There was simply amazing light this morning as I dragged myself to work. I couldn't really stop to make a "proper" photograph, but I did manage this with my iPhone 5, using the standard camera. Once at the office, I quickly pulled the image up on the iPad Mini for some quick adjustments -- a little sharpening in Pixelmator, and then some exposure adjustment in the stock Photos app. And here it is.
A good while back, I made a post about my "Fit Kit." It referred to an ultra-portable, photos-on-the-go-fits-in-a-tiny-bag-goes-anywhere photo kit capable of excellent quality capture and image editing. The kit initially consisted of my Fujifilm X10 camera, Fujifilm X-20 flash, iPhone 5, and an Eye-Fi X2 Pro SDHC/WiFi card.
Since I wrote about the original kit, a couple of things have changed. One, I purchased an iPad Mini, which replaces the iPhone 5 for image editing on-the-go. And two, Apple have updated iOS a couple of times, and have greatly improved synchronization across devices through their new-ish implementation of iCloud and Photostream. With iOS 8, the Photos app has been given powerful image editing tools that even allow fairly sophisticated raw conversion with supported cameras. These upgrades have made it easier than ever to shoot, edit, and upload from anywhere at almost any time.
For instance, I made the image at left this morning in my kitchen. In only a couple of minutes -- total time -- I shot the image with the X10. By the time I set the camera down on the table, the image was ready and waiting for editing on the iPad Mini. I made appropriate adjustments in the iOS 8 Photos app, and clicked done. By the time I turned the camera off and turned to my laptop to write this post (I'm still looking for the ultimate in blog posting apps for iOS), the image was in my Photostream, ready to insert into the post, or upload to my favorite social media or photo sharing sites. If I weren't planning on using the image for a blog post, and just wanted to add it to my Flickr stream, I could have done that directly from Photos.
I see this kind of connected workflow as the future of photography. More and more, camera manufactures are including WiFi functionality built right into cameras at all levels, and the communication and control apps are becoming incredibly sophisticated. This allows photographers to work in a "wireless tethered" mode that facilitates shooting and almost immediately viewing images on a large screen without being encumbered by a USB cable.
While none of my current cameras have WiFi built in, the Eye-Fi X2 (or Eye-Fi Mobi) can add minimal wireless tethering to almost any camera, and they work well with all of the non-WiFi Fujis. They can't add remote control or real-time viewing, but they do allow fairly efficient transfer of images without the need of a time-consuming "import" step. The Eye-Fi cards also play well with Lightroom on a desktop or laptop.
I've had less success with Lightroom Mobile. While Adobe has made a couple of updates to the app, it remains cumbersome and slow. While I was initially excited about the future prospects of the app, I'm not sure I see a future for Adobe's mobile apps in my workflow. Tools like the new Photos, Snapseed, Perfectly Clear, and a couple of others more than meet my mobile editing needs, and I was especially excited to learn that Pixelmator will be coming to the iPad soon. Pixelmator was highlighted at Apple's big event yesterday, and at $4.99, it should be a steal. Here's Pixelmator's sneak peek video:
As you might be able to tell, I'm really excited about the future of iOS devices for working mobile for both photography and music, and even for everyday computing.
Apple had a big day today. New iPads. New Macs. New OS. New iOS. Lower prices. The hits just kept coming!
The most exciting thing to me was the new iPad Air 2. See, my current laptop is dying, and I've been considering the idea of replacing it, not with a new notebook, but with a tricked out iPad.
While I won't have access to a full version of Photoshop or Premiere or Audition, the reality is that I generally don't need that much media processing power when I'm on the road. The amount of functionality in the various iOS apps avialable now is quite impressive, and most of them are a lot of fun. So far, the weak link is a decent blogging app. Right now, I'm using an app called BlogPad Pro, which is mostly functional, but very clunky and a little unpredictable.
I plan to test the concept at the end of the month when I go to New York for Photo Plus Expo. I'll be using my current iPad Mini, a Bluetooth keyboard, and if all goes well, I'll also have one of the new Western Digital My Passport Wireless 1TB portable hard drives.
