Pen Tablet Review | Wacom Intuos4

As a self-proclaimed geek, I get seriously excited about new gadgets and camera gear – and I just have to share with you why my Wacom Tablet  is one of the most important gadgets in my studio.  Let's...

As a self-proclaimed geek, I get seriously excited about new gadgets and camera gear – and I just have to share with you why my Wacom Tablet  is one of the most important gadgets in my studio.  Let’s put it in perspective – The Wacom Tablet is to the mouse what a Smartphone is to a cell phone.  You don’t realize you need it until you have one, and after that, you wonder how you ever survived without it.

I was hesitant to buy one at first because it is yet another gear investment and I thought it would be very difficult to learn. To my surprise, it literally took me one half of an afternoon to adjust to my new savior and compared to my L Series lenses and other gear buys, it certainly didn’t break the bank.

I often ask in my seminars – “who uses a Wacom Tablet” and a bunch of hands will shoot in the air.  I then ask, “who couldn’t imagine their life without a Wacom Tablet” – and they hands NEVER waiver.  Why is it so awesome?  Well, there is the fact that I no longer suffer from sore wrists and am undeniably resisting the feared computer addicts carpel tunnel syndrome, but beyond that:  I work HEAPS faster, more efficiently, and am much more precise.  If you’re a serious photographer who does your own retouching, this pen tablet is definitely a  must-have. Oh, and Wacom’s tech support? Exceptional.

Wacom has released a newer version than the one I have (I’m jealous!) – check it out at here

Are you a Wacom lover?  Then tell me your story!  If you are considering, I hope this tips the scale – you like my blog that much more :)


Update on the Wacom offer to send me a surface, since I had so much trouble trying to buy one from one of the stores on the list that they supplied. Now they are suggesting that I cut a piece of mylar to fit, and put it on with double-sided tape.

As I said the first time: Wacom sent me off on a wild-goose chase by sending me a list of companies when the part is no longer available anywhere. I am used to computer companies all playing a fast game with their planned obsolescence, and there is no way to fight that. I would have bought another Wacom without blinking had I been told that mine was worn out and could not be refurbished. Those of us with any ecological sensitivity at all do try not to throw out all this junk unnecessarily, and they held out the promise again and again of a cheap and responsible solution, which was not in fact there.

I did not, in retrospect, tell that story as fully as I should have. After my first call to Wacom they did send me a free pen that will work with that model. On the surface, however, I was on my own, and in time I spent a lot of frustrating time trying to get a surface. I lost my positive attitude when I was told over and over by companies that my part was no longer available. Had Wacom told me that my tablet was worn out by now and that part was no longer made, I would not have blinked or thought ill of Wacom. I would simply have bought a new one. What I had a problem with was being sent on a wild-goose-chase.

However, I heard back today from Wacom today, and they did offer to send me a surface. After what I have been through with Apple’s Lion, Wacom actually looks pretty good to me. And, the tablet will save many a wrist and finger over the mouse or pad for every day use.

It seems to be difficult for large companies to deal with simple solutions. One person part time could obviously take care all of North America, selling and mailing out parts for old Wacom models, especially when the part is nothing but a sheet of plastic. A company like Wacom would be lots better off providing those parts for nearly free to a trusted rep somewhere off site, for the stocks of those are probably on hand at the end of production anyway, and fiddling with parts on older lines probably costs them money and good-will if they try to distribute through their sellers alone. They should simply set up somebody to do just replacement parts.

My Wacom Intuos PTZ-630 is a 6×8 tablet, and once I learned to turn off the annoying buttons I was very happy working with it. When, after a couple of years, the pen and surface began to wear and give problems I called Wacom, and they referred me to a page on the web listing the places in Canada where replacement parts could be purchased for Wacom products. This turned out to be a list of consumer junk discount mega-stores where, when someone finally answers the phone, they actually laugh at the idea that they would carry small replacement parts for such things. The first store on the list had not heard of Wacom. One listed source does not deal with individual customers, and nobody knew anything about my needed part. Finally I ordered from B&H in Boston, but they sent the wrong part. When I called they said that Wacom no longer made the part that I needed.

