iPad as camera isn't stupid, it's what we need

iPad Pro (2022) in camera rig Apple press image
(Image credit: Apple)

Forget the stigma that you attach to taking photos with a tablet. Yes, seeing someone holding up a giant iPad while everyone around them holds up standard-sized phones is uncanny. That’s why we need to normalize it and accept it, for a number of reasons. Most importantly, there are people with mobility and visual limitations who would significantly benefit from having a great camera on a device the size of the new iPad 2022

I don’t just mean a better camera, I mean a camera that is every bit as good as what you’d find on the best iPhone. The base model iPad could get the same camera as the base model iPhone 14. The iPad Pro would use the iPhone 14 Pro camera. So, not just the best tablet camera, but a camera that could show up on our best camera phones list. 

Woman using iPad to take photo of a boat

Using an iPad as a camera (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The new iPad Pro (2022) got a camera upgrade this year, in an unusual way. The camera module remains essentially unchanged from last year, however the Apple M2 chip inside it has a new image signal processor and new hardware encode/decode capabilities for a number of video codecs. All of this makes it the first iPad capable of shooting 4K video in Apple’s ProRes format.

In promo photos, Apple shows a videographer holding the iPad centered in a handle rig. This feature is no joke. It’s easy to imagine an editor looking over footage on an iPad Pro and realizing something was needed, then using the same device to grab that extra shot.

A great camera, not just great for an iPad

Apple should have gone further and given the iPad a significant camera module upgrade, including better lenses, sensors, and image stabilization. I would love to see Apple fully embrace iPad photography and give every iPad, from the iPad mini up to the iPad Pro, the same level of camera quality you’ll find in the company’s compact smartphones.

I have a relative whose hand shakes. They had a career as a surgeon before facing an early retirement, in part due to this mobility issue. I think about them every time I review a phone. To most of us, a phone is a responsive touchscreen. To them, it is a million tiny buttons, and almost every button is the wrong one to tap.

Apple iPad Air 5

Gaming controls are bigger on an iPad screen (Image credit: Future)

Using a larger screen is so much easier in every way for them. Tapping the right app icon, typing on the keyboard – even grasping the device is much easier. The camera is one of the few features left for which they rely on the phone. I wish Apple would bring this ease to the iPad camera.

Users with mobility issues wouldn’t be the only ones to benefit. It is also easy to imagine why owners with visual limitations might also enjoy having an iPad as their primary portable camera, instead of the much smaller iPhone.

Besides having a larger screen viewfinder, it would be great to have more legible controls and settings. Even for a user with no visual issues, it is hard to see whether a subject is perfectly in focus when viewing on an iPhone screen. An iPad display, however, is large enough that focusing would be more reliable.

Give us a camera upgrade option

There are many possible reasons why Apple doesn’t include flagship phone-quality cameras on its tablets. No manufacturer does. Samsung doesn’t, not even on its Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra. Nor will Google, from what we’ve seen of the simple, single camera on the back of the upcoming Pixel Tablet.

The Google Pixel Tablet from the back, focused on the camera

The camera on the upcoming Google Pixel Tablet (Image credit: Google)

It could be a matter of cost. The base model iPad shot up in price versus the iPad 10.2 (2021), thanks to a flashy redesign. It’s likely that adding the iPhone 14’s cameras would be too costly for Apple to want to absorb that expense.

This makes less sense on the iPad Pro, since it already has a camera bump and Apple isn’t shy about sky-high pricing. Even a camera option, like a “Max” version of each model, would be a welcome addition.

Come on, Apple, you love add-ons! Give us a $149 option for better cameras on any iPad and I would know exactly to whom I’d recommend it.

Better for everyone means better for me

Truthfully, I’m being selfish. I want a better iPad camera for me. I want to use my iPad as a camera, for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned above, even though I don’t have those physical limitations. I want the bigger screen, the bigger buttons, and the controls that are easier to see.

I want a device that is big and easy to hold, one that gives me a huge, clear view of the photo I’m about to shoot and share. I want to use the same device to take the great picture, then edit it, then send it along. This is Apple’s vision for ProRes video on the iPad Pro. It’s my vision for photography on every iPad.

Giving users with physical limitations a better camera on the iPad is a movement towards social equity. It gives everyone an equal opportunity to take great photos. I’d get to benefit too, because, as with all movements towards equity, we all benefit when devices become more accessible.

Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at eTown.com. Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.