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First few days with the iPad Pro

Seeing the amount of responses we get on our iPad pro overviews I thought it would be nice to dedicate todays blogpost to the iPad pro in my way. So don’t expect to see a list of accessories, specs etc. you can find in many locations online (calling it reviews) but expect a real honest, in the field way of review where I tell you what I PERSONALLY think about the iPad pro, it’s bad and good things.

 

Let me start off by telling you I’m not an Apple fanboy, somehow I always feel the need to post this because (and I don’t know why) there is a certain group of people that will always try to bash Apple products on price or limitations they feel are important, so let’s start with those points.

 

Price
As far as I know most photographers and videographers are not sponsored by Apple, meaning we all pay full price for the products (if not please let me know, I would love to save money). So let’s look at pricing. Yes Apple is not cheap, but in all honesty in most cases I always get great resale value and the speed in which I sell my old gear is always impressive, although I have to say that selling my iPhone 6 plus took almost a week (compared to the 2 days of my other iPhones was a shock and almost had me worried). On the other hand what you get is pretty impressive, the products are beautifully designed and let’s be honest the OS is just very good, iOS is 100% touch and works like a charm and OSx is stable and also works pretty well (although the last few years first releases can be buggy in some departments).

 

The iPad pro is expensive without a doubt, but not that much more than a fully spec’d iPad Air2 with WiFi/LTD and 128GB and do remember it’s not just a bigger iPad…..

 

It’s just a bigger iPad
Well if you see it like this, than the iPad pro is without a doubt not for you, actually you should stay clear from it. The iPad air for surfing, mail, games, entertainment etc. has the perfect size, both Annewiek and me have travelled with iPads for years and they literally changed long flights from boring as hell to manageable and entertaining.

 

A lot of reviews state the obvious, “Candycrush will look great”, “Email is even better” yeah sure…. why do you need a bigger tablet if you only do that? I don’t see the profit in that, the iPad pro is bigger to carry around, it doesn’t fit most bags where the iPads fit in nice and snuggly, it will fit in the airplane seat nets, but not as easy as the Air, let’s be clear… the iPad air is the perfect travel companion and nobody would ever NEED anything more.

 

So we have the consumers that want to shine and show off with Candy crush and bigger E-mail and sacrifice in portability for this, and we have that other group, and that’s the group I belong to.

 

It’s an iPad pro
As a photographer and instructor I’m always busy, heck I’m happy if I have a day off to be honest, most people know me to be online a lot (answering your questions, posting updates etc) and most of this I do with my iPhone 6s Plus, love the bigger screen and better camera and I always use the iPhone actually instead of my iPad Air2 because it’s just easier, faster and smaller and it fits my pocket. Plus a lot of social media apps run on my iPhone and not on my iPad plus when I shoot an image and edit it in Snapseed or Lr mobile etc. it’s easier to upload and edit is straight from my phone than first “beam” it to my iPad to edit, “beam” back to send, it just doesn’t make any sense. In fact one could say that I use my iPad air2 for remote controlling our Home Theater with iRule, watching movies while traveling, watching TV via a dream box in the RV and do some other stuff when I don’t want to drag my laptop with me but will be surfing for a longer time. In fact I never ever typed a document on it. So when the iPad pro was released I was not willing to spend money on it, but things change.

 

When we shoot in the studio or on location with models I have a certain workflow that is almost routine, RAW developing in Capture One, open in Photoshop do the skin and tinting, save, sync into Lightroom (where my images life). But on the road my workflow is dramatically different. We shoot during the day and at night I download everything into Lightroom, do the edits in Lightroom or DxO optics and do my tinting in Lr or DxO and… well done.

 

So I’ve been experimenting a lot with Lr mobile and was very happy with the workflow because it saves me a lot of work when I arrive back home, now all my images are done, but most of all I like the fact I could now do it in bed (hotel desks are often not really comfy) or on the plane or while Annewiek is driving the RV, but on the iPad air2 Lr mobile already works pretty well, so no real reason to switch to the iPad pro.

 

We also film a lot during travels, Annewiek shoots 4K material and that is edited in FCPx on her laptop and I shoot some material on my iPhone which…. well is never edited, although the material is sometimes rather interesting, funny or just cool but when we arrive home I just don’t have the energy or need to go through this material and editing on the iPhone is ok but not a pleasant experience, on the iPad air2 it works a lot better but somehow I never really took the effort to do it. So where am I going with this….because as it looks now I never really used my iPad for serious work.