I have wasted far more work time on this than the original cost of the tablet is worth. Had Wacom simply been honest, telling me that this model was no longer made and no longer serviced, I would have been far far better off. Instead they jerked me around so that I wasted valuable time.

What is the best quality alternative to Wacom? All I plan to do with a new tablet is to clean scans from 35mm slides, and I do not need buttons on the tablet at all. If I want to save the image I can use my keyboard. The buttons on the Wacom that I had were a nuisance until I turned them all off. However, I do not want a surface any smaller than the 6×8. I certainly do not need a mouse to go with the tablet, and I resent having to buy unnecessary items like that. After several years of pondering, I still cannot imagine what I might do with the Wacom mouse. Does anyone make a tablet as capable of fine detail on cleaning images without the extra junk, one that is either cheap enough to replace fairly often, capable of being refurbished, or that will not wear out so fast?

It is hard to say what is the best bet for you. I see a lot of people using smaller tablets and still swearing by them. Mine (size Large) definitely takes up some space but I can’ t imagine life without it so i Just make room for it. I have never used a Magic Trackpad, so I can’t compare; however, I personally can’t imagine anything better then my tablet and it is sort of industry standard in a way that the Mac Magic Trackpad isn’t, which usually says something. Hope this helps!

Thanks Anthony! We will be going out every Sunday in la to paint from life. Let me know if you want to join. You can add yourself to Sunday Painting Posse on Facebook and I will let you know where we are going:) Also I just got a 12 inch Cintiq for the road. It’s great, but I’m wonniredg if there is a way to power it in the field.

I use a Bamboo Tablet all the time but the INTUOS 4 must be fun !!

I actually bough this tablet just under a month ago an my experience has been exactly like yours. Even if it’s only the small tablet, the difference in editing speed is just plain ridiculous. The biggest change is not having to readjust the mouse position and knowing exactly where your pen is going to land when you put it in the tablet, this is something that you have to experience to believe it.

Props to Wacom for a fantastic product

Couldn’t agree more SenenCito – and BTW – great photographs entered into the TWiT contest. Props to you and your talents. Particularly enjoy your skilled use of light.

Hi Catherine,
I absolutely love this tablet and received it as a gift from my thoughtful boyfriend.
What is so great about it is the quality and quantity of work you can achieve without hurting your wrist. I appreciate the precision, and it takes a little adjusting to work with it but we are in the industry where things constantly change so for people doing a lot of masking, burning & dodging it is a must try tool.

I did the same as you Catherine, one day I said I am going to learn this and that was that, I started out using it for 3D apps and composititng apps, then photography, then everything. I, like your guests, can’t live without.
I will even go one better however, “Magic trackpad”, On my home system I don’t use a mouse or even a tablet, it is all touch, except for Photoshop which I do still use the tablet for. Something about that kind of work just really needs a tablet interface.

So true, i thought I would use a mouse for web surfing etc. I rarely touch it anymore.

Ever tried to sign your name with a mouse? Enuf said. :)

Catherine, which tablet did you get: Small,
Medium, Large, Extra Large, Wireless? Is your size ideal for Photo Editing? Do you wish you had gotten a different size? Thanx.

I think i went large – 12.8″ x 8.0″ work area and love this size for photo editing. I have wired but wish I went wireless…cords are annoying. I will double check the size when i rtn to my studio and get back to you!

Just confirmed the size – Yes, I went Large :)

100% couldn’t live with out mine and I only have the medium-sized Wacom Bamboo. Love it.

I would love a bigger Intuos, but for the most part its tiny cousin works for me.

Pretty much every person I turn onto a tablet hates me for it, for about two days.

Just like when we first picked up a mouse it takes a little getting used to. But once you have it down, it’s second nature and your hand is suddenly zipping here and there and everywhere getting the job done.

The only thing I find is I’d like a slightly thicker barrel on the pen. I have big hands and come away with “claw paw” after a full day of retouching. :P

I experimented using tablets on the cheap with a Bamboo, as I already use a Mac trackpad instead of a mouse with my desktop.

However while the pen is great for retouching, the trackpad functionality and sensitivity was nowhere near as good as the Mac Magic Trackpad.

Do you know if the Intuos performs better in this area (as a standard mouse replacement)? I need that to work as well as the retouching side, desk real estate is at a premium!

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