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Wacom Mobile Studio Pro in depth review Part I

An Apple fanboy taking the jump for creative freedom on a device that does what he wants… but it’s not an Apple…. it’s actually a lot better.

 

Ok yesterday I picked up my Mobile Studio Pro 16 from Wacom.
I opted for the fastest version with i7, 16GB, 512SSD and of course 4K screen.

Let’s take a quick look in short about my thoughts before you watch the video.

Why?
Very simple.
Apple dropped the ball and keeps dropping the ball.
First of all the new MacBookPro is hardly a pro device anymore, it’s lighter and smaller but has less battery life, problems with GPU under heavy stress, fans that kick in way too late and misses A LOT of ports, also power wise for what you pay its VERY underpowered to say the least. I believe in a USB-C standard, but I also believed in a TB standard (because Apple told us).

I was hoping for a new machine with some form of touch and incorporation of the Apple Pencil for retouching. When I saw the big trackpad I thought… “there we go” but no…. also looking at pricing I don’t think I’ll be able to afford the next MacPro version, I expect that IF Apple updates this beast (I still love mine) it will start at 6000.00 for the base model and in all honesty I do make a living off photography but if I would order what I need for editing our videos this would probably set me back 10.000 and in all honesty that… I can’t afford.

Seeing Apple really closes the door on ANY form of touch (or Apple pencil inclusion) I feel we are on a dead end, so when looking at what the competition is doing with Microsoft releasing a third (already) generation of the Surface Pro and Wacom recently releasing the also third generation of the Companion (now called Mobile studio pro) I think it’s time for people like me to look over the mountain to Windows 10… because all these machines run that other OS, the OS where we always joked about “Once you go Mac you never go back” and I still agree…. in some form.

First evening with Windows
The Wacom Mobile Studio pro comes with Windows 10 pro pre-installed. You do need to setup the Wacom drivers first which appears a bit weird, but in essence it’s a small job, I think it’s because you first have to setup Windows itself.

The setup of windows very much reminded me of MacOs in some things, and is a far cry from the last time I installed a Windows version (I did update to 10 on a notebook). It all looks sleek and nice. There even is a fingerprint sensor in the Wacom that is setup REALLY fast and works very well, still don’t know what to do it with exactly but that’s to find out in the coming days right…..

On the desktop Windows 10 looks ok. I do miss the nicely rendered menus from the Mac and the overal look, Windows still looks like it’s an 90’s operating system that has been upgraded. But that’s not a bad thing some people love the squares and the look of the preferences/settings but for me it all looks very old fashioned. But in essence it doesn’t matter because I’m not using this machine for it’s OS I use it to create and the desktop etc. looks all very nice and smooth not a real difference with what I like from the Mac, start menu is nicely organized and the “metro” look I also like although it’s again a bit square.

Gestures
As you can see in the video I’m trying out some gestures and I think it’s a huge debit to the Wacom that everything is silky smooth, I tried the same gestures on a high-specced Vaio laptop I own and it’s without a doubt less smooth, it works but it doesn’t give me that “iPad experience”

What I really really like is the gesture options in for example Photoshop and Capture one, zooming in on images with just pinch and zoom is amazingly handy and I already see myself doing this on my MBP within a few days realizing it doesn’t have touch 🙂

Speed
This thing is FAAAAST.
It’s a far cry from my Macpro (Dual D700’s with Final Cut Pro X is sick) but rendering and editing in Premiere is amazingly smooth and easy. I do have to get used to not being able to just trim clips like with the magnetic time line but I can life with that and as soon as I have a proper keyboard with touchpad (Logitech K830 on order) I’ll test this again. Photoshop and Capture One both run like I hoped.

Tethering
Tethering I tested in Capture One and works, connection is really fast and images come in just as fast as on the MBP, didn’t expect anything else, although I was a bit afraid with the USB-C dongle.

Problems
None yet expect some weird behaviors in Premiere.
Mostly due to my touchpad and keyboard not working properly (I use a very low budget and older Logitech), but one thing did frustrate the heck out of me and that’s the fact I can’t just import my MTS files anymore without loosing audio. I have to copy the whole structure of the card, and that’s not a good thing. On the MBP and in premiere I was able to just copy the MTS files and drag them into Premiere. Hope I’m missing something here.

Another problem is that the Wacom Mobile studio pro is “clean” on the back, meaning there is no VESA mount option, for me that’s a bit of a problem because during workshops I love to mount my display on a stand so people can see what I’m doing. My MBP was always on a Tethertools table but when we started shooting wirelessly in some situations I used an iPad Pro on a mount from Wally and connected to a stand. Let’s hope something similar will be released for the Wacom Mobile studio pro.

Another thing is the stand… there is no stand in the box (and I knew this) I have one on order but without it I think it’s usable but not as a laptop replacement, so make sure you get a stand when you buy one.

