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The best iPads for photo editing, video editing and photography in 2021

best iPads for photo editing, video editing and photography
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Finding the best iPads for photographers isn't quite as simple as picking the newest model (although the latest iPad Pro with the M1 chip is well worth considering!). Find the right iPad for photo editing for you will depend on aspects such as your budget, how much storage you need and more.

As powerful, portable tools that are great for editing images, more and more photographers are picking up iPads to help them with their photography. Plus, the best iPads for photographers becoming more powerful with each generation, which means you can use programs such as Adobe Photoshop for iPad without having to suffer from lagging or loading issues.

While many photographers might plump for one of the best tablets for photographers in general, iPads offer power, portability and an effortlessly sleek design. Plus, iPads have access to the Apple App Store, which means that photographers have a huge range of photo editing apps to choose from – no matter whether you're looking to use Adobe Photoshop or a more niche app. 

If you're looking for the very best iPad for photographers, we'd definitely recommend the iPad Pro 12.9 M1 (2021). Having only been recently released, this new iPad features the brand new M1 chip, which makes it lightning fast – perfect for editing photos.

However, if you're in the market for a more budget-friendly option, there are several affordable iPads to choose from as well, including the iPad Mini. We've put together this guide with a combination of newer and older models, so there should truly be something for everyone here.

• See also: Best Wacom tablets

The best iPad in 2021

Editor's Choice

(Image credit: Apple)

1. iPad Pro 12.9 M1 (2021)

The very best iPad for photographers

Specifications
Weight: 682g
Dimensions: 280.6 x 214.9 x 6.4 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels
CPU: Apple M1 chip
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
microSD slot: No
Rear cameras: 12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)
Front camera: 12MP ultra-wide TrueDepth (f/2.4)
Reasons to buy
+New M1 chip+Up to 2TB of storage+TrueDepth selfie camera
Reasons to avoid
-No microSD slot-Key accessories cost extra

The brand new iPad Pro (2021) 12.9 is the best iPad for photo editing – or, indeed, pretty much anything creative that you want to set your mind to. Apple has gone under the hood and given the latest iPad Pro a substantial internal update that could revolutionize what users will expect from their tablets forever. If that sounds like hyperbole to you, then let us explain. 

The iPad Pro is the first tablet to ever house the Apple M1 chipset. This means that the 8-core CPU will be 50% faster than the previous generation, while the 8-core GPU will deliver 40% faster graphics (interestingly, the new iPad Pro will be an astounding 1500x faster than the very first iPad Pro!). 

Outside of the introduction of the M1 chip, some of the other exciting features include a 2TB storage option, the addition of 5G (and in the US, users will be able to experience super-fast mmWave 5G) and a new 12MP ultra-wide front-facing camera with a 122º field of view.

This new TrueDepth selfie camera is particularly intriguing, as it features the new Center Stage function. This gives users the ability to record and stream video while moving around their space. Center Stage will track the user's movement and keep the subject in the field-of-view by panning to follow them. It'll even expand to fit others in the shot if new people join the video. 

The iPad Pro (2021) 12.9 is admittedly pretty expensive, so if you're on a budget then you may want to check out some of the other options in our guide to the best iPads for photo editing. Plus, when you start adding on additional storage and cellular connectivity, you might start to find your wallet wincing. However, if you've got the cash to splash, the substantial upgrades to the iPad Pro mean that there's no better investment for your money.

(Image credit: Apple)

2. iPad Pro 12.9 (2020)

One of the best iPads for photographers

Specifications
Weight: 639g
Dimensions: 280.4 x 214.8 x 5.8 mm
OS: iPadOS 14
Screen size: 12.9-inch
Resolution: 2048 x 2732 pixels
CPU: A12Z Bionic
Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 9,720mAh
Rear cameras: 12MP wide (f/1.8), 10-MP ultra-wide (f/2.4)
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Faster performance than ever+Improved battery life+Full mouse/keyboard support
Reasons to avoid
-Apps still need to catch up-Magic keyboard costs extra

Though it may look virtually identical to the 2018 version, the iPad Pro 12.9 for 2020 had undergone plenty of improvement, not least of which is the new A12Z Bionic chip that delivers faster performance across the board. While the 2020 version is now a generation old, this iPad is still lightning-fast, and it's clear that Apple are gunning for their users to replace personal computers with this model. It's got support for the new Magic Keyboard (though that'll cost extra), and though app developers need to do some catching up to the new mouse/keyboard inputs offered by the new iPad, it's certainly a boon for photographers who may prefer this method of editing to the touchscreen.

