Reviewers are supposed to be objective. It really isn't good for the reviewer to jump up and down screaming his head off and waving his arms about a new product he's reviewing. It takes away credibility from your review and, well, it just doesn't look good. However, that's exactly what I'm going to do; jump up and down shouting that the new Bamboo series of Wacom pen tablets are “Wonderful!” I've had so much fun working with this product that I simply can't help myself.
In the last several months, I can't tell you how many times I picked up the very well-designed Bamboo box at a local electronics store and read the back cover; “edit, paint, draw, write, simplify”. You simply can't state it any better. It's exactly what you get with the Bamboo series. Not only does Wacom provide you with a superior piece of hardware, but the packaging, the packing and the extras are top of the line.
Wacom has always been the premiere manufacturer of pen tablets with a product line that just gets better and better depending upon your needs. As a relative beginner (my last experience with tablets was many years ago and they were expensive and clunky), I was very excited to try out the latest generation of pen tablets. My sincere thanks to Wacom for making the Bamboo Fun pen tablet available to review.
A Tablet for Everyone
Wacom currently manufactures 5 levels of pen tablets each one adding additional size and complexity. Two styles of Cintiq tablets and the Intuos mid-range tablets are superb, but relatively expensive for a tablet beginner like myself. I want a tablet that allows me to add hand-writing to my photos and website, re-touch and alter photographs and to create images and textures for my machinima work. The entry level Bamboo series is exactly what I'm looking for.
I'm reviewing the Bamboo Fun edition which is almost exactly the same as the simple Bamboo edition except that it can do just a bit more. Both pen tablets are designed for the entry level user and have 512 levels of pen pressure sensitivity along with 2,540 lines per inch resolutions. The Bamboo Fun edition adds a decent wireless mouse, a more advanced pen with eraser and a really good software bundle. The Bamboo tablet is only available in one size (small), whereas the Fun version comes in two sizes: the small small (3.7” x 5.8” active area) and a medium version (5.3” x 8.5” active area), along with 4 different colors (white, silver, black and blue).
The Bamboo Fun
Straight out of the box you get the tablet (mine was the small version), a pen (with eraser), pen holder, Usb cable, CD's with drivers and software, a small instruction booklet and 3 extra pen nibs for your pen (nice touch, Wacom). Installation is very simple; plug the Usb into the tablet and then into a front Usb port on your computer (a wireless version of this tablet would have been welcome). If you don't have a front Usb, you'll most likely have to buy a longer cable as the one that come with Bamboo Fun is only about 5' long. Of course, if your computer is right under your desk you shouldn't have a problem.
Windows Vista users will receive an extra benefit from the Bamboo Fun tablet as it Vista has native handwriting capability. I still use XP myself. The tablet was recognized and installed immediately. Both mouse and pen worked flawlessly the first time. The drivers that came on the CD were only a few months old, so I went ahead and installed them. Once installed you get a “Pen Tablet” folder in your program files. The fly out menu includes “pen tablet properties”, an expanded “user manual”, a series of excellent tutorials and a “tablet preference file utility”. The tutorials were very helpful and are wellproduced. One of the main differences in using a pen in Windows is that it charts the location point to point, meaning that where you put your pen down on the tablet exactly corresponds to where the pointer shows up in windows. Unlike the mouse, which you drag across the screen, the pen takes a bit of getting used to. You can easily adjust the sensitivity of your pen in the “pen tablet properties” window, along with other attributes like “eraser feel”, “double-click distance” and even re-assign what the small buttons on the pen does, the default being upper button is the “right click” of a mouse and the lower button is the “pan/scroll”.
After positioning the tablet just to the right of my keyboard, I began to practice with the pen so that eventually I used it almost as well as my old mouse. It's very easy to use. And although I wish the eraser was a little less flimsy, the pen is beautifully designed and is a lot of fun to use. You don't get the “tilt” functionality (tilting the angle of the pen doesn't affect it's sensitivity) like you do in the Intuos model, but the Bamboo Fun pen is very responsive. After I installed Corel Painter Essentials 4, I found that with a little tweaking (the Corel Software comes with terrific video tutorials) I was able to create very subtle lines and shading by varying the pressure of the pen on the surface of the tablet. You also get Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 (slightly out of date as Adobe PE is not at version 7) and some cool color filters by Nik that work as plug-ins for Adobe.
I really enjoyed using Corel Painter. Although it's really entry level paint/photo software, the layout is intuitive and it's a lot of fun using the tracing paper function to copy a photograph or re-make a picture in a specific art style like “oil painting” or “watercolors”. Not as deep as Adobe Photoshop CS4 (this tablet works flawlessly in that program and just about anything else), but still a good way to do simple work like web design or photo retouching. I used it to sketch out some Storyboard ideas I had for a machinima film which I then posted to forum for others to comment on.
On the tablet itself, there are four buttons clustered around a lit circle (beautiful design) near the top of the tablet. You can program these buttons for a variety of functions on your computer. This is accomplished in the “tablet properties” where you simply click the drop-down menu next to an image of the button you want to adjust and you'll see a list of things you can program like “show desktop”, “switch application” and “open/run” (you then choose the application you want to open/run).
Is there anything not to like?
Not much. The small tablet doesn't work as well with the 26” wide-screen monitor I use. I have to look down at times to the tablet to figure out where I am. And the small active area is much harder to use the mouse on. You tend to run out of room. Definitely will not work for playing a video game. But I had no problems keeping my old wireless mouse on the desk and can easily grab it if I need it. The Bamboo Fun mouse only works on the tablet surface though.
There is a one year warranty on the tablet, which is about right. And, as I've mentioned, the pen is welldesigned, but doesn't feel as solid as it should especially around the eraser area. A wireless version of the tablet would have been welcome as the Usb cable is somewhat short. Not everyone has a front Usb port on their case. The small Bamboo Fun tablet might also be too small for those with a large monitor.
However, these a very minor issues considering how much fun you can have with this product. Beautifully designed, easy installation, simple to use and a fun factor that goes off the charts; the Wacom Bamboo series of pen tablets are the best possible entry level tablets you can buy. For about $100 you get not only a near-perfect product, but software that's worth almost as much as the tablet itself. Plus, the tutorials for the tablet and software are superb. There is a huge user base and lots of solid help and advice on how to use Bamboo Fun.
Highly recommended. The Wacom Bamboo Fun pen tablet is now a permanent part of my animation and photo toolbox, although I'll most likely upgrade to the medium size version of the product. You can create digital art, fix up old photos, convert handwriting to text, texture and paint on drawings using very precise pressure or add written comments to documents. There is literally no limit to what you can do with the Bamboo Fun pen tablet.
Each Package Includes:
For more information, please visit the Wacom Website.
Editor's Note: Be sure to check out all the valuable resources available right here on Renderosity, for all your artistic endeavors, starting with the following related links:
Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
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