Fujifilm X-E3: First Impressions

Just over a year ago, Fujifilm, released a highly anticipated addition to their excellent X-Series camera line up, with the new X-E3. The X-E3, is the direct replacement for the X-E2s, which, since Fujifilm have been concentrating on the more DSLR styled X-T models,  many X-E users feared, was most likely the last of the X-E offerings, but with the launch of the X-E3, many, including myself, heaved a sigh of relief.

I have had a few X- Series cameras. The X-Pro 1, which I loved, the X-E1, X-E2, X-T1 and now my very own X-E3, in black.

Because of cash back offers, I opted for the X-E3 kit, bundled with the Fujinon XC 15-45mm PZ lens.

So, as any regular readers will know, it’s small rant time:

Will manufacturers stop making plastic lens mounts? Please?

Ok small rant over.

Regular readers will know, that I absolutely love the Panasonic GX8, but with the disappointing release of the G9 and then the GX9, it showed that Panasonic, really weren’t going to be releasing an updated rangefinder styled model of the GX8, any time soon.

So, I decided to give the Fujifilm X-E3 a try.

Build, is exactly what you would expect from Fujifilm. The X-E3 is light in hand but solid in feel. The Magnesium allow top and bottom plates help provide a premium feel, with no flex or movement between seams etc. It is a very well put together little camera.

Dials on the top plate, feel tight and assured. Front and rear command dials, rotate easily, allowing for fast adjustment and could, for my liking, be just a little tighter, but they are by no means a deal breaker.

The adjustments react almost immediately to the turns, unlike some cameras where you rotate and the adjustment takes a little time to register.

Image wise, the Fujifilm X-Series’ X-Trans sensors, are different to Bayer based CMOS sensors. The first and second generation of the X-Trans were 16MP, but with the third generation, Fujifilm increased the resolution to a much more pleasing 24.3MP.

The X-E3, also removed a number of physical buttons, removing the oh so familiar D Pad, with, well nothing. You read that correctly. No D Pad controls.

Instead, Fuji, have incorporated a rather nifty Touch Screen, which, with integrated swipes, pinch to zoom and double tap functionality, adds some much needed modern ‘smartphone’ familiarity to a camera, which still maintains that excellent retro styling that captured the hearts of so many photographers.

The D Pad removal, however, has done something which improves the handling on a smaller body than the previous incarnations of the X-E series. It has allowed for a brilliant space for a well grounded thumb, when combined with the redesigned front, newly contoured, grip, makes for a reassuring feel when holding the X-E3.

The minimalist rear of the X-E3, is dominated by that beautiful 3″ Touch Screen, which with a swipe in from the right, left, top or bottom, opens up the traditional D Pad controls, so a swipe in from the right on the Touch Screen, opens up ISO options etc. These swipe options are customisable, so, you can adjust whatever swipe to whatever control you’d prefer inside the familiar Fuji Menu system.

Speaking of the Menu system, Touch isn’t fully integrated, so Fuji has included a nifty little Joystick, which allows fast and easy settings interactions. It really is a delight to use.

The Touch Screen also, lets you adjust your Focus point, when using the EVF (which is lovely). So, when looking through the EVF, you can set the focus point simply by sliding your hand across the Touch Screen. Which hand (left or right, the default is right), you want to use for Touch Screen Focus can be set inside the Menu functions.

When using the rear LCD as a viewer, the Touch Screen allows you to set it to Tap To Focus and Shoot, or to set the Focus point without shooting or you can switch it off and just have the traditional controls. The Tap to Focus, reminds me of the very first Canon EOS M (much maligned, but, I still love that little camera), which incorporated Touch Screen very nicely.

In fact, the X-E3, reminds me of the Canon EOS M a lot. It’s small, but well built, it has absolutely fantastic image quality, a beautiful Touch Screen interface and is an ideal take anywhere little camera. What the X-E3 has, whose omission or implementation of,  plagued the EOS M, is a fantastic built in EVF and most importantly, incredibly fast and accurate up to 320 Hybrid Auto Focus Points. And AF is fast for both stills and action.

In operation, the X-E3, is intuitive and offers the full array of professional level control and image quality that the X-Series models, higher up the range, offer.

Whilst there is no dedicated weather sealing as such, the X-E3 is apparently ‘splash proof’, offering some assurance when out and about and there’s a bit of a shower, as long as it isn’t a downpour, you should be able to keep shooting.

The thing about cameras, is that they are designed to be used outdoors, so it would be fair to presume, that every camera has some level of dust / water resistance, otherwise, it wouldn’t be fit for purpose.

Where and when you decide to use your gear, is of course up to you, but you do have to accept responsibility, if something does go wrong. Personally, having has pro level, fully weather sealed camera bodies over the years, I’ve never shot in hideous weather conditions, primarily because the end result of the images are rubbish.

On occasion where I wanted to shoot lightening storms, or awful weather, I’ve done so from a covered and secure environment, set up before shooting, so my gear has never really been exposed to ‘harsh’ conditions directly, but full weather proofing is nice to have ‘just in case’.

Externally, as I mentioned earlier, the X-E3, is a bit smaller than the previous models in the range, which brings the weight down to 337g without lens attached. The more compact design, remains true to the rangefinder like styling, but with the removal of the D Pad, the introduction of a better thumb grip and a more contoured front grip, the X-E3 feels better in the hand than any of the previous X-E models.

The inclusion of the X-Trans III sensor, in conjunction with the X Processor Pro processing engine, make the images the X-E3 is capable of capturing the same as the X-Pro 2, X-T2 (now replaced with the X-T3) and the X-T20.

There has been some criticism that the X-E3’s lack of an adjustable rear LCD is a bit unfortunate and some claim a major oversight on behalf of Fuji. While I share some of those thoughts, the reality is, the X-E3 has a major trick up its sleeve the other models with adjustable LCDs don’t have. . .

The X-E3 incorporates Bluetooth 4 and WiFi as standard, which, when combined with any smartphone or tablet, allows the attached device to act as a larger more flexible LCD monitor, so, for example, you have a 12.9″ iPad Pro to hand (as shown below), with a simple connection via the Fujifilm Camera Remote App, you have a flexible 12.9″ LCD to make setting adjustments, compose and capture the image with.

While carting a 13″ tablet for a viewfinder, may not seem like the most ‘mobile’ of solutions, it does allow for the placement of the camera in places, which may not at first glance seem that accessible and secondly, where even having an adjustable flip out rear LCD, may not allow the space for the screen to be flipped out for the best camera position. It’s swings and roundabout, but a workable solution nonetheless.

The images from that 24.3MP X-Trans III APS-C sized sensor, are simply stunning. High ISO is handled beautifully and even images at 12800 ISO, I would classify as being useful, showing minimal noise and loss of detail. I will post an ISO test piece at a later date, but anyone familiar with the Fujifilm X-Trans sensors, know that image noise, is handled extremely well.

The Bluetooth / WiFi inclusion, allows, should you choose, to have your images automatically downloaded from the X-E3 to your smartphone or tablet, when the camera is switched off. When active and the X-E3 is powered off or on stand by, the image transfer line starts. A small LED light on the rear flashes Amber /Green during the image transfer and once done, the camera powers down.

To work seamlessly, the smartphone or tablet does have to be actively connected to the X-E3, so ensure you have a connection up and running on your device for this process to work.

It’s brilliant and allows fast image transfers ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak.

Familiar to any GX8 shooter out there, the Fujifilm X-E3 similarly has no built in flash, but unlike Panasonic, Fujifilm do include a small, but very useful, EF-X8 Flash Gun, which flips up to activate or when lowered (flat), switches the Flash off.

Some may argue that it just makes for another thing to carry about, which is true, but if you have it attached to the camera, it really doesn’t make much difference. Besides, the EF-X8 offers slightly more power and clearance (spread) than a traditional built in Flash.

Accessories wise, the X-E3 comes with battery, charger, strap and the usual software disc and substantial instruction booklets, but no USB lead. In fairness, a USB lead really isn’t required since transfer of images can be done wirelessly.

Controls have been physically ‘scaled down’, besides the removal of the D Pad, the actual dials are thinner (not as deep) as on the previous generations.

However, with the inclusion of the Joystick, rear dial and front dial, physical controls have improved.

Fujifilm have another camera, a much larger one, which is surprisingly similar in design to the X-E3. This being the GFX-50R, medium format sensor camera. I don’t have one personally, I live in hope, but when you look at pictures of the X-E3 and GFX-50R side by side, the similarities are pretty obvious, even to the casual viewer. One is just slightly bigger than the other.

Overall, the Fujifilm X-E3, is a welcome addition to the X-Series camera line. With top notch internals (same as from their flagship models, at the time of introduction) with some new features the flagship models don’t enjoy.

As I said earlier, I will do an ISO test, with image examples sometime soon, as time allows, but initial impressions of the X-E3 are favourable. It’s a fun little camera to use and once you get your head round the wireless workflow (in conjunction with in my case, an iPad Pro based image editing solution), you do start to wonder why you put up with so much wasted time physically transferring files from camera to computer and then there’s back / shoulder aches, while editing your images on a desktop, for so long.

As I have said in previous articles, photography is changing. Heavy gear combined with advances in technology, have changed what photography is and in an ever more digitised world, photographers really do have to start wakening up and realising the benefits the smaller, lighter, more technically advanced camera capabilities offer, for a more streamlined and productive workflow.

The Fujinon XC 15-45mm f3.5-5.6 OIS lens bundled in the kit, is mostly plastic, but does feature a power zoom feature, which is handy for those who wish to shoot video on the X-E3.

As stated earlier plastic lens mount is just a pathetic case of skimping by the manufacturer. A few pennies more, would allow a metal lens mount and would not increase the overall cost of manufacture by very much.

That being said, the two stage power zoom works really well and the image quality from the optics, looks to be high, with pleasing colour and contrast. I’ll use this combination for the ISO / image quality article I’ll do in the future.

Video wise, the Fujifilm X-E3 offers both 1080HD and 4K shooting capabilities, which should be more than enough for the casual to semi serious videographers out there.

Bottom line the XC 15-45mm lens is a cheap option, but is actually a pretty competent little lens. Being mostly plastic, does of course make it light, so if weight is the major concern, the X-E3 and the XC 15-45mm might be the perfect combination for you.

So, there you have it. A first impressions piece and the X-E3 leaves a very good impression.

Thanks for reading and do check back for the ISO / Image quality examples soon.

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Canon Taking Mirrorless Seriously? The Canon EOS R. . .

Before I start, I’d just like to point out that I was a Canon user for over 30 years. Starting with the Canon T70. I absolutely loved that camera. It was my take everywhere body, that served me well for many happy years. Canon, are the camera company that I have favoured throughout my photographic life. Until that is, I switched to Nikon when they launched the D3, which I added to with the likes of a D300, D7000 and a D800 along with many lenses.

I’ve also owned Leica with the M8 (lovely camera, but flawed), Pentax with the K7 and even tried the Foveon option with a Sigma SD14, during my earliest attempts at weight reduction.

Thanks to tennis elbow in both elbows, at the same time, weight of gear became of paramount importance, so I started investigating alternatives to bulky DSLR gear. That’s where my introduction to mirrorless cameras started.

I’ve had several different Fujifilm X- Series, starting with the X-Pro 1 (great camera), X-E1, X-E2, X-T1. I’ve had Sony NEX 6 and the a6000 a couple of times, an A7, but eventually found the Panasonic Lumix GX8, to be the ‘almost’ perfect camera for my needs, at that time.

I was one of the original buyers of the EOS M, very flawed and returned, until Firmware 2 came along which did sort out many complaints. I really took to the EOS M, with it’s flaws and it has become one of my favourite little cameras.

Currently, thanks to an incredible offer I got, I am now using a Sony A7ii, which is a fantastic camera (battery life aside). The image quality is stunning and it is really nice to be using Full Frame again.

Hopefully, that brief gear history, will hold back the haters out there, because this is my impressions of the recent Nikon Z6 & Z7 bodies, but mostly about the Canon announcement and their new EOS R system.

Where do you start with Canon and Nikon, when it comes to mirrorless cameras?

Reluctant, would probably be the politest way to put the offerings each company has given us so far, but recently, Nikon announced their Z range of Full Frame Mirrorless cameras and today, as everybody expected, Canon officially announced the new Canon EOS R:

First though, a little trip down memory lane. . .

Nikon, decided to go with a 1″ Sensor, which wasn’t really a 1″ sensor, but gave us the Nikon 1 range. A CX format interchangeable lens camera, which was relatively expensive, but compact and did at least offer a small upgrade over a point and shoot.

Nikon continued to update the Nikon 1, increasing the 10MP first offering to 14MP, then 18MP, all the while, Sony had a 20MP 1″ sensor offering in it’s ultra compact, RX100 series.

Nikon did offer J, V and AWS offerings, the V moniker being the ‘enthusiast’ level flag ship, which was way over priced and when the optional EVF was added in, made the entire cost, an inadvisable (being polite) purchasing choice. Here ends any further significant mention of Nikon’s 1 range of Mirrorless cameras.

Canon, sort of started a little more promisingly, by offering their first mirrorless camera, the EOS M, with a significantly better APS-C sized 18MP sensor. This offered excellent image quality, paired as it was with the Digic IV processor. It was marketed as a full EOS, only smaller: Enter, the Canon EOS M.

It was built like a metaphorical tank.

It was small but solid.

It felt like a precision instrument.

It had a slick and responsive Touch Screen interface.

It had 18MP APS-C sensor.

It was made from magnesium alloy.

It was really expensive.

And, the auto focus was an absolute disgrace.

It was so awful, trying to capture anything that moved, was near impossible.

Obviously, the reviews went out and, to cut a long story short, the Canon EOS M was panned.

Regular readers of this blog, will know that I absolutely loved the original EOS M and have owned several of them over the years. The Firmware 2 software release, did address many of the complaints, but the AF, although improved, was still pretty useless for anything faster than an almost stationary tortoise.

The complaints of the EOS M, amongst the many, were mostly focused on the lack of input methods. Everything, pretty much depended on using the TouchScreen, which for what the EOS M was, was absolutely fine in my opinion.

The EOS M, in my opinion, was never intended as a single camera outfit for pro users. It was more geared towards point and shoot users, who wanted to step up from a fixed lens to have a bit more flexibility when it came to shooting. For Pros and enthusiasts, the EOS M, was the ideal carry anywhere snapper. Familiar enough output, with enough touch based flexibility and adjustments to satisfy any photographer having a day away from lugging that hefty ‘pro’ kit around.

The actual auto output settings, were pretty good on the EOS M, and with touch focus adjustments, the camera did a really good job of getting good shots.

As I said earlier, I absolutely loved the EOS M. It was a small, compact, take anywhere, although limited little camera that, lets not forget, produced beautiful images.

Video, thanks to the release of Magic Lantern firmware, really opened up the EOS M to an entirely new audience and it has become an almost ‘cult’ camera in videographer circles.

However, unlike Nikon, Canon, did improve subsequent offerings, although made some bizarre ‘availability’ options.

The EOS M2, with improved next gen hybrid AF, was only released in Asia. The EOS M3 with better AF and more physical control dials, was released in Asia and Europe (not Americas).

When Canon decided to take the mirrorless world more seriously, they released the EOS M5, with Dual Pixel AF from the EOS 80D, Digic 6, EVF, control dials, Touch screen etc. It was a vast improvement on the original EOS M (in some respects) but again, the price was higher end DSLR territory. They made yet another design choice which then crippled the potential uses.

The EOS M5’s rear LCD flipped down, 180 degrees (woohoo selfie lovers), but downwards. You what? Yes, it tilted down, 180 degrees to face forward. I’m sure you can work out the deliberate errors in that design choice? Read on. . .

Canon did add to the EOS M lens line up, the EF-M range, but crippled the newer offerings with awful plastic bayoneted mounts. Guaranteed to break with an overly accidental knock or three.

Canon then added a scaled down version of the EOS M5, in the EOS M6, which unlike the EOS M5, which had a flip down 180 degree rear LCD, the EOS M6 had a flip up 180 degree LCD, so selfie loving videographers could actually use it for self recording (unlike the crippled EOS M5, without serious work arounds).

They then added another, the EOS M10 and then the EOS M100 and the latest scaled down EOS M5 look-a-like the EOS M50. All variations on the same theme, but all struggling to really make a statement or find a clear ‘sector’ to appeal to.

It was clear Canon were too concerned about their DSLR customers to take mirrorless seriously (despite by then having quite capable APS-C cameras available).

Nikon, well who knows what happened after the Nikon 1V3? Not much.

Then just a week or so ago, Nikon announced the Nikon Z6 & Z7 Full Frame Mirrorless cameras. . .woohoo! All you Nikon 1 lens owners will be chuffed to bits about this. . .

Or not. New lens mount, bigger lenses. Nikon 1 owners, there’s nothing here to make you happy. Money paid = down the consumption drain of losses.

The Z6 & Z7 (Nikon want everybody to pronounce them Zee 6 and Zee 7, but here, where the English language originated, they will forever be known and called the Zed 6 and Zed 7. Sorry Nikon, no Americanisations here thanks. Having to endure Drive Thru’s is bad enough. The word is through, not thru).

The Z6 & Z7, are almost identical to look at, but the 7 has a higher MP sensor and more AF points than the 6. Both have 5-way IBIS and look very like the Sony A7ii /A7iii to look at.

Nikon developed a new lens mount for the Z range and that’s about where I lost interest. I really didn’t care a whole lot about either camera. Nikon were, as far as I was concerned, too late to the party.

Imagine my surprise to hear just today, that Canon have officially announced the Canon EOS R. . .dun dan daaaaah!!!! EOS R for Retarded? Restrained? or as I suspect, RELUCTANT?

The EOS R is, a Full Frame Mirrorless camera, which looks pretty much like the Nikon Z, both of which look very much like the Sony A7ii/ A7iii, but I think the Sony’s take it on the looks front.

Wow!

Design awards to both Nikon and Canon for originality (NOT!). Congratulations Sony, a deserved win.

So, the Canon EOS R has been officially announced. Whoop-de-do.

