Turning inner space into outer space

June 7, 2012

The ideal kit for the mobile journalist

Is there any such thing as the perfect mobile gear for journalists? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’m coming around to thinking there is something that comes close.

So what are some of the things you need to go mobile? A cellphone, a laptop computer, a camcorder, a camera, a voice recorder — that pretty much covers it. But who wants to lug around five different devices when one would do?

Let’s change the change the question: Could we do all those mobile things with an iPad?

Not everyone likes the iPad as a laptop replacement. Even so, you can get a Zagg Folio that wraps your iPad up in a cover that includes a Bluetooth keyboard. Personally, I would rather do without the extra bulk — either get used to the iPad’s virtual keyboard or use a simple add-on such as the not-yet-released Touchfire.

Check one for the iPad: laptop doable.

Even dicier, though, is the idea of using your iPad as a cellphone. It can be done, though, by signing up for the free Google Voice or paying $60 a year for Skype. And you don’t have to look ridiculous talking into the iPad — get Apple earbuds with a built-in mic and you’re good to go.

Of course, you’d want to make sure you get an iPad with cellular. The good thing about this is that data plans are a lot cheaper, plus you can get in and out of them at will. Many plans start at $5 a month and go up as you cross certain thresholds. And since voice uses hardly data, you’ll likely stay at the lowest rate.

Check two for the iPad: cellphone doable.

The iPad can take pictures and shoot videos, but there’s a big but. There’s no way of doing it without looking ridiculous. I’ve seen people recording video with an iPad, and they undeniably look like dorks.

Even if you don’t care about the dork factor, there are still basics missing for videographers. I couldn’t live without a good zoom. And I like having a camcorder that zeroes in the voice of the subject instead of blindly taking in all the surrounding sounds.

Check three for the iPad: camcorder and camera don’t quite cut it.

Voice recording for an interview is probably the easiest. In fact your subject will in many cases open up more with an iPad out front — it just seems so friendly. To top it off there are many voice recording apps available, some of which are free.

Check four for the iPad: voice recorder no problem.

Conclusion: I’m this close to buying an iPad with cellular. But I won’t give up the camcorder.