Battery life is also majorly improved over the 2018 model, and given that this was one of that iPad's major flaws, it makes this edition pretty tough to come up with any arguments against. If you can foot the pretty hefty cost, then you'll enjoy serious processing power and a gorgeous display.

• See best iPad Pro cases

(Image credit: Apple)

3. iPad 10.2

The best iPad for most photographers

Specifications
Weight: 483g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 13
Screen size: 10.2-inch
Resolution: 1620 x 2160 pixels
CPU: A10 Fusion
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 32/128GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 8,827mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Slightly bigger screen+Works with the Smart Keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-Marginally better than iPad 9.7-iPad Air is superior for sketching

If you like the look of the iPad Pro, but its price tag puts you off - and you won't quite need all that power - then the iPad 10.2 is a brilliant choice. You still get a large and vibrant screen, and it supports most of the peripherals that the iPad Pro does, including the excellent Apple Pencil.

It's also had a bit of a specs upgrade since the previous model, and it now comes with an extra gigabyte of RAM. This makes all the difference when it comes to opening and using apps - they now feel faster and more responsive than ever before.

Add in the gorgeous design Apple is known for, and this more affordable iPad offers some brilliant features for many photographers.

(Image credit: Apple)

4. iPad Mini (2019)

The best compact iPad for photographers

Specifications
Weight: 304g
Dimensions: 203.2 x 134.8 x 6.1 mm
OS: iPadOS 13
Screen size: 7.9-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
CPU: A12 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 5,124mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Perfect portable size+Surprisingly powerful specs
Reasons to avoid
-Bezel-heavy design-Uses the older Apple Pencil

The two iPads above this are big devices which offer great experiences for working on, but what about photographers who are often traveling? Carrying around such large iPads isn't always convenient, which is why the iPad mini is such a great choice.

It comes in a compact size with a 7.9-inch display, yet it's also impressively powerful, with Apple's recent processor. Compared to compact Android tablets, the iPad mini blows them out of the water when it comes to performance, and it can even compete with Apple's larger devices.

This is definitely the best iPad for photographers who spend a lot of time on the road.

• See also Best iPad Mini cases

(Image credit: Apple)

5. iPad Air 10.5

A brilliant all-round iPad

Specifications
Weight: 456g
Dimensions: 250.6 x 174.1 x 6.1 mm
OS: iPadOS 13
Screen size: 10.5-inch
Resolution: 1668 x 2224 pixels
CPU: A12 Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB
microSD slot: No
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant-looking laminated screen+Cheapest Smart Keyboard iPad
Reasons to avoid
-Uses the 1st Gen Apple Pencil-Traditional design doesn't wow

If you want a bit more power than the entry-level iPads, but don't want to spend a huge amount on the iPad Pro, then the iPad Air is the best iPad for you. It's cheaper than the iPad Pro, while still offering a large screen and enough power to run photo editing apps with ease.

It is compatible with Apple's Smart Keyboard Cover, meaning you don't need to deal with tricky Bluetooth keyboard connections if you want to type up emails, documents and more.

It's all powered by Apple's A12 chipset, which is also used in the iPhone XS. This means it's a very fast tablet that's large enough to work on, while being thin and light enough to still easily carry around. A winning combination, in our book.

