Top positive review
48 people found this helpful
Still an essential tool for any digital artist
on 5 October 2012
This review is for Wacom Bamboo Pen CTL-470, I feel qualified to make this review as I have been using Wacom tablets professionally since 1998.
Why not use a mouse? - Simply you can't control a mouse in the same way, a pen is far more natural and accurate for drawing, painting and spraying digitally. The tablets take advantage of varying pen pressure you apply to it, something you could never do with a mouse. It takes a week or two to get used to it if coming from a mouse only user.
My previous tablet is the ET-405-U (A6 size, blue model with pen and mouse) this has 512 of pressure sensitivity, still works fine but a little tired after nearly 10 years of use.
This Bamboo Pen, comes nicely packaged, more aesthetically pleasing, has the same pen area as my old one (A6), and has twice the pressure sensitivity. I generally find there is no advantage in the larger more expensive tablets, the larger tablets mean that you'll need larger distance strokes, and some artists I worked with in the past had said they found it easier to work with a small tablet, with less repetitive strain, and better accuracy. Generally avoid the "touch" versions, while I've not personally used them, I've heard a lot of poor reviews; they don't provide any useful advantage. The pen only are the ones to go for, otherwise just plug in a mouse. For those mega serious digital artists the ultimate Wacom would be one of the Cintiq 22-24" HD range, where by you work directly on screen, which works as both monitor and tablet. However the little Bamboo is a great entry level tablet, and works in the same way as your mouse.
The stylus (pen) is a nice diameter, the button much the same as my old version and works in the same fashion; 2 click operations controllable from the preferences.
The thickness of the Bamboo tablet is much the same as my old one at about 10mm from the surface, and has a reasonable beveled edge to make it comfortable to use.
Works fine with both mac and windows.
1) The first obvious thing is that this tablet is much wider than the old one, the USB end with logo and blue LED (as shown in the product image) widens the tablet by 60mm. And seems a bit of waste of space.
Not having much desk space I find this intrudes onto you keyboard, especially as the USB cable is quite stiff, and not very flexible. So I'd imagine in most cases people would need to set the preferences in a Left-handed mode, this will allow you to rotate the tablet so that the USB end faces away to the right. BTW you can only use the tablet in a landscape position (unless you like going UP/DOWN instead of LEFT/RIGHT!).
2) I did find the default pressure sensitivity too sensitive, especially when using it to navigate in windows/Finder, items tended to be dragged slightly rather than just clicked/double clicked. This needed the pen firmness set to maximum. However using Photoshop or Manga Studio, or Painter, the pressure sensitivity needed a much softer setting. And unlike the previous software there doesn't seem to be an option to store settings for the application you are using, which now means more fiddling when switching between applications. There are only 7 preset levels of firmness in the preferences panel, and I did find these step too much or too little, I'd like to see a finer percentage control.
3) This maybe my preference, but I don't like the Bamboo's tablet surface. I find it too resistive, much like cartridge paper (almost a crunchy feel'n!). Like drawing traditionally, the resistance of the paper tends to fight with your stroke sometimes causing a less than straight line to be drawn. I'm sure if you never used a tablet to draw before, and coming from traditional mediums that you'll like the tablets resistance initially. Personally, I find more accuracy can be performed with a smoother surface (see point 4). Why mimic traditional flaws, when it could be made to better aid the artist.
4) The tablet surfaces do tend to wear out over time, and so do the nibs. Thankfully Wacom provide some spare nibs (mine came with 3 spares and a ring tool to remove them, which I expect to last the lifetime of the tablet - depending on how heavy handed you are). My preference to solve the issue with the tablet surface is to stick smooth plastic sheet to the surface using double-sided sticky tape - sounds crude, but it works. You can buy surface protectors (i.e. sticky film for tablet touchscreens), but never used them myself. I find some smooth document binder partitions and cut them out to fit, which I find cheap and does the job of providing a much smoother surface to work with, if sacrificing the aesthetics slightly.
Any Illustrators out there I strongly recommend getting Manga Studio Pro EX, you can illustrate very traditional result, and the app also helps to correct strokes, whereas Photoshop's strokes can be a little shaky, and needs more patience.
I can't say that Wacom have terribly improved their small tablets over past 14 years. However, despite the Bamboos short comings, it still and essential tool for a digital artist and does the job that you couldn't do with a mouse. And for around £50 it's the best value out of Wacom's product range.