Selecting the Best Tablet for Photo Editing

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Looking back to a few years ago, photo editing from my tablet was very limited and more of an afterthought. At the time, tablet editing was a way for me to quickly share interesting photos on social media and nothing else. Even the best tablets for photo editing were limited in terms of processing power and available applications.

I always took a RAW+JPEG combination of every shot. This allowed me to wirelessly connect my tablet to my camera and grab the low-resolution JPEG version of my photo to quickly edit using the SnapSeed app. Once I was home, I started over, using my standard RAW editing workflow in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Fortunately, everything changed in the last two years. Mobile photo editing is now a viable option for photographers.

There are a few factors that made this tectonic change possible.

The Rise of RAW

Nearly every mobile phone and tablet manufacturer adopted RAW format. Now, it is not only possible to take RAW photos with our mobile devices, we can edit them as well.

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Before RAW format became a standard option, some mobile apps offered limited support to RAW editing. In most cases, these editing apps were nothing like a real RAW workflow. The RAW images had to be converted to JPEG before they could be edited.

Luckily, you can now enjoy a real, nondestructive Lightroom editing workflow on any tablet.

The Rise of Lightroom Mobile

Adobe offered a mobile version of Lightroom for many years, but it was a useless and crippled application that most photographers ignored.

In 2018, everything changed when Adobe released Lightroom CC Mobile, which was built around the Adobe Camera RAW Engine and the Adobe Creative Cloud. The new CC Mobile became a logical extension of the Lightroom Classic and Lightroom CC Desktop versions.

Since Lightroom Mobile uses the same RAW processing engine as its older siblings, it has identical editing tools. But what is even more important is that you can synchronize the develop presets between your desktop and tablet and use them on your mobile device as you normally would on your computer.

This is huge.

Now, when I travel and have very limited time for editing, I can process a bunch of photos without touching any of the editing sliders.

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With Lightroom CC Mobile, you can easily synchronize your RAW photos across multiple devices.

For example, you can take a RAW image using your mobile phone, synchronize it with your tablet, make some basic edits using Lightroom CC Mobile, and complete your editing on your desktop or laptop using Lightroom Classic. The process is now seamless.

The Rise of Windows Tablets / Laptop Hybrids

If you are a photographer or a creative person, sometimes it feels like we are living in a bizarre world. Everything seems upside down since Apple stopped innovating (like a lazy, fat cat) while Microsoft pushed forward testing new limits and creating one innovative product after another.

The Microsoft Surface Pro line of tablets and laptops drastically changed the way many photographers approach editing. The latest version of the Surface Pro is so advanced that it can easily replace a tablet as well as a laptop and desktop computer.

On the road, I use my Surface Pro in tablet mode. At the end of the day when I am back in the hotel, I connect the keyboard and use it as a laptop. Once I am home, I use the docking module to connect it to the monitor and desktop keyboard, which converts it into a highly capable desktop computer.

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The most important feature of the Surface Pro is that it uses the standard Windows OS and not a limited mobile version. You can run it on Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, or even the desktop version of Photoshop.

This is priceless.

Today, I want to share the best tablets for photo editing in the following categories—Windows tablets/laptop hybrids, Apple tablets, and Android tablets.

Quick Summary: Best Tablets For Photo Editing

  • Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)
  • Apple iPad Mini
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
  • Huawei MediaPad M5
  • Microsoft Surface Pro
  • Acer Switch 5

Best Apple Tablets For Photo Editing

Since the release of the original iPhone, Apple’s mobile devices have had an edge over Android devices in terms of processing power. Since Apple designs and manufactures the processors for their mobile devices, they always manage to produce more powerful versions at lower prices. This makes the iPad the tablet of choice for many photographers and designers.

When Apple and Adobe released the iPad Pro and Lightroom CC Mobile, the iPad Pro instantly became a laptop replacement for many photographers. With the future release of Photoshop CC for iPad, it is sure to become an even more tempting photo editing alternative.