 

Unknown

The Apple pencil
When I saw the iPad pro my first response was (as many of you) a bigger iPad but without MacOsX, that’s a shame….
BUT when I saw the Apple pencil my mind went into overdrive… this is it.
But it took some time before I was convinced, actually to be honest it took me till a few days ago before I knew 100% sure I was going to buy the iPad pro, so what changed my opinion.

 

Why don’t I use video editing on my iPad air?
Well it works fine, but the screen is a bit small and crowded, plus the whole finger thing to change clips… well it’s not very pleasant and fast, so enter the Apple pencil with 1 pixel resolution… that would be a lot better. For a while I used a Microsoft Surface pro and I was very impressed at how easy a well designed stylus (sorry pencil) worked in certain software, the reason I don’t use the Surface pro anymore was purely that we experienced some serious issues with shooting tethered during trade shows, USB ports were failing on me and sometimes a reboot helped sometimes not and my MBP always worked so I sacrificed the tablet experience (which I LOVED) for my MBP again, you saw that little line…. “the tablet experience I loved” because let’s make one thing clear working with the Surface pro was AWESOME, shooting tethered on location into a tablet instead of a laptop is great, and walking up stage with just a tablet to connect… awesome… but there were just too many problems, everyone has a mac so if you had the bad luck a projector wouldn’t sync with Apple there was always someone who knew, but with the Surface… well people just said “Yeah it’s windows, a Mac works” (thank you not very much), also as an OSx user I couldn’t really get used to the way the touch but not 100% touch OS worked, because although it’s a touch tablet the experience is not 100% touch, I know it sounds weird but in many instances I really wanted a keyboard or mouse under windows 8. But anyway I’m rambling let’s get back on track.

 

Sometimes there is this moment when everything just falls together, the moment it clicks (sorry Joe).
What if…..
I could get wireless tethered working and shoot wireless into the iPad Pro during workshops.
What if I use a lighting to HDMI convertor to connect the iPad pro to the big screen TV.
What if I use keynote on the iPad pro and control this with my iPhone.
What if I can transfer large files from iPhone to iPad or MBP to iPad without using the always flaky Airdrop (for me it never really works).
What if… and the list was pretty long and I started to work.

 

First shooting tethered, after a lot of experiments we solved this. Of course if you’re using Canon or Nikon you’re in luck with CamRanger and if you’re using ANY Sony A-E mount camera with wifi you’re in luck with Smart remote… unless you’re using their flagship the A7RII (the EVF stays black) until they fix this I solved the problem with a loop on my LCD, and to my surprise it works like a charm, although the EVF is sharper but it works. I’m using play memories and QDSLR dashboard as receiver software.

 

Connecting to a big screen is no problem at all, Apple sells these convertors, and you can even charge at the same time because it has a lighting adaptor inside the convertor.

 

Keynote can indeed be running on the iPad pro and controlled by my iPhone (love this), so now I can draw on the screen, see what I’m doing, using a laser pointer and walk around on stage and see the next slide and notes (which I never use but hey that’s me :D).

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Transferring large files was possible with some sticks on the market with both USB and Lighting but these were very slow, so that was out. Until I found a new product online that promises to give MUCH more speed and works flawless with both iPhones and iPads (pros) and MBP, USB3 speed and lighting adaptor inside. See https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ishowfast-world-s-fastest-iphone-ipad-flash-drive#/ I’m waiting for delivery so I can’t tell you anything about it, but according to some “pre-release” reviews it’s indeed very fast.

 

So most of the problems and wishes I had were solved, and I was more and more looking towards buying the iPad pro and I was lucky to able to just walk into a store on the day of the release and get the 128GB space gray LTD version, so how do I like it?

 

create

Is it a notebook?
This is the first thing my parents asked when I showed them my brand new iPad in it’s Logitech create cover with keyboard.
“No… well a little bit” was my answer (obviously in Dutch).

 

If you don’t know about the logitech Create cover make sure to check it out, it really is one marvelous piece of kit. In essence it’s a backlit keyboard stand that also has some cool features like controlling the sound, light on the iPad pro and keyboard itself, audio, short cuts, home, some double tap things and more, it does however makes the beautiful iPad Pro into a bulky almost MBP look a like. But to get some serious work done where you need to type it’s great.

