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PSA: Don’t Use the iPad as a Camera in Public



Though the new iPad has a better camera than its predecessor, I don’t recommend using it as a camera. Why? It just looks ridiculous, it’s impractical and the iPad can be disruptive in some environments. The iPad is good for a lot of things, but any mediocre point and shoot camera is better than Apple’s tablet for taking photos and video.

With a five-element lens, the new iPad takes much better images than the iPad 2 and the original iPad. Its rear camera can shoot 5 MP images and record 1080p video at 30 frames per second. Some iPad users are able to get pretty decent results in certain conditions, but that doesn’t mean people should replace their cameras with iPads.

Two Months with the New iPadI’m starting to notice more and more people recording and shooting with iPads in public. What’s more disturbing is that they’re often carrying a device that’s better suited for the task.

I’ve witnessed parents trying shooting soccer games with iPads and countless people shooting San Francisco Giants games at AT&T park.The iPad’s large display gives users a false sense of framing as the subjects are relatively large compared to how they appear on the back of a digital camera or smartphone display. They also completely block off users’ live view of events, forcing them to experience them entirely through the iPad. It’s pretty easy to glance over the top of a digital camera or smartphone as you shoot, but it’s more difficult to do so with the iPad.

Take for example the friendly couple in the below photo at a luau and hulu performance in Hawaii. On the way into the venue they asked me to take a photo of them in a garden. The photo turned out well enough, but the only thing I focused on was making sure I didn’t drop the case-less iPad.

After dinner we moved to an outdoor theater to watch the show. Out came the iPad and the couple proceeded to shoot video. The bottom half of the iPad’s display was filled with the heads of guests a row ahead. The couple took turns passing the iPad back and forth as they recorded the show. The result is at least an hour of shaky, unwatchable video. As an added bonus, the iPad’s 9.7″ display throws off enough light to disrupt others’ viewing experiences.I almost said something to the couple, but bit my tongue.

(Read: New iPad Review)

The iPad can be used to snap pictures in a pinch, but if you’re going to a special event you should really bring along a more appropriate camera.

Do you notice iPads being used as awkward cameras in public? Have you ever seen decent results?




  1. Ms. Iris

    07/16/2012 at 12:00 am

    My opinion is that if these users aren’t as vain as you are about how they look in public, good for them. A person can look just as stupid, if not more, holding a cell phone up. At least they are holding up a machine that will take vastly superior photos. If you don’t like how people look, then don’t look at them.

    The line of sight issue seems fairly juvenile. In the first place, the iPad is a lot smaller than any adult person’s HEAD, which can also be in the line of sight. And in the second place, nobody’s supposed to be taking photographs at a show because of copyright issues ANYWAY. The fact that cell phone & point-and-shoot users can be more COVERT about it doesn’t make it right. So, by all rights, maybe it’s best to not allow ANY photographs by ANY means, rather than singling out users with a particular type of equipment.

    • Xavier Lanier

      07/16/2012 at 12:40 am

      This isn’t about vanity. This particular show allowed photo/video, as do many events, such as sporting events. Would you really want to sit next to or directly behind someone with a bright iPad screen on during the entire show? It’s impossible to ignore and quite rude.

  2. Bryan Sith

    11/26/2012 at 5:39 pm

    You sound very whiny in this. Do you realize that many people don’t have another camera available to them, and are glad that their iPad they are carrying around works as a camera? You just bitch about how they don’t look pretty enough… your writing is annoying and makes me unhappy. I would only give you a medium slice of pumpkin pie if you came to my house on thanksgiving, not a large one.

  3. Campbellio

    11/27/2012 at 8:18 am

    I agree with Xavier. I was at a gig a few months back and some idiot in front of me started filming the comedian on his I pad, holing it high so as not to capture the head of the person in front of him, obscuring my view. Thankfully the comedian noticed and started to rip the loss out of him.

    Its fair enough if you are out, see something that you want a picture of and your tablet is all you have on you, but if you’re going somewhere where you know you want to take a photo, take a camera with you ffs.

  4. Therese Spina

    12/13/2012 at 3:36 pm

    I do not agree with Xavier. For me, the ipad is my multi-tasking workhorse, and I take it everywhere. Besides being flexible, it’s a great conversation piece. This has nothing to do with vanity, nor is it about anything but practicality. The only downside is its size, but I lack an iphone, so it’s gonna have to do.

  5. Paul

    01/28/2013 at 8:59 am

    I’m on the side of everyone that disagrees with you for the most part. Where I do agree with you though, is that it is cumbersome to hold and in desperate need of a “case” designed to aid those who do wish to use the ipad as a handheld camera or video device. I am super long on experience in photography and video, and the one thing about the ipad that makes shooting video a videographer’s delight is the size of the screen. You see the image in very near perfect proportions so framing and composition is far easier than on small screens. I’m about to purchase a mounting accessory for my tripod so that I can use it more effectively to shoot soccer and lacrosse games. As for taking photos of the heads in front of you…well…maybe an introductory photography class would be the best solution to that problem and a class in etiquette would do for those who use it inappropriately in audience situations.

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