Technologizer

Resolved: There’s Nothing Stupid About Using the iPad as a Camera

A student at Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, North Carolina takes a photo of President Barack Obama on an iPad on June 6, 2013 Jewel Samad / AFP / Getty Images

Who are we to tell other people how to use their gadgets?

On the web, there’s nobody more certain of his or her righteousness than somebody who’s angry about somebody else’s usage of a computing device.

I run into this whenever I write about the fact that I use an iPad as my primary computer: I always get feedback from folks who inform me I should really be using a PC. Or that the fact I opt for an iPad means that my tasks are less worthy than their tasks. Or that it’s a sign that I’m kind of an idiot.

With all due respect to such people, they seem to have some form of cognitive disorder that leaves them believing that what’s right for them is right for everybody. But if somebody is doing something with a computer and is happy doing so, it’s usually a good sign that the person in question has found something that works. Not for you, not for me — for that person.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, because when the subject of taking photographs with an iPad comes up, the conversation nearly always devolves into a lecture about why that’s a terrible idea.

Eric Griffith of PCMag makes the case against the iPad as a camera, more politely than some:

Since the iPad 2 came out with front- and rear-facing cameras, 10-inch tablets have been used to take photos. And just about everyone agrees that taking a picture with an iPad makes you look like a complete tool. As the differences between a smartphone and a tablet blur together and the word “phablet” becomes part of the vernacular, maybe this becomes less of an issue. Then again, when you’re in a crowd and the person ahead of you obscures your view by holding up a gigantic iPad to take a picture of what you’d rather see live, maybe not.

Also, tablets—maybe iPads in particular—have lousy cameras. Even the new iPad Air only got an upgrade to the front-facing camera, specifically to make it better for FaceTime chatting; the back is still just a lame 5-megapixel iSight camera. Apple says the low-light shots are better, but as my late grannie used to say, “you can’t shine a turd.”

Got that? It boils down to:

1) The iPad camera isn’t all that spectacular.

2) When you use it, you block out what you’re looking at more than you would with a smartphone.

3) You look silly using it.

I could quote dozens of other pieces making similar points, such as this one and this one. Instead, I’ll just point out that the subject has been fodder for the Onion and a Tumblr with the self-explanatory name Look Stupid Taking Pictures With an iPad.

I’m not going to maintain that the iPad camera is superb — even though at least some of the people who use it surely don’t always have a better one on their person. I also grant that when you hold it in front of your face, it has a certain reality-blocking quality — although that doesn’t seem like a huge issue if you’re just snapping a quick still image or two.

I’ll even concede that taking pictures with a tablet looks goofy. Then again, I also recall when talking on cell phones in public, wearing Bluetooth headsets and staring at apps on a smartphone screen looked damned odd. And all of those activities looked less peculiar as they became part of everyday life.

Full disclosure: I use an iPad every day, but I’ve probably taken a grand total of fewer than 50 photos with one. Most of those have been when I’ve been using my tablet to tweet about something and have wanted to pop in a quick image. Or when my iPhone 5 — the best camera I own that I take with me almost everywhere — has had a dead battery.

But the thing is, none of this matters. If a meaningful number of people choose to use an iPad as a camera, those people have found something that works for them. Why any of them should care about what anybody else thinks, I don’t know.

I keep coming back to something Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” She wasn’t talking about gadgets and how people choose to use them, as far as I know. But I’ll bet that if she had owned an iPad, and felt like using it to take photos, she would have merrily done so — no matter what anyone else thought.

(Side note: John Gruber of Daring Fireball is currently linking to a post by Shawn Blanc about how Shawn’s grandfather loves using his iPad as a camera. I haven’t read Blanc’s post — being linked to by Gruber apparently brought his site down — but I hope that nobody, but nobody, tells grandpa that he shouldn’t be enjoying himself.)

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