The final piece of critique I have is on the speakers.
I don’t need great speakers but the speakers in the Mobile Studio Pro are…. well they make sound let’s put it that way. Compared to the MBP it’s a lot of steps back. On the other hand…. it’s not really important, they make sound and you can always use headphones (yes there is a headphone jack), and I’m already looking for some BT speakers if I really need it.

Size
Loads of people asked me if a 16″ wouldn’t be too big to carry around.
And I can only say “NO….are you nuts it’s awesome”
I think we have to be clear here.
Apple labeled their MacBookPro because it was meant for the Pros, it was bigger, 17″, heavier, had a load of ports, it was FAST and it was… well a pro machine. It still looked beautiful but it wasn’t a small laptop at all. Later they dropped the 17″ which I think was sad and I bought a 15″ with Retina I fell in love again, but now the route is more to small and sleek and I think that’s where we are on the point that I want to make….

I’m not someone that will sit in starbucks and take out my shiny nice MBP put it on the table and start doing my Email or spreadsheets, when I do something on the road it’s work on images, draw, watch a movie etc. And in most cases I have room when I do this, it will be in a hotel room, at home, in the RV, outside in a park or whatever.

But most of all when I create or retouch I NEED real estate, I can’t work in a 10x15cm space to retouch a model shoot. And on smaller screens (with all due respect) I feel like I see more menu’s than drawing/retouch space. This is also why I LOVE the 16:9 form factor instead of a 4:3, the less room that is taken up with menus and other necessary stuff the more space I have to be creative or work.

In the video you see me comparing the Wacom with my MBP 15″ late 2014, it’s bigger but it’s not too big, it fits in a 17″ sleeve perfectly. And if I want to check mail in a starbucks I’ll take out my iPhone or iPad Pro. This baby is to work.

Charging on the go
AWESOME, this is what I wanted.
Let’s be honest, when you are just using your pc/tablet whatever for email or browsing battery life is no problem, you’ll be kicked out the place before the battery dies. But when you do video editing and retouching battery life becomes VERY important. By charging via USB-c you can now use external batteries like the HyperJuice to power your tablet for DAYS if necessary. We own a reasonable sized HyperJuice and it kept my MBP during a full shooting day at 100% with easy. I still have to test this on the Wacom but I expect nothing less. This was also one of the things I didn’t like from the Surface Pro, it used it’s own charging connector making it impossible to connect it to the batteries, unless…. well I didn’t feel like hacking it (never a good idea with power).

Hardkeys
LOADS of people ask me “why the wacom, it’s so expensive”
Well yeah it’s not cheap, but you get a LOT.
First of all like the title says you get hardkeys, if you don’t know how important those are I guess you’re not retouching a lot. There are software emulators that can give you keys but you still have to take your eyes off your work (also one of the biggest problems I have with the touchbar (emoticon bar) on the new MBPs) With hardkeys you can find them blind and use them. This was also another reason for me to go for the 16″ because now I have 8 and a rocker ring 😀

In fact I would love to have even more, so I’ll try to connect an EK remote to it very soon.
The less I need a keyboard the better and the EK remote had 15 keys, add the 8 of the tablet and I think we have no need for a keyboard anymore.

The screen
yeah what can I say.
WOW, WOW, WOW
This is one gorgeous experience. 4K resolution in such a “small” size means you LITERALLY see one smooth surface, it’s silky smooth. Lightoutput is also enough although more is always better when working outside, but that will also cost you dearly in battery life and contrast ratio when lowering the screen output, so I’m more than fine with this. And 96% adobe RGB is of course a welcome bonus.

The surface doesn’t feel like glass like you would expect from a “laptop replacement” but remember this is a creative tool, it’s designed to be used with a stylus and create stuff. And that’s what the screen does, it feels great with an even more tactile feel than the Cintiq and it doesn’t blur the resolution. With the iPad pro you can use screen protectors to get this feel too but it blurs the screen slightly PLUS you add to the parallax problem (your pen hits the glass and the real drawing is below).

The pen
This baby is also great.
8000+ pressure sensitivity levels, yeah great but how does that feel?
Well I’m not a digital artist (although I love to draw) but what I saw yesterday in Photoshop the level of control is INSANE, you can go from hardly visible to big bold lines without glitches… nice. But I’m not good enough to use this… but I’m sure there are people out there that do.

As you can see in the video parallax is gone, speed is great so what more to wish.
One more thing you have to realize btw, although the Apple pencil is great and works like a charm it’s not a pixel device, meaning it works in clusters, the Wacom units are pixel based meaning you use the FULL resolution for drawing, for real artists this can make a huge difference.

3D scanner
If you’re into 3D modeling the mobile studio pro comes with a really cool (so they told me) 3D camera which can be used to scan objects for 3D modeling. And according to a friend of mine it works like a charm. (just saying)

More to come
In the coming days I will post much more on my experiences, problems and of course the experience I have with Windows.
The next blog post will give you some tips on software you can use as alternatives to Mac specific things.

