Malia Campbell Photography

Seattle Real Estate Photography by Malia Campbell

Review: Wacom Intuos4

With HDR photography, real estate or otherwise, there tends to be a lot of post processing involved. I’m still pretty new to all of this (read: slow) so a typical house takes me about 20 minutes to shoot but up to two(ish) hours to post process. Photos that I want to use in my portfolio, however, take much longer. Much. Longer.  This swimming pool shot, for example, took me a little over two hours to process.  After that amount of time, working with a mouse, my wrists are sore and my hand is cramped into a painful mouse-claw.

I’ve worked with borrowed tablets before with great enthusiam before finally purchasing a Wacom Graphire Bluetooth tablet.  I really like the idea of a wireless tablet but in reality this tablet is not ideal for any kind of photo processing.  The Bluetooth connection has a delay which makes any detail work impossible.  After much thought I’ve concluded that the only thing this tablet can be used for is writing and even that would take a tremendous amount of effort to acclimate to.

That tablet was returned almost immediately and I went back to the mouse-claw with (not so) secret fantasies of the WacomIntuos3 tablet. This is the borrowed tablet I’d worked with in the past and, though tethered by a USB cable, I loved it. Around this time, though, I noticed a discussion in the PFRE group about tablets and there was mention of the Wacom Bamboo tablet, which can be purchased for around $100.  Shortly after this the Intuos4 tablet was released so I had a decision to make.  Do I get the bare bones, cheaper model and save a few bucks or do I invest in something a little nicer, a little sturdier and a little more expensive?

I had been working with another Seattle-based photographer who uses the Bamboo tablet and saw it in action and decided that if it was good enough for him, it would be good enough for me.  The $200 price difference could fund a batch of postcards or an upgrade in my website.

I headed down to Fry’s Electronics and discovered that they did not have the Bamboo tablet at the price they advertised but they had the Intuos4 at a price that I could swallow.  So with that super long introduction here are my thoughts on the Intuos4 tablet:

The size is perfect.  I opted for the small size instead of the medium which I originally thought I wanted as when I saw them in person, I realized that the medium tablet was larger than I anticipated.  The Intuos4 features a right OR left handed setup (just flip it 180° for left handed accesibility) with programmable Express Keys and a speed ring for zooming quickly.

Let me take a moment to convey how awesome that last bit is.

Okay, I’ve recovered.  Seriously for photographers who do a lot of detail editing the Express Keys and speed ring are incredible speed savers.  Instead of going back and forth between keyboard and mouse I can do it all on the tablet.  Circle your finger around the ring (like you would do on the older iPods) and you zoom in and out.  Tap the button in the middle of the ring twice and you change your brush size.  Tap the button again and you move between layers.  Program your pen buttons to key modifiers and you have your color picker.  You can double click.  You can use the little hand to move your image around.  The possibilities are endless.

I have only two gripes about the tablet: The first  “negative” I have thus far is the pressure of the pen.  I don’t recall from the Intuos3 how sensitive the pen was (I didn’t use it enough for it to register) but all the reviews of the Intuos4 talk about how much more sensitive the pen is.  Maybe that’s true and maybe I just press too hard.  Maybe I need to adjust the sensitivity.  Why do I say this?  I’ve already worn through 2 pen nibs.  Like… flattened them!  I know I do a lot of brush work in my editing but this seems a little odd to me.

The second complaint I have, I’ll admit, could be my computer and not the tablet (between my Vaio and Vista my computer sometimes drives me crazy).  Every so often I’d get a popup window with a message about my tablet driver, blah, blah, blah.  I always dismissed the message without a second thought and everything worked fine.  Until one day a couple weeks ago when the touch ring stopped working.  And then none of the Express Keys worked.  I went to the Wacom website and downloaded the new driver and then nothing worked at all.  It suggested to reboot the computer, which I did.  Still nothing.  Then it suggested I redownload the software and did that. Which triggered another message about an outdated driver.  So I redownloaded the new driver and reinstalled the software.  Still nothing. Finally I uninstalled everything and did a fresh install and now everything works fine.

*big sigh of relief*

Overall I can’t recommend this device enough.  Go try it.  It takes a week or so to really acclimate but I’m confident that you’ll be glad you did!

Written by Malia Campbell Photography

October 27, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Posted in Reviews

2 Responses

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  1. I use the Wacom CTE-400 (a much older version) I love it and I am thinking about upgrading. I did not know about the delay with bluetooth. Thank you for letting me know!
    M.G. Photogrphy


    October 29, 2009 at 6:35 pm

  2. Yeah, definitely stay away from the Bluetooth. The Intuos4 is awesome! I rarely edit these days without it. The small size is perfect for me because I like to edit in coffee shops (the size is perfect for packing up in my laptop bag). The medium size seemed HUGE to me but if you only edit at home it might be nice. Probably better for fine detail work.

    TulipChain Photography

    October 29, 2009 at 9:08 pm

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