of those people don’t even own a cintiq yet because they don’t have the budget for it. HOWEVER most of you will very quickly reach that 6000-7000 euro range when you add your laptop and Mac Pro together (if you use those of course).

The cool thing about this second solution is that for 2900.00 less you still have the cintiq….

 

Combining the best of both worlds
With the Mobile studio pro 16 from wacom you get something a lot of Macusers have been wanting, a bigger screen than the 15″ and touch/digitzer (this means you can draw on the screen), and it’s still a mobile device with loads of power, if you format your drives in exfat PCs and Macs pretty much understand each other and when you mostly run Creative Cloud and Capture One (like most of us do) you won’t really notice any difference in your workflow. But the Wacom can also be connected to a PC or Mac via a special link that makes it behave as a full blown 16″ 4K cintiq, which makes it possible to mirror your main screen for critical color editing and still have all the benefits of working on a cintiq.

The MacBookPro will be mostly used in it’s dock where it has a very powerful external GPU, a 16″ cintiq and 3 screens.
HOWEVER, when needed you can take it out and continue your work somewhere else.
So in essence you have a MacPro replacement, a mobile device, a Cintiq AND a tablet with digitizer all in 2 devices.

 

Situations where it saves you even more
Now if 2600.00 doesn’t really do it for you… let’s take a look at my situation.
If we want to do what we want to do….. which means also be able to broadcast during live events, workshops on locations etc. we need the following.

 

MacPro in the studio
1 laptop running wirecast (and that has to be a specked out one, the 13″ MBP 2015 actually didn’t really work)
1 laptop for shooting tethered and retouching
And an extra license for Wirecast and screen flow if we also want to use both machines, so add another 4000.00 euro to the 10.500.

 

By using the solution with the MBP and the external GPU we can do the following.
Run wirecast on the MBP in the dock and connected to the GPU during live broadcasts in the studio and shoot to the Wacom and retouch on the Wacom. Now when we visit a trade show or workshop on location we disconnect the MBP from the dock and take it with is while I still shoot on the Wacom.

 

Not all roses and fun
Of course I’m not living in a dream world and I for 100% know that this setup will have it’s drawbacks and problems.
For example when using the Wacom I still have to copy the files to my Mac setup, but that’s in my situation, if you can handle everything with a MBP you don’t than it’s just a matter of connecting it to the dock of course. And don’t even start about using Windows 10 pro on a daily basis, it’s probably a great Windows version but I’m 100% aware that it’s a far cry from what I’m used to on MacOs in user friendliness and stability, and yeah I also run a Windows 10 notebook so I know what I’m talking about. In reality I never have real problems with windows but I know that IF it goes wrong… well it REALLY goes wrong and with Mac the worst thing that can happen is just reinstall your OS (happend twice to me in 10 years) and all apps/programs just keep on working.

Also finding ways to connect everything together will be easy at first and then small things will start to happen that you didn’t think about. For example how about a shared agenda when using iCloud… well there are solutions but we actually switched to Google agenda a few years ago when I did my first windows experiment and we never switched back. Contacts however is slightly different, for webmail no problem but we also have some .com domains I have to use…. well we will see how that turns out, in all honestly most of my mails I actually answer via my iPhone and iPad so I don’t really see why I should change that.

 

I was deeply worried about the future (sounds much darker than it is), I don’t have gear that REALLY needs replacing, but I do feel that my MacPro is still worth money and is fast enough for what I do but that if I want to keep value I do have to upgrade within 1-2 years max. And where there is no new MacPro what do you do…. with the external GPU and the new Wacom Mobile studio Pro 16 I think a lot of fellow photographers and video editors can have the best of both worlds if combined with the MBP and an external GPU.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts, opinions, tips, tricks etc.
As soon as the Wacom is in we will start a video series on the transition of workflow so you guys can help out and see what we do.

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the future….. of mobile use….

After my blog post about the MacBook pro and my disappointment I got quite some surprising responses.
Now I don’t want to label most people as Apple fanboys but sometimes I do wonder if…..people actually read the article correctly and not jumped to conclusions after reading the first few lines 😀

If someone can be labeled as an Apple fanboy it should be me. I LOVE Apple, I own an Apple watch, iPhone 7plus, MBP, MacPro, AppleTV, iPad pro, Apple Pencil, airports etc. I strongly believe that other brands might have solutions that are good, somehow if Apple makes it it just works and it integrates flawlessly, it’s not really a fanboy statement as more a statement of “I don’t want any problems, I just want plug and play but with all the options I need”. And boy do the products keep their value, you never have to worry about selling something, it’s gone before you think about it.

 

So when I wrote my article “Dear Apple” I was not talking about that I hated the new MacBook Pro or the touch strip, in fact I think the touch strip is better than the dial from Microsoft, for the simple reason you’re just faster with a keyboard or a touch strip than placing a dial and selecting through menus, plus the dial is not “yet” supported by Adobe while the strip is. And that doesn’t mean I think the dial or puck is amazing, I absolutely love it in the video. The reason I wrote the article was also not about loosing te ports and going all USB-c, there are hubs for that (add another $ 105.00 for the hub but ok), it also wasn’t about price, although I did get a little sick in my stomach when I saw the final quote for 2 notebooks, the reason I cancelled my own notebook and did order one for Annewiek is simple, Annewiek does video and has different needs from me…. it was more about the moment in time we are now and the needs of a professional photographer/video guy.