Fan noise
Loads of people ask about this.
The MBP is quieter for a longer time, but WHEN those fans hit you hear them VERY good.
The mobile studio pro is MUCH less loud but the fans kick in a soon as I started rendering, so I braced myself but to my surprise they never really got any louder, they just kept the device in working order it seems where my MBP waits till it’s probably almost to late and than starts cooling like crazy.

Oh and one more thing
Love the Cintiq?
never could afford one because it’s “just a display”?
Now you can. With the Wacom mobile studio pro you can use a Wacom link and use your tablet in Cintiq mode on your Mac or PC.

 

Apple?
I never was a real Windows fan when I switched to Apple and I never really looked at Windows. In my memory Windows is slow, gets slower over time and is chunky and overly complicated compared to Apple. In essence however as mentioned before I never use the OS that much, I use the programs. And when I now see how incredibly smooth you can switch from gestures to the pen and to the keyboard and touchpad in Windows 10 and Adobe and Phase One software (and probably also Manga Studio) I really and I mean REALLY can’t imagine why Apple is so against touch…. it’s not that if you go touch you have to do everything with touch but browsing for a few minutes on the net with a touch unit is absolutely something I never want to mis again, it’s seamless, it’s smooth, you can zoom it’s an experience that is fitting this time period. Seeing the fact Apple is CLEAR about not incorporating touch I’m very afraid that Apple will see a HUGE decline in customers that will switch to the real professional creative tools like this Wacom Mobile studio pro.

 

Ok before the video : Pros and cons
Pros :
Screen, pen, speed (i7 version), touch/gesture/pen/keyboard/touchpad combination, surface of the screen, size, form factor, kensington lock, 3D scanner

Cons :
no stand, no vesa mounting option, not so good speakers

In the middle (can go either way) :
Windows 10 Pro.

 

I shot this special episode of behind the closed DOORs with my first impressions.

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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iPad pro workflows for professionals…

On November 11th I ordered my iPad pro and Apple Pencil.
The Pencil took another week to be delivered and we are now app 3 weeks later and I think it’s time for an update on how I use the iPad pro and what I think of it as a professional tool. Let me start by saying that if Apple didn’t also release the Pencil I would have not bought the iPad pro for the simple reason, it’s just a bigger and faster iPad. The Pencil makes all the difference.

 

Now when you read reviews it’s a bit black and white, loads of reviews discard the iPad pro because it’s too expensive, doesn’t deliver anything more than the iPad air series except size, there is no force touch etc. However these are not the kind of reviews I agree with, as mentioned before the Pencil makes all the difference, for me the iPad pro is much more than my iPad air.

 

My iPad air was used for entertainment on the road and at home, it controls our Home Theater via iRule and it was sometimes used for editing video on the road and some lightroom mobile, but not that much to be honest.

 

When the Pro entered our home everything changed, I picked up drawing again and I began my quest for finding the “perfect” app based workflow as a traveling photographer/creative person.

 

Apps vs Full OS
When I uploaded a video on YouTube on ONE app called Astropad I was stunned by the amount of reactions (some downright offensive) about the fact that what the iPad Pro did with Astropad was already done for years by the Surface Pro by Microsoft. Somehow this is the base I think for a lot of the misunderstanding of what I do with the iPad pro (and many more), Astropad doesn’t run the full version of Photoshop for example, it’s “just” a sort of Wacom Cintiq alternative, you still use your Mac as main computer but you can now draw, edit, retouch on the iPad pro while you see your Mac screen, and it works pretty well (except when you have the marching ants, but let’s hope they fix this, Astropad for the Pro is still in beta remember).

 

So let’s look at the way apps works vs the full os, and yeah I know I already discussed this before but things change rapidly.
My remarks on my YouTube video (and online) was that I was not feeling comfortable controlling Photoshop from a Surface pro without a keyboard because I needed certain shortcuts like sampling for example. I also found that photoshop was far from optimized for touch. Well… Adobe released a huge Photoshop update not a week later, and ….. Photoshop is now much beter with touch devices, to a point where most of my remarks can go out of the window, and trust me that’s a good thing (I’m always honest in my pieces and reviews).

 

So did my opinion change, well yes and no.
Let me start by saying that if Apple released a full touch compatible MacOsX next week I would be raving about it and it would be the best thing ever for me, however…. working with for example Capture One, FinalCutProX etc. in a touch environment…. not really amazing, try to edit for example with just a touchpad and don’t use gestures. You will very quickly find out that it’s far from perfect, and can even be downright annoying. So before everything is PERFECT there is a LOT of work that has to be done by not only Apple but also by ALL software manufacturers. Which brings us directly to the next part.

 

Apps
The nice thing about apps is that they are 100% touch based, and with the appearance of keyboards a while ago most apps (like for example iMovie) have shortcuts that speed up editing a bit. But it’s the other way around than a Full OS version, in a Full OS version taking away the keyboard makes the software very slow to operate or some functions even impossible to use, with Apps the addition of a keyboard makes the apps a bit easier and faster to operate. One might say its the same thing, but it’s not.

