a24 January 2014

Wacom Intuos Pro M tablet review

Introduction

Wacom Intuos Pro M tablet
In the last year or two I started to spend much more time in Photoshop, post-processing my photos in it. For me it's no longer only about applying global contrast and saturation. I started to work locally - I add a bit of contrast here and a touch of colour there. To make my local changes I use layer masks which I need to paint with a brush tool.

Up to now as many other photographers I was using a mouse, but the more photos I processed the more I was tired with it. It wasn't that precise, to change brush size or opacity I needed to change it manually (and set it to a fixed value) what made it more difficult to do very smooth transitions. After some consideration I made a decision - I need a tablet. And I got one - Wacom Intuos Pro M.

Before you proceed, a word of warning: if you don't use Photoshop (or Gimp or any other advanced photo editor) such a tablet will be virtually useless for you. Many applications (including Lightroom) can't make use of its features - especially they don't support pen pressure. It will work in them but it will be just a mouse. Fancy mouse and nothing more.

A short explanation - M in the name stands for Medium. Intuos Pro tablet comes in a few flavours: small, medium and large which differ in size of tablet. Medium size was perfect for my needs and fits well in my limited working space.

Some most important features:
Price:
  • small - $250.00 
  • medium - $350.00 
  • large - $500.00
2048 levels of sensitivity (in both pen tip and eraser)
Wireless support
8 customizable buttons (Express Keys)
Multi-function touch ring with 4 customizable functions
Multi-touch and hand gestures support

Design

I really like the look of Intuos Pro M. It has a shape of rounded rectangle with smooth edges and is completely black what gives it a very nice and modern feel. Tablet is also very thin and light.

Touch area, where you paint with an attached pen, occupies most of the tablet and to its right/left (depending how you set it up) there are several buttons - so called Express Keys - providing access to the most commonly used shortcuts (eg. saving image).

The buttons are separated with a multi-functional touch ring which allows you to change brush size smoothly (you just need to rotate the ring), cycle through layers and more.

Impressions & ease of use

Using Intuos Pro tablet is very easy and much more intuitive than using a regular mouse. However, if you haven't worked with a tablet before it might take you some time to get accustomed to it and to use it most efficiently.

The precision and sensitivity of this tablet is really impressive. Not only it detects crazy 2048 levels of pressure but also 60 levels of pen tilt. In Photoshop (or any other application supporting tablets) you can then create a brush that will precisely react to pressure (and tilt) changes. In Photoshop pressure will most often affect brush shape or opacity but you can control also things like brush scattering or colour.

Also most of the time you won't need to use neither mouse nor keyboard during photo editing. I have assigned all important features to the buttons and hand gestures (more about that in the next paragraph). This way I can switch between most important tools (brush and a few others), zoom in/out, pan image, cycle through layers or save without touching any other device. It makes the work much more effective.

One more feature that I really like is an eraser (which basically paints with a background colour). No need to press 'X' key every time you paint too much.

Customization

Wacom Intuos Pro M tablet is highly customizable. It has only 8 buttons and a multi-functional touch ring on tablet itself, and two buttons on pen. But each of them can be assigned a different custom feature - from scrolling, specific keyboard shortcut (eg. CTRL + Z to undo last action) to even more abstract functionality like changing brush size in Photoshop. What's more you can also assign Shortcut Menu to one of the buttons. Once the button is clicked, a circular menu will appear on the screen giving you access to several additional shortcuts (you can customize them obviously), like saving an image or opening a brush panel. Finally, you can customize buttons per application.

What's more Intuos Pro supports hand gestures (which are customizable too of course), so you can set it up to make panning and zooming an image much easier. You can rotate your image with gestures and do a few more things. At any time hand gestures might be disabled what's useful if you, like me, have tendency to touch tablet surface while drawing and thus accidentally invoking gestures.

Finally a feature that I found particularly useful is that tablet can be customized both for right-handed and left-handed people (I'm left-handed).

Summary

Summing up, Intuos Pro tablet from Wacom is an excellent tool and a great addition to my post-processing workflow as it made editing photos much more efficient.

If you're really serious about post-processing and spend hours trying to get those layer masks right, use cloning tool a lot or you obsessively use dodging & burning, I really recommend you get one - it will make your work much easier, efficient and precise. And much more pleasant.

After working for a few weeks with it, I haven't found any serious flaw. Learning curve might be a bit steep for those who haven't used any tablet before, but it's difficult to include this in the cons.

Pros:
  • Great precision,
  • Highly customizable to fit your needs,
  • Great modern look
Cons:
  • Learning curve might be steep for newcomers

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