 

So what am I going to do?
The present and the need of the photographer
As a traveling photographer, educator, someone who loves to draw paint and enjoyer of comics and movies, I’m traveling with a MBP 15″ and a Wacom tablet intous (small), A thunderbolt Raid Harddrive (WD passport) and an iPad pro. This is a pretty heavy load and loads of gear to lug around. But it all works fine, the iPad I use on the plane, buss and the RV or when waiting/free time, the MBP is used for teaching and shooting tethered in the field. It’s all working like a charm and everywhere I come there are power adapters, connectors and if you forget something… well there is ALWAYS someone who can lend it to you because 99% of my colleagues use MBPs. But most of all my MBPs have survived the blistering heat in the Dubai dessert, the humidity in florida, the freezing cold in Finland and several small rain showers in the UK and the Netherlands, I’m never worried about it.

Over time however I’ve been looking at the Microsoft Surface pro and absolutely fell in love with the concept and the idea of having just one device. The guys from Microsoft were absolutely awesome and lend me first a Surface pro 3 which I loved but felt was a bit too unstable for what I do, and later a Surface pro 4 which absolutely rocked (MUCH more stable) but I did find myself struggling with the real estate, in Photoshop the menus were taking up way too much space, I missed my keys for sampling, moving, brush size etc. of course it can be done via menus but I need speed (I love my work but I’m not a hobbyist that has all the time in the world)……and when I zoomed the menus smaller they were too small and I couldn’t hit the actions I needed, or the tools with the accuracy I needed (yes my eyes are great)…. also when using manga studio (or Photoshop) I felt the stylus to be less accurate than the Apple Pencil on the iPad pro and the Wacom on my intous or later cintiq, for normal non pressure brushes it worked fine but it didn’t feel 100% right under an angle and when using pressure plus I was able to empty the battery in less than 90 minutes with my workflow (which is pretty heavy and goes pretty fast). At that time I skipped the Wacom companion for the reason I thought it was underpowered and had the same real estate issues.

 

But times change.
Wacom recently announced something that had my attention from the first moment I saw it.
A new Companion called Mobile Studio Pro… why did they change the name? Well maybe because it’s a different product.

 
What is it?
In essence it’s a 16″ cintiq with brains…. can I call it that? I guess so.
Recently I switched to a 27″ cintiq in the studio and can tell you it’s addictive as can be, it’s absolutely awesome, I actually can’t tell you enough how much I like it, but it’s very pricey. The feel however of sitting right on top of your work and retouching directly is absolutely worth every cent. 
Ok let’s not make this too long.
Wacom released the Mobile Studio Pro 16″ and 13″.
Let’s skip the 13″, for me it’s too small.
Let’s focus on the 16″
It’s an Intel Core i7 CPU 3.3 GHZ but much more important it also has a fast Nvidia QuadroM1000M video card with 4GB ram, 16GB internal RAM and 512SSD. Which would make it plenty fast for 4K editing and of course some heavy duty Photoshop action. The 16″ screen is a full 4K resolution screen with covers 94% of the Adobe RGB spectrum (previous solutions only covered 70%) so that means we have a 16″ screen that has MORE than enough resolution to show you all the menus of photoshop open and still leave you with a LOAD of working space for your retouching. 

 

Buttons
One of the MAJOR “flaws” of the surface is the lack of buttons, which you can solve with software but that also takes away real estate. The Wacom has the well know buttons (8 on the 16″ and 6 on the 13″) and the wheel. So you can program all your favorite shortcuts and change brush size, zoom and angle the canvas all without ever needing a keyboard. This is a MUST HAVE on something you’re gonna use for professional workflows.

 

Connections
Where the surface pro only had one USB port, or you needed a small hub, is the Mobile Studio Pro nicely equipped with a kensington security slot (great for events), 3 USB-C ports, a SD card reader and a way to secure to pen to the tablet when not in use. As with the MBP you will need convertors or a hub to use TB2, USB3 and HDMI but this sacrifice is something I’m willing to do for the following reasons…..

 

The most important part of this review
With a device like the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro you’re not only buying a tablet, you’re actually buying a cintiq with brains.
On the road it’s a laptop with a BT keyboard, I wish you could connect the two together to work on your lap in airports etc. but who knows maybe there will be a solution for that someday. In the field you can tether to it and you don’t really need a stand, someone can just hold it, during trade shows you can also tether to it but also show some quick retouching tips, during seminars and demos you can connect it to a projector and run powerpoint, back in the hotel it’s a combination of your laptop and a cintiq…. and the best thing was saved for last…. when you buy an extra dongle you can even connect it to your mac or pc in the studio or at home and use it as real cintiq. And for fun… you can also watch movies on it and read books/comics, although in all honesty, when flying I don’t see it replacing my iPad for the simple reason I sometimes don’t even have room for the iPad Pro in Economy.

 

 

Some thoughts I had and you probably too
Let’s go to some concerns I have.

