Don’t get us wrong — we love our MacBook Pro — but with airline restrictions on laptops increasingly a concern, an alternative that attracts less scrutiny, weighs about 75 percent less than a 15-inch MacBook Pro and yet still offers the essential connectivity and productivity features we need when traveling is compelling.
The latest Apple iPad Pro models released this year included several technology upgrades from earlier models, and we’ve had the opportunity to use the 10.5-inch model both at home and in the field. We also spoke with pro photographer Austin Mann, who relies on the iPad Pro extensively, to get his perspective on the device as an alternative to traditional computers in professional use. For Mann, the experience of working with his photos on the iPad Pro is a “closer, more intimate mindset. I’m not at a desk, I’m lounging,” Mann told us. Though he still uses a computer for some aspects of his workflow, particularly for managing his photo archives and long-term storage with external drives, for his day-to-day review and processing of his photos, he’s increasingly relying on his iPad.
In our experience, we tend to agree. The Apple 10.5-inch iPad Pro is an excellent balance of size and functionality, especially if you use Apple services like iCloud Drive and iCloud Photo Library, though several of its best features don’t require these services. One of our favorites is the ability to import images after capture for an instant backup of our photos, then view them on the large display, work with them in the Apple Photos app, and share them on social media. If your camera uses SD media, you can use Apple’s Lightning to SD Card Camera Reader to import your photos, or if your camera uses CompactFlash or newer media like XQD or CFast, you can use the Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter to connect to your camera’s USB port. If you do use iCloud Photo Library, you’ll get a cloud backup of your new photos automatically the next time you’re connected to the internet; if you don’t, you’ll still have the files on the iPad itself, which is available in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB capacities, with WiFi and WiFi+Cellular connectivity options.
One of the key distinguishing features of the iPad Pro line is compatibility with Apple Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. The Smart Keyboard is a must-have accessory. As good as on-screen keyboards have become, if you regularly do even a moderate amount of typing and you’re considering the iPad as a laptop alternative for travel, this keyboard is indispensable. Plus, it doubles as stand and as a protective screen cover. Apple Pencil is obviously a killer accessory for artists who want to use the iPad as their canvas, but it can also be used for navigating apps and menus.
Speaking of apps, in our opinion, the Apple Photos app gets less credit than it deserves among enthusiasts and pros. It’s understandable to an extent—those of us who used Apple’s pro-level Aperture were rightly disappointed when it was abruptly discontinued and replaced with the more consumer-oriented Photos. That said, Apple Photos on iPad offers a great user experience for reviewing, basic processing and sharing. It supports RAW files, and while the basic Color, Light and B&W sliders do a decent job of quickly enhancing images, you have the option of digging into more granular adjustments for each. When you’re back at home, you can always export the original, unmodified RAW files for processing in your preferred software. You can also import images from Apple Photos to Lightroom for iOS if you use an Adobe Creative Cloud-based workflow.
When you’re reviewing and processing your photos, the 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s display is really bright and beautiful. It uses the P3 color gamut used in digital cinema, which offers an approximately 25 percent greater color range compared to sRGB. The display also incorporates what Apple calls True Tone technology, which automatically adapts the color and intensity of the display’s output based on the ambient light in your surroundings for improved viewing.
We agree with Mann that the iPad Pro offers a more intimate experience with your photos than working on a traditional computer. Though it’s not a complete solution for professional and advanced enthusiast workflows, its size, weight and capabilities make it an excellent companion in the field, when you want to travel light or for working with your photos from the comfort of your favorite armchair. List price: From $649. Contact: Apple, apple.com.