 

Now the Eco System for apps is HUGE with Apple so one could very easily think that there is no problem finding alternatives to create a professional workflow with apps vs full OS right? Well that is not true and I’ve hit my limit of frustration quite some times, so lets look at the options and how I at the moment use my workflow.

 

Video
This is easy, and to be honest I didn’t expect that. Video I thought would be much harder to get right with the iPad pro (iPad series) than photography, but boy was I wrong.

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With iMovie and Adobe clip you actually have two apps that work flawlessly with video, you can export to your internal video roll in 4K, there are a LOT of options like titles, adding audio, picture in picture, looks etc. It’s all not as extensive as the full blown versions but let’s say you can get 95-100% done mobile and later just export it to FCPx or Premiere and finish it off.
Video I would say I’m 100% happy with the mobile workflow and prefer it to running a full OS with just touch on the iPad pro. (Unless of course FCPx and Premiere would fully support touch, more options are always better).

 

Street and travel photography
Or just add wedding, event etc. here.
In other words the photography that is heavy on selecting, small edits, mostly adjusting cropping, exposure, looks etc.

 

For this Lightroom Mobile rocks, upload everything at home as smart previews, download everything on your mobile device, edit on the road and sync again when home…

 

And this is where the problem also lies.
Uploading to the cloud is HORRENDOUSLY slow and cumbersome. If you are blessed with fast internet you are lucky, but most hotels aren’t so planning will be VITAL if you want to be able to work on the road. But when you have… well there is not much that I don’t like about Lightroom mobile to be honest, it just works.

 

If Adobe would add a way to bypass the cloud I would say that for my street and travel photography Lightroom mobile works for 95%, and the other 5% I can do very quickly as soon as I’m home.

 

Portraits, fashion etc.
This is where my quest was a HUGE frustration.
Not because the software isn’t good, heck no, it’s because in fact there are LOADS of alternatives that would make working on the road easy, but all seem to be missing some vital parts…..

 

let’s see :
First off Adobe fix.
Great software, can edit my work very easily and store it, but… if you want to store as PSD you are actually needing the cloud, to the filmrol it’s JPG only. Also the fix functions are great but you can’t really tint your images or do other “funky stuff”.

 

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After this I decided to give Pixelmator a go.
AWESOME software, really nice, but not really great on storing again, if you want the better quality… it’s that cloud thing again. No real problem if you have a fiber internet connection but in hotels or on a plane… well I don’t have to any further right. One solution is however to save your work and when you have fast internet just sync it then, this is of course a great solution so Pixelmator is without a doubt in the running of being the best app, however there is one more….
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Our old favorite Snapseed isn’t really an option at the moment, highly limited to a low resolution it seems like Snapseed and the other apps are mostly focussed on shots you do with your iPhone, and that’s ok, let’s be honest a few weeks ago there was no real need for real professional editors because the iPad was not considered a professional tool.

 

You know that feeling that you know it should be possilbe?
Heck if Adobe would have the need I’m sure they could release a full blown Photoshop on the iPad pro, it’s fast and big enough, but for now I was left with a load of great apps that all did what they needed to do but were all missing that one real important thing…. resolution and saving in high quality PSD or TIFF internally.

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On facebook I saw the app Enlight a few times and it looked like a great photo editor, with one major drawback… in their description it’s clearly stated they only support 19MP on iPads… still I decided to just email them and much to my surprise (which is actually weird if you think about it) I got a reply from them within 24 hours stating they are supporting high mp counts on the iPad pro and will soon even release versions that will support up to 70MP (well even it turns out to be 50 I’m happy, although editing my MF shots would also be nice of course). So I decided to spend the 3.99 on the app and I was blown away.

 

This is the app I would HIGHLY recommend to ALL photographers using an iPad pro (or other). You get a load of options including a great resize tool where you can freeze certain areas and after that stretch the canvas, but you also get a huge amount of looks ranging from filmlooks to downright ridiculous artistic looks (not for me but it might attract you). There are no layers from what I can see but don’t worry you can use masks which works very well.

 

The most important thing I love about Enlight is the skin options, under clarity there is an option called portrait, run this on a model and the skin gets a very nice treatment, now use the mask to fill in on the areas you want and voila use a bit of the patch tool and you have a retouch that will fit 90% of the cases, if you want to have it perfect you will need the Mac/Pc of course, but for 90-95% of fashion work I think the end result will be more than enough, especially if you mask it nicely and know what you’re doing with the strength 😀

 

The best thing about Enlight is that it just stores the files on your film roll in TIFF. Very cool app and finally a company that responds to your questions, highly recommend this one. Don’t forget Pixelmator however, although you have to wait till your home to sync and you DO need fast internet if you need to sync 10 PSDs it’s still an awesome app.

