The Final word

For photographers looking to replace a laptop on location, the biggest current annoyance is the requirement to import to the Photos app first, as noted earlier. A few other items come to mind that introduce hiccups, but not deal-breakers, to using the iPad Pro for photography.

If you’re managing a library using the Photos app, there’s a frustrating lack of access to metadata. You need to turn to other apps for even basic shot information. And while it’s easy to say, “switch to Lightroom or another app,” the fact that Photos is the entry point for images means a lot of photographers are using it for at least part of their libraries. One current workaround is to install the app Exify, which delivers all the metadata you’d want for images.

From a hardware perspective, the power is definitely there

Aside from the 1 TB configurations, storage remains an issue—not just how much can be stored on the iPad Pro, but how the files get there. For now, importing to Photos or syncing via the cloud are the only options, which have their limitations (Lightroom, for instance, is quite limited if there’s no active Internet connection). It will be nice in iPadOS 13 to access image files from external drives, and also make backups that don’t involve devices that create their own Wi-Fi hotspots to establish a connection to the iPad Pro.

Viewing metadata using the app Exify.

I would also like to see proper tethering come to the iPad Pro. So far, this hasn’t been a big request because it hasn’t seemed feasible for the reasons just stated, but the pieces are moving into place to tether a camera directly to an iPad Pro. You can wirelessly tether a camera in a variety of ways now, but not through a speedy direct wired connection, and some apps will transfer only JPEGs, not raw files. Granted, most environments where you’d be shooting tethered are studios, where it’s not an issue to set up a connected laptop or desktop, but a camera tethered to an iPad Pro during a location portrait session would be lightweight and useful. Apple opening developer access to the USB-C port in iPadOS 13 and beyond should make it possible for apps to accept photos from a tethered camera.

The final word

Apple is making the pitch that that iPad Pro is now a legitimate replacement for a laptop. But does that apply to photographers? Whenever this question comes up, regardless of who is asking, it all depends on what you need the device to do. From a hardware perspective, the power is definitely there—it’s great to not think about whether the iPad can handle a particular task. On the software side, I’m looking forward more than ever to what’s coming next. While the current software can do a lot, existing limitations, such as the winding pipeline to move images from camera to editing applications, are still holding the platform back. But the improvements in iPadOS 13, provided they arrive as previewed so far, will make a big difference.

Pros

  • Fast processor and graphics capabilities
  • Smaller bezel and no home button make for large screens in smaller enclosures
  • USB-C opens up lots of connectivity options
  • Internal storage up to 1 TB
  • Apple Pencil 2 attaches, pairs, and charges magnetically
  • Upcoming iPadOS 13 promises features photographers have waited years for

Cons

  • Currently, images can be imported only to the Photos app
  • No ability yet to access external storage via USB-C
  • Photo software still feels like it's catching up to hardware