It has a new lens mount (yeah another lens mount from Canon), it has a touch screen, it has a mode dial it has, blah, blah, blah. It does look like a nice camera as can be seen in the video above (which I am sure Canon will ask me to remove, so here’s the link to the video on YouTube:

Canon EOS R

It doesn’t have a conventional Program Mode Dial. You have to select how you want to use the camera, either on the Touch Screen or using the dials and selecting your preferred mode, via a small B&W screen on the top plate (incidentally, in roughly the same place as the B&W top screen on the Nikon Zzzzzz range). Wreaks of originality folks. Panasonic brought us that little screen on the LUMIX G9 months ago.

There is no ISO instant access. There is no AE/AF Lock button etc. Just like the original EOS M, Canon have made engineering choices, which will involve a completely new learning curve for users, further slowing down the process of taking photographs.

But, being a new ‘range’ of lenses, the camera being simply a means of using the lenses (odd way to look at the world, but hey ho), the new RF lenses include a new second dial, which can be adapted to change settings depending on what the end user chooses on the camera body.

Samsung offered a similar arrangement on their NX lenses, with a function button on the lenses, instead of an extra dial ring, but Samsung sadly, left the interchangeable lens camera market shortly after releasing the incredible NX1. If only Samsung had decided to stay in the ILC market. I loved the Galaxy NX, which had flaws, but was an incredibly capable camera and was certainly one of the hottest and most innovative introductions into the camera market for decades.

At least Nikon, with their Zzzzzzzz range, have made the interface familiar to any Nikon DSLR users out there. But still, their Zzzzzzz moniker, pretty much tells you what Nikon think of Mirrorless cameras.

Here’s what Chelsea and Tony Northrup, had to say about the Nikon Zzzzzzz:

I haven’t had any hands on experience with the EOS R or Nikon’s Zzzzzzzz cameras, but from the previews and first look videos I’ve read and watched, Nikon at least have made the physical workings, as close to their DSLR as they can. Canon? Seem to be making the same mistakes as when they launched the EOS M.

It reminds me of the time when Sony launched the Mini Disc Walkman (MD). Smaller than CD, more robust, great sound, recording capability. The world was Sony’s for the taking, but they deliberately crippled the MD with proprietary file formats and dedicated PC software (no syncing to media player or iTunes there). You had to create an entirely new ‘duplicate’ library, just for your MD Walkman.

Each MD generation, got a bit better, but the overall experience was crippled by their obsession with keeping it exclusive and on their terms. It was only when Sony launched the very last MiniDsic NetMD capable RH1, that they allowed pretty much any file format from any source. It was a proper fully fledged recording studio in your pocket. But by then, Apple had launched the iPod, the world had moved on and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

At least Sony learned a lesson. Listen to what your customers want and respond to it. Hence firmware updates galore for the original A7 (just as Fuji do with their X Series cameras), extending the capabilities of the older models, while offering evolutions in the newer models. And it’s paid off for both Sony and Fuji.

Users love the Alpha 7 cameras (and the smaller highly capable APS-C Alphas too) and Fuji X shooters, absolutely love their Fuji X cameras. By contrast, Canon traditionally launch a camera, which has a few bugs and then eventually, Canon reluctantly releases a firmware upgrade to remove the bugs that a new camera shouldn’t have had upon release.

Canon, however, don’t seem to have learned anything from the mistakes made with the EOS M (I repeat, the EOS M was a camera I personally loved, with firmware 2 installed) and from what I can tell from the Canon USA EOS R guide videos, are making similar mistakes with the EOS R.

Essentially, it’s typical Canon: “this is how we’ve made it, you have to learn to do it OUR way”. Not the “it’s a familiar interface to get you up and running quickly, with minimal fuss” way.

Advising anybody to start using an enthusiast level camera, with default settings first and then gradually ‘learning’ how to adapt to the camera’s way of shooting, is a bit backward, no matter how good the camera results are. Muscle memory plays a big part and enthusiasts, like to try out familiar ways of doing things, but on a new toy. Not fully auto and adapt from there.

Canon have introduced some interesting technologies with the EOS R, like WiFi, NFC and Bluetooth all pretty much standard stuff these days, but the ‘Touch Bar’ selector and the lens mounted ‘adjustment ring’ are quite clever, once the end user has familiarised themselves with the placement etc. How they perform with gloves, cold fingers etc is another matter. Sometimes, just a nice dedicated button or dial, is the best solution when it comes to functionality.

Canon tried a whole new way of interacting with the camera, with the EOS M and look how that entire affair worked out? Despite professional marketing, the snazzy and glitzy point of sale, the teaser posters in publications and all the promises of being a full EOS experience in a smaller form, the reality was prior to Firmware 2, a camera that could barely take images, because the AF was just so slow and it hunted and hunted and hunted until either the object had moved on, or the photographer had given up.

Poor reviews pretty much everywhere and the seeds of failure for the EOS M, were set. Price cuts, price cuts and further price cuts followed. The EOS M was doomed to failure, despite eventually, being a really nice little camera to use. I’m a fan of the EOS M, you might have guessed by now.

With the EOS R, Canon appear to be making the same mistakes all over again.

When the EOS M was launched, the competition in the mirrorless field, excluding Nikon 1, were offering control dials, some clunky touch screen stuff in some models, in body stabilisation, built in EVF, fast(ish) enough AF, built in flash, a good range and fast release of new lenses and latest generation of Sensors etc. in a small form factor, offering great image quality in a lighter more ‘familiar’ design set up.

The EOS M, turned that on its head. No EVF, no built in flash, no real dials along a sensor that had been around for a couple of years already. It was ‘old tech’, still a great sensor though, but tech moves on quickly. Canon made two native lenses available on release, the excellent 18-55mm IS and the super excellent 22mm pancake. But that was pretty much it. New mount new system, promises of a lens roadmap promising more options, to get buyers invested in their latest system.

Unlike other competitors’ offerings, there was no option to add an EVF if you wanted one and nobody was making third party lenses, which combined with Canon’s original pricing, made the EOS M an ‘unlikely’ purchase by anyone, other than die hard Canon shooters.

The EOS R, is being released with two excellent lenses on launch day. The lenses are huge. Great specs, but physically massive, if you consider they are designed for a smaller mirrorless system. Seems a bit counter intuitive to me and somewhat familiar:

Canon, launch a new expensive system, with promises of a great lens roadmap, we buy into it, but then Canon, fails to deliver on the promises they made? The EOS M, now has 7 native lenses. That’s 7 lenses in total, since 2012.

Compared to the available competition, Fuji, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, even Sigma (for their own camera bodies) have launched more lenses for their offerings than Canon (or Nikon for the Nikon 1 range) has for their EOS M system.

Why should we believe them when it comes to the EOS R system? We’ve heard the promises before and got burned.

Another mistake Canon, are making with the EOS R, is the price. Just like the EOS M, Canon are offering lower spec (with older tech inside) than the competition, but asking a few hundred more than the competitors, presumably because they’re Canon and can charge more for inferior spec’d goods.

I’m not saying the EOS R is a bad camera or poor quality camera. The original EOS M was the highest quality EOS M monikered model Canon have made. All others since the original, have felt a bit less ‘durable’. The EOS R appears to follow the same trend.

But, at @£2500, the EOS R isn’t cheap, although it does offer a 30.3 MP Full Frame sensor, I’m guessing the same one from the older 5D MKIV (which will help to keep the cost down), but looking at the competition, the Sony A7iii, offers a newer generation of the 24.3MP Sensor synonymous with the A7 range for under £2K (body only) (as well the higher priced and higher res. A7Riii offering @£2.9K). The Nikon Zzzzzzzzzzz, offers the 24.3 Zzzzzzz6  @£2100 and the 43MP Zzzzzzzz7 £3.5K (bodies only).

Sony, has a wealth of glass available for their A7 series with the FE mount and third party manufacturers’ offering as well. Canon and Nikon have their limited offerings, which to be fair, is typical for a new mount, but Sony has the edge and the experience, having introduced us to Full Frame Mirrorless @5 years ago with the A7.

Each generation of A7 has improved and refined the shooting experience to the point that the A7iii, was sold out for months after it was first available for pre-orders. A first for Sony.

The fact is, the Sony A7iii, is the best value Full Frame mirrorless camera you can buy. The AF, much improved battery life, controls, innovation, 4K capabilities and overall handling, is, compared to the newest offerings from Canon and Nikon, in my opinion, a much better long term investment than what the new Canon or Nikon offer.

Nikon may have equipped their offerings with IBIS, just like Sony did with the A7ii onwards, but Canon in their infinite wisdom, hasn’t included IBIS on the EOS R.

So, again, just as with the original EOS M, Canon appear to be crippling their mirrorless offering, before it even gets a real chance to build a user base. It’s more expensive than either the Nikon or equivalent Sony and isn’t as feature rich, since it is missing the IBIS the Nikon and Sony have installed. It might very well be a great camera, but perception is everything when it comes to people spending their own hard earned money.

If I have the potential of getting more keepers, thanks to a system which combines lens based stabilisation in unison with IBIS, and a wider range of more compact lenses, for less money than Canon are asking for the EOS R, with the promise of more, bigger, faster and way more expensive lenses, sometime in the future, I’m going to go with the camera that offers me more keepers with a wider range of decent to great quality and more compact lenses. I think most others would as well.

Sure you can buy adapter rings to use your existing Canon EF lenses, but without the benefit of a more compact and lighter set up, the EOS R becomes a questionable purchase in the first place. You might as well stick with the DSLR, you know and are familiar with if you’re going to be using the same bulky lenses as before. The size of a smaller camera body becomes less relevant and more awkward, when using a huge lens, than a bigger camera body. The bigger body helps balance the setup better, so the potential benefit of the EOS R is compromised by the bigger lenses.

Canon touted the EOS M the same way, making an adapter ring available, so buyers could use their wealth of EF glass on the more compact EOS M.

While this might have sounded great, it did and does, the reality was less than perfect. I know the cheap shot would be to say “imagine a 600mm lens on the tiny EOS M” and you would picture that image in your head and say “looks stupid”. You’d be right. It does. But, that 600mm lens worked with the EOS M (as long as your subject wasn’t moving very quickly, or at all).

Canon’s mistake, in my opinion, was in thinking that someone with a massive EF lens selection, would want to use their massive lenses on a much smaller camera body. When the lens is the heaviest part of the gear being carried, a few hundred grams more in bulk of the camera body, really doesn’t make a lot of difference. It may have marketed well, in PR speak, but reality told a different story. It was impractical and frankly pointless.

The EOS R, is significantly more expensive than the EOS M was offered at on launch. At @£2.5K, it is more expensive than the equivalent competitors models. The Sony A7iii is the best value of the three main manufacturers’ offerings, at under £2K for the Sony A7iii, £2.2K for the Nikon Zzzzzzzzz6 or £2.5K for the EOS R?

With the three lenses Nikon have for the Zzzzz and the four lenses Canon are introducing for the EOS R (two at time of launch, 2 more to follow shortly after), the answer is simple. Buy the Sony A7iii. The money you save, can go towards a very nice Zeiss or G lens and will give you stunning results.

Canon have at least made the lens offerings fast lenses, but for a smaller footprint mirrorless camera system, the lenses are absolutely huge. They may be well designed, they may be sharp, but what is the point in making a smaller system camera, which uses lenses almost as big as the DSLR offerings they are intended to sway you away from?

The benefit of mirrorless, is less weight, less bulk. Canon don’t seem to have cottoned on to that basic reality. Not everyone wants to carry a 3Kg lens or two around with them all day on top of a slightly smaller camera body. Although, when you add in a vertical grip for your EOS R, it’s almost the same size as a Full Frame DSLR with grip attached equivalent.

Mirrorless, even full frame, can have not only body size benefits, but lens size benefits too.

Sony’s FE offerings, show what is possible (although even these faster FE lenses are quite bulky compared to smaller sensor mirrorless offerings, which is to be expected).

Personally, I’m still using my Sony A7ii. It does what I need it to do and is a fantastic camera. I love the results I’m getting from it.

This is where Canon and Nikon have made their mistakes. There is absolutely nothing on offer from either the Nikon Zzzzzz or the Canon EOS R, to make me think of buying into their ‘reluctant’ Mirrorless offerings.

Canon and Nikon, may have finally decided to take Mirrorless semi seriously, but it is simply too little and too late for those who have already jumped to the excellent Sony Alpha offerings.

Neither have anything on offer, to encourage a Sony A7 shooter, who bought the original and has upgraded the bodies over the years, whilst building a nice selection of FE lenses in the process, to give that all up for their new yet ‘reluctant’ offerings. Remember Zeiss is nice 🙂

Canon and Nikon’s offerings may be about the same size as a Sony A7iii, but the equivalent lenses are much bigger than Sony’s current offerings. And there is the nub f the problem. Smaller bodies, with DSLR sized lenses, may offer photographic opportunities with faster and faster lenses, but photographers switched to mirrorless to get away from all the bulk that DSLRs and their lenses had evolved into.

Sorry Canon and Nikon. Having been a user of Canon, for over 30 years and switching to Nikon with a D3, back in the day, then the D800 amongst others in between, it was clear to me, that Mirrorless was the way to go, a few years ago. Canon and Nikon, could have led the way, but chose to sit back and treat it all like a bad joke.

The only joke here, is that Canon and Nikon expect brand loyalty, when there are much better alternatives out there, from Sony for Full Frame (and APS-C), Fuji’s excellent X-Series, extended further with the latest X-T3 release, then you have Panasonic and Olympus’s M43 offerings (Panasonic are rumoured to be releasing a Full Frame sometime apparently. Not sure how Lumix users will feel about that one but something to look forward to if true) to choose from.

Sony’s ability to increase camera capabilities through additional Apps, is leaps and bounds ahead of anything Canon or Nikon are offering with the EOS R or Zzzzzzzz ranges.

Sony’s interface may be a bit clunky, but this could be tidied up easily enough with a software update or two. The capabilities would be even more encouraging, if Sony opened up the API of the system, to third party developers. Look what happened to the EOS M when Magic Lantern did their thing.

While it is exciting that the big two manufacturers, have finally decided to join the mirrorless revolution, the offerings from Canon and Nikon, I would surmise, are predominantly aimed at users of existing Canon and Nikon systems, as a slightly more compact secondary back up, although with the AF systems in both the Canon EOS R and Nikon Zzzzzzz, coming from non DSLR type cameras, adding either to a DSLR based set up, will involve a new learning curve for dealing with the new AF systems in both new systems.

This may be enough to put off enough potential buyers form wither camp, as a back up is traditionally, something ‘like enough’ the main workhorse to just grab and go, without having to think too much about it.

Both Canon and Nikon I think are setting the bar in fairly safe territory. The EOS R and the Nikon Zzzzzz, are indicators really aimed at their DSLR users, to start thinking about making the switch. Some will, but most I would guess won’t.

There certainly isn’t enough from either of them, to warrant or justify switching from Sony’s A7 range. But, both Canon and Nikon have shown us where they are setting the future roadmap. Both have introduced completely knew mounting systems. Camera makers generally don’t do that for short term motives. This is the direction of travel from the big two in photography.

Canon and Nikon, have reluctantly, decided to start playing catch up with Sony. Good luck, but as one former long time Canon user and then a Nikon user, it’s too little and too late. Panasonic’s awesome GX8, GH5, GH5s to name a few and Sony’s A7 offerings, are the bees knees.

As for the Canon EOS R(eluctant) and Nikon’s Z(zzzzzz) offerings? There really isn’t anything new on offer. Sony have been doing it better than what Canon or Nikon are offering, for over five years. They offer a cheaper and better range of lenses than anything Canon or Nikon are making available. Sure, you can buy adapters from each, to use all your old heavy glass on the new smaller and lighter bodies, but Canon already tried that approach with the EOS M and look how inefficient that turned out.

Canon, it seems, just doesn’t learn from its previous mistakes.

UPDATE:

I have just sat through the Canon USA Keynote for the launch of the new EOS R system. Forty two minutes managed to feel like hours. An incredible feat in and of itself. Don’t believe me? You can watch it below for yourself.

What is clear, from Canon USA, is the EOS R, is NOT designed to replace your DSLR system. It is to ‘compliment’ your current set up. Now, right there, is the belief in your new mega, super, duper, latest tech system Canon? So much for that new era!

I’m a bit confused by Canon’s motives here. But, once again, it supports my theory of Canon’s reluctance to commit to a Mirrorless future. DSLR users are after all Canon’s bread and butter for their lenses and lens makers generally don’t want to ‘upset’ the people they want to buy into the new line of lenses, by effectively telling them that everything they’ve bought and paid for to date, is now essentially relegated to the ‘old tech’ bin, where it can join the FD mounts Canon dumped, back in the mid to late 80s.

There was a minuscule treat for Canon EOS M shooters out there. Canon announced a new 32mm EF-M mount lens, bringing the 6 year old system, its 7th native lens. Such commitment from Canon to their loyal EOS M range owners out there.

So, there you are. The new EOS R system from Canon. The EOS R(eluctance). The new system, Canon have introduced, which is not designed to be a stand alone system.

Does anyone think that makes sense?

Just one final question, why should potential buyers bother?

 

 

 

Microsoft Surface Pro: Alcantara Signature Type Cover (2017).

Having recently invested in the 2017 Surface Pro, the purchase I made, came bundled with the latest generation Surface Pen (excellent) and a standard previous generation, Surface Pro Type Cover.

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I wrote an impressions piece just the other day, but since then, I actually found a bargain on eBay (which I didn’t expect to win): An Alcantara Signature Type Cover (2017) in Platinum.

Turns out, it was a poorly created listing, which never got much attention, so I won with a single bid at the starting price of £60.00. What a bargain! It’s brand new.

My Alcantara Signature Type Cover arrived yesterday and I have been using it virtually non stop. I did have to stop for some sleep, but while awake, it has had almost non stop use and it’s been a very satisfying experience.

Firstly, it feels absolutely amazing. A real premium build. The fabric is velvety and smooth, but grippy (I know that sound counter intuitive, but it really is smooth, but grippy). This really does make for a much more ‘high end’ feel and adds a definite sense of ‘being special’ when combined with your Surface Pro. Together, they make a premium product that bit more special.

