Apple iPad, Day 22: Pictures and Photo Editing on the iPad

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30 Days With the iPad: Day 22

One of the most glaring omissions on the original iPad, and most anticipated features of the iPad 2 is the presence of a camera. For today's 30 Days With the iPad post, I am taking a look at the capabilities of the iPad 2 when it comes to both taking photos, and editing them after the fact.

To be fair, the goal of this series is to explore the iPad as a replacement for a PC, not a camera. My notebook has a front-facing webcam built in, but taking pictures is not something one generally does with a PC. But, the iPad 2 can take photos, and shoot videos, so I am going to digress slightly and see how it performs.

It is fair, though, to examine how well the iPad fills the role of PC when it comes to photo editing. In the 30 Days With Ubuntu Linux series last month, I also devoted a day to comparing the GIMP image editing tool in Ubuntu with Adobe Photoshop in Windows. It seems reasonable to see how well the iPad 2 can stand up to the same sort of comparison.

The image on the left is from an iPhone 4. The image on the right is from an iPad 2.
Taking Pictures

It seems a little unnatural to take a picture with the iPad 2. Holding a 9-inch tablet up and framing the photo is a much different experience than using a smartphone like the iPhone 4, or an actual camera. In fact, I can't imagine a scenario where I would have my iPad 2 and not my iPhone 4, so I am much more likely to snap a picture with the iPhone.

It turns out, though, that the unwieldy size of the iPad as a camera is not the only reason to opt against it. The camera sucks. The iPad 2 has a pitiful sub-megapixel camera, compared to the 5 megapixel camera on the iPhone 4. That means that a photo shot on the iPad 2 is a 960 x 720 image, while the iPhone 4 photo is 2592 x 1936--more than seven times the pixels.

Despite the hype, it's not all about the megapixels, though. There are a lot of factors that go into capturing a quality photo, and megapixels is a relatively minor aspect. The iPhone 4 also has other features lacking on the iPad 2 camera, though, like HDR mode, and a flash.

I took a picture of my coffee mug using both the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4. The photos were shot as identically as possible, but the difference in the quality of the pictures is startling. The iPad 2 photo has poor contrast and color saturation, and the image is grainy and noisy.

I don't know what Apple was thinking. After making iPad users wait a year to get the camera they expected in the first place, they put a camera in that takes picture about as good as my Sony Mavica from 1999. It is better than nothing and will do the trick in a pinch, but I would never choose to take a picture with the iPad 2 if other options are available.

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