Go anywhere people are taking photos and you’ll see someone taking photos with an iPad or some sort of Android tablet. Everyone’s already pointed out how silly this looks — but is it really a bad idea?

There’s no question people look silly when they do this, but people look silly when they do many common things. Many people still think Bluetooth earpieces look ridiculous, but they’re still used by many people each day.

Phone vs. Tablet Camera Hardware

Most tablets have rear cameras, just like you’ll find on smartphones. People aren’t just taking selfies with these things. But how good are these cameras?

Let’s compare Apple’s latest iPad Air and iPhone 5s to each other. The rear-facing “iSight Camera” captures 5 megapixel photos on the iPad Air, while it captures 8 MP photos on the iPhone 5s. The rear-facing camera on the iPhone 5s also offers additional features designed for capturing better photos. It’s clear that Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhone has a superior rear-facing camera to their top-of-the-line iPad.

This isn’t all about Apple devices. The same will be true of most other devices, including Android tablets and smartphones. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 tablet has an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera, while their Galaxy S4 smartphone has a 13 MP camera.

Megapixels aren’t the only thing that matters when it comes to comparing cameras. A camera with fewer megapixels could be better than another camera with more megapixels for other reasons. We’re using it as a shortcut here — if Apple or Samsung make their own cameras and use similar ones, it’s likely that the higher megapixel cameras will be more expensive and higher quality.

Unless you have a very cheap or old phone and a top-of-the-line, recent tablet, your smartphone includes better camera hardware than your tablet. If you have both a smartphone and tablet nearby, you should pick up your smartphone to take a picture — you’ll get higher-quality photos. Manufacturers know most people will use a smartphone camera more than a tablet camera, so they put more expensive, higher-quality cameras in their phones.

Why Take a Photo With a Tablet?

Tablets have basically the same photo-taking software you’ll find on a smartphone. This is especially true on Android tablets and Apple’s iPad, but even Windows 8 desktop PCs now include a smartphone-style photo-taking app. For example, on Microsoft’s Surface Pro PC, you can swipe down on the lock screen and bring up a camera that lets you use the tablet’s rear camera, effectively turning your $1000 PC into a bulky handheld camera.

Some people may prefer a smartphone a tablet to a smartphone when taking pictures. For example, a tablet provides a larger screen for previewing the resulting photograph. If a person has poor eyesight, this can help when taking photos — it’s easier than squinting at a tiny screen. For some people who need the larger previews, a tablet may be the ideal digital camera.

On a tablet, you can also easily begin editing and working with the photos immediately after you take them. Rather than using a smartphone photo-editing app, you can use more full-featured tablet apps. On a full Windows 8 tablet, you could even open those photos in the desktop version of Photoshop without transferring them to another device. Of course, you could also set up something like Dropbox to automatically upload the photos you take from your iPhone or Android phone.

RELATED: No, iCloud Isn't Backing Them All Up: How to Manage Photos on Your iPhone or iPad

Tablets Distract and Get In the Way

Aside from looking silly, taking photos with a tablet is distracting and can block other people from seeing what you’re photographing or taking their own photos. Just picture someone standing in front of you at a tourist attraction, holding up their iPad to take a photo and blocking the view. A phone is especially ideal for these situations, as it’s smaller. It won’t draw as much attention, take up as much space, or block as many views.

“The Best Camera Is the One You Have With You”

Of course, the best camera is the one you have with you at any given time. If you’re using a tablet and you need to take a photo as quickly as possible, the tablet in your hands may be the ideal camera. If all you have is a tablet with you or you have a nice tablet and an old smartphone, a tablet may be superior to your smartphone.

Most people shouldn’t be taking photos with tablets — if only because tablets offer worse photo quality than comparable smartphones. Your smartphone is a better camera, so whip it out instead. In crowds, people nearby will appreciate that you’re not blocking their views with your larger screen.

But maybe we shouldn’t laugh at people we see using tablets as cameras. The next person you see snapping a picture with a tablet may have poor eyesight and may be benefiting from the larger preview area. Taking a photo with a tablet isn’t always the worst idea in the world.

Whatever we think of it, people will be taking photos with tablets for years to come. There’s a reason tablets come with rear-facing cameras in the first place, and it’s a bit silly to complain when people make use of them. We can only hope that people use them responsibly and don’t get in everyone’s way when snapping those iPad photos.

Image Credit: Clemens v. Vogelsang on Flickr, Sean Davis on Flickr, shankar s. on Flickr, Simon Q on Flickr

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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