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)
APPLE BEST ALL AROUND

Screen: 12.9″ 2732 x 2048, Processor: Apple 64-Bit Hexa-Core, Mamory: 4GB, Battery Life: 10hrs, Weight: 1.53 lbs
Apple iPad Mini
APPLE BEST BUDGET

Screen: 7.9″ 2048 x 1536, Processor:M8: Motion, Mamory: 2GB, Battery Life: 9hrs, Weight: 0.65 lbs

Best Android Tablets For Photo Editing

Since Google joined the mobile game and started building premium mobile phones and tablets, the difference between high-end tablets from Apple and Android are almost non-existent. Now, if you use a quality Android tablet, you can expect similar performance to that of an iPad.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
ANDROID – BEST ALL AROUND

Screen: 10.5″ 2560×1600, Processor: Octa-Core 2.35, Mamory: 4GB, Battery Life: 10hrs, Weight: 1.1 lbs
Huawei MediaPad M5
ANDROID – BEST BUDGET

Screen: 8.4″ 2560×1600, Processor: 2.1 GHz 8032, Mamory: 4GB, Battery Life: 10hrs, Weight: 11 oz

Best Windows Tablets For Photo Editing

Microsoft invented the concept of a Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard. Their concept debuted in 2013 with the introduction of the first Surface Pro. Today, Microsoft continues to dominate the high-end segment of the market, but there are also plenty of options to choose from in mid-to-lower levels.

Microsoft Surface Pro
WINDOWS – BEST ALL AROUND

Screen: 12.3″ 2736×1824, Processor: Intel Core i5 8400T, Mamory: 8GB, Battery Life: 10hrs, Weight: 2.65 lbs
Acer Switch 5
WINDOWS – BEST BUDGET TABLET

Screen: 12″ 2160 x 1440, Processor: Intel Core i5, Mamory: 8GB, Battery Life: 10hrs, Weight: 2.8 lbs
Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch, Wi-Fi, 64GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model) - MTEL2LL/A

Apple iPad Pro (12.9-inch)

Screen: 12.9″ 2732 x 2048
Processor: Apple 64-Bit Hexa-Core
Mamory: 4GB
Battery Life: 10hrs
Weight: 1.53 lbs
Price: Check the latest price here

When Apple released the first version of the iPad Pro, graphic designers and photographers were the first adopters of the new device. The iPad Pro combines a large, high-resolution screen with a powerful processing power that makes for a rare combination for mobile devices. When you combine this with the highly accurate and sensitive Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro is a crossover between a mobile device and a graphics tablet.

It is no surprise that Adobe is in the final stages of creating a version of Photoshop specifically for the iPad Pro.

Lightroom CC mobile runs fast and smooth on the Apple iPad Pro.

Pros

  • 10 hours of battery life
  • 12.9-inch retina display that is the best among tablets
  • Beautiful, slim design

Cons

  • Expensive
  • You have to live with the limitations of any mobile OS

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Apple iPad mini 4 (Wi-Fi, 128GB) - Space Gray (Previous Model)

Apple iPad Mini

Screen: 7.9″ 2048 x 1536
Processor: M8: Motion
Mamory: 2GB
Battery Life: 9hrs
Weight: 0.65 lbs
Price: Check the latest price here

The Apple Mini makes an ideal companion for traveling photographers. It combines a small form factor with enough power to run the mobile version of Lightroom. Since you can now synchronize the develop preset collections across all your devices, you can use preset based editing for a fast and uncomplicated workflow.

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Affordable
  • Decent battery life
  • Enough power to run Lightroom

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Photoshop will be too much for a device like this

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Samsung Electronics SM-T830NZALXAR Galaxy Tab S4 with S Pen, 10.5', Gray

Samsung Galaxy Tab S4

Screen: 10.5″ 2560×1600
Processor: Octa-Core 2.35
Mamory: 4GB
Battery Life: 10hrs
Weight: 1.1 lbs
Price: Check the latest price here

Android photographers finally have plenty of options to choose from in terms of capable tablets. My favorite Android tablet is the Samsung Galaxy S4. It is positioned to compete against the 10-inch iPad Pro. The Galaxy S4 is the fourth generation of the S series of tablets and, with each version, the tablets become more refined and polished.

The Galaxy S4 comes with everything a photographer needs. It has a responsive, high resolution OLED 9.7-inch screen, a 12-hour battery life, plenty of RAM and processing power, and is quick to charge. It is a pleasure to run Lightroom Mobile on the S4.

