The addition of cameras may be one of the most requested features of the iPad 2, but to use them makes one realise both that they're far from essential for general use but moreover they were something of an afterthought for Apple's development team. The front-facing camera is less disappointing than that on the rear, but both are nothing like as good as the competition.
After wandering out into the TR grounds to snap a few test shots we were shocked by just how poor the resulting images looked. Even the original iPhone camera did a better job, and unlike that device, which somehow made the bad pictures look pretty good on its display, the iPad 2's larger screen doesn't do a thing to hide how awful its photos are - we can't remember the last time we saw such washed-out photos.
Video quality is equally poor, with none of the quality you'd expect from what is labelled as an HD camera. There may well be the requisite number of vertical lines of pixels in the iPad 2's sensor, but the resulting recordings are not what we've come to expect from 720p.
The front-facing camera is even worse, although for use with FaceTime or the admittedly very fun Photo Booth application it serves its purpose. In fact, the effects in Photo Booth do a good job both of hiding the low quality of the camera, and of showcasing the power of the iPad 2's A5 processor; throwing nice processed video feeds up on the screen at once is no mean feat.
Another complaint Apple has taken a half-step to addressing is the lack of an HDMI output for the iPad. Apple being Apple, the iPad 2 doesn't have an HDMI port itself, but rather one is available via an adaptor, priced at £35 (many other rivals have this built in and we suspect and hope those that don't will bundle an adapter to trump the iPad 2 here) . For the iPad 2 this provides both direct output to a display and the ability to mirror the display on the iPad 2. The adaptor also works with the first iPad, the iPhone 4 and the latest iPod touch, but only for video-output - mirroring is the sole preserve of the iPad 2.
The iPad 2's limited video codec support, and the price of the adaptor, means that purchasing one in order to use the iPad 2 as a media player for your TV isn't a particularly wise investment. That said, once you do have all the requisite bits and bobs, video playback is very enjoyable.