 

Painting and drawing
With all previous tasks it’s a step back from sitting behind your desktop and working, but with drawing and painting I would say it’s the other way around, the iPad pro really knocks this one out of the ballpark, the 13” screen is amazing, the palm rejection is close to voodoo and the way the pencil works is magic….. “come on Frank really?” yeah really.

 

I love to draw and paint digitally but never picked it up on my digital devices, in fact I didn’t draw since I was 16-17. I tried, oh trust me I tried but I never found the way that felt comfortable or where I could get results that were even close to what I wanted (now I have to say I’m not a great drawing artist :D).

 

I think this is the area where the iPad pro beats the standalone solutions.
I tried drawing with my Wacom in Photoshop and always had problems with my eye hand coordination on the Intuos, and a Cintiq I found too expensive for just drawing and would stand in my way for my retouch workflow, Also in Photoshop I found certain brushes to be quick and responsive while others would lag INCREDIBLY, on the iPad pro all brushes are fast and responsive in the next series of apps.

 

Adobe Sketch
If you have a CC subscription this is free.
It works flawless, great fun to use but it’s not much more than well… a sketchbook.

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ProCreate
Oh my, this changed my life, literally.
At the moment I try to draw as much as possible in Procreate and it’s addictive as can be for the simple reason it feels 100% natural, brushes, pencils and pens all look great and the drawing experience itself is VERY nice, you can turn the paper to the orientation you like, you can zoom, erasing is a simple two finger gesture, redo a three finger gesture and there are much more gestures build in. Also very nice is to see a video after your artwork is done that shows the complete progress from start to finish.

 

Of course Procreate supports layers, opacities, blurs, blending modes etc. etc. it’s “perfect” but still looks very simple and easy to understand.

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MediBang paint
Can I say WOW again.
This looks like Photoshop on the iPad, a very very extensive app with of course layers and all their behaviors, loads of brushes (more available online, just like with Procreate), color pickers etc. but also extra additions like drawing perfect circles and other forms, adding content from online like backgrounds etc. and much much more.

 

The interface looks a bit more cluttered which I like for photo editing but to be honest I like the look the look of Procreate a lot more for drawing. However the options you get with MediBang paint are slowly drawing me more towards MediBang, if they would add the movie recording of ProCreate I would probably switch. The nice thing about MediBang is that it’s 100% free.

 

So far
Overal I’m finding my ways on the iPad pro.
The feeling is exactly as expected, it bridges the gap between being at home or in a hotel and being able to work on a “proper” workstation (MBP or MacPro) and traveling.

 

There will always be people that claim the iPad pro is a toy because it doesn’t run a full OS and I can understand this from a Windows perspective, I own a touch based windows laptop (i7 Sony with full specs and pen which I use for other applications than creative) and the app eco system for that system… well it’s there but to be honest it sucks, there are some cool apps but most are not even remotely as sophisticated or usable as the iOS apps, and thats 100% understandable (don’t get me wrong) there is no real need for apps because the laptop runs a full OS.

 

However I think this is the main reason why many surface owners are so bashing the iPad pro, and they are right in many ways, but also wrong in some. The main reason for me to go for the iPad pro above the Surface pro is not because I don’t like microsoft, I’m a modern guy and I know my hard/software so I can make everything talk to each other.

 

The main reasons are much simpler
With the iPad Pro have a device that is superior in drawing and painting which although it’s a hobby is very important for me, now I know there are people doing great art on an iPhone with their fingers, but I’m not that talented I need a very simple to use interface so I can focus on my drawing “skills” and for example Procreate delivers this, it’s 100% touch based so it feels natural, and the Apple pencil is just awesome for me.

 

Also it’s a matter of battery life, although both claim the same battery life my experience with both my Sony laptop and Surface pro is quite different. When I edit video my battery is empty in about 2 hours on the Surface Pro and my Laptop, the iPad pro however just keeps going and going. For watching movies we flew from Amsterdam to LA and both my iPad (Air) and Surface were both not 100% empty so for entertainment this is non-issue but when editing video/photos the iPad pro will just last longer and seeing the fact that not every seat on an airplane has a power connector I prefer that a lot.

 

Also it’s a matter being able to do what is needed. In the air or on the road I don’t need to FINISH something, I like to do the ground work, I need to be there 90-95% so when I’m at home it’s a simple way of syncing everything up and finishing what’s needed in 2-3 hours and be done with it. Before I worked mobile it meant that I lost 1-2 full days at home for retouching and editing video.

 

During workshops I can shoot tethered to my iPad pro with the Sony software and QDSLR dashboard, that’s all I need. During shows I can connect the iPad to a large screen TV or projector via a cable and power the iPad pro via lighting so we can shoot all day.

 

For presentations I can edit in KeyNote and control keynote on the iPad pro via my iPhone, use it as a laserpointer, draw on the screen and see my next slide and notes.

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Documents I can edit on the road via the Logitec Create keyboard (I didn’t like the Apple keyboard), which in fact almost makes the iPad Pro into a full blown laptop when combined with Numbers, Pages and Keynote (or Microsoft office).