The images included are off the actual Type Cover, which does look a lot darker than it actually is. This does show off the ‘mottled’ characteristics of the Alcantara fabric, which is a lighter shade of grey.

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The keys feel a bit tighter than the standard Type Cover, with a more satisfying ‘feel’ when depressed. The standard Type Cover was great to use, but the keys did have a bit looser movement compared to the latest Signature Type Cover, making for a slightly quieter typing experience.

Key wise, pretty much everything is the same over the previous generation, except, the brightness buttons (same placement as previous gen) adjust the screen brightness instead of the keyboard backlight. The ‘Ins’ button has now been reassigned and replaced with a backlight brightness button. Single presses of the key (F7 location), loop through the different brightness options, from off, to low, medium and then high. Another press will return to the off state. It works as expected and is fine. Personally, I have my backlit set to medium which works best for my eyes in dimmer light.

Otherwise, all the keys are exactly the same and work as expected.

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Some people have written that they aren’t sure about the ‘plasticky’ feel of the Alcantara fabric of the palm rests. I really have no idea what they are talking about. The palm rests on this Type Cover, don’t feel plasticky at all. The texture is subtle, but definitely there. I do have another ‘standard’ Type Cover to compare against side by side, so maybe that helps make the difference more noticeable.

Another complaint I’ve heard people mention in video reviews, is the unpleasant, petrol like smell of the Alcantara Type Cover. Fortunately in this case, I have no sense of smell, as a result of a head injury decades ago, so even if it did smell, I wouldn’t be able to notice.

However, I have asked a few people who have noses which work, to have a sniff of the Type Cover. Yes I got strange looks from each, obviously thinking I had gone a bit mad, but when I explained why, they used their noses to report that there was a slight smell, that wasn’t unpleasant, but actually quite nice.

Now, I can vaguely remember (when I did have a working sense of smell), that smell is a personal thing. What smells nice to one person, doesn’t necessarily mean other people will find the same smell nice, so as far as the odour from the Alcantara Type Cover goes, the four or five people I have asked, all liked it.

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Having used the Alcantara Signature Type Cover on a number of surfaces, the typing experience is the same on all. The Keyboard is surprisingly sturdy with little flex or bouncing when typing (unlike some earlier iterations of Surface covers). Microsoft does seem to have stiffened things up without increasing the weight.

I’m not speed typist, but the full sized chiclet style keyboard is responsive and allows for speedy typing. I have absolutely no issue with the overall performance of strike rate accuracy. I am still adapting from the much smaller Smart KeyBoard from the iPad Pro, so the initial feeling of ‘it’s huge’ still occasionally pop into my head when typing. Otherwise, typing is natural and easy.

I think the biggest ‘noticeable’ change, is the feel of the TrackPad compared to the standard Type Cover that came with the bundle I bought. The TrackPad on the new Signature Alcantara Type Cover, has a bit more ‘grip’ when gliding my finger over the glass surface. This isn’t to say it’s slower than the earlier version, it isn’t, but it does have a more ‘direct’ sense about it. More precision than ‘guestimate’. Scrolling is great, as is flicking backwards (left) or forwards (right) in Edge, to go backwards and forwards through visited Web pages.

Pinch to zoom, works well, as do all the gestures one would require of  a TrackPad. This one does feel a lot more substantial, more ‘precision’ made, over the one in the other Type Cover, but that could just be down to it being ‘new’.

I have activated tap to click, so I don’t physically have to depress the TrackPad button, which, when I have, does seem a bit ‘louder’ than the previous generation version. Again, this could just be down to the fact that it is new and hasn’t had as much use as the other Type Cover (although, that was near new condition with very little signs of use), so maybe not.

Even though the click is a bit louder, the actual physical clicking mechanism, like the rest of the Signature Type Cover, does feel more direct, tighter and more durable.

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I have no worries about the durability, as with my transition to Surface Pro and Windows 10 Pro, is in the early days, but the Alcantara Signature Type Cover, just like the Surface Pro, is a beautifully made product, that just oozes quality. I’m sure it will wear well over the years to come, while protecting and complimenting my Surface Pro in the process.

I know the recommended price is expensive at @£150.00 compared to the standard Type Cover @£130.00, however, by direct comparison with Apple’s Smart Keyboard, which retails for around the same price (a bit higher depending on what sized model needed), the Type Cover and Signature Type Cover, comes with backlighting, full sized keys and a built in Glass TrackPad, something the Smart KeyBoards from Apple, despite their prices, lack.

It could be argued, that the Microsoft offerings are actually better value than Apple’s offerings. Personally, having bought and experienced both, I’d say you get more for your money from the Type Covers from Microsoft. Both the Standard and the more expensive Signature, offer a much nicer end user experience, over the equivalent iPad Pro accessories.

The louder, more distinct ‘click’ of the TrackPad, the physical feel of each key on the keyboard, the overall build of the entire Type Cover, the build, TrackPad, Keys, Alcantara fabric and the even spread of the backlighting on each of the keys, just adds to an overall sense that the Alcantara Signature Type Cover, is a top end, premium accessory, which, available in a selection of colours, Aqua, Cobalt, Burgundy and the one I went for in Platinum, with other matching colour coded accessories, Pen, Arc Mouse etc. allows you to make the Surface Pro, a much more personalised device. A device you will connect with. A device, which will become your trusted go to device.

Microsoft have made a great Type Cover with their latest generation Alcantara Signature Type Cover, which beautifully compliments the already excellent Surface Pro.

Microsoft Surface Pro (2017): Impressions from a Mac user. . .

Regular readers, will probably have worked out, that I love trying different tech gear. Especially photographic gear and usually Apple products.

This wasn’t intended to be quite as long, so apologies before hand for the length of this post, but I hope you find it a worthwhile read.

I have been using Macs, in one form or another, since early 2003, when I purchased my very first PowerBook G4. A little 12″ model, which, thanks to some build to order options, I maxed out. Looking back now, maxed out with 768MB RAM does sound a bit paltry, but that little laptop was my go to device for years. I absolutely loved it.

Until, after transitioning to Digital photography with the Canon EOS 10D and then the EOS 1Ds MKII, my little PowerBook G4, just didn’t have the oomph for editing the files the 1Ds MKII was producing. It struggled to batch process images. I was gutted. It was time for a new laptop.

I’ve had many different MacBook Pro offerings, I won’t even get into the number of PowerMac G5, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and iMac I have had and purchased for other friends and family, but each was perfectly capable and improved, generation over generation, but none ever captured that ‘connection’ I had with my PowerBook G4. I loved that little computer. But all, could be opened up and either fixed (within limitations) or upgraded by the end user, whether Apple officially said so or not.

Need a new battery? Easy(ish) depending on model. Earlier MacBook Pro, had easily removable batteries. Just a simple flick of an unlock switch and out popped the battery. Nothing could have been easier. More RAM? A doddle. Want to increase that HDD or swap it for SSD? Done in minutes.

MacBook Pro, were investments for the future. You could upgrade them (within limitations) as your needs changed. Once Apple had fully switched over to Intel CPU, with 64-Bit CPU and EFI, the investment for the future, was pretty much assured.

Until, that is, Apple released the MacBook Air. That, was a true PowerBook G4 12″ replacement. It was gorgeous, small and capable (within limits), but that slightly smaller 16:9 screen, wasn’t great for editing images on the go and the TN display, was awful for colour accuracy, not to mention the well documented viewing angles, but I loved that little 11.6″ model computer.

The MacBook Air, was the template for what Apple was planning to do with all their computer offerings. Non upgradeable and non user serviceable. You had to pay Apple the big bucks to get the upgrades you ‘might need’in the future, at the time of purchase. Apple forced you to pay their inflated prices on RAM and extra storage as a means of future proofing your purchase. And boy did they inflate those prices.

The MacBook Air, did also come in a larger 13″ form, which continues to this day (sort of), but hasn’t seen an internal update in over a year or a redesign in many years.

With the help of the graphics from MacRumors’ ‘Buyers Guide’ Site, I give you. . .

MBA Refresh

As you can see from the graphic above, the MacBook Air, hasn’t seen an update in over a year (at the time of the graphic being created).

The 13″ MacBook Air, still comes with that rather under whelming display, but has at least had ‘some’ internal updates, which is more than can be said for most of Apple’s other offerings.

As camera gear has become more technologically advanced and sensor resolution has improved exponentially, from the earliest digital SLR offerings, demands on portable systems have increased significantly and so, having a portable device that is capable of handling large RAW files from modern sensors and cameras, is a must.

Software too, has become way more advanced, offering smarter editing capabilities, with multi layer edits, corrections, composite constructions etc. and so, hardware requirements, have become even more relevant. Efficency and battery life balanced with performance, more than ever.

It’s a bit of a misconception that an image taken with a 24MP sensor, will be the same size regardless of the camera it is taken on, but this isn’t technically true.

Image sensor size is relevent here. You see, on a Micro Four Thirds 20.3MP sensor, each pixel is smaller and therfor less able to capture the same ‘data’ that a 20.3MP APS-C sensor can capture. The APS-C sensor has physically larger pixels which are capable of capturing more light data. Likewise, an APS-C sensor, can’t capture the same amount of data as a full frame sensor like the 24.3MP found in the Sony A7 series of cameras. The pixels are physically bigger, allowing for more light data to be captured and stored.

This gets complicated even further, when colour space selection and bit depth are added into the mix. A 12-bit sRGB RAW file on a 24MP APS-C will be smaller than the same APS-C sensor producing a 14-bit sRGB RAW file, which in turn will be smaller than a 14-bit Adobe RGB RAW file. As sensor size increases, data captured generally increases too, putting even more strain on mobile systems capabilities.

While the difference in the amount of data captured, may be argueable to the naked eye, when it comes to post processing, the larger full frame files, allow for a greater amount of ‘tweaking’ as it’s now called, or processing as it was called in the days of the dark room.

A RAW image froma m4/3 20.3MP sensor, may be typically @14MB in size, an image file from a 24.3MP full frame might typically be @34MB in size. Obviously, these file sizes vary, depending on the complexity of the subject / scene captured. More objects in the scene, require more written data to differentiate between them, compared to a shot of a clear blue sky say. So, the figures are just guess-timates.

Recently, I’ve written about my transition from laptop, a retina MacBook Pro, to the new world of computing, well if you believe the hype at least, of post pc-ism, which involves tablets, as the go to device, instead of the trusty old laptop or desktop computer.

I have been transitioning my predominantly photographic workflow, from my retina MacBook Pro, onto the second generation, 10.5″ iPad Pro, which, wasn’t as hard as I first imagined.

There was a bit of a learning curve, searching for Apps to replace my Mac desktop workflow etc. But alternatives were there to be utilised, in fresh and exciting new ways. Ah, the age of discovery! Bring it on. . .

It wasn’t painless and was actually quite invigorating. Creative types (or any person for that matter) really should have a good clear out every once in a while. We should all get rid of that digital ‘fluff’, that’s been on the ‘to do’ list, and embrace a fresh start. It does somewhat centre the attention. . .

Those applications, that were installed with the best of intentions, which, you never did get round to learning fully, or, the applications that were installed but forgotten about., the digital detritus, bogging down and hogging valuable disk space, running unbeknown tasks in the background, stealing valuable system resources. Some, sharing everything you have been doing on your system, with their developers, without your knowledge, need to go.

Clear them out. Your system will thank you for it, as it suddenly feels faster and fresher and, well, like it did when it was new.

Readers of this blog, will know that I have written a few posts detailing my experiences transitioning to the iPad Pro workflow, including my first post asking Apple, if it was time to kill the Mac. The transition, has been a mostly positive experience, until that is, I hit a rather unpleasant brick wall. . .I needed more storage.

Physical on device storage.

Now, I know iPad Pro can be configured with additional storage, my budget allowed for the base 64GB, with Smart Keyboard and Pencil (both of which are necessities if you’re going down the post pc route), but ‘hoping’ that I could utilise more cloud options was (and is) a saving grace, (it has been working really well), but available space was an issue.

The main bottleneck to my entire library being in the Cloud (on two different Cloud services), was my ultra pathetic broadband upload speed. But, internal storage on the iPad Pro was becoming an issue for me too.

I knew I would probably need more physical space, but in fairness, I didn’t expect to get so much done as quickly as I did, as a result, the transition to iPad Pro, was really going faster than even I expected.

So, I started looking at the 256GB or 512GB options and they are great, but expensive. Especially when I thought really long and hard and decided that the little bit extra real estate of the 12.9″, might actually be more welcome than I had originally thought. So, as ever, being the budget conscious person that I am, I turned to the hit and miss world of eBay. . .

Thousands of iPad Pro from all over the world, in varying states from pristine (with a smashed screen: huh?) to parts only and virtually every option in between. I searched and searched, hour after hour, looking for just the right thing. . .the perfect mobile solution. Obviously, if I were to opt for the larger 12.9″, I would need to get another Smart KeyBoard to go with the larger iPad Pro. At least the Pencil is interchangeable, so, I kept looking. . .and, after many days, hours, bleary eyes and headaches. . .

I found it. . .

Screen? Over 12″.

Keyboard and pencil? Included.

Internal storage? 256GB SSD.

Internal RAM? 8GB.

Expansion slots? Micro SDXC card reader built in, USB 3.0 port. Mini Display port. I could add more storage on fast Micro SD cards whenever I needed it. I could connect external SSD drives via fast USB 3, whenever I needed it and, I could connect a larger display via Mini Display port, whenever I needed it.

Apple, you have made a really wonderful product. I absolutely love the iPad Pro. It is a great device, but unfortunately, you didn’t make the perfect device for on the go workflow, in this post pc world. . .

Microsoft did.

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The above graphic, taken from Microsoft’s UK online Store, shows my configuration of Surface Pro. Core i5, 8GB RAM with 256GB SSD. As you can see, at the time of writing, there’s a special £100 off the RRP.

I found a near new condition one on eBay, still under warranty, complete with a Type Cover and the latest gen Surface Pen, significantly less than the price shown in the graphic above. It does pay to shop around, unless you’re desperate, just buy one. You won’t regret it. I certainly don’t.

Next to my Sony a7ii, I reviewed just recently, this is a great purchase. It really is an incredibly capable machine, but if you need more oomph, there is a Core i7 offering too for some extra horse power if your budget / demands require it.

Readers of this blog, will know I have dabbled with Microsoft’s ‘mobile 2 in 1’ offering on a few occasions. I started with a Surface 2, running Windows 8 RT, which I really liked, but the lack of Apps made it a limited and unfulfilling experience overall.

Some time later, I happened upon a really cheap Surface Pro 2 on eBay, that was well battered but fully functioning, so I thought, ‘let’s have a looksee’. I loved that little Surface Pro 2, but eventually moved back to using my MacBook Air, because it was slightly bigger, familiar, with much better battery life, keyboard and TrackPad.

I got another Surface Pro 2 later on, again at a bargain price. This one was in much better condition having been carefully looked after and again, I found, with the newer Windows 10 updates, that the Surface was becoming a really promising and enjoyable device.

I wrote some reviews on here about the Surface Pro 2. I really did enjoy using it, but there were some niggles (TrackPad and keyboard were fairly terrible and battery life, while much improved over the first Surface Pro 2, was only delivering @5 hrs of casual use).

But, as ever, the niggles started to set in and dominate my experience. The type cover keyboard was ok, but noisy. The small built in Trackpad was. . .useless, so for extended periods of non direct on screen interaction, it started to become a chore.

Sometime later, I had the chance of a Surface Pro 4, which I really did like. The screen size, flexible storage etc, but the one I grabbed to try out, only had a Core M CPU, which, for everything other than image editing or CPU intensive stuff, was absolutely brilliant. It flew along without issue and unlike many Surface Pro 4 owners out there, battery life was a huge improvement on previous experiences. That thing would last @9 hours easily with casual use. If you did attempt anything more strenuous, obviously the battery took a hit as things gradually ground to an almost halt, but for every day lighter tasks, the Core M was a huge surprise.

But, image editing is mostly what I do, so, despite my enjoyment of the Surface Pro 4, the improved battery life, the Surface Pro 4 was sold on. I looked for a higher spec option, but they were just too expensive to justify the outlay.

All of this was before I started my serious transition to a tablet based, post pc world, type future.

Time passed, as it does, and all the while I was sure Apple would do something to tackle the threat that Microsoft’s Surface Pro was raising. Then came the Surface Studio desktop beast, the Surface Dial . . .Microsoft were innovating?

Huh? When did that happen????

I knew vaguely, that Microsoft had launched a new Surface Pro in 2017, but a quick glance at the prices, was a little off putting. The base model came with a 7th gen Core M CPU, which, based on my Surface Pro 4 experience, was never going to manage Lightroom or Photoshop. The next hike up, with Core i5, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD, was into the £1000 GBP mark. Too much to outlay on something I knew showed promise, but from previous experience, had some niggles. I also knew that 4GB RAM, just wasn’t enough for my needs running desktop class software, so, 8GB would need to be the minimum.

Then, iPad Pro 2nd Gen arrived. . . This was it. The device I had been waiting for. . .and it was. . . mostly, for @85% of what I needed to do, but there was some software I use a lot, which just has no iOS equivalent and the developers, aren’t showing any signs of making it on iOS, so, I had to keep returning to my Mac desktop to use the desktop apps I relied on for certain ‘looks’.

So, here I am, typing on my 2017 model, Surface Pro, which Microsoft decided, didn’t have enough changes in the specification, to warrant a number upgrade, so, the sequal to the Surface Pro 4, is the Surface Pro (2017).

How and ever, this Surface Pro, is as far as I can work out, a huge upgrade over the previous generation Pro 4 designation. Virtually every single component is new and or redesigned.

For starters, it contains a 7th Generation Intel Core i5 (Kaby Lake), which runs at 2.6GHz, dual core with hyper threading and Turbo boost. It has faster 8GB RAM, faster 256GB SSD and a better on board GPU Intel HD 620 (in the core i5 models).

Most importantly, the core i5 models, like the Core M based offering, is now totally fanless.

Yup, you heard that right.

The Surface Pro (2017) Intel Core i5 models have no fan, desite the CPU being the real U designation, which requires a fan by design. Microsoft engineers, found a way.

It’ll overheat and burn out! I hear you cry. . .

Nope. It won’t.

