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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.

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.

 

First series edited on the iPad Pro

When new devices appear it’s always a challenge to find a way to use them just as easy/fast as your known devices.
Normally all my editing is done on my Mac with a mix of Capture One, Photoshop, Lightroom and plugins like DxO filmpack, MacPhun and Alien skin, this is the workflow I know by heart and I can work very fast and accurate with these tools.
One of the challenges I set myself to see how far I could go with editing on my iPad Pro.

 

Let me make one thing clear first of all…
YES I know about the surface pro from Microsoft, so please refrain from all the comments about “wasted money”, “get a surface pro” etc. I choose the iPad pro for other reasons and editing Photos is just something I ALSO do on it, but most of all it’s used for video editing, drawing and consuming media in which the iPad pro in my opinion is a superior device.

 

That being said…. it was pretty hard to get something that worked for my modelphotography workflow 😀
The biggest problem is not the software/apps, but the support for high res images, however with the last updates of Enlight and Pixelmator I was ready to test it, both now support 50MP+.

 

Let me start by saying that working on the iPad pro within both Pixelmator and Enlight is amazingly simple and powerful. The skin retouching process is awesome via Enlight and also the tinting is very useful via Englight. Still I preferred some of the looks of Pixelmator but for skin without a doubt Enlight wins.

 

Getting the images on the iPad pro is no problem, you can use airdrop or a stick like the iFast (USB/Lighting).
I used Capture One for developing the RAWs into 16bits TIFF files which openend on the iPad pro, however some images didn’t want to be copied, I still haven’t figured out what’s going on but when I switched to 8bits TIFF on these images they opened flawlessly. This is without a doubt something they have to look into…. on the other hand…. the final images are stored as 8 bits TIFF so to be honest I’m afraid it’s doesn’t really matter and I would even advise to just develop as 8 bits TIFF.

 

As soon as the images are on the iPad pro the editing, sharing and storing is very easy and the workflow is actually quite fast. Considering this is just the start of everything I have HIGH expectations for the iPad pro. At the moment it’s more than capable of delivering high-end results but it can’t beat the Mac/PC for storing in 16bits TIFF prophoto RGB, however one should also ask him/herself if this is really necessary for everything… Personally I always store my files in 16bits but 8bits TIFF is certainly not bad, but it does make the iPad pro in my opinion not a professional editing tool YET… that being said, when I’m traveling and need to retouch some images I took on trade shows or workshops I will without a doubt not hesitate to do it on the iPad pro and save me a LOT of time when I’m home.

 

The biggest problem that have to be solved is :
* Colormanagement, now most images are stored back as sRGB
* 16 bits support for TIFF

 

I however think this will be very well possible (although I’m not sure about it, I’m not an iPad developer).
App wise I think both Enlight and Pixelmator are very good editors with Enlight having a really good skin filter and “layer” support (not really layers but a tool to paint the effect in and out, something Pixelmator doesn’t have (but needs). Add a really good app for tinting and I could actually do everything I need on the iPad pro. For the moment I can label the iPad pro for THIS kind of Photography retouching only adequate to save time when traveling but not a professional device… now before the Surface pro people jump up and down from joy :D….. this is a HIGHLY specialized workflow, if you just retouch some images the iPad pro will rock your world, the touch interface and Apple Pencil is incredibly much smoother and better than just running Photoshop/Lightroom on a device that has touch. And this is clearly seen when drawing for example, where Photoshop brushes often lag, Procreate for example never lags and is incredibly fast and smooth.

 

As mentioned in another blogpost already for video I also label the iPad pro as highly usable for a professional workflow, you sometimes do have to finish the product on a Mac/PC but let’s say you can get 100% with 90% of the videos. For street and travel photography I use Lightroom Mobile by the way which is an AWESOME way to work (if you have fast internet), I’ll give some attention to this combination in a later blog post or video. And for drawing I never saw something that works faster and smoother.

 

Here are some of the results from the workshop with Ingrid, all edited on the iPad pro with Enlight and Pixelmator.
Even the logo’s and resizing are done on the iPad Pro.

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (1 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (2 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (3 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (4 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (5 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (6 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (7 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (8 of 9)

Ingird Januari 16 2016 (9 of 9)

Ingrid Januari 16 2016 1247

 

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.

enlight-photo-editing-app

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.

Procreate-made-for-artists

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.

about-mpiPad

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.

create
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.

iShowFast-Hero-square

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.