 
Windows 10
Sorry I just have to address this, windows is NO MacOS, there are things I’m used to that won’t work or will work differently. And don’t think “there you have another Mac user that doesn’t know anything about windows”… I’ve been working with windows ever since it was released (before that with DOS, Amiga, COMX and MSX1/2) you could say I’m one of those computer nerds (wannabe hacker) when growing up, for over 20 years Annewiek and I owned a computer store where I helped out with support and trouble shooting windows installations for consumers and small businesses including networks and wifi solutions (this is also why I’m always so frustrated about slow internet in hotels and campgrounds, I know how it should and can work :D) Up until windows 8 we were actively involved with selling and giving support (although I was not active in the store anymore), and I’ve been running windows 10 since it’s release on my other laptop (yes I own a PC laptop too). So let’s take a look at some concerns you might have.

A. Harddrives and file exchange : can be solved by using ExFat (solved)
B. Airplay : we use this A LOT but it can be solved by some apps (still have to look into it, but I think solved)
C. Airdrop : No real way to get this to work,  there are solutions that do something similar (semi solved or workable)
D. MacPhun : I LOVE their stuff…. no solution but there are alternatives.
E. Registry : Don’t tell me there is no problem anymore because there is. Yes things have improved but it’s still not a matter of “in case of emergency just reinstall the OS and continue working” it’s also not a case of “get a new machine/hardware and just copy your programs and continue working”. Windows is still a terrible system when something goes wrong. What I always do with a windows machine is create an exact mirror of the hard drive and store this for future use, after each major update I’ll check if everything still works and I do the same thing, but I won’t delete the old mirror. Let me put it this way… owning a computer company has shown me things I hope you guys NEVER experience but I know it can happen. Also on a PC I will NOT actively install software to just test something, because I know that deinstalling is sometimes not a REAL deinstall, so I will install the stuff I REALLY need and NOT touch it anymore. This is the best way to keep a Windows machine running fine. On the Mac I love to test stuff, download some apps to see how they work etc. on a PC in a workflow setting… no way.
F. Virus scanners : Also here, don’t tell me you don’t need them or they won’t slow down your system, they do and you do need them. But if you choose wisely you can have less impact than if you choose the wrong one.

Overall Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One and all my other plugins have Windows versions so it will actually all work as I’m used to, the shell will be different but in the end as soon as I’m working there’s no real difference. You just have to ask your supplier if they would be kind enough to also give you windows versions of your plugins.

The only thing that WILL not work is…. Final Cut ProX, I prefer Final Cut ProX above Premiere for the magnetic timeline but for the editing we do on the road…. premiere will do just fine, premiere is an amazing video editor and actually my preference for many years till FCPx matured, so switching back is absolutely no problem, although in the studio I’ll be using FCPx.

Durability
Oh this is a BIG BIG one.
From my MBP I know for sure it can take some abuse, I’m incredibly careful with my gear but we do get it in some “hostile” environments, which actually proofed to be not so good for the Surface which at one point didn’t boot anymore till it was cooled down, where my MBP just kept going like there was no problem at all. Time will tell if a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro will break down or will continue to work, if it brakes down….. there is only one thing I can do, go back to the MBP.

Rest value
The MBP has  TREMENDOUS rest value, sometimes even ridiculous, I’ve sold older MBP’s for prices that were close to 25% off the new value I paid 2 years before that. I’ve tried to sell a high-end PC laptop a few times and ended up just keeping it because it was worth…. well not much.

Warranty
If something happens with a Mac, you can go to ANY store in the world and they will help you, what happens when something happens with a Wacom… as a pro it’s absolutely unacceptable to be without my machine for a day, in fact I can deliver it in the morning but I REALLY need it back ASAP and not in a week.

Battery time
Also a REAL big thing.
They claim 6 hours, so let’s say 2 hours with full load on Photoshop which I think is pretty long seeing my experience with the Surface. Don’t let people tell you they can retouch for 10 hours on a Surface because that’s 100% not true. You can… but you have to lower the screen brightness and you can clone a bit, run some curves etc. My workflow is Capture One RAW conversion into Photoshop, clone and heal, run a filter for the skin, run a filter for extra sharpness, run DxO or Alien skin for tinting, save and repeat. This even drains the battery of my MBP in about 3 hours.

When shooting tethered there is no real problem with the MBP, with the last 3 MBPs I owned I could do a full day workshop with Capture One as tethered solution with FULL brightness and end up above 20% battery live. However we also carry with us a Hyperjuice which can supply another 6 hours to a MBP or iPad pro via USB or charging output (this rocks), the surface pro needed it’s own power supply and 220/110V so no option to use a cigaret lighter connector (airplane etc) only 220/110. I don’t know yet for the Wacom but before I make the final decision I have to be sure I can somehow power the unit in the field without 220/110V.

 

Conclusion
In the past Apple created devices you did not YET knew you needed.
I never wanted an iPhone until I saw someone working with it and saw it sync with agenda and mail (I was still on pop3), I was in awe.
I never wanted a Mac, until I needed one for my Medium format camera and used it for windows and a small part MacOs, within a month I sold my PC and got my first MacPro and NEVER looked back, in the mean time I also convinced my parents and Annewiek and they all are now Mac Users and love it.
I never needed an iPad, until I used it and love the way I could now watch movies during flights without these dreaded entertainment sets from the aircrafts (they still gave you devices on some flights), and I love reading on it.
I never needed an Apple Pencil until I got one and found back my love of drawing.
I never needed an Apple Watch, until my Fitbit broke down for the second time and I thought let’s try it.. well I’m still at version one but wouldn’t want to be without it.