The innovative engineers at Microsoft (a phrase I honestly never thought I would see my self type or utter aloud), have created a weird spider’s web type heatsink, which distributes the heat out over a greater surface area, which combined with Kaby Lake and redesigned cooling vents, keeps the CPU cooled within normal parameters.

The difference no fan makes?

This thing is totally silent.

And fast.

My Surface Pro (2017) is quick. Noticeably quick. It just whizzes through whatever I throw at it. When pushed, yeah it does get a bit warm to the touch, but so far, has never got anywhere near to that ‘it’s gonna melt’ point. It gets warm and that’s pretty much it. Never hot hot (unlike some MacBook Pro models of days gone by. You might remember when Apple stopped calling their laptops, laptops and started calling them notebooks instead).

That 12.3″ display, is gorgeous to look at. The colour accuracy is pretty spot on and the almost complete sRGB colour gammut, is good enough for most image related editing needs. It may not have the same gammut as the iPad Pro, but the difference side by side? You can’t tell.

The contrast. black point and white point, is really good on the Surface Pro display. And the resolution? Is pin sharp. It is a gorgeous display to work on.

And. . .battery life is much improved over previous generations. Of course, battery life is a very subjective and based on personal needs, thing. Depending on what you’re doing on your Surface Pro, mileage will vary, but with the excellent power managment features in Windows 10 in combination with the Kaby Lake CPU / GPU, Microsoft has managed to produce something that will last you all day.

Heavy video editing, multi layered image editing or other CPU / GPU intensive tasks, will obviously eat your battery power more quickly (depending on settings used), but for most every day tasks including lighter image editing, this thing will last between charges.

Now, I had the 10.5″ iPad Pro, which I felt was a better size for everyday carrying and while that remains true, the increased size to 12.3″ of the Surface Pro, is actually a very welcome addition.

The Type Cover, is as ever, a very expensive add on, which you don’t actually need unless you do a lot of writing, because thanks to a redesigned Kick Stand (yeah the thing every body laughed at, including me, when Microsoft launched the first Surface Pro), range of movement has been increased over that of the Surface Pro 4 and will now extend (rotate /swing/flex) outwards until almost flat (165 degrees). This is now what Microsoft call the ‘Studio’ mode.

Studio mode is brilliant for drawing /editing and for typing, on the highly capable on screen touch keyboard. That’s where that extra screen real estate really makes a big difference over the 10.5″ iPad Pro.

If you do opt for the physical Type Cover, you can enjoy a full sized proper keyboard. Having got used to the 10’5″ iPad Pro Smart Keyboard, which costs more than the Surface Pro Type Cover, it does feel a bit huge, but after adapting to the size increase, is a joy to use. Backlighting on each key and a built in track pad, whilst not as good as the track pads you’ll find on any Apple Laptop, is a welcome addition.

The now ‘optional’ Surface Pro Pen, is the latest generation, with over 4,000 pressure sensitive capabilities, which makes using the pen an absolute joy. It’s fluid with minimal lag and while it may not be quite as technically proficient as the Apple Pencil, the size, weight and build, actually suit me better than the thin pencil that Apple offers. The slight difference in lag times is for any normal person, imperceptible. If you video and watch back in slow-mo, yes you can see there is a slightly longer lag with teh Surface Pro Pen compared to the Apple Pencil, but between the two, I actually prefer the Surface Pro Pen.

Pens / pencils are, like any writing instrument, a personal thing. Finding the right pen makes all the difference to handwriting quality and comfort. I personally prefer a smaller, chubbier writing instrument and the Surface Pro Pen satisfies that and feels great in my hand.

The Apple Pencil, if I had to be critical, is just a little too thin and a little too long for my taste. It is in no way horrible. It is wonderful to use, but I like the feel of the Surface Pen just that little bit more.

So, what am I prattling on about this for, when I’ve written about transitioning to the iPad Pro?

Something resonated with me when I started using the Surface Pro (2017). My experiences with the previous versions I detailed earlier, also started something I didn’t like to admit at the time. The experience with the Surface 2 and the Surface Pros I’d had started an uncomfortable niggle in my mind, that after 15 years of being a Mac user, having spent a small fortune on Apple computers, both desktop and laptop, iPads, iPhones, Airport Extreme / Express, keyboards, trackpads, mice, not to mention the amount of software I’d purchased, Apple had moved away from where their products and I had journeyed together.

My switch to Apple back in 2003, when I bought my first 12″ PowerBook G4, maxed out and cost a small fortune, was the start of a creative journey where the Apple products I’d purchased had assisted in my creative workflow. Apple gear and I had become a competent unit for my photographic journey.

But, that started to change with the loss of Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs, knew how important creatives were to Apple. They are the group of individuals, that had remained loyal to Apple through the Jobsless period. They were the group of people, that had the money to invest in Apple gear on a long term scale.

Steve Jobs, made Apple, loyal to creatives and in return, creative types, stayed loyal to Apple.

This was why, Apple made software like Final Cut, Aperture and Logic Pro, to name just a few. This is why these titles became industry standards, but after the loss of Steve Jobs, Apple effectively dumped innovation for creative types, but abandoning Aperture and the photographic community that had become reliant on Aperture’s unique way of processing RAW files and the unique toolset Aperture included, Apple had set their stall out for all to see. Creative types, were no longer a consideration worthy of Apple’s time.

Sure, there were new offerings of Final Cut and Logic Pro, but they are really only now getting back the feature sets they had before they were redesigned from the ground up for a 64-bit world. When the first Final Cut X 64-bit was released, the number of professionals who jumped ship due to a lack of the features they had come to rely on, spoke volumes. Apple, it appeared, just didn’t care enough about creatives.

Aperture, my favourite image library app, is long gone, despite my spending over £1000 on the various ittertions and updates that were launched. Things like that leave a sour taste in your mouth. Even if you find alternatives, but the taste lingers. Time doesn’t remove that sense of being cheated.

Mac computers too started to feel overlooked.

The Mac Pro, the long term investment and basis of so many creative industries was ignored for years with out dated internals, yet no price reduction. When finally Apple did release a new Mac Pro to the world, Phil Schiller stated “can’t innovate? My ass” during the keynote. Prices for a 2013 Mac Pro, start from £2999.00, for a 5 year old (tech wise) computer!

Mac Pro Refresh

As you can see, the Mac Pro, hasn’t had an update in 1,698 days (that’s over 4.5 years!).

When Apple did finally get round to revealing their all new Mac Pro in 2013, sure it was gorgeous. It was amazing, but, it was tiny. It had virtually no internal expansion options and was pretty much disregarded by creative types.

That virtually same 2013 Mac Pro, is still available to buy today but a sightly reduced cost. No huge reduction and no latest generation tech. As a technical project, the Mac Pro is a phenominal design and engineering feat. It is gorgeous to look at, but, it’s 5 years old!

The Mac Mini, that much loved and hugely versatile little computer, which always hit above it’s weight, has remained unchanged since 2014. Sure it has a 4th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, but Intel are now onto the 8th Generation of Core i CPU.

Mac Mini Refresh

Mac Mini has increased in price, despite having 4 year old internal components. Prices start from £479.00 for a 4 year old (tech wise) computer.

The MacBook Pro, virtually unchanged since 2012 when Apple launched their first retina models, was finally given the redesign many wanted in 2016 and. . .

MBP Refresh

It had a Touch Bar! Whoop whoop.

And it came in different colours. . .whoop!

And you couldn’t upgrade any parts yourself. EVER.

The MacBook Pro, has just received an internal update recently, so one almost modern computer is currently available from Apple. Prices start from £1249.00, but increase rapidly when you start to select the spec you might need in the future.

The 13″ with TouchBar, starts from £1749.00 and increases with upgrades and the 15″ model, starts from £2399.00 and increases with the updates you ‘might’ need to future proof your ‘investment’.

The relaunched and redesigned MacBook, with it’s underwhelming Intel Core M based CPU/GPU, are expensive, compared to what MacBook used to be and are significantly impaired when it comes to doing any serious CPU/ GPU intensive work.

MB Refresh

The MacBook, hasn’t seen refresh in over a year! The MacBook is available in a range of fancy colours to suit your taste at the time of purchase, for a mere £1249.00. Optional upgrades are available at an inflated price at the time of purchase.

The iMac. The favourite all in one desktop, always allowed the user to upgrade internal memory, so that you could imprive the performance as your needs adapted.

iMac Refresh

In 2012, when Apple launched the ultra thin (depending on what angle you’re looking at it from) iMac, the 21″ had no user upgradeable memory. As you can see above, the iMac hasn’t had an update in over a year.

Up until the 2011 model iMac, an adventurous owner could remove the screen and replace internals should they wish. The display glass was held on by magnets, so any adventurous owner could replace that awful slow Hard Drive, with a latest SSD for a huge performance boost, with the right tools, steady hand and some care.

I did the SSD upgrade on my mid 2011 27″ iMac. It wasn’t that hard and with care it was easy enough to do. It made my entire machine feel like a new machine. It was blazingly fast, combined with 16GB of RAM, it handled anything I threw at it. Imagine my excitment when Apple announced the new macOS Mojave features to the world. It even came with a Dark Mode.

Bliss. At last.

Compared to the current 21.5″ iMac, which starts at £1049.99 with optional ‘build to order’ upgrades, which as you would expect, bump that price up even higher. A 4K displayed version, starts at £1249.00, or the 27″ iMac, which starts at £1749.00 with 5K display and increases as you bump up your specs. my iMac is repairable and upgradeable (with limitations regarding GPU etc). Good luck getting the current offerings open, should something go wrong.

Now, this is frustrating, because I have been requesting a dark mode for OSX and macOS for years. Apple have never obliged, instead insisting on blinding us with ever brighter and brighter displays. Now they do decide to put a dark mode into the latest OS and. . .my iMac has been excluded from the macOS Mojave roll out. Thanks Apple.

I have to buy a new computer to get it. . .

And here’s what Apple want you and I to buy. . .

iMac Pro Refresh

Now, sure, if you have a few thousand sitting around and you want an all in one which, like the cheaper standard iMac, can only have the RAM upgraded (27″ models only), then the iMac Pro is a steal at £4,899.00. But for almost £5K, I want a system that I can get into and upgrade and/ or fix when the warranty has long since run out.

I can open up my iMac, I can replace components. From 2012 onward, Apple have made their computers almost impossible to open.

Buy a Mac for a long term investment?

I bought my 27″ iMac in the spring of 2012, despite it being a mid-2011 specification model, it was built to order with some upgraded internals. Having taken it apart and installed a Crucial MX300 (3D NAND SSD), it was a completely new and still powerful machine, well capable of current and future needs, but, if I want the latest OS with Dark Mode, I have to buy a new computer.

Currently, Apple have three desktop computers on offer. A five year old Mac Pro, a four year old Mac Mini and an iMac which hasn’t seen a redesign since 2012, but has been upgraded internally at indescriminate times, so it isn’t ‘that’ old.

But, Apple still offer the iMac and Mac Mini, with 5400rpm internal hard drives. That can’t easily be changed to SSD because either the display is now glued onto the body and can’t easily be removed without breakage, or the base plate of the Mini, has been fitted with specialised tamper proof screws. The 27″ iMac does allow the end user to increase the RAM, but any chance of repair is virtually removed.

So much for long term investment then.

As a comparison, my mother has an almost ten year old HP desktop. It has a Quad Core Intel CPU (pre Core I) a Q9660 (or something like that), it has 8GB RAM installed (motherboard supports much more) and it has GPU slots for upgrading the graphics, should needs demand it.

It was a Windows 7 machine originally, which runs the latest build of Windows 10, effortlessly. It zooms along and almost never misses a beat.

Microsoft, launching a new OS (Windows 10 is now a few years old and has had many new update builds released, which improve and add new features) and here her ten+ year old, off the shelf PC can run the latest OS without issue.

My more powerful iMac from spring 2012, is not being allowed to run the latest macOS, despite being able to run macOS High Sierra, without issue (other than the bugs within the OS).

Apple are ensuring forced obsolescence, by deliberately preventing more than capable computers from accessing their latest operating system. This isn’t new, Apple has been doing it for a long time, but not quite as blatantly.

Apple’s portable offerings, yet again, show a similar pattern. A MacBook Air that despite having had a slight internal bump, is the same design as the updated version from 2010. An 8 year old design.

MacBook are over priced, under performing, multi coloured clamshells, which have awful keyboards and one USB-C port.

MacBook Pro are expensive, especially once you factor in additional RAM or higher storage SSD offerings, or both, then they get stupidly expensive.

Some may argue, that at @£1400 RRP the Surface Pro core i5, 8GB RAM 256GB SSD, that I have now, is as overpriced as the MacBook Pro, I could have got for the same money. It’s a fair point, but there are differences:

Surface Pro has a multi angle kickstand.

Surface Pro has Touch input.

Surface Pro has pen input.

Surface Pro has expandable storage, thanks to that little dinky Micro SDXC slot hiding under the kickstand. I can easily add additional storage when I want to. And that little Micro SDXC reader, supports todays highest capacity cards. That’s potentially 400GB + installed with a slight push into the Micro SDXC slot. Job done.

The MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, don’t.

As you can see from the Macrumors’ Buyer Guide Graphics, only one of Apple’s current computer offerings has been updated in the past year. The rest are well overdue a refresh and their latest ‘pro’ offering, is a vanity project for people who have too much credit and not enough common sense. Bragging rights rule, with the iMac Pro.

Where did Apple’s innovation go?

And that was the uncomfortable feeling I started to get when I first tested the Surface 2 way back when it was about to be replaced by the Surface 3 (I got it on a deal)

The iMac, has remained unchanged since 2012. The 27″ is expensive. Apple has recently launched the iMac Pro, which is far too expensive and as difficult to upgrade as the normal less expensive, but still expensive iMac.

Microsoft, has launched an expensive (iMac level price) Surface Studio, starting at £2999.00 with various upgraded options. Screen shot below is from Microsoft’s online store here in the U.K.

Surface Studio

It’s an all in one.

It has a touch screen.

It has pen input.

It has add ons like the Surface Dial which adds a whole new interactive layer to input.

It has a tilting display, just like the iMac? No, the Surface Studio display, can slide down to become a huge Wacom Cintiq style workspace for creatives to get down and do their stuff.

The Surface Studio, is what Apple should have evolved the iMac into.

But they didn’t.

The Surface Pro, starts at £799.00, (there’s currently £50 off in the U.K, so that brings it down to £749.00 with the 7th Gen Core M CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD), is what Apple should have evolved the MacBook Pro into long ago.

But they didn’t.

A software company called Microsoft did. They made the hardware.

So, my Surface Pro 2017, with 8GB RAM and 256SSD, Surface Pen and Type Cover, would cost new today, over £1400.00 all in.

I found one on eBay, like new, hardly used, someone looking for a very quick sale, that I got for well under the retail price. Complete. All in. Only 11 battery cycles. It’s like new and came with Type Cover and latest Surface Pen, all boxed. Pristine.

That is a bargain.

What I make selling my iPad Pro, Smart Keyboard and Pencil, will cover that and I have a completely versatile Desktop system to us. Free from constraints of Apple and their walled garden.

I’ve only had it a week or so, but using my old style workflow with Windows versions of my trusted desktop software, I fell straight into old mode and was getting things done way faster. Muscle memory kicked back in and I was on a roll.

The Surface Pro, is a premium device. The build quality is excellent and the subtle tweaks to design make it all the more enjoyable to hand hold. Performance is impressive and I have yet to encounter a single issue. Everything on it, just works.

Microsoft really have improved their attention to detail on this Surafe Pro. It is an absolutely fantastic device to use for long periods and never feels tired or under pressure.

The Type cover is a refreshing change from the Apple Smart Keyboard and has full sized, backlit keys. I did miss backlit keys on the Smart Keyboard, as thanks to a sensitivity to light, I often work in darker environments, so a baklit keyboard is much appreciated.

TrackPad interaction and capabilities have been improved and the TrackPad has had a size boost. Nowhere near as big as the current offering from Apple, nor as fluid, but is almost there. The Pen input is brilliant. There is no other word for it.

The iPad Pro is an incredible device. It is a beautifully made and powerful tablet. But, I’m afraid to say it, I have found a better way of doing the post pc thing. . .on a pc.

The Surface Pro is a fantatsic device. I have finally given in to what started to niggle at me when I got my first Surface 2, to try out the whole Windows 8 thing. Just to see.

Inside, I knew Apple were moving away from me, I just didn’t want to accept it. They weren’t innovating in the direction they should have been going. Instead, under Tim Cook, Apple have focused on milking the cash cow of iPhone and iPad whilst essentially exploiting and paying nothing but lip service to the people who kept Apple afloat during those dark days, when Jobs was ousted from the firm. It is an uncomfortable realisation, but one that I have now accepted.

Steve Jobs, never publicly at least, forgot those creative types. He rewarded them with great hardware and brilliant software. When Steve passed away, that legacy at Apple died with him.

It really pains me to say this, being a dedicated Mac user for 15+ years, but it looks like what remains at Apple, is a hollow shell of a company, that is nothing more than a greedy corporate, milking the suckers (customers) with fake promises of devices which don’t do as much as other manufacturers, at an ever increasing cost, for older and outdated (by todays standards) internal components.

The Mac Mini, comes with a 4th Gen Intel i5 / i7 (depending on your build to order option), when Intel have already launched the 8th Generation Core I CPU.

My Surface Pro, comes with a 7th Gen Intel Core i5 (Kaby Lake), so is still pretty ‘current’ and more than capable. It is a great device.

Microsoft, on the other hand, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, has reinvented itself, from those dark Balmer days, into an open, listening company. Just the sort of place Apple was under Jobs. Microsoft, want to play well with Linux, Android, Mac, iOS and Windows of course, but their hardware devision, is really on fire with the Surface line.

The release of the smaller and very capable Microsoft Surface Go, with prices starting at £379.00 for a 10″ tablet running Windows 10 S, with Pen support and it’s own Type Cover, with built in TrackPad, should be a warning to Apple.

