Apple bets on photography with iPad

By Heather kelly

(CNN) – It’s the most controversial topic since people started shooting portrait mode videos. Should tablets be used as cameras?

Taking out a tablet to take a picture is a practice that, whether you like it or not, is becoming popular. Once owned by dads who didn’t mind embarrassing their kids, tablet photography has become so common that Apple added serious camera features to its new iPad.

Why, when they most likely have a smartphone with a better camera, do people use tablets to take pictures and videos?

“I think people look a bit silly doing it but I can understand why,” said Amit Gupta, founder of Photojojo.com. “It’s like the largest viewer in the world.”

Traditional cameras have little viewfinders that, when you put your eye on them, fill your entire vision with a scene. The screens of smartphones are delicate in comparison. Someone who struggles with seeing a phone screen, especially when holding the device with arms outstretched, can enjoy the extra real state of a tablet.

Editing is much easier on a tablet too. On a smartphone, post-production is typically limited to a few settings and an Instagram filter, but a tablet is big enough to be a decent canvas for editing.

Gupta’s site is a popular store for mobile photography accessories. Since the iPad was released, it has seen an increase in the number of people buying tablet-specific photography tools, such as the iOgrapher iPad Video Rig.

For critics, a better view isn’t enough to justify pulling out a tablet instead of a real phone or camera. Camera quality aside, there are several reasons for the stigma against tablet photography; including what personal photographer and instructor Steve Simon calls “the goofy factor.”

Holding a large flat rectangle to take a picture is a strange thing. The smooth, slim frame is made to be held with two hands or laid flat, not held over your head while typing to focus a shot. The light bouncing off the large bright screen can create an unfortunate glare, especially outside.

The shape and size can also have an impact on the final photograph. Cameras have an effect on your subjects. A person will act differently in front of a large professional DLSR installation compared to a smartphone or tablet.

“As a street photographer where keeping a low profile is highly useful for capturing real moments, using a large tablet is the opposite of cautious,” said Simon, who teaches a course on street photography. “I find the tablet photographer to look a bit invasive and aggressive holding that big device in front of whatever or whoever he’s photographing.”

It’s not just the person you’re photographing that might get put off. Events like concerts are already turning into annoying seas of smartphones held in the air. The only thing worse is the person holding a tablet, blocking other people’s view.

Early tablet photographers are clearly not concerned with what other people think, or the limitations of the hardware. Apple’s update means the practice could be adopted by more people and throw up some negative associations.

Remember, at first there was resistance with smartphone photography as well, but this took off because people always had their devices in their pockets and sharing was instantaneous. The photos were not of great quality but using a phone was convenient and, “the best camera is the one with you”, it became a rallying cry.

The iPad 2’s main camera now competes with the iPhone 6. It has an eight-megapixel sensor and various camera features previously only found on iPhones, including time-lapse video, slow motion, and burst mode. Apple says the screen on its new iPad Air was redesigned and given an anti-reflective coating to cut glare by more than half.

Inside, there is a more powerful graphics processor, which makes the tablet a great tool for editing. The number of photo and video editing apps for the iPad continues to grow: Apple demonstrated the new Pixelmator iPad app at its press event, using it to remove an antelope from a desert scene.

There are still many valid reasons not to use a tablet as a camera, but the iPad’s updated camera chips eliminate some. Increasing the range of sizes for mobile devices also helps blur the line between phones and tablets.

“There is going to be less stigma because everyone carries these bigger phones,” Gupta said. “It’s going to get a little easier to justify taking out the iPad.”