 

I REALLY wanted a device with touch and retouching on the screen……. I waited for the rumored tablet running MacOs which came in the form of the iPad pro and tried seriously to find a professional workflow for photography and never found it (video works pretty well) and drawing is fricking amazing, the next thing/chance was the new MacBook Pro which would revolutionize the world of mobile computing….. and still no touch for the photography/designer people…. In the mean time in the studio we switched to the Cintiq on the MacPro, microsoft has the Surface pro 4 and wacom a third version of their companion (now called Mobile Studio Pro) and the need for a mobile solution like this grew and grew and with the realization that Apple will NOT release something in the near future (they are already 3 generations behind)…… I’m sad to say that for the very first time in my whole apple experience Apple didn’t give me a device I thought I did not need and absolutely loved and can’t be without anymore, but they actually left me a bit in the cold, there’s nothing wrong with the new MacBookPro it’s awesome but times change and the needs of people change, mostly because of what happens around you, if I was a writer, businessman, video editor etc. (which I also am by the way :D) I would probably jump on the new MBP and LOVE it, but as a photographer and retoucher I’m just too much seduced by the awesomeness of a cintiq with a brain that can function as a laptop, tablet and a real cintiq in the studio with a nice big screen and plenty of speed and resolution…………..

 

As soon as I have the Mobile Studio Pro I’ll do a video and review on it as soon as I’m using it.
Don’t think I’m gonna leave Apple…. if there is a new MacPro in the next 2 years I’m fine, if they DROP the MacPro I’m afraid I’ll have to look elsewhere but that will be one of the saddest days in my photography career because I really love my macs and apple products.

iPad pro, Surface Pro4, Wacom Cintiq… which one…..

A while ago I posted a video online where I showed an app called Astropad.
This app is pretty awesome, it makes it possible to do some retouching in Photoshop/Lightroom etc. on your iPad pro with the Apple Pencil, and it works pretty well, although it has limitations (later more). This video got an amazing amount of views, actually it’s nearing the 180.000 views on YouTube. It also got some remarks which literally puzzled me but also motivated me to write this very short (well ok I’ll try) review on 3 amazing devices, but all in their own right. So…. ladies and gentleman hold your horses, buckle in and if you want to comment please read the article very well and read your reply before pressing post.

 

The weird, dumb, crazy remarks 
Now as you know me I’m a pretty laid back kind of guy, you can’t get me angry very quickly and I’ll always try to answer any question you guys have, but sometimes……

On the video on Astropad I clearly demonstrated an APP on the iPad pro that MIMICS what you can normally do on a Wacom Cintiq. I loved (and still love) this app, but it has limitations. First of all it has to be run on an iPad that is connected to your Mac, this means you ALWAYS need a mac close by, but as long as you are in the same network this means it can be anywhere in your home, this makes it possible to retouch in Photoshop while sitting on the coach.. pretty cool. Now that’s the app, and I think I was pretty clear in that video what it did….. Still MANY people asked me if it ran Photoshop and NO it doesn’t (clearly).

The thing that did get me a frustrated a lot were the many many people starting “wars” on that the iPad pro sucked, I was a fool and I needed to get a surface pro 4. Yeah well…. that wasn’t the idea of the video right? you don’t tell someone that owns a Volvo that he has to get a tractor or plane. But…. it did motived me to call up our friends at Microsoft and arrange an Surface pro 4.

And this…. is where I start this review/opinion on 3 great devices.

 

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iPad pro
Let me start with this one.
It retails for app 1200 euros and you have the familiar cool stuff that you are used to from Apple (or if you’re not an Apple fanboy, the bad stuff), it’s a great device to surf the web, you can watch a LOT of movies while traveling, you can use Lightroom mobile and now with the Apple pencil you can get incredibly creative with software like Pro-create and the Adobe suite or MediaBang etc. etc. there is a lot.

I got the iPad pro for one very simple reason, I LOVE to draw. I haven’t drawn in a long time because I never felt the digital way was my way and to draw on paper… well I don’t know why I didn’t do it but I just didn’t (end of story), with the iPad pro and the Apple Pencil I loved the way it felt and I was immediately sold, plus I like the larger display to watch movies on in the RV or while traveling, although in the plane it can sometimes be a bit too big, but then when you read a comic….. ahhhhh heaven, it’s amazing.

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Astropad I already mentioned and is a great app if you ALREADY have an iPad, you buy it for a very reasonable price and you can retouch on your iPad pro. However it’s far from perfect and for one simple reason… the hover over option. When you do street/travel photography it ROCKS and I dare to say you hardly need anything else, but if you need some serious cloning or selecting… well how much I love Astropad it…. well isn’t usable for that. With a Wacom you’re used to see where you place your pointer BEFORE you hit the surface and this makes cloning a breeze, with Astropad, it’s a matter of… well guessing it and trust me, that’s a BIG frustration. But again if you don’t clone a lot (or just need to remove some dust) it works like a charm.

