At first glance, tablets seem like some of the least sensibly designed cameras and camcorders ever created.
The iPad's 9.7-inch display, for example, makes it far less portable than many digital cameras and camcorders that offer equal or better image quality and imaging features. It has no tripod mount, and using it with one hand is an invitation to capture video that could lead viewers to question whether they're watching an earthquake.
Indeed, for many tablets, imaging has been an afterthought. Apple left cameras completely off of the first-generation iPad; HP passed on a rear camera for its ill-fated TouchPad; and Amazon and Barnes & Noble have left them off their value-priced Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet.
And yet, if you live in a center of high iPad concentration (the five Manhattan Apple stores help New York City qualify), you may have noticed people using iPads for exactly that purpose. People using tablets to capture stills and video are hard to miss because of their awkward two-handed grappling of the device.
While image and video capture are far from the most popular activities on tablets, about one in five consumers use their tablets to capture photos, and one in eight use them to capture video, according to The NPD Group's Connected Intelligence research.
What's more, while satisfaction with these activities trails behind smartphones somewhat, consumers report being overwhelmingly satisfied when using their devices for these tasks. What's capturing the interest in capturing? Several factors may be at play:
- The big screen. A tablet's large display provides a brilliant window into what's being recorded, allowing consumers to be more a part of the action without peering into an electronic or optical viewfinder or fussing with the angle of a camcorder's tilting display. In fact, the larger size of an iPad may lead to somewhat steadier video as consumers almost have to use two hands to hold it for such purposes horizontally.
- Path to playback. Even if a tablet may not be ideal for capturing video, it's a great device for playing it back. Recording directly onto the device cuts out the time-consuming process of sending video up to a PC and back down to the device. Far more consumers use tablets for playing back personal video and photos than capturing such media, according to Connected Intelligence research.
- DLNA and AirPlay. As good as a tablet is for displaying captured personal photos and video, it can't reproduce the group viewing experience of having records of such fond memories displayed on the central screen of the living room. Standards such as AirPlay and DLNA allow users of tablets to simply send video up to the big screen without setting up any cables.
- Apps. As with smartphones, a wide range of apps are enabling the editing and enhancement of photos and videos with tablets. Today, use of apps for capturing photos and videos with tablets is limited, with only 8 percent using apps for the former and even fewer using them for the latter. But a range of high-quality editing and sharing apps--including Apple's iMovie, Scalado Remove, Magisto, Instagram, and Path--are either already available on tablets or a relatively straightforward user interface customization away from them.