I bought the new iPad Pro so you don’t have to!

Nov 10, 2018

Blake Griffin

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

I bought the new iPad Pro so you don’t have to!

Nov 10, 2018

Blake Griffin

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I’m no stranger to the iPad. In fact, it once caused me not to get a job at an Apple store shortly after college. I was asked in an interview, “What do you think of the new iPad,” and I answered honestly (mistake number one in a job interview I would learn):

I’m not sure how I feel about it, it doesn’t really do what I would want it to do.

I didn’t get a call back for a second interview. Little did I know this would be the start of my rocky relationships with tablets.

In 2012 I bought refurbished a 32GB “New iPad.” With its retina screen, I told myself it would be the perfect portfolio alternative, and I could make myself look so cool by bringing a digital device to a client meeting, instead of a printed book.

Who prints photos anymore? Clients will see me as cutting edge!

That device currently is sitting on the floor next to my bed, unable to be updated past iOS 9, with a dead battery. I rarely use it anymore because of how slow it has become. And it certainly didn’t win me any clients. I think I may have used it professionally once or twice to have someone digitally sign a contract or a model release.

When the first iPad Pro was released I found myself holding it and thinking, “Well…it sure is big,” before using the newly launched apple pencil to crudely draw a penis on it and handing it back to my friend. I still didn’t see a good use for what was essentially a laptop without a keyboard.

Flash forward to 2017, where I found myself standing at the counter at my local Apple store looking at the three size options in front of me for “Pro” level iPads. I was sold (or so I told myself). I just needed to know what size fits me best. After a few hours of going back and forth with the demo models, I eventually decided to walk away. It just didn’t hold up to the experience I was getting from my laptop.

When the 2018 Apple announcement of the NEW IPAD PRO came through, I once again found myself enamored with the idea of getting a laptop replacement. I studied the keynote, watched every review video, and made an appointment with myself to visit the apple store as soon as possible to play with one myself.

The idea that now this tablet was “more powerful than most PC laptops” and (would be) capable of running a “full” version of Photoshop really intrigued me.

The Tech Specs:

To be fair, a lot of this section is pulled directly from Apple’s sales literature on the new iPad, and I will try my best to keep things brief here. This isn’t anything you can’t find for yourself with a quick Google search.

  • Liquid Retina display
  • 11 or 12.9-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
  • 2732-by-2048-pixel resolution at 264 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • ProMotion technology
  • Wide color display (P3)
  • True Tone display
  • A12X Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture
  • Neural Engine
  • Embedded M12 coprocessor
  • USB-C
  • 10 hour battery life
  • New Apple Pencil with magnetic charging
I sent this photo to several people who knew how much I was dreading this purchase.

After another agonizing hour going back and forth with price and specs, I decided to pull the trigger on the 12.9” model with 256GB of storage, with the new Apple Pencil. $1,380.24 retail after estimated Atlanta taxes.

To be fair, I had a friend hook me up with an Apple friends and family discount, which brought my price down to a little under $1200 after tax. Even with the discount, this is a pretty large chunk of change to throw down on something that I didn’t even know if it would fit into my workflow properly.

Once the device was delivered to me an hour later, I rushed home and completed the setup process and began playing with my new toy. I was determined to make it work for me.


Just about everything with the design of the device

The 12.9” screen is gorgeous and combined with the True Tone Technology and night shift I found it very easy to use in a variety of lighting conditions. Never did it blow out my eyes when used in the dark.

The new Apple Pencil is very responsive and feels great in hand. The new magnetic charging system makes it a great way to store and charge.

Battery life is pretty good. Apple rates it at 10 hours, and with moderate usage I was able to only drop down to around 50% before it was time for bed.

The refresh rate still makes me very happy. It feels snappy when I swipe between pages on the home screen, or between pages in a book or magazine. I am impressed at how smooth everything is.

All of this packed into a device that is a great size that fits comfortably in my hands.

And I’ll be the first person to say I have tiny girly hands.

iOS 12

For the most part, I am very happy with the latest version of iOS. When used on the iPad Pro it does a great job at coming VERY close to a desktop-class OS. For the average user who is looking for a laptop replacement or substitute, it makes for a pretty good argument against competing products.

USB-C (Kinda)

Apple choosing to move to a standardized charging/syncing solution is super smart. No more proprietary cables (for the most part), and if you are ok with dongles of varying sorts you can basically connect this device to just about anything (even if that connection can’t exactly do anything…more on this later). Even though I didn’t get a chance to try it, the ability to mirror to a 5K display was an impressive demo.