Now for serious photography the iPad pro is not what you need, there is no way of working on TIFF 16bits, there is no good software for retouching although Pixelmator and Enlight come very very close the end result is still not pro quality. There is some action from Adobe expected and one of their competitors Affinity is claiming to have a great solution next year but let’s see what happens, if Affinity really delivers what they promise… wow.

Video editing on the iPad pro is awesome, you can start in iMovie or Adobe clip and finish it off when you’re home on the Mac/Pc, this workflow actually surprised me in how efficient and easy it was, I expected photography to be better.

The iPad pro and the already mentioned Pro-create and other drawing solutions make that part alone already worth the money to spend on the iPad pro, it’s really VERY VERY good, if not the best device for creatives.

Watching movies, reading comics, playing games, surfing the web, all as we are used to from the iPad/iPhone very solid and great to kill hours on a plane or evenings at campgrounds/home.

The disadvantages are many if you compare it to a laptop or surface pro 4.
No USB ports, although the USB/Lighting sticks solve this pretty well, but still also there you miss a real file system where it becomes possible to open up comics for example from a stick or copy them to a certain app, now it’s all very basic, great for movies and video/photography but that’s about it. BUT if you know this it’s a “perfect” working solution. Also no full blown photoshop or lightroom, Lightroom mobile ROCKS but only if you have a great internet connection which when traveling well let me say this… sometimes sending a letter is faster than sending an email.

The advantages are more in my opinion.
The apps are made for the screen, they are rock solid, they start very fast, they do what they have to do and the touch interface is better on Apple than on any other device I every tried add to this the Apple pencil and you will know why I (and so many) love our Apple iPad.

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Surface pro 4
Microsoft was so kind to send me their Surface pro 4
The version I got retailed for app 2400 euros, twice the price of the iPad pro, and I loved it.
Running full versions of Photoshop and Lightroom and Capture One is great of course.
But that’s on paper…..
And I know I can’t run them on the iPad pro but somehow I know that, on the Surface pro 4 I can so I expect to be able to use them, right?
Well that’s where it goes wrong.

Let me first tell you that I’m NOT an Apple Fanboy, I own a lot of Apple gear, but if something better show up I’m switching without any problem, they are just tools, but somehow when Apple makes something it always seems to work. That being said I also know the limitations and that also means I would LOVE a macbook with a touch screen or an iPad Pro that runs MacOsX (APPLE!!!!) but that’s not here (yet). The Surface pro 4 promises to be just that… so I expect that, this is very important to say before I continue because although I love the product I also find some problems with it.

First off all let’s look at the software.
I love to shoot tethered in Capture One, and that works like a charm, awesome freedom, just walk around with the tablet on a stand and shoot.
Now the retouching part, the display is too small to use Capture One comfortably, and this trend continues with Photoshop, you can scale Photoshop but when you scale it up the work area is WAY too small, when you scale it down it’s more than enough but for the best of me I can’t control the settings or click the right buttons, it’s just too small (Adobe make a zoom function thats flexible or just in between, that would solve this).
Lightroom works ok, although also here zoomable interface…. thank you very much that would be handy.

The touch in Photoshop is awesome, you can easily zoom, rotate and drag around while retouching with the stylus, now this is what I want, this rocks, this is awesome this is…….. hmmmmm battery empty…. yep that’s the main thing I have against the Surface Pro 4, I could retouch 4 images and my battery was dead, now I retouch FAST, but I use 3 plugins that are pretty CPU hungry on my shots and this meant that after app 1 hour my battery was dead as a rock, totally empty.

By the way one quick side step.
The thing I did miss in Photoshop were the keystrokes, and attaching a keyboard… well that didn’t work for me, I choose a tablet to draw on for a reason and than attaching a keyboard doesn’t make sense, I was about to give up when I found a cool little app called tablet pro, this gives you an extra floating or locked keypad where you can program your keystrokes, like the Wacom has it’s expresskeys, this REALLY made the difference for me between sending it back and using it with loads of fun.

Now when an iPad/iPhone is nearing it’s empty state there is not really a problem, you just connect it to a 12V outlet, or a spare battery like the HyperJuice, Mophie etc. there are plenty of them out there, for the Surface Pro 4….. NONE, meaning if you take this baby with you on a 10 hour flight the fun stops at app 9 hours to go, probably already before take off if you are so lucky they have to de-ice the plane and the rest of the time you… well just sit.

Of course it’s not that bad… watching movies the battery actually copes pretty well, it’s not as good as the iPad pro (which I never emptied not even on the longest flights (10+ hours)) but it manages pretty well and if you also take something else with you for entertainment you will probably love the Surface Pro 4, but don’t start retouching because you will run into problems with the battery and there are no external solutions (unless I miss something).

The other thing I experienced as negative was the ONE USB port.
Yes I know the iPad has none but that’s not a laptop….. (see why I told you to think about it before replying), and from the Surface pro 4 I actually expect to leave my laptop at home. Now why is one USB port bad… well you can’t make any backups. The unit I got had a 128GB internal memory and when I travel that’s not enough so we have to use an external drive for storage which…. is connected to USB, so if I want to make a backup of that drive……. yep no luck, unless you also bring your dock which gives you a minidisplay port, USB and some other goodies, so in all honesty it’s something that you CAN solve. But…. when I don’t bring a laptop I also expect my device to run all day during a photoshoot in the field, my MacBook Pro with Capture One running and tethering with full screen brightness can stay “alive” for app 4-4.5 hours, after which we connect it to the hyper juice (actually when it’s half empty), the surface pro 4 ran empty after app 2 hours, which means I can NEVER do a full workshop or even photoshoot with it in the field, unless….. we have power and in most cases we will have power but in some cases we don’t and certainly not close to the laptop.

