When I share how beginner photographers could get started with using Adobe Lightroom, I always recommend investing in a Wacom tablet to help fine tune the photo editing process. I've had some conversations with the Wacom PR team and it has led to me trying out a few products. The latest device I took for a spin is the updated Wacom Intuos pen tablet.
What is the Intuos?
When I mention "Wacom tablet," I don't mean a tablet device similar to an iPad or Kindle. This device isn't designed for media consumption, it's for media creation. As far as the product line goes, the pen tablet is a plastic tablet that connects to your computer as an input device as a mouse would. The nifty part is the stylus that comes with the tablet. It allows you to be more accurate with brush strokes when you're creating digital art—way more accurate than a mouse.
What's new with the Intuos?
I own the small version of the Intuos, which is roughly four years old. It connects to my editing computer via USB and has four buttons on the top, which are called Express Keys in the Wacom vernacular. When I don't want to use the stylus to navigate on the screen, I can simply use my Intuos as a touchpad. If I want to go wireless, I can purchase a USB dongle to connect.
In the updated Intuos, you almost have the same device from a specification standpoint but you lose multi-touch support and gain Bluetooth connectivity. The stylus (pen) is slightly larger and comes with extra "nibs" stored inside. A nib is a tip that inserts into the end of your stylus and acts as the contact point.
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Performance in the updated Intuos is definitely improved. When I first started using my Wacom, my illustrator friends and colleagues didn't care for it because of the parallax issue on the displays and the slight lag between your brushstrokes and what happens on the screen. As a photographer just editing photos, I didn't experience these issues. At least I didn't think I did. During my review period, I would spend a few days using my original Intuos versus a few days using the latest Intuos. I definitely felt a difference in use between the devices. The updated Intuos made it feel as if my old tablet lagged a little on input in comparison. Pressure sensitivity within Lightroom and Photoshop worked as well as expected. Then again, that may be more of a nod toward Adobe and its updates to its creative suite.
In addition to the performance boost, I enjoy using the Bluetooth connectivity on the Intuos. I've gotten about six days of use before having to recharge the battery. For the days I wanted to do some editing while hanging out at a local coffee shop, it was nice to be able to throw the tablet into my bag with my laptop and touch up some client headshot photos while sipping an espresso, all without having to worry about the USB cable being attached.
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What I didn't like
I probably shouldn't say "I didn't like" here. This is more of a preference than anything. Wacom shipped me the medium-size (8.5 x 5.3 inches) Intuos for review. This is slightly larger than my original Intuos, which is rated as a small. Granted, Wacom says this form factor is smaller than previous medium versions and is also thinner; this size is just too large for my preferences. The smaller device (6.0 x 3.7 inches) will take up less space on my desk or at a workstation. I've said on several occasions that I enjoy trying new technology for my creative endeavors, but the new tech has to stay out of my way while I'm creating. The medium Intuos did seem to get in my way on my desk in comparison to my smaller Intuos.
The larger size has proven to be even more useless (for me), as I've configured the tablet's active workspace to be about 4 square inches near the center of the tablet. This means that if I move the stylus to an area outside the designated workspace, brushstrokes won't register on the screen. As I'm editing photos, I have yet to see the need to move the stylus across the full real estate of the tablet. Most of my motions and brushstrokes can easily be executed with minimal effort. Maybe if I were an illustrator, I'd utilize a larger workspace on the Intuos. Using my active workspace on the larger Intuos seemed like a waste.
As a photographer, I would definitely suggest getting an Intuos. If you're a portrait photographer it makes handling editing tasks such as frequency separation and masking much easier and more efficient. The tablet is highly portable and the stylus can be held snug in the Wacom tag during transport so it isn't lost. I can't faithfully recommend it for an illustrator, but my gut says this would be an awesome tool for those creative artists.
You can get the latest Intuos for a starting price of $119 up to $299, depending upon the size and Bluetooth connectivity options selected. This includes the device, extra nibs, and free creative software from Corel to get you started with digital painting or photo editing. I think this is a great value if you haven't grabbed another software package. Also, the extra nibs may come in handy. Granted, I've not had to change a nib just yet, and I've had mine for a few years so the value has definitely increased. I think the Intuos is a great investment in your creative endeavors.
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What are your thoughts on the Wacom Intuos? Share your experiences and advice with fellow TechRepublic members.
Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.