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Originally published March 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Page modified March 31, 2012 at 2:36 PM

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New iPad's display and apps earn top grades

Get to an Apple Store and spend time with the new iPad to experience its Retina display and updated apps.

Special to The Seattle Times

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When I wrote about the third-generation iPad at its introduction (Business, March 7), I noted that in my brief hands-on time I wasn't immediately struck by the increased resolution of its Retina display.

Now that I've used an iPad extensively in the past two weeks, I can report that the Retina display is brilliant. Especially when interacting with a lot of text — keeping up with Twitter or Facebook, reading e-books, checking email, browsing the Web — my appreciation for the increased pixel density grows the more I use it. Really, get to an Apple Store and spend some time with one to see for yourself.

And yet the display is just a layer of pixels if there isn't anything interesting to run on it. Apple updated its iLife apps for iOS devices — iMovie and GarageBand — and added a new one, iPhoto, which provides features not found in the company's desktop consumer photo editor.

The built-in Photos app does a fine job of viewing your photos, whether you sync them from your Mac or import them using Apple's iPad Camera Connection Kit accessory. A recent update to iOS even added a few basic image adjustments — rotation, one-tap enhancement, red-eye removal, cropping and straightening — but those are fairly limited.

IPhoto goes far beyond that.

The exposure and color-correction tools include sliders for adjusting attributes such as brightness, contrast and saturation, but those are for fine-tuning. IPhoto's preferred method is to touch an area of a photo that needs fixing, such as dark shadows. A control appears with arrows indicating which adjustments can be made: for example, drag up to lighten shadows, down to darken them, or left or right to decrease or increase contrast.

So, even if you don't know how to manipulate a slider to adjust white point, black point and midtones, you can intuitively point and say to yourself: "I want to fix this area" and likely end up with a good adjustment.

One feature I particularly like is one that you won't find in the Mac version of iPhoto: edits to selective areas of a photo. In its attempt to be easy to use, iPhoto on the Mac applies edits to an entire image.

In most situations this is fine, but occasionally you may want to lighten the exposure of foreground items without blowing the background out to white, or maybe boost the saturation of a small area instead of the whole photo.

For example, I have a photo of Mount Rainier exposed for the sky and mountain, which put the landscape in the foreground into almost silhouette. After performing a few adjustments to the sky and mountain in iPhoto on the iPad, I grabbed the Lighten brush and painted over the foreground. (An option to make the paint strokes visible is helpful here; tap the Settings button and turn Show Strokes on.)

To my surprise, that area contained a lot of detail, including a person walking in the bottom-right corner. With some passes of the Saturation brush and a boost of green using the Color adjustments, my photo was dramatically improved. (I posted some before-and-after examples at my Flickr page). iPhoto also contains a set of effects for applying preset looks, such as vintage film or artistic filters. And I should mention that the app looks great on the new iPad's Retina display, but it will also run on the iPad 2 and iPhone 4 and 4S. The latter devices make possible a neat feature: You can take a photo using an iPhone (which is a better camera), and then "beam" the image to an iPad directly.

There are a few areas that point to this being a 1.0 version. I ran into a few bugs, such as iPhoto updating the photo library at odd times while I was editing. Also, the app doesn't interoperate with iPhoto on the Mac. You can't update albums, and edited photos need to be saved to the device's Camera Roll before they can be imported.

But this 1.0 version is impressive and polished. iPhoto for iOS costs $4.99, and is available from the iTunes App Store.

Jeff Carlson and Glenn Fleishman write the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to carlsoncolumn@mac.com. More Practical Mac columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists

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