 

Would I like more?
Yeah of course, this is not an article on how great the iPad pro is, it is what it is and for me it’s a perfect companion for travels and at home, but most of all a great creative tool thanks to the pencil.

 

I would LOVE an extra USB port for external drives or a camera, although I use the iShow fast it would be nice to also be able to shoot tethered via USB with my camera (sometimes wifi can be tricky on trade shows with much interference). The iShow fast however is a great companion for the iPad (Pro) because it makes it possible to copy files (very fast) from my Mac via USB to the iPad (Pro) via lighting, or to just store movies and watch them via the stick.

 

I always carry my laptop with me for the storage of files, bigger tasks etc. It would be great if apple would release a macbook pro without screen where you could just fit the iPad pro too and it would become a “dumb” display, where you can use all the options of a full MacOsX, maybe copy files to the internal iPad Pro storage and take it off and continue working. But till then I will just carry my whole MBP on longer trips.

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The future
I strongly believe we are just seeing a tip of the iceberg at the moment. Apple released the iPad and at first it was just a blown up iPhone I think with the Pro we are at that same point, the potential of the pro is not yet used by 99% of the apps I’m running, even Astropad claims they are still in beta.

 

With the recent release of Photoshop with a main focus on touch and GUI improvements I think/hope Adobe is making more steps into creating Photoshop based on a touch device. I don’t know how hard it is of course to port everything to iOS but seeing the fact they are already release many mobile apps the last few months/years and those apps grow in power I would not be surprised if 2016 would be the year in which we see some major improvements in Photoshop on the iPad pro and probably also Lightroom mobile.
On the other hand, I think also Apple feels the need to integrate the two worlds. They will not run MacOsX on a 100% touch device I’m afraid and I understand why, where I always got the feeling that Microsoft looked more at a standpoint from “if our software runs great we release it” Apple looks at it a bit different “EVERYTHING needs to be seamless and perfect otherwise we don’t release it” this is now clearly shown with the release of the iPad pro which many (including me) hoped to be running full MacOsX, we now have a device with loads of power and possibilities but we are depending on apps, on the other hand if these apps are created you will have a superior device to anything else. It’s a matter of something can be said for both. I for one would be able to live with a half functioning Capture One on my iPad pro running MacOSx as long as tethering worked for example but it isn’t so and that’s reality.

 

At the moment I feel very confident with the purchase of the iPad pro, it bridges the gap between travel and being at home “perfectly” and is perfect as a creative tool for creating drawings and painting.

 

Still I’m always looking at the surface pro series from Microsoft and find the recent updates to Photoshop more than interesting, but in a 100% mac environment and with the apps I use the iPad pro at the moment is the perfect addition in my workflow.

 

I hope this article gives you some ideas about apps and how I use the iPad pro at the moment.

The iPad Pro

If you don’t know by now you must be living under a rock I guess, but Apple announced their iPad Pro a while ago, and online you have read a lot of opinions, hands-on etc. some even the minute it was released, so why am I so late in the game and why do I even post this…..

 

I love gadgets, don’t get me wrong, I’m just like all of you (well ok most) when something new is released my first instinct is “WOW have to see that”, but I’m also very realistic, meaning I hardly buy something I don’t use or need. Take for example the Apple watch, when it was “leaked” I had to have it, I love sports and I love gadgets and what the Apple watch promised was amazing (did you count the amount of amazing during the keynote?) however when it was released for me personally it was a huge disappointment, of course it’s a cool watch and I love to be able to see stuff on my watch, and yeah I think it’s the future but they took out all the cool stuff for health, so I skipped the watched and got a Fitbit Surge which I love by the way. Will there be an Apple watch in my future… without a doubt but not yet, they have to add stuff I can’t do with my surge that will benefit my fitness/health/sport etc. and the Surge is pretty complete. But hey this is about the Apple iPad pro.

 

A photographers view
I love photography, you could say I’m always doing something with photography, but I also would love to be able to draw, in fact when I was younger I used to draw a lot but somehow it faded away to the background and I never also found a way to draw digitally that I liked or that triggered me to start doing it again.

 

My first opinion when the iPad pro was launched was…. “OH NO… NO MACOSX… I’m not interested”
And I think many of you thought the same thing, and the pricing…. pffffff I’m better off with my MPB or a MBP air or whatever MacBook. And so it faded away and I never thought of the iPad pro again. Till recently.

 

I do a lot of workshops on location and to be honest dragging a laptop with me, USB cables and setting everything up is pretty annoying at times, especially when you move around on a location a lot, so I was looking into ways to tether wirelessly with my Sony, the Sony remote software works flawless although there is a small bug in which the EVF stays black, but I hope they solve this soon. The other option is an Eye-Fi card which SHOULD work flawless but I can’t seem to get it to work consistently (Eye-Fi is working on my problem and sending me a new one), then we have CamRanger, works flawlessly but not for Sony (COME ON CAMRANGER), but I’m also working on a solution here with a TP-Link router (will know next week if that works), in other words shooting wirelessly will happen. And on the iPad/iPhone this is a really handy tool which works like a charm, but in the meantime we also have this working on my MBP so let’s put it this way, we probably are able to cut the cables very soon.