The little WD is a neat device for people who want to work light on the road. It has an SD card slot for transferring images from my camera, and unlike most storage solutions for iOS devices, it's software allows for moving images both on and off the iPad.
The My Passport Wireless has some really useful networking functions for people working on the road. You can set up a point-to-point network between it and another device for simple file transfers, or it can be set up as a baby NAS device with built-in wireless router that allows only connected devices to access the data stored on it. The net result is the ability to carry an entire network, "file server" included, in a messenger bag.
Of course, I'll let everyone know how the experiment works out...
Apple product images by and copyright Apple Computer. Western Digital product images by and copyright Western Digital.
The folks at Mackie announced their newest product today, the DL32R, a 32-input, 14-output, iPad controlled digital mixing system. The webcast/webinar to introduce it was a disaster. I spent the entire half hour trying to get my connection to work. Apparently, so did most of the other folks who tried to log in and watch. Fortunately, Mackie reacted by getting links up to their web site and YouTube channel very quickly after the event. Having just bought a DL1608, I'm obviously not in a position to upgrade for a while. And, for most of the sound work I do, I really don't need to. I am, however, looking forward to November sometime, when Mackie promises the new version of the Master Fader software/firmware, as it will add a few features to my existing mixer. According to Ben Olswang, Mackie's product manager for the DL-series mixers, the new version of the Master Fader app will add 4 sub-groups and 4 VCA groups to the DL1608. From the looks of things, you'll also be able to color-code faders for easier identification, as well as be able to see and access the various channel strip sections more easily.
On the DL32R, Master Fader will allow for all sorts of internal routing and patching, and access six sub-groups and VCA groups, three effects processors and more. There even seems to be a view that shows every major slider and knob on the "board" on one screen.
On the hardware side, the DL32R is a rack-mount box that loses the iPad dock arrangement. There's no internal WiFi, and in my opinion, that's the way to go. WiFi specs and conditions change rapidly, and locking users into today's WiFi would be a mistake on Mackie's part. There are two USB ports -- an "A" port and a "B" port -- for direct connection to an external hard disk for multtrack recording and playback, or for connection to a computer for recording direct to your favorite DAW.
For those of you who missed the event, or just came out from under a rock, Mackie has set up a DL32R Special Site. If you're looking for all the details, be sure to check out that link. And here are a few of the videos:
So, is the DL32R on my shopping list? No, not yet, anyway. As I mentioned above, I'm not really doing jobs big enough to justify it at this point. I think my current DL1608 will hold me just fine for a good while.
I used the little Fujifilm X10 to take the pictures, and brought them into Lightroom for pre-processing. I then moved JPEGs of the resultant images to my iPad mini, where I processed the images using either Repix (only to add frames) or the iOS version of Snapseed (to add a black-and-white HDR effect or frames). For some reason, it didn't really occur to me to move the images directly from the camera to the iPad using either the Eye-Fi card or the direct cable import -- not sure what I was thinking...
Last night, at band practice, I tried an experiment. We were faced with the possibility of playing a gig at an impossibly small venue, and there was no way that my usual two-tiered-plus-pedals-plus-amp keyboard rig was going to fit. I had to "pare it down." At the same time, another friend and I have been developing the concept of an incredibly portable band, which would be made to look like something very retro and cigar-box-guitar-like.
Enter the iPhone 5 as a musical instrument. Combined with a tiny Korg keyboard controller, running the iOS version of GarageBand, and built into a nifty little box, I can have virtually any keyboard instrument I need. The only drawbacks: only a two octave keyboard, and only one sound at a time. After several hours of practice, I found that I can easily play almost every song we do! The problems were a song with palm-slide organ intros, and another with a keyboard solo that lands in an odd spot on the keyboard.
Even when using an iPhone as the sound source, I had an amazing amount of control. For instance, when playing the organ, there are screens to access all the important controls of the quintessential Hammond B3; drawbars, rotary controls, and options for distortion and percussion are all available.