Microsoft, expanding their Surface range, are going after not only MacBook / MacBook Pro, with their Surface Laptop, Surface Book and Surface Pro, but the iPad Pro business too. The Surface Pro and their newest Surface Go, are more capable than Apple’s latest iPad with pencil support or iPad Pro, because they aren’t hampered with a restrictive mobile OS. Instead, all Surface run a real desktop OS even when running as a tablet.

The Surface Pro and Go, both support Pen input and have real sized and fully functioning keyboards, that are vastly superior to the Smart Keyboards currently offered by Apple.

The built in Kickstands on the Surface Pro and Surface Go, offer real stability and real positioning capabilities over the triangular one position offered by the iPad covers Apple offer.

I look forward to a Surface Phone, so I can retire iPhone into a niche item from a company that used to be great.

Windows 10, is familiar, yet new. It is fluid with some incredible features. Unlike macOS, which is being dumbed down to iOS levels, Windows 10, is evolved and evolving into a powerful and stable operating environment. Microsoft got it right with Windows 10, just as Apple got it right with Mac OS X, and look what that led to for Apple. . .over a decade of innovation and dominance.

Apple’s run is over. Microsoft are the new kings of innovation in the digital age.

Now that, is a bold statement, coming from a loyal Mac user for some 15+ years.

Apple and Apple users, should be very worried, because more people like me, are making that switch. The switch back to Windows, because of Microsoft hardware.

Now, who does that remind you off?

Just over 15 years ago, I bought a piece of hardware for access to better software. PowerBook G4 by Apple. Here I am doing the exact same thing 15 years later, but in the other direction, from Apple, to Microsoft.

I never, ever thought that day would come. But here it is and I am loving the new Surface Pro running Windows 10 Pro. It is a fully functioning desktop computer with tablet features, which just work. It’s compact, light and can be taken anywhere, yet it gives me the full desktop environment and capabilities on the go.

The Surface Pro, along with the entire Surface range, is what Apple should have introduced long ago. Being honest, Microsoft have got a much better name for their devices, yet Apple’s obsession with ever thinner, ever brighter and more locked into their ever increasing walled garden, device offerings, are moves, which enslave their customers, to Apple’s long term cloud service plan.

When Apple launched the MacBook Pro with TouchBar, it may have been a technical marvel, but for what sort of person was it intended? I don’t need a TouchBar to show me emoji. That’s  what the emoji keyboard is for.

A MacBook Pro, with pen input and a touchscreen, now that might have been worth a purchase, but Apple, in their infinite wisdom (delusion) will give the customer what Apple wants, not necessarily what the customers want, because Apple know, that their customers can be milked for years because that Apple cool aid, once sipped, is very, very addictive.

I started this article stating I have been a loyal Mac user for 15 years. I have. But since Steve Jobs passed away, my loyalty to Apple and the products that Apple offers, has been shaken. Some, like the HomePod are fantastic. The iPad Pro is fantastic. but side by side, capability by capability, the fact is, the Surafce Pro, is a much more capable machine, with no compromised mobile OS, to hold it back. It is a simple fact, by design.

The Microsoft Surface Pro, runs a full desktop operating system, which runs full desktop class software. No ‘special alternatives’ need to be found. All the leading software for Mac is also available for Windows 10. No relearning (well other than basic layout differences) is required (unlike the changed workflow on the iPad Pro).

If your entire digital life is in Apple iCloud, like mine has been since the early dotmac days, come the day that you can’t access it on anything other than an Apple device, what will you do? Have a whole new life on another platform, or keep being forced into buying more expensive Apple devices, most, with years old tech inside them, to get access to YOUR data? Or, look to someone else who is innovating and offering products which offer a more involved, immersive and personal way of interacting?

It really does pain me to type these words, but Microsoft, the company I first encountered with my first Compaq PC and quickly learned to despise under Gates and then Ballmer, has changed. It needed to.

In a bizarre twist of fate, Apple is becoming what Microsoft were and Microsoft, is being reborn as the new Apple. Cool iconic products, which do things differently, but are immersive and dare I say it, fun and exciting to use.

Windows 10 Pro on the Surface Pro, feels like a solid offering, with great features from the get go. Signing in with Windows Hello, is effortless and takes virtually no time to set up. It works every time, even when wearing my reading glasses.

Of course, there are some things that macOS has, which Windows 10 doesn’t, but that works the other way too. Windows 10 has features that macOS doesn’t have. With each update that Microsoft release, more refinement and new features are being added at quite a rate, from what I have read. The next big update is due pretty soon, which I am looking forward to using.

Apple on the other hand with macOS Mojave, have done some refinement, but when you consider that they are offering a Dark Mode, when Windows has had that for years (which is a joy to use), you have to start questioning the commitment Apple has for the Mac.

When new models are released, the big news is that they come in a variety of colours. That is when you should know that the game is almost up. The silver MacBook Pro was iconic, the white MacBook was iconic. You could have any colour you wanted as long as it was silver or white respectively.

The latest MacBooks and MacBook Pro, are being offered in Rose Gold, Gold, Space Grey etc. is a sign that desperation has set in. When any manufacturer offers a variety of colours, while it may be appealing to some, usually signifies that the fresh ideas the company once had, are drying up.

With the MacBook relaunch, Apple could quite easily have offered a white aluminium version and a black version, to match the most iconic mix they had of MacBook in days long gone. Instead they offered simply too many colours, as if the MacBook (and to a slightly lesser extent the MacBook Pro with fewer colour offerings), was a fashion accessory instead of a capable computer.

With the generation of Core M the MacBook is equipped with, the MacBook is effectively an expensive note taker. For significantly less financial outlay, I would buy a Surface Pro, with 7th Gen Core M, Type Cover and Pen, have fun using it and feel great that I’d saved myself @£400 on a way more capable machine. Note taking with the Surface Pen, is a fantastic experience. One the £1249.00 MacBook, can’t even begin to challenge, regardless of the colour you opt for. The Surface Pro, comes in a beautiful and classy looking magnesium alloy, silver colour. It is rather striking. Iconic you might say.

It does, at least to me, suggest that Apple really have lost their sense of priorities, as well as their way. The lack of innovation and direction, a clear path layed out for the future of the Mac, combined with the stagnant selection of computers that they do have on offer, should have investors and customers worrying.

I do love the Unix based macOS, but there have been too little real innovations software wise, as more and more iOS ‘features’ are brought to the Mac, all while Apple, insist there will be no merging of operating systems.

You have a Mac which can’t get Handoff, because it only has BlueTooth 2? Add a Bluetooth 4 dongle, right? Wrong. Apple doesn’t support that option. But, with Continuity in Windows, depending on the type of system you have, you can add new hardware, if and when you need it to get additional functionality. The same goes with the Windows Hello camera. Don’t have one built in? You can buy USB Windows Hello compliant cameras and add it to your system, if you want that functionality.

With Apple, you can’t. You want additional features, without having to buy a new machine? Good luck with that. You could try hacking your current system, but then that affects future upgrades and compatibility.

It seems clear that Apple’s priority lies with iPhone, iPad and iOS, along with the companion pieces like Apple Watch, AppleTV and HomePod. The Mac’s days are pretty much over.

The loyalty Apple enjoys, will be milked for all it is worth, as the Apple off shore bank balance continues to fatten, as taxes are avoided being paid in the different countries around the world, all thanks to loopholes and clever accounting. Eventually, more and more people will start to make the realisation, that Apple has moved away from them and what they and Apple’s devices, had been achieving together.

Like me, they will find a solution to the challenge they have had, from a different manufacturer. In my case, Microsoft, who just as Apple used to do, make software and hardware, which excites, innovates and encourages creativity. The Microsoft Surface range of products, are exciting. They are challenging the old norm of interaction with the PC. They are leading us into the touch based future and when combined with VR /AR headsets, a different future of interacting with vision and touch.

By comparison, Apple’s idea of a touch computer, came in the form of a TouchBar (sounds like a place to consume alcohol, whilst being manhandled). Whoop-de-whoop. Technologically excellent, but lets face it, not quite up there in regards interaction levels. Icons change depending on app being used. Wow. How did we cope before a TouchBar?

It’s been a pleasure, for most part, but now my transition has changed. Instead of laptop to iPad Pro, the transition is now from Apple to Windows 10 Pro on the Surface Pro by Microsoft. I’ve already started saving for a Surface Studio. It is a beautiful piece of technological innovation and, like the Surface Pro I’m typing this on, is a premuim and well put together device.

Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, clearly have more Steve Jobs’ ethos running through them. They are now playing nice with different platforms and are actually listening to customers and critics in equal measure. Apple, could learn a thing or two from Mr. Nadella and his business ethos. It appears Microsoft has more Apple DNA running through it than Apple currently does.

Mr. Nadella, I read somewhere, would like Microsoft to be loved, like Apple has been. I would say he is well on the way to achieving that if, under his leadership, the software and hardware can tempt a loyal Apple user like me to make the switch, I would wager many, many more will discover the path I have found and will find it a very inticing one, with products that will amaze and delight in equal measure.

A Surface Pro for on the go, combined with a Surface Studio for more serious studio based projects, will make quite an unbeatable combination for years to come. Both will cost less than a base model iMac Pro, yet combined, will offer so much more versatility.

It is early days, but it looks like Microsoft’s Surface Products, are the real investments for the future. My Surface Pro and I have already connected, just as my little PowerBook G4 and I did all those years ago. Small, light and hugely capable. I look forward to using it every day and discovering more of what I can do with this highly capable, powerful post-pc, pc.

Times? They are a changing. My Surface Pro, is now my take everywhere companion. My new(ish) Sony A7ii files (impressions piece just posted), look awesome, on that stunning 12.3″ Pixelsense display. Editing is fun on the Surface Pro.

For the first time in quite a long time, I am seriously looking forward to a more productive mobile future.

Thank you Microsoft and a huge thank you to the Surface Pro team, who have made a range of fantastic devices. If you can tempt a loyal Apple user of many, many years, to eagerly adopt your devices, I would say the future is looking very, very bright indeed.

Now, if you could just release a beautiful Surface Phone, my iPhone would be next to go on eBay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sony Alpha 7 Mark II: Impressions

You might just be wondering why, I am writing a review of a camera, that has been out for several years? Sony, announced the Alpha 7 Mark II, back in the Autumn of 2014, so that’s almost four years ago.

Officially, the Alpha 7 Mark II, is called the Sony Alpha ILCE-7M2, but is more commonly called the a7ii. Sony’s modelling codes are to many, a bit confusing, but they actually make sense, at least from an administration point of view.

In the case of the Sony Alpha ILCE-7M2, the first part, ILCE stands for: Interchangeable Lens Camera E-Mount. The second part, is the model of the device, in this case, the 7M2 stands for 7 Mark 2. It’s fairly straight forward really, unlike many other manufacturers out there.

So, why write a review about a camera that is so old?

Well, regular visitors to this blog, will know, that I like doing photography on a budget. Sure, I like many others out there, have bought brand new cameras at full retail price, but generally, because technology moves on so quickly, cameras are being replaced more frequently than in all honesty, they need to be.

Sony, is probably one of the worst offenders in this regard, but in a very good way. Since buying Minolta, Sony, like many other camera manufacturers out there, have struggled to make a significant dent in the market, despite producing some fantastic cameras. Personally I loved the SLT-A77, which I wrote a blog about some time ago.

Where Canon and Nikon, make the standard ‘incremental’ improvements, relying on their huge customer bases to just keep buying into their ‘milk you for what you got, forever’ upgrade cycles, Sony has been innovating in many different ways. Their SLT cameras, were probably the first ‘revolution’ in SLR technology, since the switch to digital sensors from film.

The translucent mirror was a technological marvel and worked extremely well, but at the same time the maket was changing, with DSLR sales declining while smaller more compact interchangeable lens offerings, were on the rise. So, Sony were expanding their mirrorless camera offerings and with the launch of the original A7 in 2013, the first full frame, affordable, mirrorless camera, Sony set the bar for others to meet.

I had an A7, and it was a phenominal camera, but did have some characteristics, which just made the long term experience, for me personally, a bit of a ‘chore’, so I went back to my much loved Lumix GX8.

Now, regular readers will know that I absolutely love my Panasonic GX8. It is a superb camera in every single way. It is awesome and is my favourite camera.

But, Full Frame sensors, do have that full frame ‘loveliness’ factor in the images one can capture with them, which smaller sensors, physically can’t obtain (Dynamic Range, Depth of Field)

But. . .

Whilst killing time on the intyweb, I happened upon a ‘like new’ Sony A7ii on eBay, with only 280 shutter count, for. . .significantly less than a brand new one would have cost. It is beautiful. It looks almost new and it has that full frame 24.3MP sensor. Mmmmm Full Frame loveliness. Bokeh!

The Sony Alpha ILCE-7M2 (A7ii):

When Sony announced the A7ii, it wasn’t that long after Sony had launched the much reviewed and praised, A7. The first Full Frame Mirrorless camera. But, like every other camera on the market (yes my GX8 included), there were certain trade offs made, to keep it within a set budget.

I bought a Sony A7 a while ago and loved the camera. The image quality was simply stunning, but in use, a few ‘design’ trade offs started to grate a bit.

The shutter button on the A7, was in the wrong place. Like the Fuji X-Pro line, X-E line and some Leica M type, the shutter button was on top plate. Unlike the other brands though, Sony, gave the A7 a grip with a front dial (again at a slightly odd placement) which exaggerated the ‘odd’ feeling of having to move your finger so far up from the front dial.

Both worked as expected, but having them physical buttons located slightly higher than where you would expect to find them, was something I just couldn’t get used to.

Not enough to warrant a sell off. . .

But. . .

Then there was the AF (Auto Focus).

On Single Point (Centre), the AF was ok, in good light. AF-C? Problematic for anything moving faster than a very slow sloth.

Combined, slow AF and ‘odd’ button placement, meant the A7 was ultimately unfulfilling and so, it went the way of eBay.

So, why have a bought another A7? Well, because it is an A7ii.

Which, has improved AF.

Which has improved grip (and button placement), so they are where they feel they should always have been.

And the biggie? It has 5-Axis in body stabilisation. . .on a Full Frame sensor! It’s mad.

The entire body is now Magnesium Alloy (the face plate of the A7 was polycarbonate) and unlike the original A7, the A7ii, comes with a luxurious Matte Black finish. It is a beautiful camera.

Which, in the hand, gives you a but of a surprise. . .

The A7ii, wasn’t just an internals upgrade. The external was completely redesigned and got fatter and in grip terms, slightly wider, but it feels so damned solid. This is top notch build quality, which could probably make a charging bear think twice about coming any closer, if the A7ii made contact with the bear’s head, especially at speed.

The A7ii has a heft about it.

Now for some ‘lighter’ lenses, like the kit lens attached in the pictures, the FE 28-70mm OSS, the Camera is a little, I stress, little right side heavy, but when a heavier lens is added, feels like it will balance out beautifully.

Personally, having been handling the A7ii for over 24 hrs now, the weight is not an issue. I like the added heft.

Auto Focus, has been improved, it won’t beat a super fast DSLR, but with the latest version 4 firmware installed, the AF is quick enough for anything that I want to shoot. It really isn’t an issue, unless you plan on fast sports / wildlife, but then Sony make the A7sii, especially for that scenario.

The A7ii, is the middle of the road, jack of all trades camera, which sat alongside, the original A7, which is still available to buy new today, despite the A7iii having been released.

That last thing is what made me start looking at prices of the A7ii. The A7iii had been released so A7ii prices, would hopefully start to fall.

And they did. Especially second hand prices, as A7ii owners sold them so they could buy the newest iteration the A7iii.

Lucky us 😁

I used to be one of those people. I would buy the newest version, with the improved feature, that I would rarely use and the next, again and again, over and over.

Sure, you have bragging rights . . .”oh, I shoot the Nikon D5s that just hasn’t been released yet, but I got special advanced access, as long as I don’t tell anybody anything about it . . .blah, blah blah”.

It is generally complete BS (male cow excrement).

Technologically, pretty much anything that is made in the higher end space, is extremely good at what is does and will keep being good at what it does for years to come.

In the old days of film cameras, people would use their first 35mm film camera for their entire career, learning about each bodies’ own particular eccentricities, much the same as with unique characteristics of lenses.

That’s the sorest of thing that made photography fun. Learning to be one with your equipment, each working to each others’ strengths to get that amazing shot.

That old film camera, those lenses, were like trusted friends. You knew them inside out and used their strengths and weaknesses, to create some fantastic and unique images.

Then Digital happened to change all that.

Now, I could could quite easily go off on one about Digital vs Film and blah, blah-blah, blah, blah. . .but, I absolutely loved when Digital became ‘real’.

The Canon EOS 10D was the DSLR that made me give up film and my much loved T70 and T90 FD mount cameras. I loved the T70, size, weight, build. I still think fondly about my time with that Canon T70.

The Sony A7ii, is what digital should have delivered from the off. A camera of similar size and build to an upper middle to top end 35mm Film camera, like the T70 /T90 /EOS 1.

Sony really has changed the camera dynamic with their innovations. The original A7, is still available to buy new, as is the A7ii, along with the newest A7iii, all at different price points which will attract or tempt a different buyer.

Canon and Nikon, have been too slow to react to the mirrorless revolution. Nikon’s 1″ Sensor sized Nikon 1 range, may be interchangeable lens cameras, but a 1″ sensor really just doesn’t cut it, but presumably, since Nikon don’t want to alienate or imapct on their core lens business, they want to preserve their DSLR market by ignoring the future.

Canon have played with mirrorless for some time, but not seriously. Personally, I absolutely loved the Canon EOS M. It was tiny, built like a tank and had a grea sensor inside it. But, Canon, hobbled it with super slow AF. The touch interface was brilliant and like I siad, I loved that little camera. I still do, but again, Canon were just too scared to let their egineers, kit it out as a super duper mirrorless offering.

Since the EOS M, which was stupidly priced for the shortcomings Canon imposed on it, the EOS M range has been a more tentatively played evolution. The EOS M2 never reached Europe / North America or anywhere outside of the far east.

The EOS M3 promised so much, but still had hobbled AF, poorer build than the original EOS M. All took phenominal images. They had great sensors inside, but Canon hobbled them.

In the meantime, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony, were selling boatloads of mirrorless cameras. Smaller, faster, ever expanding lens line ups, each generation gatting better than the last. Mirrorless was on the rise. . .