 

So where does the iPad pro come in.
Carrying an iPad with us is like a dream come true during workshops, but…the screen is a bit small, so the iPad pro would rock there, so that’s one point for the iPad Pro.

 

Lightroom Mobile
When Lightroom Mobile was released I was over the moon, WOW amazing (oops) awesome, the idea of working on all devices connected is a dream come true. But at first I just used it for my portfolio so slowly LrM was forgotten, until I started looking into the iPad pro, I changed my portfolio from LrM to the SmugMug app (which also supports local copies) and I started playing with LrM, totally love it, but….. uploading files can be LOOOOOONG and especially on trips I’m afraid this will be a problem, but there is always a starbucks close by or another wifi network and I think if you just by routine let the laptop upload every night it will be ok to have everything on your iPad when you travel. Because that’s the idea, but ideal it’s not (yet)

 

Now I spend sometimes hours behind a crappy desk in a hotel doing edits and selects in Lr from my street and travel photography, I don’t need anything more than Lightroom for 90% of those shots, and even worse… when there is no good desk I do it on the bed and end up with back-pains from sitting in a weird position for 1-2 hours. Imagine….. doing this on the iPad (pro) and indeed after some testing I did in the last few weeks this indeed works like a charm, I’m a bit faster on Lr on my MBP/Mac but… the speed in which you can actually edit and select is pretty cool it really works. Because you can tell LrM to edit OFFLINE you can download the whole catalogue on your device and work on it on the plane, in the bus or whatever. Having the real estate of the iPad Pro…. well point 2 for the iPad Pro.

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Video editing
We love video, and you guys love video.
And we do film a lot of stuff, but most never sees the light of day because we have more important projects and most edits could be done pretty fast, we experimented a while on the iPhone during travels and the iPad air and it worked… but to be honest on the iPad it was ok but on the iPhone it was a less than happy experience to say the least, it’s ok for small videos but a larger project no way. When I saw a small demo of what iMovie was capable off on the iPad pro I was like….. interesting and this actually triggered my interest from the iPad pro from “I’m gonna skip it” to “I’m looking into it”

 

Now I hear you ask, how do you get the videos from the iPhone or cameras into the iPad?
Well there are plenty of solutions out there that support a memory stick with both Lighting and USB so that would not be a problem, just download the material from the iPhone and upload it into the iPad (pro).

 

But iMovie? Seriously?
Well yeah, why not, and when we are done with the edits, copy the project to FinalCutProX and complete it, as long as the “flow” is there, and let’s be honest that takes the most time. But even then, for most videos like BTS etc. you could do more than enough with iMovie.

 

Entertainment
Not so much for that, of course playing angry birds or candy crush on a big screen is cool, but not worth the 1000+ you have to pay for the iPad pro, I love my iPad air way too much for that, that being said…. movies… well ok that would be nicer. Half a point of the iPad Pro.

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Drawing
This is where I was most impressed about on the iPad pro, and seriously…… Wacom watch out.
At the moment the best experience I ever had on tablets were on Wacom tablets, and trust me I tried a few and they all failed miserably, but the first Wacom I got… well I never looked back and now even travel with one. But for my retouching I don’t really need the drawing power of sensitive, angles etc. but remember I told you that I loved to draw when I was younger…. well this still is inside me, thinking about the options to draw on a tablet like the iPad pro when flying or traveling or when you have a few moments off…. for real artists probably 10 whole points for the iPad pro for me just add another half point.

 

Retouching
Now it gets more interesting for us photographers.
Ever lusted for the cintic?
Ever drooled over the companion?
Be honest…..
Be honest….
Yeah me too, but I just can’t justify the costs, but it would be incredibly handy for those composites you do and the drawing of masks etc. well enter an app called ASTROPAD which I recently found out, it promises (and as I can see delivers) the cintic killer, zoom in on you work with the gestures and edit without lag (if you use a cable) on your photoshop work. For under 50.00 (the price seems to change constantly) you’re up and running and with the normal styluses the people are already raving about it… imaging the iPad Pro pencil which works on a pixel level instead of the rude way the iPad styluses work, that would be…. well ok I say it once… amazing.

 

Let’s say 1 point again for the iPad pro (because I can also work with a Wacom for what I do, but for some people this will be another HUGE amount of points)

 

The future
Ok the iPad pro works with apps.
But is this really a bad thing……
Yeah if you want to retouch models on it.
Photoshop fix is awesome, but don’t even thing about running it from LrM because you will be working on a smart preview, in other words a smaller resolution, yeah it saves a great PSD you can fine tune in Photoshop later on (this works pretty well by the way and really wowed me) but if you want to do this you have to import TIFFs on the iPad (pro) and edit from there and then upload them to the cloud and later back on your mac.. and to be honest that won’t work for me. So retouching skin or taking stuff out of a shot not for me, I don’t believe in that until there is a full blown Ps running with plugins and that will take some time.

