Product Spotlight: Wacom Intuos5

May 22nd, 2013

I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Nik Software Silver Efex Pro for 95% of my editing. Recently, I got my hands on the Intuos5 from Wacom (my first Wacom tablet). I knew that it would take a while to learn and become familiar with, but to be honest, after the first hour or so of use I didn’t think it would be for me.

As a professional photographer I need to be as quick as possible when editing. Because I was not using the tablet to draw with I thought it would slow me down while adding no real benefit. The main problem I was having was that I still needed to use the keyboard (the space bar to move my image around when zoomed in, working with brushes and dust spot removal, deleting control points, etc.) all the time. Moving my hand back and forth from the tablet to the keyboard seemed pointless and time consuming.

However, it didn’t take long for the tablet to start growing on me. After spending some time and learning a few tricks I started liking it more and more. For example, I learned that I could set the buttons on both the pen and the tablet to do whatever I wanted. So I set the lower button on the pen to be my space bar and the upper button as right click. This allowed me to zoom in and out and to move the image around the screen with one hand while editing.

The other shortcut I used was to set the side buttons on the tablet for actions like Delete, Pick, and Option. This allowed me to preform almost everything that I would normally use the keyboard for without moving my hand from the Intuos5. Also, the wheel on the tablet allowed me to change the size of my brushes and spot removal tool, which is very handy. The more I used it and the more time I spent getting it set up the way I wanted it the more I realized it could not only speed editing up but actually completely change my workflow.

Having learned all the nuances of the tablet, I can now perform all of my precision editing tasks with one hand running the pen and the other the wheel, allowing me to quickly and seamlessly change my brush size as I’m working. This, combined with the extreme precision of the brush, means I can achieve more accurate results in less time. Tasks like dodging and burning trees that are outlined against the sky are incredibly easier to do with the Intuos5, compared with a mouse.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages I’ve noticed is the ability to seamlessly change between using the pen and touching the tablet with your hand. For many things, like making changes to sliders and using brushes, the pen is a great tool. It gives you much more accuracy then a mouse. For other things, like scrolling though images, the touch method works much better. So being able to change back and forth by doing nothing but lifting the pen and dropping your fingers is great.

I also like the fact that I can use any number of fingers to accomplish tasks quickly. For example, three fingers works really well for adjusting sliders when not using the pen. Or you can use two fingers to scroll up and down through all of the controls on the left or right side, and then drop the third to adjust a slider without moving your hand.

Another great discovery is how much I enjoy holding the tablet on my lap and working from a distance.  This is where having the wireless option is an advantage. I spend so much time editing it is great to be able to lean back in my chair and get comfortable. Setting up the wireless was extremely easy and was ready to go in a matter of minutes. Battery life is not bad at all, and it is easy to plug in the USB to charge and keep on working when it dies.

After spending some time using and editing with the Intuos5 I am sold! With the ability to customize all of the buttons both on the pen and the tablet I can work much more quickly and with more ease and accuracy than with a mouse. And as I outlined above, for tasks like using the brush tool and removing dust spots it is amazing.

While I still use the mouse for everyday use I find myself using the tablet for all of my editing. It would be difficult to go back to using the mouse after being spoiled with the ease and accuracy of the Intuos5.

To sum things up, the Intuos5 does take a little time to learn and get used to, and I still use my mouse for many tasks. So if you do decide to give one a try be prepared for a bit of a learning curve. That said, it is worth the effort, and it will end up saving you hours and hours in the long run.

Pro Team photographer Dan Ballard has an extensive portfolio of award winning landscape and travel images. His photos take you on a journey to some of the world’s most beautiful and far reaching corners. Rich colors and compelling composition tell the story of each place he visits. Dan currently resides in Denver, Colorado where he is never far from breathtaking vistas to capture.