 

With Pages, numbers and keynote you really have the idea you’re working on a notebook, although you have to switch a lot between the keyboard and the screen, this sounds like a “no deal” but bare with me… I was working this way for an hour and Annewiek asked me something and it struck me as surprising I was trying to use her screen as a touch display……. yeah weird right. So I think that a lot of people who are screaming their lungs out that it will NEVER be a laptop replacement are dead wrong…. but not yet.

 

At the moment the experience is weird, not because it’s not working as advertised, but maybe because it’s working as advertised. Let’s take for example mail. When you are in Mail you can of course type, copy/paste with shortcuts, you can even delete mails by pressing delete on the keyboard…. but…. you can move up and down with the cursor keys, you need your finger for this. Now this could be my age of course or my long time use of mouse/trackpad and keyboard but it just doesn’t feel right, IF they would have added the cursor use I think I would have said that for mail this is a FULL laptop replacement.

 

I also hear some people about why Apple didn’t include a trackpad in the keyboards, and I’m glad they didn’t.
I love my MBP but on the plane I can’t use it because… well it’s too tight and we fly Economy or Economy comfort, however the iPad pro with the much less deep keyboard will be no problem at all, and I would have rather have the space than some form of “ok trackpad”.

 

In all honesty I think it’s a matter of getting used to the interface, we are now used to doing 100% on a keyboard and trackpad/mouse and nothing on the screen of our desktops and when we look back it was also very weird to start using a mouse and a lot of people were actually still using the cursor keys in a lot of early “windows like” software and sometimes grabbed the mouse, I think we are at the start of another revolution in which we have to get used to doing 90% on the screen with gestures and touch and only grab the keyboard when we need to type something, talking about this by the way… the new software keyboard of the iPad Pro is awesome and saves a lot of time switching between modes so for smaller things like emails this will do just fine.

 

If you take this into account I think that for 99% of the people the iPad pro indeed can be a full laptop replacement, because let’s be honest what do you really do on your laptop? You work with Excell, word, powerpoint, mail, surf and watch a movie right? I don’t see a lot of people running autocad or full blown photoshop with a wacom tablet on airports or in busses, most work is the more “basic” stuff. This week we switched from using Office to iWorks in our studio and I must say that’s its a delight, the interfaces are less cluttered, having all the documents in iCloud is handy and keynote just works better than Powerpoint for me, and being able to control it with your iPhone is a big added bonus for me.

 

Get to the point Frank
Yes I’m getting there, and exactly to the point actually.
The Apple Pencil.
I tried some styluses on the iPad Air and never really liked them, of course I didn’t try them all but it just didn’t feel right. The Surface pro actually changed this for me, I loved the way the Wacom pen reacted but as mentioned before I didn’t like the OS and felt it was too much of a mix to be comfortable for me personally.

 

Adding the Apple pencil in the mix made me wanting to run out and get the iPad pro.
I always loved to draw but haven’t done it anymore since childhood, I hope the iPad pro can trigger this again in me because when I played with the Apple pencil it really felt so much better than anything I tried before (including the Wacom series), but that’s not all. In the app store you can find an app called Astropad which in essence promises to replace the wacom you use now for a much better experience, now I’ve looked at the Wacom cintiq but never bought one, same with the companion. It all looked awesome but…. it didn’t fit my workflow or the battery time was too limited, seeing the iPad pro with the Apple pencil being used as an alternative Wacom really was the drop I needed.

 

For me the iPad pro buy decision was made based solely on the Apple pencil, IF they would have not sold this I would have NEVER switched from my Air2 to the Pro for the simple reason…. it’s just a bigger iPad. Now that I did I’m seeing other options. So after this long introduction a very short overview of my first experiences with.

 

Working as a laptop
When traveling I’m always switching like crazy between things I like to do, my attention span on airplanes is 45 minutes max so watching a movie is not really an option, I don’t know why but I just can’t concentrate much longer than 45 minutes. So with the iPad pro I can of course watch a movie but also work on a new blogpost in Pages, fine tune my presentations in Keynote etc. etc. I’ve worked with the Create and Pages and have to say that it’s a great experience and I really see me using this over my MPB, unless I have them both with me, the MBP is just a bit easier and faster for longer texts, but… this can change when I’m used to the touch screen and maybe I will even prefer working on the iPad pro, but remember this is HIGHLY depending on the keyboard you use and the create from Logitech I can HIGHLY recommend.