Now it seems like I’m negative about the Surface Pro 4, but I’m actually FAR from negative. I absolutely loved working on it, Windows 10 is nice although I prefer the MacOs but it’s good enough. The stylus is pretty good and when used in Photoshop or Manga Studio (thanks to Smith Micro for supplying me with a test version for PC and Mac so I could compare) it’s a dream to work on. For drawing itself I still VERY MUCH prefer the iPad pro, the apps are designed for the iPad pro and this means you have the maximum space to draw and no clutter around the edges with menus like on Windows, let’s be realistic this is a full version you’re running and they are not designed to be ran on a small screen.

In essence I loved the surface pro 4 but the problem I have with it is the working space in Photoshop, the very limited battery life and the one USB port on the device. If they would add an option to charge via USB that would make the Surface Pro a MUCH better device for guys like me who really use the device in the field.

 

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The Wacom
Now this is a weird one in this list I think, but bare with me.
Due to the drawing experience on the iPad pro I wanted to do the same thing on the Mac, but in all honestly eye hand coordination with the normal tablet didn’t work out for me, for normal retouching I couldn’t life without my Wacom but for drawing it just doesn’t work, now there were two options for me.

  1. The Wacom Companion
  2. The Wacom Cintiq 13HD

In all honestly the Companion as it is now is pretty awesome but a bit too large for me to travel with and too limited because I also bring my laptop, so I can much better just bring a travel tablet and draw on the iPad pro which I also carry with me. The Companion idea is great and very similar in my opinion to the Surface pro 4 except it has all the express keys and when you connect it to your mac or PC you have a full blown cintiq, but it’s bigger than the surface pro 4, so for traveling…. well I’ll let you decide.

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When you get used to drawing on the screen with both retouching and drawing it’s very hard to leave that experience and go back to the normal tablet, so I knew I wanted a cintiq. My first choice was the 13HD but when I tested that one out at CameraNu.nl I had to be realistic with myself…. it’s just a bit too small, so in the end we decided to go for the 22HD touch. As you probably know we really ended up with a 27″HD demo model from Wacom which I can try out and show so I’m very happy.

Now when I look at my retouching at home I absolutely love the Wacom Cintiq, compared to Astropad it’s not limited by the hover function, it’s much bigger and it shows my selections crystal clear (Astropad does show some flickering with the marching ants), Thanks to Smith Micro I can also use Manga Studio on my Mac and has become my favorite drawing program for sketching and line work, after which I finish everything in Photoshop. The experience on the Cintiq is absolutely breathtaking, on the iPad pro the lag is VERY low and the overal experience is great, but… the surface can be a little slippery where the Cintiq really feels like a more tactile surface which I actually prefer, I do feel that shading with a pencil is MUCH cooler on the iPad, everyone I show this is just stunned, but…… psssst I never shade like that…….so I don’t miss it.

Traveling with the 27″ cintiq is out of the question, Annewiek told me so herself, so you better believe it.

 

so…… why all these devices in one post.
As mentioned before it started with a review of Astropad (a cintiq like app) on the iPad pro, which I bought to replace my iPad and to draw. Due to all the remarks about the Surface pro 4 I got one from Microsoft to compare and I think that there will be a Surface Pro in my future if they make it slightly bigger and add an option to use external batteries. Because I got so used to retouching on the image itself and drawing is something I’m more and more in love with plus I want to do some new stuff with my photography I actually ended up with a Cintiq, so I think this is the only place where you will find a review with these 3 together but I hope my insights gave you some ideas and maybe tips if you’re also looking for a solution.

 

Conclusion
There is no spoon….
Oops wrong blog….
There is no perfect solution.
I hope for the day we have macbook pro keyboard with an iPad pro screen, take the screen off and the iPad pro becomes an iOS device with all the apps etc. put it back into place and it’s a dumb screen for a laptop, this should be no problem at all for Apple so I wonder what they are waiting for…..If they would also make it possible to RETOUCH on the screen while connected it would mean I would have one device with me during travels.

For now I’m using the following.
iPad pro for media consumption, drawing, reading comics, surfing the web, the perfect traveling companion.
MacBookPro for shooting in the field, in all honesty a tethertools table on a stand is not that much more work to carry around than a tablet on a stand.
Wacom Cintiq for studio use.

That last one I don’t see me replacing by ANY device, working on the 27″ cintiq is VERY addictive and going back to a smaller one…. well no way (well maybe but than it has to be a lot better), the iPad pro and MacBook Pro I’m afraid that for the coming time that will stay my combination up until ONE device can REALLY replace them both, let’s hope on the Microsoft Surface Pro 5/6/7 or if Apple wakes up and does something amazing 😀

Feel free to leave comments but keep it respectful please, this is MY opinion and only MY opinion.

