There's a thoughtful debate going over at The Online Photographer about how useful the Apple iPad might be for on-the-go photographers. Elsewhere in the Blogosphere, the question "What's the iPad good for" seems most often sung to Edwin Star's old hit song: "War!...What is it good for?...Absolutely nothing...say it again!"
Without adding more bullets to the crossfire, here's my take:
As part of a current project, I am the lucky recipient this week of a borrowed iPad. Right out of the box (well after I turned it on), I was struck by how good photos look onscreen. While the screen's only 1024 x 768 pixels, its resolution is 132 ppi. That pales next to a big-screen monitor, but it looks beautiful next to my MacBook. And I've already found it useful for getting another view on how photos exported from Lightroom will look out on the Web.
Tranferring Lightroom photos already on your computer to the iPad is a bit involved, though Publish Services makes it similar to saving out photos for an iPhone (explained on pages 244-254 of my book). The wrinkle is that I have to then import them into an iPhoto folder, from which I can use iTunes to sync them into the iPad. If you want the sordid details, I can post them.
But once they pop up on the iPad, they're gorgeous.
While some photographers complain that the iPad ought to have an SD-card slot or more onboard memory or a bigger screen, I think they're missing the forest for the trees. It's not a laptop, nor is it meant to be. That debate's akin to the old one about which is the best camera: the full-featured—but heavy—DSLR or the pocket camera that's always with you. The Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit lets you move photos off the camera to the iPad where you'll get a much better feel for a shot than peering at a tiny LCD screen. And with the iPad's Wifi connection, you can copy them to a Internet cloud storage site such as Dropbox for that crucial offsite backup copy.
Sure, it's early on. But it wouldn't surprise me if field photographers leave their laptops behind for the 1.5 pound iPad. And it's a whole other experience to pass an iPad running a full-screen slideshow around a table of friends (or editors) than doing the old two-handed notebook relay or phone-screen squint.