 

Surfing
What can I say. It’s cool, it’s better than on my Mac at home and MPB.
In portrait mode it’s like reading a magazine, bright and RAZOR sharp with popping colors (but still pretty natural) and the touch interface in safari is refined as can be and a really good experience, again I prefer this above any other way of surfing.

 

Video editing
I still have to wait for the Apple pencil but what I’ve done so far with iMovie and Adobe clip has been delightful. Here are two of the videos I created with iMovie and Clip (about the software itself).

 

Someone commented that I must be crazy to prefer this edit method and it was nothing like real editing, well my answer was very simple. “what do you want more?” both iMovie and Clip do all the basic edits, you can create looks for your video (actually it’s faster than on my MacPro which has to render the looks and don’t ask me how the iPad pro does but it’s almost instant), you can change audio, add tracks, change clips etc. etc. and even use titles, picture in picture etc. Of course FCPx and Premiere has WAY more options, but…. both iMovie and Adobe clip have the option to transfer your work to their host programs and finish it off there…. what more DO you want?  This saves so much work, on the road you edit the clips in your spare time (heck even on the restroom, depending on time of course) and you can share straight to YouTube or Vimeo if you’re satisfied, or you can save it and finish the “ground work” at home in less time that before.

 

Lightroom mobile
As with the iPad air2 it works great, I just wish Adobe would make an extra option possible, transferring smart previews via USB, let’s be honest even with a fairly normal internet connection transferring files takes “forever” add to this the “great/not” speed in hotels or databundels via roaming and Adobe actually shoots itself in the foot with forcing a cloud sync, don’t get me wrong I LOVE Adobe and consider many of them as personal friends, but I never understood why with a program that is meant to be used on the road they rely so heavily on internet which in reality is almost non existent in most hotels, Email will do, facebook will do but syncing a gig of data…. yeah.
Till they solve this (if ever) I’m just leaving my MBP in the hotel and uploading the files while we are out, and hope that it’s done when we are back in and connect the iPad pro to download for offline editing during the nighttime, if I keep this up every day I’m sure I have all shots with me to select and edit while traveling back, and this would be a blessing because I wouldn’t feel the need to edit everything at night on my laptop because I know when I’m home I don’t have the time.

 

Magazines
I love magazines on the iPad but it was always a bit too small for me, reading was ok but I found myself often just zooming in a little bit, with the Pro… gorgeous and I mean WOW

 

Sound
Don’t ask me why it’s important because I don’t have a clue but the sound is LOUD and I really mean LOUD, and it’s pretty good too. For watching a movie in the hotelroom or RV this will rock but I honestly think some people give too much credit to this point, mostly I use my iPad with headphones or silent.
Speed
Good grieves this thing is blazingly fast.
Editing, rendering and even switching between apps is amazing, and candy crush… don’t even start.
Without kidding it’s indeed VERY snappy and rendering 4K video, scrubbing and zooming is smooth as can be.

 

Portfolio shows
Can I be short…. awesome.
I use the smugmug app with offline images and it’s an experience, clients love it and the responses are nothing short of “breathtaking” and I hope they also mean the shots.

 

Apple Pencil
Only played with it briefly in the store, I think it’s ridiculous they don’t have enough in stock, I have to wait 7 days and I see now they are actually pushing this forwards if you order now to almost a month, as mentioned before for me the iPad pro IS the Apple Pencil and if it would have worked on the iPad air2 there would have been even a slight chance I would have just bought the Pencil. Apple should have made sure that the supply is at least 1:1 because besides the consumer that wants a bigger candy crush experience I don’t see why you should invest in a bigger iPad without making use of the pencil.

 

Some bad things (because we have to have those too)
Design is gorgeous with Apple and I love my MacPro but…. I never am able to use an iPhone without a case for the simple reason I’m afraid it will slip out of my hands, same with the iPad pro, it’s slippery as can be, you can’t balance this nicely on your lap without it moving/sliding around. I really do get that design is important, but I feel that with devices you handheld it’s more important to have a surface that’s sticky than something that looks sleek and is ALWAYS covered with a case so you never see it anyway.