Lets talk about the elephant in the room straight away. This thing is not cheap. And for a similar pricing point you are already into 13” Macbook territory. This makes the decision much harder when comparing side by side. Yes, technically you get more storage with the iPad, and that new processor supposedly is nothing to laugh at. But what you lose is RAM, and a FULL operating system (And at least for me, Capture One).


For all the great things that the iPad pro can do with its new port, there is one HUGE thing that it can’t do. At the time of this writing the USB-C port cannot be used to interface directly with an external hard drive. This is a huge bummer because in order to be competitive with a traditional laptop, I can’t really get around needing expandable storage.

But, you say, “The cloud! Can’t you use the cloud?” And my response to this is a decided “Yes and No.”

I downloaded the WD MyCloud app onto the iPad. It’s the same app that I use to manage my personal cloud from the go on my phone. And while I was able to eventually download a file into the iPad for editing, it was far from an elegant experience.

Wait…where are my thumbnails?

While iOS 12 can support plenty of different RAW files, it can only read them while in the Photos app, unless specifically coded into each individual app. Even in the Files app you can’t see any thumbnails by default.

I sure do hope I remember that SPECIFIC file name for the file I want to edit.

Now, once you download the file to your device, you can see a thumbnail just fine.

Too bad I’d have to import all of these into my camera roll first before I can see them.

Now I suppose this could be solved by a product like a Gnarbox (Shameless plug, lets talk Gnarbox, send me one of those 2.0 units for me to play with please?), or the Lacie DJI Co-Pilot, since they have a computer of sorts built in for processing (RAW previews), and generally can interface with other apps nicely. But by that point you are spending ANOTHER $299-$499 on top of the storage you already spent which further makes the argument for a traditional laptop.

The one thing I didn’t try was Tethering.

Photo shamelessly borrowed from Apple’s support page

But unless I’m using the Lightroom app I don’t think this will work for me as intended as well. From what I have seen, connecting a camera basically just opens up the photos app and downloads files from the SD card on the camera. Not a direct tethered shooting solution that I am used to from Capture One.

I suppose you could also use the USB-C SD card reader, but then you are once again having to load every file directly onto the internal storage of the iPad itself. And then moving them back off for long term archiving brings up a whole other conversation.

I think that the lack of USB-C mass storage support is something that Apple could (and hopefully will) fix in an upcoming version of iOS. This two-way data movement and storage would change a LOT of my feelings about the iPad Pro as it stands today.

Lack of “Desktop Strength” photo editing solutions

This is one “con” where I think things are ALMOST there. A “full” version of Adobe Photoshop will be coming next year, but Lightroom CC already has a large user-base and supposedly does a pretty good job. I’m still not sold, I don’t like Adobe’s charge per month model. It’s just not for me. And all of it adds to the overall cost ($120 a year). There are some cheaper (and single purchase) options available however.

Affinity Photo (reviewed here) has long been the Photoshop analogue that many photographers have fallen in love with. At the time of this writing, however, Affinity Photo hasn’t been updated in over a month, and likely hasn’t been optimized for these new processors yet. I fully believe that the next version of Affinity will work just fine and will be a very speedy piece of software.

But for me, I found it to be a touch clunky and certainly when I was doing some basic retouching there were several times I had to wait 15 seconds or so while the app crunched the data.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Affinity Photo UI

Affinity isn’t a bad option at all, and I think that part of my problems with it were just in learning a new piece of software. And once I got rolling I feel that things went rather smoothly. With the exception that it took me over an hour to retouch the above file, and even then I’m not 100% happy with the results. But I’ll let you guys judge for yourselves.

Backup and Archiving Workflow

My final gripe comes after you export the files out. By default, most of the apps I have played with wanted to export everything back into the camera roll of the iPad itself. Which then, of course, leads to duplicate files and space being eaten up by final deliverables.

I found a way to move things manually back to my WD Cloud, but it wasn’t elegant and took some experimenting with to move everything over. Then I was still left with having to delete the file manually to free up space on the device itself.


I like the 2018 iPad Pro, I really do. But I’m not IN LOVE with it.

Ok, I’m lying. I do love it. I think it’s designed well, I think the screen and pencil are both great, I think the audio on it is some of the best I have heard across any device. I like the idea of having iOS on a larger screen, that is still light enough to carry around one-handed. I like all of the potential that comes from multitasking.

From an Apple fanboy perspective, I really do love this device.

I even used the Squarespace blog app to type some of this post!

But from a photographer standpoint, it falls short. For me. My workflow just can’t accommodate the iPad Pro as it currently stands. But it’s so close!