Canon, Nikon and Pentax, just sat and watched it happen, scared to invest in what was emerging as the future of photography. Sony, like Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus before them, accepted the challenge head on and offered us the full frame A7.

The Sony a7ii, continues and extends that journey.

UPDATE: 19th September 2018

Well, the long and short of this update, is to say, I’m back using my much loved Panasonic  GX8 as my go to device.

The first week with the A7ii and that Full Frame loveliness, was fairly short. The lack of Touch Screen, those Sony Menus we have to plough through and the killer, that extra short battery life, just started to make shooting, no fun at all.

On top of which, the main reason really, the lack of affordable, quality glass for the A7ii. Sure there are good lenses, but the G Master range is stupidly expensive and heavy, which sort of goes against the point of having a smaller body in the first place.

I wrote about this issue with the latest Canon EOS R and Nikon Zzzzzzzz offerings. It’s all very well launching smaller camera bodies, but the whole point of mirrorless, is for lighter more compact gear which gives great results.

The Full Frame Sony A7’s, Canon R and Nikon Zzzzzzzz, may all be more compact, but the quality glass, is both huge, heavy and stupidly overpriced.

The Panasonic GX 8, is an incredible camera, which suits my shooting needs perfectly. It was like coming back to a trusted friend. The build, the image quality, the menus and that fantastic Touch Screen interface. Why did I decide to to buy the Sony A7ii in the first place?

I’ve now sold the A7ii on and having made a bit of a profit on it, I will be adding some newer LUMIX lenses very soon. The GX8 does after all, deserve the very best.

Apple Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil for iPad Pro. Essential, Or Just Expensive Add Ons To Boost Apple’s Coffers?

As part of the continuing journey, from computer to tablet, Apple’s 10.5″ iPad Pro in particular, today, I thought I would share my experience of the main peripherals designed exclusively for the iPad Pro:

Apple’s Smart Keyboard and of course the Apple Pencil.

Disclaimer: This entire post, was created on the iPad Pro, in split screen, using the new iOS 11, drag and drop, from Safari (for the Apple links contained in the piece) on one side and the official WordPress App, on the other side of the screen, in a 50/50 split view, as shown in the screen shot below:

Several screen shots were taken then inserted into the WordPress piece, prior to publishing the finished article.

If you look closely in the smallest split screen image (bottom left hand corner), you will see the space between the text, where I left room for the screenshot image to be placed. All on an iPad Pro, using `Drag ‘n’ Drop, between Safari (for links) and the Photos App for the Screenshot. Clever huh?

Can’t be productive on an iPad Pro? Think again.

I have touched on my first impressions of using these devices in earlier pieces, but thought that they deserved a more detailed article, covering whether or not you really need them.

Here in the U.K, the Apple Smart Keyboard 10.5″, will set you back a tidy £159.00 and the Apple Pencil, adds an additional £89.00 to your potential purchase.

The iPad Pro 10.5″ starts at £619.00 for the base WiFi model, with 64GB of storage and comes in Silver, Gold, or Rose Gold, with white bezels around the display, or Space Grey if you want black bezels surrounding your display.

I went for the Black bezels of the Space Grey model. It is in my opinion, the nicest looking and more importantly, the one which offers me the least eye strain / distraction when working.

You can purchase the iPad Pro direct from Apple at the following link:

https://www.apple.com/uk/ipad-pro/

Here are the direct links to Apple Store for the Smart Keyboard for 10.5″ iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil:

https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MPTL2B/A/smart-keyboard-for-105%E2%80%91inch-ipad-pro-british-english?fnode=37

https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MK0C2/apple-pencil?fnode=37

If you opt for the base line iPad Pro @£619, the Smart Keyboard @£159 and the Pencil @£89, you’re talking about spending a whopping £867.00. Minimum. If you want a model with higher storage, that figure rises very quickly.

So, as you can see, the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil are not cheap add ons. They are both beautifully made, as is normal for Apple products, so their overall quality can’t really be questioned, but, do you really need them?

If you’ve read I my earlier articles, I hope that they have conveyed, that the move from using a computer, to using an iPad Pro, as potentially, your only computer like device, is actually easier than I first thought.

If you haven’t read them, you can find the first one, which asks the question “Is It Time To Kill The Mac?”, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/apple-is-it-time-to-kill-the-mac/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

My iPad Pro, first impressions, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/apples-ipad-pro-10-5-first-impressions/

My initial experience / decisions behind “Giving up a laptop, for an iPad Pro”, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/giving-up-a-laptop-for-an-ipad-pro/

And, finally, adapting your workflow with new Apps, here:

https://deecees.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/raw-editing-on-an-ipad-pro/

Now, these are quite lengthy posts, so get yourself a cuppa and make yourself comfy before setting out on the ‘big read’.

All caught up?

Cool.

So, the Smart Keyboard and that Pencil. Essential, or, Expensive dust gatherers made only to take more cash from your wallet?

The short answer is, they are really expensive, but it really does all depend on what you plan on doing with your iPad Pro.

For me, they are essential. I blog, I keyword, I tag, I do a lot of written stuff, despite my main task being image editing on the go. It is surprising how much I actually write. In fact, I think I have written more since getting the iPad Pro, than I have written previously on the MacBook Pro (which has now been sold) in months.

Writing on the Smart Keyboard, is initially an odd experience. The keys don’t have the ‘usual’ mechanical feel that we have all come to recognise and feel familiar with. This has been documented in many reviews, which pretty much all say, they hate typing on the Smart Keyboard.

I can’t really comment on how other people feel about the thing that they are typing on. Each to their own and all that, but I do think too many people write reviews, without spending enough time with the thing that they are meant to be reviewing.

This is why, I have ‘subconsciously’, decided to do an almost ‘running commentary’ on how my transition from computer to iPad Pro is going. I didn’t plan on doing it this way, but things have changed a bit, as some things, become crystal clear to me, during my own transition to iPad Pro:

People are too set in their ways.

People give up far too easily.

People are lazy.

The reviews that I have read, and I have read a lot about the iPad Pro, are mostly click bait, sensationalist, early as possible, blah, blah, blah pieces, which do make some important points, but never suggest how to get around any problems they may have encountered.

My take is, having researched the hardware and looked at hope the ‘market’ is likely to go, transitioning to a more efficient and light weight on the go solution, is better started sooner, rather than later.

So, reviews of the Smart Keyboard, usually include comments or findings like: “you can’t seriously type on a Smart Keyboard for extended periods”, or, “I found the experience strange, not what I was used to, so reverted back to using my MacBook”.

That last comment “I found it strange, so reverted back to using my MacBook”, really does say it all. People give up too easily.

When I started using the Smart Keyboard, yes it felt strange. It was a slightly different typing experience to the one I have become familiar with. It’s not a bad experience, it’s just different.

All the posts I have written after the initial Is It Time To Kill The Mac, have been written on the iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard.

Now, I am no speed typist and I am no touch typist. I’m old school and mostly need to look at where my fingers are going instead of what is appearing on screen, which is why there are often mistakes to be corrected at a later date.

But, these blog posts, have not been short. They have I hope, been informative and useful, with enough information / experience in them to help inform your own choice, should you be wondering about making the transition.

It’s all too easy, for people, to buy something, review it after 5 minutes of use and do the expected “nice device, but stick with your laptop for serious work”. They then sell the gear on or return it to their sponsors and move onto to to the next ‘click bait’ piece in the never ending pursuit of trying to further their online presence.

But, when you fork out your own money and decide to document your own experience of transitioning from what we currently call a computer, to the next evolution of what a computer is, you aren’t going to win friends or increase your online presence in any way. Especially when your experience, is different to the 5 minute user experience of loud and shouty, self promoters out there.

I’m not affiliated with, sponsored by or work for any of the companies, I do reviews or blog pieces about. I hope my reviews cover the main things people care about, when thinking of splurging their own hard earned cash on something.

I never try to get too bogged down with technical stuff. Depending on the product I am reviewing, there may be no significant reference to the technical stuff, because in my opinion, it really doesn’t matter. It’s how we use it that is most important.

The Smart Keyboard, is different. It has a strange fabric covering, which is water repellent and stain proof, over the upper layer (the bit with the keys on it). The underside, which when folded up, lies against the display of the iPad Pro, is the usual, lovely, velvety, Micro fibre-y inside covering anyone familiar with other Apple cover, case linings, will be know and love. It feels great.

Is that water repellent or stain proof? I have absolutely no idea, I can’t find anything which says definitively, one way or the other.

As for being ‘Smart’, I haven’t found anything the keyboard does beyond being a keyboard. It doesn’t make coffee, close curtains etc, but it does allow you to type on the iPad Pro, with the entire 10.5″ display available for content being worked on.

Typing, takes a little time to adjust to the physical key sizes. Each key is slightly smaller than on a traditional keyboard, but has quite a bit of space between them to help reduce mis-hits. A consequence of this space decision, is that the normally larger keys, like Return, Shift and Caps Lock etc. Are smaller then they would be on a normal sized keyboard, so when starting out, missing them altogether is quite normal, but, with regular use, the typing on the Smart Keyboard, I find to be perfectly easy and mostly accurate (human error allowing).

The key press is soft, but has enough travel to let you know that a key press has been registered. It lacks the same mechanical feel, but you get a mechanical feedback, which feels quite satisfying.

After over a weeks use, I find no problem using the Smart Keyboard and enjoy using it exclusively, to write everything I want to write. The iPad Pro and Smart Keyboard, I find the perfect carry everywhere companion.

This brings me back to what I was touching on earlier. People generally speaking, are resilient to change. We become too familiar in the ways we do things, so when something revolutionary comes along, there are always the early adopters (usually me), who see the possibilities on offer as the future road map. After a few years, a larger amount of people have followed suit until finally, everybody has one.

I remember when Apple launched the iPhone back in 2007. I was one of the few, who stood outside the O2 store and paid, with real money, for an iPhone. My friends and family, not to mention complete strangers, thought I was absolutely mad.

You see back in 2007, everybody was used to getting ‘free’ phones with their network contracts, not realising that they were actually paying for their phones, as they paid their monthly contracts. So, actually paying up front for a mobile phone, was completely alien.

I was mocked. The iPhone was mocked, but by the time the iPhone 3G came out a few months later, where I was given a free upgrade for being an early adopter, a friend wanted to borrow my old (a few months) original iPhone. He loved it and when his contract was duke for renewal, he grabbed his first iPhone the 3Gs.

And year after year, smartphones became more widespread, to the extent that now, everybody has one. If you see someone using a phone with a physical keyboard, it looks like something from the dark ages.

As I have stated in a previous article, I honestly feel that the time has arrived, in regards computers and how we regard what a computer is, just as it did with smartphones and digital cameras before it.

A rather brief and overly generalised trip, down memory lane. . .

A computer originally, was a huge mechanical device with engravings and clockwork mechanisms. They were then developed for more electrical operations with components that would fill and entire home. They then became smaller and would instead only fill an entire floor of a typical sized home. They shrank even more and became cabinet sized, then finally became the desktop sized models we all grew up with and now regard as ‘a computer’.

Apple changed that dynamic with the Mac, where they created essentially, the model for the all in one desktop. Removing the separates being connected by wires, to a single device that sat entirely on your desk.

Then of course came the shrunken embodiment of that all in one, known as a laptop, which sat in your lap, or on your desk. As capable as a desktop, but with a trackball, eventually trackpad, that required a certain amount of adapting to if you were used to using a mouse.

The iPad Pro, is that next obvious step of the evolution. An all in one, which you can use in your hand, on your lap or on your desk. You can use a physical keyboard or a touch keyboard, you can physically touch the screen with your finger, similar to using a trackpad, or you can touch and point the screen more accurately, with the Pencil.

It’s all just a matter of perception. The iPad Pro, with the Smart Keyboard is, as I am finding out, just as capable, if not more so, than a stand alone laptop. But, it is up to each and every person to evaluate their own needs for what they want to be able to achieve. The Smart Keyboard lets me work productively on my writing projects and the Pencil allows me to edit my images, accurately and quickly, something which can’t be done on a laptop without an additional graphics tablet and stylus.

Natural progressions, along the computer’s evolutionary timeline.

But, I digress. . .

This is the important bit about deciding whether or not you really need the Smart Keyboard. If you are planning on doing a lot of work, with documents etc. The answer is a resounding yes, you will benefit from buying the Smart Keyboard.

“But I could buy a Bluetooth one cheaper”!

Yes you could, but, that’s just another thing that needs to be charged and connected etc. When you want to get on and work. The Smart Keyboard is powered from the iPad itself and never needs charged, so potentially one less thing to carry and worry about when out and about on the go.

If you only ever type a bit, or infrequently, the on screen keyboard will probably suffice in the majority of cases, so you should save your £159.00 and use the onscreen keyboard or buy a cheap and cheerful Bluetooth keyboard for those rare occasions you do need a bit more room to work with onscreen.

If you do not type that often or prefer using the onscreen keyboard, there is absolutely no point in buying the Smart Keyboard. If you want the official Apple add on, buy the standard Smart Cover for £49.00, which comes in a variety of fantastic colours, to suit your own personality.

https://www.apple.com/uk/shop/product/MRFG2/smart-cover-for-105%E2%80%91inch-ipad-pro-lemonade?fnode=37

As for the Apple Pencil, this is a really easy one. If you edit video, images, draw, design or create art electronically, the Apple Pencil is a MUST HAVE ITEM. It is phenomenal. It’s awesome and it is so much fun to use.

The increased refresh rate on the second generation iPad Pro, combined with the new laminated display, makes for an instant response on screen when using the Pencil. It is as close to drawing on paper that you can currently get.

I’ve used the Pen on the Surface Pro 4, which was excellent, but in a direct comparison, the Pencil’s weight, shape and responsiveness, just has that extra ‘zing’ in use, which in my opinion, makes the Apple Pencil, the best stylus experience around.

If you prefer or need more accurate control onscreen, than a finger tap can achieve, the Apple Pencil, is a must have device. The increased resolution of the 10.5″ (as well as the existing resolution of the 12.9″), when editing curves / sliders etc. on images or when accurate pin point accuracy is required for video edits, the Pencil gives you that improved accuracy.

If you take notes, or screen shots, use the built in camera and want to add some hand written / drawn ‘effect’ onto your work, the Pencil is a must.

If all you want the iPad Pro for is reading, web surfing, eMail and other non creative, in the conventional sense, tasks, save your money and buy a non Pro version of the iPad.

https://www.apple.com/uk/ipad-9.7/

If you get the 2018 model, which now supports the Pencil, should you every feel a drawing or artistic ambition in the future, you could always grab a Pencil later on and make use of the Pencil compatibility.

I know this has piece has gone off on a few tangents in places, but I hope it basically conveys the user experience I am having and in some way, hope you can relate to it.

So, going back to the original question: Smart Keyboard and Pencil, are they ‘essential or just expensive add ons to boost Apple’s coffers?’

For me personally, they are essential and both are great to use.

Depending on what you intend to do with your iPad Pro, you need to weigh up the cost to the benefit each product will bring you.

If you’re one of those people who just want it because they are the latest and greatest Apple currently has to offer, but really know that they will never be used, buy the Smart Cover for £49.00 and give the £199.00 price difference saved, to a good cause.

If however, you know you’re going to be image or video editing and writing, I would say that both, are essential add ons, which really do, open up the diverse capabilities and productivity options, the iPad Pro offers.

Apple HomePod: A Quick Update. . .

I’ve been running the Apple HomePod for a few weeks now, so I thought I should probably give you all a quick update about how life with a HomePod is working out.

This will be quite a brief update, because with each day, I fall in love with the HomePod that little bit more. It still sounds as sumptuous as it did when I first set it up.

The biggest gripe from other reviewers, Siri, does pretty much exactly what I want her to do, when I ask her to do it, from telling me who is singing on a track selected for me, to setting reminders to make sure I don’t forget to be somewhere are a certain time.

She is way more useful than I ever found Alexa on Amazon Echo to be, despite not being as ‘smart’ (apparently).

Things haven’t been plain sailing. I find having to go into the Home App, to configure HomePod, is a bit of a pain, but not a deal breaker. Apple should really should have made a dedicated HomePod App, just like they did for the Apple Watch, but I guess, I can see where they are coming from since HomePod is for the Home.

Other than that, I am absolutely loving HomePod and Beats 1. I listen pretty much every day and have discovered some really great new artists, which I have now added to my Apple Music library.

With the most recent iOS 11.4 update, Apple released AirPlay 2, which now allows 2 HomePod to be set up in different rooms or, in the same room as a stereo pair. I have to admit, I am quite keen on trying that out, but in all honesty, the sound separation on HomePod is so good, I’m not sure two working together would be significantly better.

Ok, who am I trying to kid? I want another one to set up in a stereo pair. I think it will sound incredible and when I can justify another one, I’ll definitely be picking another one up.

I love music, it’s what makes life worth living, without it, life would be a really dull place to have to live. HomePod is for Music lovers and the combination of HomePod, Beats 1 and an Apple Music subscription, really is, a Music lover’s dream.

If you haven’t listened to a HomePod yet, you should try to. You might never listen to Music the same way ever again.

‘E.O. Line’ vs Super Fast Broadband. A Reality Check. . . Here’s A D.I.Y Solution

Here in the U.K, broadband provision is pretty well catered for. Virtually everybody offers “Super Fast” Broadband, promising that old chest nut “UP TO” XXX speeds. Each charges accordingly, some with up front costs, others with nothing to pay up front.

What none of these providers mention, however, is that if you are one of the millions, who happen to have an E.O. Line (exchange only line), then the promise of Super Fast Fibre broadband, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, is a pipe dream.

People on E.O lines, can get the fastest ‘old’ tech broadband the exchange which serves their particular line, is equipped with.

Now, in more urban areas, this may well be “up to” 20Mbps, but in more rural areas, like where I live, my local exchange offers “up to 8Mbps”. Officially, the providers state “up to” 19.5Mbps (for P.R reasons), but the hardware in the exchange is only capable of providing up to 8 Mbps.

What’s really frustrating, is that my local exchange was upgraded to Fibre almost 2 and a half years ago, yet still, to this day, very few people in my particular village can take advantage of the Fibre ‘advantage’, since most, if not all, the properties in the village, are served by?