Pros

  • 12-hour battery life
  • Fast charging
  • Comes with the S Pe

Cons

  • Expensive

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Huawei MediaPad M5 Tablet with 8.4' 2.5D Display, Octa Core, Quick Charge, Dual Harman Kardon-Tuned Speakers, WiFi Only, 4Gb+64Gb, Space Gray (US Warranty)

Huawei MediaPad M5

Screen: 8.4″ 2560×1600
Processor: 2.1 GHz 8032
Mamory: 4GB
Battery Life: 10hrs
Weight: 11 oz
Price: Check the latest price here

It is not always easy to find a smaller, form factor Android tablet that is suitable for the demands of the photo editing workflow. But I believe that the Huawei MediaPad M5 8.4” checks all the boxes as a viable option. It combines a bright and responsive screen with the latest processor, a great battery life, and a compact design. It is a perfect travel companion.

The MediaPad M5 8.4” has a 16 x 10 display that is intended to be used in a vertical position, which has caused many users to complain that such a form factor is not ideal for use in landscape orientation. But I believe that this is the best aspect ratio while working in Lightroom Mobile. When you have the right quarter of the screen filled with the Lightroom editing sliders, you have the perfect fit for photos at a 3 x 2 aspect ratio.

Pros

  • Bright 2560 x 1600 resolution screen
  • Comes with a pen
  • Amazing battery life
  • Beautiful design

Cons

  • No phone jack

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB) - Newest Version, Platinum

Microsoft Surface Pro

Screen: 12.3″ 2736×1824
Processor:Intel Core i5 8400T
Mamory: 8GB
Battery Life: 10hrs
Weight: 2.65 lbs
Price: Check the latest price here

The Microsoft Surface Pro blurs the difference between a tablet and a laptop. It has a form factor tablet with a detachable keyboard, but it has the makings of a high-end laptop with the latest multicore processors and plenty of RAM. What makes it truly unique is that it addresses the main shortcomings of all mobile devices—the limitation of mobile operating systems. It runs a full version of the Windows operating system.

As a photographer, you do not have to compromise by running a mobile version of Lightroom or Photoshop. You can run a full version of your favorite Adobe applications.

At this point and after multiple iterations, the Microsoft Surface Pro is a mature product. With the latest edition, even the entry-level model with 8GB of RAM and an i5 Intel processor is good enough to run Lightroom CC. But for Photoshop, I recommend the 16GB version.

Pros

  • Beautiful 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824 screen
  • Sleek and compact design
  • Great build quality
  • 9 hours of battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Does not come with the keyboard and pen

Check Latest Price & Reviews


Acer SW512-52-55YD Switch 5, 12.0' QHD Touch 2-in-1 Laptop/Tablet, 7th Gen Intel Core i5-7200U, 8GB LPDDR3, 256GB SSD, Active Stylus, Black

Acer Switch 5

Screen: 12.3″ 2736×1824
Processor:Intel Core i5 8400T
Mamory: 8GB
Battery Life: 10hrs
Weight: 2.65 lbs
Price: Check the latest price here

When Microsoft released the Surface Pro six years ago, most people rolled their eyes expecting another Zune fiasco. But the concept of the Windows laptop/tablet hybrid caught fire and other PC manufacturers started building their own versions. The Acer Switch 5 is an attempt by the Taiwanese manufacturer to create a budget-friendly model to compete with the Surface Pro.

The Switch 5 is slightly bigger and heavier with a lower resolution screen compared to the Surface Pro. If you consider that it comes with the keyboard and the pen as well as an i5, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM configuration and costs almost half the price of the Surface Pro, the Acer Switch 5 is absolutely worth considering.

Pros

  • Comes with keyboard and pen
  • Great value
  • Quiet fan-less design
  • Comes with both USB A and USB C ports

Cons

  • Underwhelming speakers
  • Less polished compared to Surface Pro

Check Latest Price & Reviews


What to Read Next:

  • Valerie Mitchell says:

    So how do you tell your phone to capture an image in RAW?

    • Viktor Elizarov says:

      You can not tell your phone it won’t listen 🙂 You tell Lightroom Mobile it will pass the request.

      In Lr Mobile Camera App there is a switch DNG / JPEG

      • Valerie Mitchell says:

        Thank you! No wonder talking to my phone didn’t do any good!

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