With a few simple changes (USB-C Mass Storage, RAW Support in the Files app, and more Pro “Desktop Level” Apps from the likes of Adobe, Capture One, etc) all of which could potentially come at a software level without the need of additional hardware.

For day to day web surfing, email, notes, and other media consumption I love what has come from this latest generation of iPad. This makes me excited for what is to come with lower-spec devices that I would likely use more frequently.

I was at a meeting today and loved using the iPad to take notes on, and I loved being able to quickly surf the web and find info I needed. I really want to have this device in my life, but unfortunately…I’m probably going to return it.

I’m going to give it through the weekend to grow on me a little more, maybe do some more playing around to see if I can better fit things into my life. But at this moment right now, I just can’t justify paying $1200 for something that I can already do (arguably better) on my already paid for Macbook Pro. Thankfully Apple has a 14 day return period, because I would hate to have to try and re-sell this on the open market.

Maybe I’ll just wait a while and snatch up one of these one they hit the Refurbished section of the Apple store, or maybe grab one of last year’s models at a killer deal.

…Or there is always next year’s model…

About the Author

Blake Griffin is a photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. You can see more of his writing on his blog and check out his photography on his site. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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11 responses to “I bought the new iPad Pro so you don’t have to!”

  1. ajcarr Avatar

    Install Google Snapseed and play with it. It gives you the most tactile implementation of Nik U-Point imaginable.

    1. Blake Griffin Avatar
      Blake Griffin

      I’ve played with it in the past, I’ll have to install it and play a little more before I made the final decision on if I’m returning this bad boy.

      1. potsy4u Avatar

        Don’t return it! Sell it to me :p

  2. Rikki Avatar

    PLus one more for Snapseed. I constantly use it on my iPhone (saves over the original, which btw is reversible, so no duplicate files and having to go back and delete versions to save space). Also I have the same problem with thumbnails when accessing my files and folders on my I-device, especially on the go. After some research and trials and regrets I went with Idrive *online* backup (yes another “i” device/service). I like that I can access it anywhere thru their app – solid so far – and yes it displays thumbnails fast. Jpgs to jpegs to PDFs to tiffs to mov/mpg – but for the love of god I can’t find a camera raw file rt now as I type under the sheets at 5 in the am so you’ll have to look into it. Hope this helps. Attaching screenshots of thumbnail and list mode from the app.

    1. Rikki Avatar

      Sorry for some reason Discuss keep saying I must be logged in to post a photo. Obviously I already am since my pic is there smiling at me. But I spent too much time on this and I’m really tired so I guess just contact me if you wanna see them. There’s always *something* failing. #techlife

      1. Blake Griffin Avatar
        Blake Griffin

        No worries, thanks for trying. I’ll look into it!

  3. Daris Fox Avatar
    Daris Fox

    From a photographer PoV the Ipad is just plain out-gunned by the likes of the Surface Pro line, which can natively work with cameras and other key hardware without jumping through hoops. Is the iPad ahead of the curve? Possibly, but Apple is playing catch up with Ms with the Pro at this point of time.

    Problem withe Surface Pro is that Photoshop can be glitchy at times, especially with touch input. Just a question if you can deal with Win 10 or want to stick with Apple.

    1. Blake Griffin Avatar
      Blake Griffin

      I’m on the fence to be honest. For me Apple put a bad taste in my mouth as soon as user serviceability started going away. I don’t WANT to move to Windows since I’m already so much into the ecosystem, but its looking like I will have to.

      1. Daris Fox Avatar
        Daris Fox

        To be fair, Apple hasn’t played nice for professionals for a decade on the computer side as much as the tablet. This started a long, long time ago when they threw Adobe under the boss and the disparate difference between Apple and PC when they shifted to x86 arch. Microsoft lit a fire under the PC industry with the Surface line and Win 10 but PC’s outgunned Apple when HP started to release their Z series line which was and still is amongst the top workstation hardware out there (I use a Z820 myself with 256Gb RAM/Dual Xeon rig)

        1. Blake Griffin Avatar
          Blake Griffin

          I’m curious about the Z-Series. I like that Wacom-partnered stylus.

  4. michael1968hh Avatar

    I think today’s scenario isn’t just on an iPad-only level. Today, for example, you can create a convenient iPad workflow like this: You import the images directly into the Lightroom library as usual on your Macbook. The collection can then be synchronized with Lightroom Mobile. Then you can easily select, rate, correct and (on the iPad with a pencil) retouch on the iPad and/or iPhone with Lightroom for iOS. All changes are synchronized on the fly with the local Lightroom library. The only, but fundamental(!), drawback of this workflow is the initial image import on the Macbook.