 

Review Apple Pencil and video with Astropad

Today again a review on an Apple product, this time the Apple Pencil.
Let me start out by saying that when Apple released the iPad Pro I was not impressed, yeah it’s a bigger iPad and yeah it’s cool but what can I do with it…. who is Apple targeting, up until the point I saw the Apple pencil… at that point I was like “hmmmmm ok interesting for graphic designers, but not for me”

 

Long story short, I started thinking about how the iPad pro would be beneficial for me and fit in my workflow and (like with most new products) it became clear to me that it could really change the way I work, but most of all the things I would be able to do extra, and…. the Apple pencil was the main reason. So I was unpleasantly surprised I could just walk into a store and pick up an iPad Pro 128GB LTE but not the Pencil… they told me it would be weeks. Now my strategy proved to be successful, that morning I also ordered a whole kit online and that Pencil had a delivery time of 5-7 working days. In the end I ended up cancelling my online iPad Pro order but kept the Pencil, and much to my surprise and joy the Pencil already arrived after 5 days, and the next two days were spend playing with it and giving me the material for this review.

 

How does it look and feel
Well I can be short…. it’s a pencil.
And this is a good thing, it really looks nice and it’s cool it will always roll over with the logo on top, but overal it’s… well again it’s just a pencil. It feels really nice in my hand and actually when I go back to my trusted Wacom tablet I have to say the stylus feels weird. I never had that before with a product but you really get used fast to the Apple pencil.

 

One of the things that Apple does awesome is design and the Pencil is no exception, but it’s not without flaws, instead I’m afraid of how long I will be able to not loose parts. The top part disconnects to make it possible to charge the Pencil on your iPad and it claims to be ready for 30 minutes of use after 15 seconds of charging (awesome)Apple-Pencil-Fast-Charge-800x400

Up till so far, no problem, you can probably keep track of this tip without too much trouble, however there is another tip. This tip makes it possible to charge your Pencil via a lighting cable and I’m in all honesty afraid a lot of people will or loose that tip or the magnetic tip so let’s hope Apple has these as spares for not too much money. It would have been nice to include a sort of carrying box or sleeve, especially seeing the price of 109.00 euro.

 

It’s expensive
You hear this a lot, but I have to disagree in this case.
When you look at other styluses you also pay a lot of money for the more high-end products, but none of them will interact as well with the iPad pro as the Apple Pencil of course, so I think it’s very hard to say it’s too expensive, let me put it this way…. you do pay a premium price for a premium product. And I don’t think that’s bad. Also seeing all the techniques inside the Pencil I think it’s actually not that expensive.

 

How does it work
This is of course what you want to know, right?
Let me start of by saying that I never worked behind a Wacom Cintiq longer than a few minutes, I never owned a Companion (but worked with it a few times) and I haven’t drawn or painted in over 25 years…. so am I the reviewer you should trust…..?  well I think so and if you read further I think you understand why I say this, and also gave you the heads up 😀

 

Drawing and painting
When I was young I LOVED to draw, especially cartoon characters. I read books on how to draw and was mesmerized by the styles of Disney and similar styles. When I grew up I simply didn’t have time anymore and fell in love more and more with video and photography and slowly drawing disappeared but my mom still has books filled with drawings I made during my youth. I was always used to first sketching my work and later using a liner to make the lines thicker and finally coloring them, so when I would go somewhere with my parents it was always a lot of stuff to carry with them, maybe that’s also why I just gave up when growing older.

 

The love for real “hand made” graphic art always stayed, I love the photorealistic work from friends like Bert Monroy and Aaron Blaze which always blew my mind, but I’m also always amazed by the ease that Pete Collins seem to have when drawing his work, amazing artists and I’m not even close to what they probably do with their eyes closed, but…. do you have to, to have fun?

 

We live in a world that goes faster and faster and sometimes I also feel the urge to do something useful, do something that people can buy, look at, enjoy etc. and sometimes you just forget there are also other things in life, I think that’s also why those books “Coloring for adults” are so popular, just relax, take a deep breath, sit down and get lost in coloring……. yeah I know it sounds weird but according to a lot of people it really works relaxing. With the iPad pro we now have a device that gives us a lot of extra options, we can use Adobe Sketch, Notes or the amazing ProCreate to create simple drawings, paintings or ultra realistic pieces of photorealistic pieces. But most of all…. create something from nothing and without the need to bring all your pencils, coloring pens etc.

 

The drawing experience is awesome, I really don’t have another word for it.
You REALLY just have to pick up and iPad pro and Apple Pencil to experience it, when you sketch it really feels like your working with a drawing tool instead of a digital stylus, the Pencil is incredibly sensitive and shading is an experience that will give you a real sense of working with the real deal (just tilt the Pencil), the (positive) weird thing is that as soon as you change for example from pens to paint you also feel like your painting, it’s hard to explain but it’s just something you probably have to experience.

 

Lag is almost not visible, there will always be some lag of course but somehow Apple really did their best to limit it to an absolute minimum, let me put it this way I’ve worked on several “older” cintiqs that lagged a LOT more. Also the palm rejection work flawless (so far as I can see now).

 

Drawing on glas?
This is also something I thought about, the iPads are incredibly smooth so how does this translate when paining or drawing, don’t you feel like trying to stay in balance on an ice-skate…. well I can say that also here Apple really did their homework, the pen doesn’t feel like to be going over glass, it also doesn’t feel like art paper, but it feels very very nice.