E.O. lines. . .

So, what can a person do, if they find themselves in the exact same situation as me?

I have a Netflix subscription and an Amazon Prime subscription. I no longer watch ‘normal’ TV, since there is hardly ever anything to watch, or at best, once or twice a year, where something might be on that I would want to watch. So, my entire entertainment need, is provided by online providers. This is more commonly known as ‘streaming’.

But, how can you stream media on only up to 8Mbps?

Realistically, if streaming, you can’t really do much of anything else online, while you are streaming. If you do, the buffering starts and the playing of the thing you’re streaming starts to become annoying.

As it stands, the telephone service provider, has ZERO plans to ‘realign’ E.O lines from the exchange connections, into street Cabinets, where they can then be connected to the new Fibre enabled hardware in the exchange.

I’m going to go off at a bit of a tangent here, but please bear with me.

Recently, I watched a brilliant short film, made by the very talented journalist Lesley Riddoch and excellent film maker, Phantom Power Films, called “Nation”, which, amongst many other excellent achievements the Faroe Islands has to be proud of, talks briefly, about how the Faroe Islands despite their diminutive size, being spread out over 18 north Atlantic islands, have developed the worlds fastest broadband. The Faroe Islands, only has a population of @50,000 people to rely upon, but has risen up and become phenomenally successful in their many endeavours. Their Super Fast Broadband, serves all 18 islands and 80 Miles beyond the coasts of the Faroe Islands.

I’m about 500 feet away, (straight line distance is less) from my Fibre enabled exchange, and can’t get Fibre services, here on the mainland U.K.

Please watch the video below, it is truly inspirational:

So, what can a person in a situation like me do?

Ditch your provider. . .

You what? I hear you cry.

I’ll say it again. Ditch your current provider.

“But what do you do for broadband?” You may be thinking.

The answer, is to go mobile. . .4G Mobile. In your home!

Inspired by the solution the Faroese came up with for their High Speed Broadband challenges, I too looked for a Huawei solution, should one exist, and found the B310 4G Home WiFi Router, amongst many others, which appeared to offer exactly what I thought I might need.

Here is a screen shot from the SpeedTest App, of my BT Broadband on a very good day:

What is really crazy, is that, despite having a Fibre enabled exchange, with no means of accessing that service, Mobile phone providers, like BT, EE, Vodafone and O2, all have 4G networks operating in and covering my area (WooHoo!!), unfortunately, only EE has taken the step to offer a home based 4G WiFi router solution. But, it is quite expensive.

A few years ago, we did experience a period where the broadband was extremely poor, virtually non existent, during the exchanges’ Fibre upgrade, so I did grab a mobile WiFi Hotspot made by Alcatel on EE, at that time, which worked great. The only downside, was it didn’t hold a battery charge too well and kept powering off when there was one ‘activity’ on the connection, which is great when you’re out and about, it helps preserve your Data allowance, but I figured out fairly quickly, that it wouldn’t solve a long term issue.

At that point, nobody was making 4G Home WiFi routers. But as I should know only too well, technology, never stops evolving.

Now, EE, does operate the fastest 4G Network here in the U.K. BT own EE now, so you would think that BT would be able to offer a similar home based solution?

You’d be wrong.

B.T offer no 4G based service provision for home users. (You what??) Exactly.

The thing about 4G Data services, is this: Mobile phone networks don’t make money from calls or texts any more, so the only way they can really cash in, is on Data use.

And they make hoards of the stuff, from Data use.

If you want a contracted plan, EE offer an 18 Month 100GB or 200GB per month Data Allowance, for £45.00 or £60.00 respectively. If you would prefer not to be tied down for 18 months, you can opt for a 30 Day rolling contract at the same prices, but there is a £99.99 up front charge for the 4G Home router, that is of course, locked to the EE Network. So, if you find the EE service isn’t quite up to scratch, tough. You can’t use the £99.99 router you just bought with another SIM on another network.

EE do offer the home router on PAYG, but it costs £129.99 and Data allowances for PAYG are more expensive.

So, what do you do?

The answer, is buy a stand alone 4G WiFi router by yourself. It is unlocked to any Network, so, if a Network operator has a special offer on Data in any particular month, you can grab a SIM from them, pop it in, start your device and off you go.

Okay, some of you may be thinking, that sounds like a lot of hassle and to be fair, compared to just sitting on your arse and having line rental and broadband provision taken out of your bank account automatically each month, every month, forever, you’d be absolutely right.

It is a bit more involved than a contracted service.

But, it could potentially save you money, not to mention save you the frustration at paying the same as someone on Fibre pays. They get up to 100Mbps for the same money, more or less, that you’re paying for your up to 8Mbps service you currently have to endure.

Vodafone, who get awful customer service reviews, is a network I have never had anything to do with. But, they do offer a pay as a you go Data plan of 50GB per month, for £30.

EE with their rolling or fixed contract, do offer greater data allowances, but for more money. If you use the data allowance, fine, but if you don’t, you’re paying for Data, that disappears at the end of each month.

On EE pay as you go Data allowances, 30GB is as much as you can get, for £44, but is valid for 90 days (any Data allowance on EE over 6GB is valid for 90 days once activated).

O2, don’t really offer anything that I would describe as being viable for potentially ‘Home’ use. The biggest amount of Data allowance they offer, is 20GB, which is valid for 12 months from activation, but costs £75.

What I decided to try out, is a ‘skimpers’ route:

I bought an almost new HUAWEI B310 4G WiFi home router, for under £40 I found on eBay. I then searched for Preloaded 4G Data SIM and found one from Vodafone with 50GB preloaded, for £19.99. Both arrived yesterday.

A quick download of the HUAWEI HiLink App, popped the SIM card in and I was connected to the Vodafone Network on WiFi, via 4G, with 50GB Data allowance to use over the next 30 days.

So, for under £60, I now have a 4G home router and 50GB of 4G data, at my disposal.

Obviously, the first thing to do is a speed test, so I did a speed test. Whilst not great for 4G speeds, compared to the up to 8Mbps BT give me, it was a revelation. Everything just popped onto screen in the browser. Apps, downloaded in a ‘normal’ fashion instead of seemingly taking ages for a tiny file.

Why?

Because, on my current UP TO 8Mbps service, not being too far away from the exchange, on a good day, no rain or wind, I usually get @5.5 – 6.1 Mbps download speeds and never get anything over 256 Kbps upload speed.

If it’s a bit windy or raining, that can drop to 0.1Mbps download. The main line from the exchange, is in a very bad way and can actually be held in your hand at some points along its path to my property. It really sags in places, where it is no more than 5 – 6 feet off the ground, so when the weather is bad, it flaps around all over the place. This creates noise on the line, which reduces your connection speed.

On Vodafone 4G, with 3 bars of signal, I am currently enjoying 19- 28 Mbps speeds download and over 14 – 20 Mbps upload speeds.

Don’t believe me?

While the 4G speeds, may not sound blistering by some standards, my property, is situated in woodland, with very high trees all around. There really isn’t much room for a signal to get through, so enjoying anything over 10Mbps is a luxury I have long been denied.

The two screen shots above of the respective speed tests, were carried on out this very iPad Pro, within minutes of each other, today and inserted into this blog piece, using the WordPress App, on the iPad Pro.

As you can see, the 4G route, is almost 4 times faster than the BT route. The BT speed test screen shot, showing 6.95Mbps, is extremely rare. The usual connection rate is normally @5.3 – 5.6 on average (on clear days with no wind or rain) or from 0.2Mbps – 3.6Mbps when the weather conditions are more ‘in keeping with’ traditional U.K weather (windy and wet).

Disclaimer: Some may say that there is obviously a fault on the line. I would agree, but BT keep assuring me the line is operating within expected parameters. They wouldn’t comment on the being able to hold the actual phone line in your hand further down the line nearer the exchange outside.

I know it’s going to work out a bit more expensive (probably in the short term) because I am using this new found speed, to upload my huge image library onto Cloud services, as part of my transition from computer based workflow, to the ultra portable and immensely capable iPad Pro. But, being free to buy whatever Data allowance I may need, means I can adapt the spending to suit me and to just keep funding a bloated corporation, who cares not one jot, about improving the services for it’s customers.

The honest truth is, I don’t care if it is more expensive. Because, I object to the likes of BT, charging me for Broadband, which is a decade old speed wise but at current rates. I object to the likes of BT charging me line rental, for a line that isn’t fit for purpose and which can’t utilise their Fibre enabled services.

My current line rental and broadband package, costs me @£45 per month, for which I get dubious and unreliable service, with speeds fluctuating to the extent, that using the Internet is a chore.

That’s £45 per month, every month, every year. That is £540.00 a year being paid, for what is in effect, a poor, bordering on useless and unreliable service. Being a rural exchange, BT have exclusivity over service provision, although things on that front may now have changed, but, there is little point exploring the alternative fixed line providers avenue, since the main line to the house, will in all likelihood, be the same line that is in place now.

Convenience, makes us lazy and laziness, costs us money. Rather than look into alternatives, the majority of people will just ‘stick with what we have’, without looking at the alternatives on offer. Month after month and year after year, I have been waiting for BT to realign the EO line that is causing the problem, but it looks like they never will. In the meantime, BT are perfectly happy to just keep taking my money, month after month after month.

Technology, as we all know, is an ever changing beast. What is current now, is outdated in a few weeks, if not sooner. The pace of change, is quite staggering. So, with that in mind, I started to explore alternative routes to obtain a decent and reliable broadband solution. . .

Now, I have the choice of going 4G. At home.

This option is currently the only option, for many people living in boats or converted canal barges. With the housing crisis as it is in the U.K, where short term lets are the reality for millions of people, a mobile option, which you can quite literally take wherever you go, without the hassle of ending or transferring contracts with fixed line providers, means an easy, if slightly less convenient, route for millions to follow.

Sure, it takes a little  bit more fiddling to get up and running, but once set up, it’s a hassle free as anything else.

For the first time in 8 years at this property, I am in control of my broadband, not a slave to be exploited by BT and their couldn’t give a damn mentality.

If I want a stronger signal on 4G, I could connect a couple of external SAM antennae to the back of the HUAWEI B310, which I might try out, just to see how much (if any) they improve the speed. They are relatively inexpensive, so won’t make too much of a dent.

Though, in fairness, I doubt they would help increase the speed on Vodafone that much, since Vodafone, haven’t rolled out the 4G+ (LTE Advanced) technology yet, so the signal I get from them, is on the pretty much original 4G standard, which would likely top out at @32Mbps. With the distance I am away from the Transmitter, I doubt it would get much faster, but at under £20, it might be worth a try, just for curiosity’s sake.

In the meantime, I am now tentatively enjoying, what I would call, a reasonable speed for modern requirements. We will no doubt have some awful weather soon enough, so I’ll see how the 4G signals and speeds hold up during the more normal bad weather, before going all in.

My current contract with BT expires in mid July, so I have allowed myself a few weeks to explore all the network providers 4G service offerings through a variety of weather conditions (hopefully) and then I can make the ultimate decision, to leave BT and their antiquated broadband, for good.

RAW Editing? On an iPad Pro?

If you’ve been reading this blog over the last few days, you will know that I have decided to transition from using my MacBook Pro retina 13″ for my on the go editing needs, to using the second generation 10.5″ iPad Pro.

One of the questions, or statements, that often gets thrown around by the die hard Photo editing computer users out there, is that you can’t edit RAW files on an iOS device and to be fair, in some respects, they are correct. Well sort of. . .

Apple introduced a limited support for RAW files from hundreds of digital cameras back in iOS 10, which was significantly improved in the most recent iOS 11 release. But, actually harnessing the full range of tools to use the iOS 11 (built in system wide RAW developer) capabilities, are still a bit limited.

What puts a lot of people off using iOS devices, like the iPad Pro, as their main go to device for image editing, is the belief that the iPad Pro isn’t capable enough. The truth however, as I have detailed in previous posts, is that the current range of iPad Pro, are more than capable and according to Benchmark tests, often equal or in most cases, beat, what would be described as ‘pro’ level laptops.

I’m going to take a quick trip down memory lane. . .

If I saw the word, Aperture, photographers, will instantly think of the f-stop setting on a lens and then they will slowly remember than excellent piece of Software Apple, used to produce, which offered Library capabilities, combined with some truly unique RAW editing capabilities, not found in competing products. I absolutely loved using Aperture and was surprised how sad I was when Apple, retired it to the land of “we’ve had your money, but we can’t be bothered with the software any more”.

Aperture users, around the world had no choice. Apple had surrendered the RAW editing ground to Adobe and their Lightroom offering.

Aperture, was dead. . .

Or was it?

The gentleman, in charge of the development and engineering for Aperture, at Apple, was a chap called Nick Bhatt, who after leaving Apple, started his own software development company called “Gentlemen Coders”.

Bare with me here, you might be wondering what all this has to do with processing RAW files on an iOS device like the iPad Pro?

Gentlemen Coders, have released an Application, available for both macOS and iOS, called RAW Power, which can be purchased from the Mac App Store for £13.99 GBP or downloaded from the iOS App Store for free, with limited functionality, or unlocked with full features, for just £4.99.

The macOS desktop version is discussed in the video below, hosted by Photo Joseph and the man himself, Nik Bhatt:

In short, RAW Power, brings the editing power of Aperture (updated and enhanced) back from the grave, which for anyone out there like me, who misses Aperture and what could be done using it, RAW Power is an exciting prospect.

RAW Power, is available to buy from the Mac App Store and the iOS App Store and I am keen to try it out on the iPad Pro as an advanced editing tool which can be accessed from within iOS default Photos App.

Find more great Photography content by Photo Joseph, on his YouTube channel at the address below:

https://www.youtube.com/user/jlinaschke

And, you can find our more about RAW Power at the official Gentlmen Coders Web Site here:

https://gentlemencoders.com

I for one am really grateful that Nik Bhatt, has continued to develop a newer and more updated version of the software, we as photographers, once relied on so heavily. I am eager to see how I can include this incredible powerful RAW editor into my new iPad Pro / Cloud based workflow.

Below, you will find an introduction to RAW Power for iOS:

More helpful guides and information, is available from Gentlemen Coders, dedicated YouTube channel at the following address:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7l78rOzFxaHG-e5AT-MGWQ/feed

A big thank you, to Photo Joseph and Nik Bhatt (a.k.a. Gentlemen Coders) in particular, for their inspiration and hard work, both of which I hope are making me a better, more efficient photographer and story teller.

Please support both Photo Joseph and Gentlemen Coders, by subscribing to their channels and if you can, purchase their products.

**UPDATE**

Gentlemen Coders has now released the updated version 2 of RAW Power for Mac and iOS, with fantastic new features, including a library inspector and Batch processing capabilities.

RAW editing on iPad Pro, has just become so much easier.

Incidentally, my 10.5″ iPad Pro, has been sold on, having purchased the 256GB 12.9″ 2nd Gen model. The extra real estate, does make a big difference and it isn’t as cumbersome to cart around as I had first imagined.

Giving Up A Laptop, For An iPad Pro?

As any readers of this blog will know, I recently took delivery of Apple’s iPad Pro 10.5″, complete with the Apple Smart Keyboard and the Apple Pencil. My first impressions piece, posted just the other day, was I hope, informative.

I’ve read many articles and watched several videos, of people who have “given up their DSLR and switched to mirror less” or “Ditched my Full Frame for Micro Four Thirds” type stories, which have generated a lot of hate from dedicated Full Frame/ DSLR users and a lot of love from the mirror less / Micro Four Thirds communities.

Deciding to switch from using a laptop, in favour of the latest Pad Pro, is actually much the same as when I gave up my bulky and heavy Full Frame DSLR gear, in favour of at first, the Fuji X series cameras and then finally, transitioning fully, to the excellent Panasonic Lumix GX8.

As my previous two posts have indicated, the latest iPad Pro, is as far as benchmarking goes, equal to, or better than, the usual Intel Core ‘i’ CPU / GPU combos found in many popular and often very expensive laptops. Apple MacBook Pro 13″ Retinas included.

So, the a question has been playing in my mind for some time, why carry a larger heavier item about, when, just like my DSLR to Micro Four Thirds switch, there is a lighter and more capable offering available, which is just as good, given you adapt to the some limitations, that scaling down, might bring with it?

In short, physically, the iPad Pro 10.5″ True Tone display, is the nicest display I have ever looked at on any device. Bar none. It refreshes at up to 120Hz (think of it as 120 frames per second), so animations, gestures, scrolling just everything looks sharper, smoother and crisper. It is a stunning display.

And, it covers the full P3 colour spectrum.

While this might be a cause for Adobe RGB editors to start spitting out their porridge, for the majority of photographers, who shoot in sRGB, the P3 gamut covers the entire sRGB spectrum, plus a bit more, so when you edit on this display, what you see is what you get. It is stunning.

No laptop offerings from Apple (or anyone else that I’ve found), has a laptop, with the same quality of display. Even if there was a laptop candidate with the same P3 Gamut, it lacks the 120Hz refresh rate, touch input and stylus capabilities. Just as Wacom created the Cintiq for image editors, the iPad Pro is a portable version of the Cintiq. It may not be as big or heavy, but it is PORTABLE and unlike the Wacom Cintiq, it has a fully capable computer built inside as well.

So, that pretty much brings you up to speed, on the background and hardware related reasons I’ve decided to transition to iPad Pro from my MacBook Pro 13″ Retina. The previous posts, go into a bit more detail of my experience so far, so, have a look at them if you think you might be interested.

But, for this update, I am looking at some of the Apps I have been trying out on the iPad Pro, with a view to transferring my workflow, to a more Cloud base process and how doing things on an IPad Pro, isn’t actually that different to how we do things on desktops / laptops, at the present time. It’s all just a matter of perception and some creative name changing.

I must say, that I have not set out to make this a long article, but, I am now adding this paragraph because as it turns out, it has turned into quite a long piece. I’ve tried to keep it short, but by trying to give as much essential information as I can, while trying to stick to the basics, it has turned out longer than I first thought, so apologies before hand, but hopefully you’ll find it helpful. Oh, just for the record, this entire piece was written on my iPad Pro with the Smart KeyBoard, so, you see, you can be productive on a smaller device (with the right accessories).