So far, I'm using just Garage Band for my sounds, but there are many other options available through Apple's App Store.
When we get the iOS keyboard fully finished, I'll post a picture or two. I've also got plans for some other iPhone/iPod Touch-based instruments.
Another great use of iOS devices is as a "teleprompter." For instance, since I had a slight nervous breakdown several years ago, I find in impossible to remember songs. I've found a great app for the iPad called OnSong. I can load my "charts" in text, Word, Pages or Chord Pro formats, and the app can format the files for easy use on stage. Moving through the pages of the song, and from one song to the next in a set list. can be accomplished using a bluetooth foot controller like the iRig BlueBoard.
Installation and operation of OnSong and the BlueBoard driver was a snap, and OnSong does a great job of interpreting my song files. ChordPro comes in the easiest, but as I said, Word, Pages or plain text work as well. Once imported, songs can even be transposed on the fly with just a couple of taps on the screen. OnSong can also be used on an iPhone, but it's just a bit difficult to see.
Keyboardists and singers like me are not the only ones who can benefit from using iOS devices on stage. There are hardware/software devices that allow an iPhone or iPad to be used as an multi-effects processor. IK Multimedia's iRig seems to be the industry leader here, but there are also other options available. And, of course, there are iPad and iPhone apps to allow control over various aspects of several popular digital mixing systems. For instance, on Behringer digital mixers, an iPad gives complete control over mixer operations, while an iPhone can give performers on stage control over their monitor mix, and several iOS devices can be active at the same time. Mackie's DL-series mixers, and Behringer's upcoming iX16 use an iPad as the entire control surface -- the mixers themselves have no controls, just a bay to hold an iPad.
I purchased an iPad mini to use as for reading, mobile image editing and also as a prompter -- I think it's ideal for a singer who wants teleprompter and monitor mix control. It's big enough to be read easily when mounted on a mic stand, yet small enough to be relatively unobtrusive.
As you may know, I've been looking at a couple of options for tablet computing, specifically Windows8-based systems (the Microsoft Surface caught my eye) and Apple's iPad. I discussed some of the hardware differences in the first installment in this series, so I won't spend much time on them here. The gist of it is that most, if not all, of the Windows8 tablets offer various expansion and connectivity options, where the iPad does not.
I've also briefly discussed some of the applications available for the Windows8 and RT platforms, and even had some serious fun with some of them, and touched on Microsoft's latest iteration of Office.
I think that from an application standpoint, I would be perfectly happy with either an iPad or a Windows8 tablet. While Windows8 has the advantage that my existing home inspection software would run, my current home inspection workflow -- hand-written notes and photographs on site, and then building the report later at the office -- is acceptable.
So, what's left?
In a word, content. There are a number of electronic publications that I'm interested in that are only available on the iPad. Most photographers content apps are written for iPad, as are many excellent photography magazines. Additionally, some of my favorite model railroad "magazines" is on the iPad (and also on Windows), and there are one or two music magazines that I would be able to read electronically. Like the photographic content, the music magazines are not available on the Windows platform.
The content availability is great, but would quickly eat at the fixed storage capacity. Fortunately, Apple figured that problem out long ago, allowing easy management through iTunes. As with a book reader like the Nook, purchased content can be moved on and off the device as desired.
Note: It is possible to attach an SD card to an iPad using the Camera Connection Kit. There's also a device that can add 750GB to an iPad using a similar connection arrangement. The drawback is that it's only possible to move iPhoto compatible files (images and videos) from an external device onto the iPad. There's no way to move anything from the iPad to an external device, except by connecting it to a computer.
So, is there a verdict? Years ago, when I was involved in computer sales and support, we told our clients to choose their applications, and let that choice drive the decision about the hardware. Since the software playing field is pretty level, it mostly comes down to the content. Were I selecting a table for that reason alone, I think that the iPad wins out -- at least for me. But, I'm not.