 

Having said that…
We all know what happens when Apple releases something, first people deny it will ever work or be a succes and slowly (sometimes very fast) people start seeing the benefits and app makers jump to the opportunity to create something cool and use the device to the max, I expect Adobe to not jump on the iPad pro but I think they will RUN to the iPad pro and I mean RUN!!! this device is so powerful and has such a great opportunity with the Pencil that Adobe would be crazy to not take full advantage of it. I think the mobile apps we see now are just the beginning of something that will maybe be a full companion to our desktop programs and interact even more with on the road and off the road.

 

Think about this.
In the studio connect the iPad pro and edit on the iPad Pro with your Pencil in Photoshop, Lightroom, Paint or whatever you use, when you disconnect all you work is synced to your iPad pro and you can work on the road, as soon as you’re back home and connect the iPad Pro again it’s synced and you can continue. The processing power is there, the accuracy of the pencil is there, Adobe has already a great suite of mobile apps…. the next step will be made, or in other words it would surprise me if they didn’t. They just have to skip the cloud action and the options are endless (well as long as you have enough storage that is)

 

This is of course as we call it “Coffee thick watching” but I think within 6 months we will see things happening on the iPad pro that will blow your mind, or at least help your creativity.

 

The competition
I hear you say “Frank nice and Apple fanboyish, but what about the Microsoft Surface pro?”
Well I will tell you even better, did you see their new Surface book… talk about a machine WOW, can’t wait to get my hands on one of those to be honest, that looks like the perfect machine for any photographer/retoucher out there, a super powerful machine with full versions of Capture One, Photoshop, Premiere etc. USB ports for tethering, wifi etc. And when you want to use it as a tablet you just take it off and you work with it, and it also supports a pen. to be honest I was thinking about getting one and leaving my MacBook and iPad pro when traveling… but I also read some reviews, the trackpad is not as good as the MBP and be honest you work with the trackpad a lot, the pen is not as good as the iPad pro, and that’s where a lot of creative people will probably leave, if you see their keynote they do indeed focus A LOT on office and not on drawing or painting.

 

That being said, for ME personally the Surfacebook would be more than I need for my workflow, and 3100.00 well ok it’s a LOT of money but it could replace my MacBookPro and the iPad pro so in the end it’s cheaper, so why not buy that one?

 

Well I’m “afraid” that within a few months when the iPad pro is out I will regret it, but I will try to get my hands on a Surfacebook and test it (let’s hope Microsoft is willing to lend me one), I did LOVE their surface pro tablets and even used one for a while but I switched back to the mac because of the interaction between my devices which was a bit more smooth when I used all mac devices but things have changed. So I’m open for that.

 

Final thoughts and notes
As you can see this is more a notepad to myself, which hopefully also helps some of you guys out there, to decide of the iPad pro is for you. For me at the moment there are a lot of plusses to the iPad pro, the size is very nice for the workshops on location (if we get Wifi tethering working it will be a sure buy) but could be a problem during travel in the airplane (will it fit in the little net in front of you), entertainment on the road is cool but not necessary this big, but having the option to do quick video editing in downtime, don’t have to sit on the bed or behind a crappy desk in a hotel but just work with touch while being comfortably on the bed or seat also adds A LOT. Also the prospect of what could be possible is very intriguing and because it’s an Apple product I’m willing to risk it.
Adding everything together I’m still on the point of Yes/No, although the Yes will probably win, but I’m also looking at the Microsoft Surfacebook although the idea of using one machine with Windows and everything else with MacOs also scares me seeing the experiences in the past. And because I also want to be able to draw a bit more I don’t know if that would be the best choice.

 

The final thing that I have to add is the addition of the Apple Sim.
We travel around a “bit” and we now have 2 mifi devices, one for europe and one for the USA.
In Europe we hardly have any problems, go to the first local shop and get a simcard plug it in and voila internet, and pretty cheap too. In the USA it’s a huge problem, we have a Verizon Mifi and to our “horror” nobody could help us to get it working again, we had to go to a Verizon head office store, and the closest was 10 miles and it was closed that day, so we ended up forgetting about it and just hopped acces points that week. With the Apple sim the moment you land you can buy an Internet package, pricing is ok but a bit steep, on the other hand if we calculate the loss of half a day to get a mifi working in the states well… it could pay back itself. However in Europe everything is about to change, in about 1-2 years there are no more roaming costs, meaning we can use our own bundle also in other countries, meaning the Apple sim would be useless.

 

The iPad pro promised a lot, it’s bound by apps.
At the moment the main things I want to do I can do much easier on the iPad pro than on the iPad or MBP while traveling, and some new options have opened up which draws me more and more towards the iPad pro. Let’s see what happens and I wonder what your opinions are?
Feel free to post them below.