iPad 3 – a photographer’s view

Despite the number of them used for displaying portfolios, the iPad and iPad 2 have always disappointed me slightly in that role.

Yesterday saw the release of Apple’s iPad 3 with its much talked about brighter, sharper display.

it’s a great improvement …

For me, the biggest problem with the previous iPad display was its lopsided gamut, with very limited saturation possible in blues and reds, and a overall yellow tint. Add in that the display had a high native gamma (“contrast”) which always made shadows and darker tones look blocked up, and you can perhaps see why I found them a little frustrating.

What’s new about the iPad 3 display

The iPad 3 display has a noticeably wider gamut than previous iPad displays, allowing more saturated colours, and a closer match to your profiled and calibrated desktop monitor. With some small workflow modifications, an even closer match should be possible.

Background:

iTunes can downsize images before sending them to the iPad; it’s possible that futures updates to iTunes will create and download larger images to take full advantage of higher resolution displays.

The screen resolution for the iPad 3 is 2048 by 1536 pixels, giving 264 pixels per inch, exactly double the 1024 by 768 pixels at 132 pixels per inch figures for previous generations of iPad.

The increased resolution is visible at my usual viewing distances, which are around 15 – 24 inches (38 – 60 cm). it’s more apparent on text than on images; it’s possible that if your images were downloaded to the iPad with iTunes then you may not be able to see any difference at all.

How does this affect my iPad workflow?

Background:

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that images displayed on an iPad 2 will look different to those displayed on an iPad 3, but the iPad 3 will give a better match to your colour managed desktop monitor.

For Photoshop and Lightroom users, producing suitable jpegs is a case of selecting the sRGB colour space when exporting their iPad portfolio, regardless of which colour space they use to edit their images in.

The iPad 3 display’s gamut is much closer to sRGB than the displays used on the iPad and iPad 2, so downloading images in the sRGB colourspace to the iPad 3 will give a much better iPad to desktop display colour match than with older iPads.

If you’ve been opening up the shadows of your images by applying a tone curve (or using the centre slider in levels to adjust the gamma) before sending them to the iPad , then you will have to continue doing that; while the iPad 3 display gamut is a good match to sRGB, the ipad 3’s display gamma is still the same as previous iPads – somewhat higher than sRGB’s gamma of 2.2, meaning that the shadows still look darker than they would on a desktop monitor.

If you’re using a Photoshop action / droplet or Lightroom develop module and export presets to tweak the colour and downsize images intended for your iPad portfolio, it should be straightforward to modify the droplet, action or preset to use sRGB as the colourspace for the exported images, rather than applying a series of hue and saturation alterations.

Conclusion:

The increased resolution is good to have, but the increased gamut and closer match to sRGB is much more important for photographers and other colour critical users. The icing on the cake is that this display change may actually simplify some user’s workflows.