 

As mentioned before the keyboard integration is awesome BUT misses some small things like cursor keys that would be nice to be functional in for example mail.

 

Price we can argue about for ages but I think everything is worth what you use it for and how much it speeds up your workflow and gives you new creative options and I feel the iPad pro does everything I want, and yeah I know I have to finish off some projects when I’m home and I will not use it for my model photography YET, but I can live with that, in fact it will save me so much backpains and time that I’m more than willing to shelve over the dough to get it.

 

A double edged 4G sword
We opted for the 4G version and I didn’t talk about that yet because I feel it’s awesome but I also feel I’m being ripped off.
The Apple sim is an awesome idea, travel, arrive, internet. The 4G network in most countries is blazingly fast and vaporizes most hotel internet connections.

For years we have been traveling with a MiFi where we simply visit a store, get a pre-paid card, put it in the MiFi and we have fast internet wherever we go, we actually have 2 (one for the USA with Verizon and one for Europe). But… sometimes it’s easy to get a sim like in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Germany etc. but sometimes you also have to look REALLY hard, we found out that especially in the states it’s a disaster, we tried to activate our Verzizon device and were send away from every store, we had to find a main office store from Verizon and… well they were not close by so we ended up with just hopping hotspots that week, also the price for 1GB of internet was ridiculously expensive.

 

Enter the Apple sim, you land, you connect to a provider of your choice and no more looking for simcards or getting a card that doesn’t work or where you have the first call with your phone to activate the card (try to get a normal sim in an iPhone). Sound awesome, but it’s not all happy internet camping.

 

The pricing of the Apple sim provider GigSky is not cheap, on average you pay $50.00 for 1-3GB of data, compared to what we pay in Denmark or the UK for data this is PRETTY steep, I believe the last time we had 6GB of data for EU60.00 in the UK. Also when you check online you can use the Sim in the Netherlands (they even rate pricing) but when checking on the iPad pro it states I can’t use it in the Netherlands, but Belgium and Germany do work, maybe a bug. However we still opted for this option for the simple reason that we are loosing a lot of valuable time by looking for a simcard in some cases, so we decided to check on arrival when doing groceries and if we don’t find anything we pay the premium and just forget about it, because in all honestly loosing half a day of time is also very expensive when traveling so that 25.00 euro more you pay might actually be worth it.

 

Conclusion
If you’re still reading I must be doing something right because I think this is the longest blogpost I ever wrote.
In conclusion I love my iPad Pro for the following reasons

 

  • I do feel it’s not worth it’s money without the Apple Pencil
  • with a keyboard it’s a perfect alternative for a laptop unless you do hardcore video editing and you need full blown photoshop on the road (again who does), the interface will be something you have to get used to.
  • The iOS apps are already worthy work tools and it can only get better
  • for creatives this is a dream come true
  • Working on full blown photoshop is possible with astropad, see it as remote controlling your mac (have to test this when the pen is in)
  • screen is gorgous
  • it’s very fast
  • Shooting tethered to the iPad gives the students a bigger screen to watch and me less cables and carrying around stuff
  • it just saves a LOT of work because the groundwork can be done on the road

 

Thanks so very much for reading and one final remark.
If you’re planning on posting that the surface pro book is a better alternative because it runs full windows I have two remarks for you.

 

  1. Yes it does, but I (and most people) don’t need a full blown windows for the simple reasons what you have to do in the field can be done with the iOS apps as soon as you realize it’s ground work, and to be honest it’s about the same thing I do with my MBP most of the times I also finish my work as soon as I’m home and use my MBP to “start” the work.
  2. It’s not an Apple product… in other words I’m used to certain apps which I use and my while workflow is Apple based, when I used the surface pro I loved the product but the integration with Apple was ok but not stunning, when you use office it’s workable but with iWorks the experience is of a totally different level, plus we use a lot of notes and other small things that are inside the Apple workflow.

 

In the end there is always something better and especially something better is coming next year, for now I think working with the iPad pro is a revolution in terms of getting used to the touch screen as main device and keyboard just when you really need it, when you get over this it can be a 100% replacement of 99% of the laptops out there, and overall…. did I already tell you how amazing candy crush looks?