 

So drawing is nice, but do you want to spend 1200.00 on that alone?
For me it was not, if you read my review on the iPad pro you will get a bit more insight in why I bought the iPad pro, but in essence it really depends on what you do, I think for people that spend hours and hours painting/drawing on an iPad will be in heaven when they try this combination. But also people that now travel with large Cintiqs will probably love it for the simple fact that there is an app for that…..

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Astropad, will it change your life… it very well might
When I knew I would order the iPad pro I also knew I would be using it with Astropad, in fact a big part of the reason I bought the iPad pro was Astropad. So what is this “super” app.
Astropad is an app that works on your iPhone, iPad and iPad pro and in essence mirrors your monitor (actually part of your monitor) with some nice added tricks. With Astropad you could say you can run the full versions of Photoshop and Lightroom on your iPad (pro) as long as you take into account that you always need a host computer. Now I hear you say.. “what’s the difference between this and a screen sharing program”, well that’s simple. Astropads supports your Pencil or stylus fully in Photoshop/Lightroom so you could say it adds some Cintiq magic to your iPad Pro.
For me it really adds to my workflow, I’ve retouched on Wacom tablets for years and absolutely love them, but I also always looked at the Wacom Companion which looked like a dream machine for me, if it would run MacOsX but it doesn’t, and the battery life is a bit short for long trips but the idea of carrying a sketch book with Photoshop with me all the time just feels like a cool and handy option. And zooming in on the face of model very quickly and seeing what I do straight from the screen I’m retouching on also has a great appeal to me, but to buy a Companion just for that…. well I’m not a graphic designer or painter so for me I just couldn’t justify the costs vs the benefits, when traveling I would still carry my laptop and iPad with me so it would be another expensive piece of gear I had to bring and insure and keep track off. The iPad pro however really combines a lot of these options. Of course Astropad doesn’t work on the plane (unless you also open your MBP, but when you don’t fly business that will be impossible) but on the plane you can draw/sketch/paint, watch some movies, play some games etc. on the iPad Pro, add the keyboard and type some blogposts or documents, and when you arrive on location you can switch the iPad (pro) to the main hub to shoot tethered to (wireless), and back in the hotel you open up your laptop, connect the iPad pro and just lay on the bed and browse through your images and retouch them via Astropad, or Lightroom mobile.

 

It’s the feeling of having one device for literally everything that has that great appeal for me, and the combination of the Apple Pencil and Astropad makes the iPad pro for me a tool that is worth every single cent. But words are always nice but a video does more, so check out this episode of Quite Frankly where I show you the retouching process with Astropad.

 

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It’s just a stylus
Every time I see this remark I have to laugh a little bit.
When Steve Jobs said he would never want a stylus he was absolutely right. My first “organizer” used a stylus and it was terrible, I never lost one, but as soon as I got my first iPhone it was a WOW moment, this was the way to operate a smart phone.
When the Pencil was released I immediately saw it for what it was, not a stylus to operate your iPad pro but a graphic tool to boost the uses for the iPad pro to a WHOLE new level, the level where a lot of creatives were already using it but always with limitations, with the release of the Pencil, Apple did not release a simple stylus, not even an advanced stylus… no they released a tool for creatives.

 

Ok let me explain myself.
There are a lot of tablets out there now a days that claim the same. Some use Wacom techniques, some use other techniques. I also own a Windows Sony tablet/laptop with a stylus and it works perfectly for taking notes, drawing some shapes etc. but as soon as I try to really draw I found out I just “sucked” at drawing and I gave up. Same happened with the Surface Pro, my level of drawing is just not good enough I always thought, and seeing that many people make incredibly art with these tools I always believed that was the problem. When I however started drawing on the iPad pro I saw myself doing stuff I never ever was able to pull off on the other tablets, the difference might be small but it was just enough to keep me up till 1:00AM last night drawing away on my iPad Pro and immensely enjoying it.

 

I’m convinced that if you give a real artist a Surface pro he/she will draw art, heck I’ve seen Bert Monroy do stuff with his fingers instead of a stylus that blew my mind, but imaging that if the iPad pro and Pencil already boosted my abilities what will happen when real artists start using this…. I’m very much convinced that this might be one of the best and most revolutionary releases from Apple for the graphic industry. Apple is often blamed for forgetting the graphic artists, the group that actually made Apple and in the past was the main focus for Apple (well at least that’s how I experience it) but with the release of the Apple Pencil I think Apple has proven that they love to motivate and inspire people but most of all give them the tools they need to create stunning art.

 

Conclusion
I have my Pencil for 2 days now and already spend a few hours just playing around in Adobe Sketch and ProCreate and I’m hooked, every free minute I’m now trying to get my skills up and I love the creative process, driving Annewiek mad by constantly showing her stuff I make and new ways that brushes work, for me painting and drawing will stay a hobby but the combination with Astropad makes the iPad pro a serious contender in replacing my trusted Wacom tablet for retouching and thats where I do earn my money and I’m always looking for ways to get a better and faster workflow.
If you’re a graphics artist, or just love to draw and paint without a doubt check out the Apple pencil and the iPad pro I think you will be more than impressed.