Any iPhone or current iPad user, already knows that there are millions of Apps in the App Store, so finding the right ones for your specific needs will differ to mine. But, for the basics, I have chosen what I think are the most suitable and most capable for my purposes.

It would be far too easy to have your iPad bogged down with screen after screen full of Apps, covering loads of different capabilities, but personally, I have decided to try to keep my iPad Pro, relatively free from clutter and set it up, at least initially, more for productivity. Well, that’s the plan for now.

Because this is a completely new way of working and interacting, with all new Apps to work out and try to refine down to a productive workflow, having loads of games or other distractions on the iPad Pro is best kept to an absolute minimum.

Of course, once I am satisfied that the iPad Pro, has the software available to be an all in one go to device, I will increase the App count to compliment every aspect of my life. But until then, I am being deliberately ‘mean’ on Apps.

I use the absolutely fantastic, Panasonic Lumix GX8. I love this camera and have written quite extensively on this blog about it. In short, for me, it’s the almost ‘perfect’ camera.

The first ‘third party’ App to download, is the Panasonic Image App, which allows control over select models of camera, from the iPad (or iPhone) via the Bluetooth or WiFi connection between camera and iPad.

The GX8, being equipped with built in WiFi, makes transferring files to the iPad Pro an absolute breeze. Just activate the WiFi on camera (Touch function on the Touchscreen) and connect your iPad Pro WiFi to the GX8 produced network. No additional dongles or adapters to plug in, no removal of SD cards etc. Just as few touchscreen touches on both devices and iPad Pro and Lumix GX8 are talking happily with each other.

You can control the GX8, remotely via the iPad Pro, or, just transfer your images over to the Camera Roll on your iPad. The remote operation, is great for a number of different scenarios, including time lapse and stop motion to name a couple, but having a 10.5″ retina P3 full gamut display to view your images on before taking them, really does make fine tuning your composition a whole lot easier (especially if your eyes are starting to get a bit older).

Obviously, depending on how many images are being transferred, the time it takes to transfer, varies, but it is fast. Panasonic, do provide options to either transfer ‘select’ images or a Bulk transfer option, so you have control over pretty much everything.

Having ensured the GX8, iPad and Panasonic App, were all getting along famously, the next option was to look for some serious image editing Apps.

Now, despite my hatred of subscription models, I do have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, so Lightroom CC was always going to be my ‘virtual catalogue’ App. Photoshop Fix and numerous other Apps are available to Creative Cloud members, through the Creative Cloud ‘Launcher’ App. I haven’t really had time to go through them all, but there is a wide choice available, for both stills and video makers out there.

Lightroom CC, is the newer, ‘touch friendly’ version of the classic desktop Lightroom application, that many will know and either love/hate. There is a difference though. Lightroom ‘Classic’ CC as it is now called, uses the traditional operating system hierarchical structure for your image library (catalogue).

Having looked around for reliable Cloud storage options, I received an eMail from Adobe, saying “Thanks for downloading Lightroom CC” and they very generously offered me 1TB of Cloud Storage, linked to my current Creative Cloud account, for just £4.99 extra per month, instead of the usual £9.99 with a Lightroom CC subscription.

So, I accepted the updated storage offer and now have to work out how to get my over half a Terabyte of images, up to the cloud. It is going to entail a severe level off image culling on my part. Anything that just doesn’t meet the grade, will now have to be removed. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a very long time and let’s be honest, I think most of us have quite a few images in our libraries, which are just too much trouble to try and ‘sort one day’, but always found a way of never getting round to it. Well, now really is the time, since I am taking a proactive approach to my digital photography and where technology is leading us.

Anyhoo, back to the Apps. Lightroom CC, looks very different to Lightroom Classic CC (original Lightroom). The traditional drive> folder> file method of building your library, has been resigned to where it really belongs (don’t hate yet, hear me out), in favour of Albums.

The old way of accessing and arranging your files, sorry, let’s call it the ‘traditional way’ of doing things, allowed for significant amounts of interoperability (ooh big word) between different applications. So, for example in Lightroom, you could select a file or files to edit in another third party application, like On1 Photo Raw, from inside Lightroom. The image could be edited in On1 Photo Raw and once finished, a copy would be saved inside your Lightroom library.

While many out there, will say that you can’t do this on an iPad Pro, they are right. You can’t. On1 haven’t made an iPad App available yet and I haven’t heard anything to suggest they will. But, what is being overlooked and a simple change of perspective will provide an ‘ah-ha’ moment, is that in modern parlance, ‘edit image in’ is the same as SHARING an image, on the iPad Pro.

Think about it. No really, think about it.

From within Lightroom, you right click and select Edit Image In and then select On1 Photo Raw (for example, other ‘plug in editor’ options will be available), and then what happens? On1 Photo Raw Application, launches and imports a copy of the selected image, once you select what kind of image you want to work on. You have literally just SHARED that image from Lightroom, to On1 Photo Raw.

Once you’re finished editing your image in On1, you save that image and On1 Photo Raw, guess what? Go on. . .On1 Photo Raw, then SHARES the file you were editing, with Lightroom and creates an edited copy within your Lightroom library. Lightroom and On1 Photo Raw have just shared an image.

This, is no different to sharing an image between the Camera Roll on iPad and Lightroom CC on iPad.

When importing your images, in Lightroom CC, select the images you want to import and then importantly, create an Album to import the images into and the files imported will appear in your gallery view, as an Album. The more Albums you create, the more will be visible in the Gallery view on Lightroom CC. It does make sense. A Gallery is where imagery is displayed and inside your gallery, you have albums of images (think of albums as Collections in Lightroom Classic CC).

Albums, are no different to Folders. They just have a different name, but essentially, perform the exact same job. So in short, in modern parlance, Folders are now Albums.

Now, I’m not going to go into each and every function of each individual App. I really haven’t been using them enough on the iPad Pro, which, I’ve only had since Thursday (delivery was meant to be Wednesday, but they went astray and arrived a day late), so this is really just my first impressions of the Apps I’m planning to use for image editing / storing (in conjunction with the cloud) and create with.

So, Lightroom CC is different to Lightroom Classic CC, albeit really just in names only. Behind the scenes, iOS is filing your files within the given storage structure of each App, which can only be accessed directly within and shared by, each individual App.

This is no different to a desktop system. If for example, I wanted to select an image I knew was in my Lightroom Classic CC Library and edit in On1 Photo Raw, I know I can do it from within Lightroom Classic CC, but On1 Photo Raw also operates a standalone Application so, I should be able to open On1 Raw and import the image I want to edit, from the Lightroom Library? Good luck with that one, because you can’t do it in reverse, as your Lightroom Library is protected, which, in modern parlance is known as being ‘sandboxed’. External applications can’t access your Lightroom Library, but from within Lightroom, you can access external applications.

This is exactly the same as on iOS devices like the iPad. For security reasons, every single application is sandboxed, so that the developer can not access your data held within other applications, unless you, choose to share the data (image in this case) from, within one application.

Now, while this might get the hardcore traditionalists yelling “you can’t arrange your own files” at their computer screens, you can, just not in the way you are used to doing it on a computer. And, this makes perfect sense, for a system that is being designed for touch input. Fingers aren’t as pointy as a cursor on the screen, but are much faster to use than a traditional mouse and keyboard.

Inside each App, there is an option to Share (think Export in Lightroom Classic CC). So, Share is essentially a touch version of export. Inside the Share options, you can instantly send your image to multiple destinations, including Save Image, which on iOS devices saves the edited file to the Camera Roll on your device.

If you have iCloud Photo Library activated, that image is instantly uploaded to your iCloud Photos Library, which makes it available across all your devices and Mac computer.

Lightroom CC, will upload your Albums to Adobe Creative Cloud once imported. Any edits you make, will be saved to Creative Cloud and just like iCloud Photo Library, will be available across any device you have Lightroom CC installed on, complete with the edits you have made.

For those who say that Lightroom CC isn’t as advanced as Lightroom Classic CC, you are correct. Not all functionality has been transferred. Yet.

Lightroom CC is a version 1 application and you have to remember that when Adobe launched the first version of Lightroom, ten years ago, it didn’t even have a Cropping tool built in.

As a direct comparison, Lightroom CC, is way more advanced than the first version of Lightroom Classic CC was upon release, so looking at how far Lightroom Classic CC has come since release, Lightroom CC will soon catch up and surpass the older version it will replace.

Lightroom CC, runs quickly and smoothly. It doesn’t have all the baggage of 32-bit and 64-bit Mac / Windows variants to carry around with it. It has been designed, from the ground up to run on 64-bit iOS, which means further development of new features and updates, will be quicker, since it is being written for just one operating system.

For the most needed editing options, Lightroom CC has it covered and some more on top, but, if you want full features, there are additional Adobe Apps available to Creative Cloud Subscribers, like Photoshop Fix etc. Photoshop isn’t currently being carried over as a complete single App, so Adobe have broken things down into set Apps for doing set edits on images and videos. Open Creative Cloud App and click More Apps to find them. They can be launched from within Creative Cloud or obtained and downloaded via Creative Cloud embedded links to the App Store.

If you require and all in one stand alone editor, the highest regarded App is Affinity Photo by Serif (costs £19.99 one off payment). This is a very powerful pro level image editor and completely different to anything Adobe has to offer.

While Adobe, are offering Photoshop edit Apps for certain types of editing, Affinity Photo, contains all the tools inside of Affinity Photo, where they are called ‘Personas’.

So, from inside Affinity Photo, the default upon opening is the basic image editing persona, where you can correct most of the things you would want to change on an image. For creating more complex imagery, like composites, where you require blending of images, liquify features, selection tools etc, you have Personas for each activity, where depending on what has been a selected, the Tools change accordingly to the Persona selected.

Once you have selected a Persona, the Tools change according to the default Persona, but inside each persona, there are dedicated ‘Studios’, where dedicated editing options are made available. It does sound complicated, but once you start to get used to the changes (especially if you are used to using Photoshop), the logic of their layout choices, starts to make a lot of sense.

Fortunately, there are huge Help resources with Affinity Photo, with videos to help get you familiarised with the App. It can be a little unsettling, but after watching the videos a couple of times, or taking your time to study what is being explained in the help tutorials, things start to become more familiar.

As I said, I’ve only been using it on and off for a couple of days, so, still have a lot to learn, but it’s pretty intuitive once you start to become a bit more familiar with how Serif has set it up.

Time will tell, but Affinity Photo in the limited time I have been using it, is a definite keeper of an App. There are vast numbers of additional more advanced tutorial videos available either via YouTube or on Affinity Photo’s Web Site (Help Section). Spending some time and patience, just as we had to do when starting out with Photoshop or any other image editing software, when we opened it up for the fist time, which is why in my previous two blog posts, I suggest the sooner you start the transition to the new way of doing things, the better placed you will be when those who don’t start now, to take advantage of the opportunities to maximise your output, while every body else is playing catch up.

The Photography business is going towards instant delivery, instant edits, hybrid (stills mixed with video and audio) products, which are all centred on the Touch Screen devices of the future. We are already there to some extent, with the expansion of interactive publications, which contain still images and moving images in one article or title. The days of flat images on paper, are well and truly on their last legs. Just ask any printed daily newspaper editor for proof. Circulation has sunk, as their offerings are more and more moving towards Digital version dominance.

Here in the U.K, The Independent, was the first national broadsheet to scrap print altogether in favour of an entirely online presence. The others will have no choice, but to follow suit. The next generation of newspaper readers, are being raised with iPads and smartphones. Traditional computers have zero interest to them as they aren’t mobile enough. Why carry a hefty laptop with you, when a super powerful tablet can do everything you could possibly want?

This is the generation who were raised with instant content, super fast web speeds and instant snap a pic then share with the world within seconds. It’s time to start smelling the coffee if you want to remain competitive and successful.

This is the generation who will want hybrid images of their weddings, birthdays etc, so we as Photographers, have to get on board now, before we end up going the same way as Kodak.

This generation maybe be able to do all these things on their touch devices now, but these touch devices will never produce the image quality of a proper camera with top glass on the front and that, is why we must transition before pro photography is resigned to history.

ProCreate, (no, not that procreate, get your mind out of the gutter) is a, I was going to say sketching App, but it is so much more. This is a fully fledged pro level artistic beast, which offers basic digital sketch features, through to creating advanced digital art and then merging them with real images or HYBRID imagery. Again, there is a bit of a steep learning curve, if you are unfamiliar with sketch Apps, but at £9.99, it is an absolute bargain and one I am really excited about getting more into.

This has already become quite a long post, which wasn’t my intention, but the Apps are an important element here. In fact, they are the more important element. The iPad Pro hardware has the oomph to do anything you could possibly want without breaking a sweat, but it’s the Apps that are available, that will determine if you can actually make one your go to device.

With the offerings Adobe currently has on offer, with regular updates apparently being the norm, Serif’s absolutely stunning Affinity Photo, even with the learning curve required and ProCreate for doing some artistic elements, a photographer on the go, could quite easily, make an iPad Pro there go to device.

With additional Apps, like Google’s SnapSpeed and the very powerful Pixelmator, most editing requirements can be met on the iPad Pro.

Now there are caveats to this, because it all depends on your own workflow requirements. If for example, you batch process a huge number of images at a time, I have yet to find a way to accomplish a batch of images. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible (yet), it’s just I haven’t delved deep enough into the Apps I have installed so far.

What has helped tremendously, is the two add ons I purchased for the iPad Pro. Apple’s Smart Keyboard and Pencil, are absolutely a must, if you want to increase your productivity on the iPad Pro. The Smart Keyboard on the 10.5″ is a perfect size for me to be typing away quite happily.

My Aunt, by comparison, has the first gen 9.7″ iPad Pro and while it is a nice device, her Smart Keyboard, is just too ‘tight’ for comfortable manoeuvring. That little extra width on the new improved 10.5, really does make all the difference.

Editing with the Apple Pencil, is an absolute joy. Pinching to zoom on your image with fast and accurate brush adjustments, allows for super demanding edits. Although it has only been a few days that I’ve been using the iPad Pro, I haven’t been left feeling it was a mistake. It may have taken me time to find the setting I wanted to adjust, but that’s par for the course with any new software you use. Adobe do it one way, SnapSpeed does it another and Serif with Affinity Photo, do it in their own particular way.

I have been using the iPad Pro, mostly at home with just a couple of ventures out and about, but I have deliberately been avoiding going anywhere near my 27″ iMac, or MacBook Pro, whenever I find myself temporarily stumped, as reverting to a Mac, is just a simple solution. The idea, is to see if the iPad Pro, can be used exclusively and so far, I haven’t needed to do anything, that I can’t do on an iPad Pro.

FTP uploads were a concern, but the image library I use, have an iPad friendly FTP client built in to the Web Based upload page, which have tried out a couple of transfers, works like a charm, so there shouldn’t be any issue if you need to upload via FTP.

Once I have become more familiar with each App’s own ‘way’ and discovered or programmed an efficient workflow into my muscle memory, I see no reason why I’d need a laptop or desktop for that matter ever again.

As I have said in me previous two articles, I honestly feel that tablets are the future of computing and most definitely the solution for mobile productivity. Combined with the data transfer speeds we enjoy today, along with 5G just around the corner, speeds are just going to keep getting better.

Cloud storage is very affordable. Apple for example, offer 2TB of iCloud storage for just £6.99 per month. Now I know that works out at roughly the cost of a 2TB hard drive each year, but the Cloud does back up your data and has redundant back ups in place too, to ensure the data is pretty much impossible to loose.

If you had a local solution, you would need the 2TB hard drive for your library and a second 2TB as a backup. If one drive fails, which lets face it, happens more than we would like, there’s additional cost and time involved in making a new back up of your entire library.

I know that cloud storage isn’t infallible and there is always the worry of data loss, but it is no worse than that of a local solution. It’s probably less likely to happen, since the servers being used are industrial strength hardware and not the cheaper ‘consumer class’ that is traditionally used by us mere mortals.

This process is not easy and there is a learning curve, especially when it comes to the different software options you will be using, but, to be honest, it hasn’t been as hard as I first thought it would be.

In a few more weeks, I should be fairly proficient as I become more settled into the new operating environment I am using. Sure, the display on the iPad Pro is smaller, but that’s no different than going from a 27″ desktop to using a 13″ or 15″ laptop. The higher the resolution, the more onscreen real estate you have to play with and with HDR capable displays on both iPad Pro sizes, there’s room to spare when editing. Images look stunning on these things and the battery life is excellent and beats any more capable laptops.

Only you can decide which is right for you, but I would urge you to try one of these iPad Pro models out. I know it’s a relatively expensive outlay initially, but, if you find that it replaces your laptop, reduces travel costs due to less weight and encourages you to use it more, it is the way content is going to be created, distributed and consumed in the future.

As I mentioned earlier, I use Lumix GX8 which has built in WiFi. Combined with the Panasonic Image App, I can remote operate my GX8 and shoot untethered, straight from the iPad Pro. I can either save the file to iPad Pro or on the camera and transfer later. I can tell you, I used to make fun of people using the iPad as a camera, but using it as a remote screen / capture device, is incredible.

The full P3 colour Gamut, the Retina display and the 120Hz refresh rate, makes it an absolute joy to use. Using the iPad Pro as a remote viewer, also means I have removed a couple of extra bits of kit out of my bag, reducing the weight of my gear even more than just replacing the laptop.

My neck, shoulders and elbows, appreciate every ounce that has been lost as a result of down sizing. Micro four thirds, with iPad Pro and some top Apps, really does bring a powerful studio to a small bag set up.

There is no way I will ever go back to a large DSLR kit and in time, I can see my entire on the go work kit, fitting into one compact bag, that I can carry all day, without noticing, allowing me to venture out and go places a larger kit either, makes you think twice about, or puts you off going altogether.

Finally, I would just add, that having bought the WiFi only model, this was deliberate as my iPhone has a nice Data allowance and can be used as a WiFi hotspot on the go, uploading to the Creative Cloud, is quick and painless. I just set it to sync when I’m driving to and from destinations, so by the time I get home, my images are safely stored on Creative Cloud and instantly available on any device I have Creative Cloud App installed on.