(Image credit: Apple)

6. iPad Pro 11

Another brilliant iPad Pro for photographers

Specifications
Weight: 468g
Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 5.9 mm
OS: iPadOS 13
Screen size: 11-inch
Resolution: 2388 x 1668 pixels
CPU: A12X Bionic
Storage: 64GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 7,812mAh
Rear camera: 12MP
Front camera: 7MP
Reasons to buy
+Pencil clips on, finally+Insane amount of power for a tablet
Reasons to avoid
-Software limits laptop experience-Pencil and keyboard expensive extras

If you want the iPad Pro experience, but the 12.9-inch version at the top of this list is too large and expensive, then the 11-inch version will be for you. It's got the same features and design as the larger model, but in a smaller body.

So, you get amazing performance, brilliant speakers and impressively thin bezels around the screen which makes the iPad Pro 11 look and feel modern, while also keeping the overall size of the iPad as small as possible, while maintaining that lovely large 11-inch screen.

This is an ideal iPad for photographers who have the budget for one of the most powerful tablets around.

(Image credit: apple)

7. iPad 9.7 (2017)

An oldie, but a goodie

Specifications
Weight: 469g
Dimensions: 240 x 169.5 x 7.5mm
OS: iPadOS 13
Screen size: 9.7-inch
Resolution: 1536 x 2048 pixels
CPU: A9
RAM: 2GB
Storage: 32GB/128GB
microSD slot: No
Battery: 8,827mAh
Rear camera: 8MP
Front camera: 1.2MP
Reasons to buy
+Good screen quality+Powerful for the price
Reasons to avoid
-Apple Pencil costs extra-Getting old

iPads are brilliant devices, but they can often be quite expensive. One of the best ways, then, to get an affordable iPad, is to buy one of the older models. Even though this iPad was released three years ago, it's still a brilliant performer, and while more modern iPads come with features and performance you won't get with this iPad, you can still run pretty much any app you want to on it.

The main selling point is the price, though. If you're a photographer who wants to get started with an iPad, but you're conscious of spending too much money on one of Apple's tablets, then going for the older iPad from 2017 is the best choice for you.

How to choose the best iPad for photo editing

As we mentioned, there are a range of iPads available, so what are the differences and how do you pick the best iPad for your needs?

Let's start off with the regular iPad. This is the best mid-range iPad that offers a large and vibrant screen (10.2-inches), whilst remaining thin and light enough to easily carry around with you. It has enough power to run photo and video editing apps without a hitch, and new models also support the Apple Pencil stylus (check out the best stylus for iPads). Crucially, the asking price of the iPad sits between the expensive iPad Pro and iPad mini when it comes to size and power, making it a great compromise. If you get the 2018 model, you get a smaller 9.7-inch screen, which may be more appealing to some people.

If you want something that's more portable - then the iPad mini is the best iPad for you. With a screen size of 7.9-inches, this is an ideal tablet for carrying around with you. The screen is still large enough to use comfortably, and thanks to the gorgeously vibrant and sharp image quality, it's a great iPad for showing clients your work.

The latest modes also feature some of Apple's best hardware yet, and it's also compatible with the Apple Pencil, making it great for photo editing and doodling. The iPad mini used to be the cheapest iPads, but the most recent version is actually more expensive than the standard iPad - but considering the power and size, it's well worth the investment.

Last year also saw the release of a new iPad Air. This is a great compromise device that offers a larger 10.5-inch screen, while remaining affordable - and as the name suggests, it's also lightweight enough to comfortably carry around as well.

Finally, there's the top-of the range iPad Pro, which has been updated for 2021 with Apple's new M1 processing chip. These are larger, more powerful models of the iPad that come in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes, and feature power and performance (as well as price tags) that rival laptops. They are great for working on intensive apps, like video and photo editors, and if you're after an iPad that can double as a laptop (you'll need to buy a keyboard, however) then this is a good shout.

Now you know the options, read on for our pick of the best iPads for photo editing and photographers.

Read more:
Best cases for iPad Pro
Best stylus for iPads and iPhones
The best phablets: big-screen smartphones
The best monitors for photographers
Best drawing tablets for photo editing
The best photo-editing laptops
The best desktop computers for photo editing

Matt Hanson

Matt is TechRadar's Senior Computing editor. Having written for a number of magazines and websites, there's no aspect of technology that Matt isn't passionate about, especially laptops and PC gaming.