Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wacom Intuos 5 touch

Wacom has released today a new version of the Intous 5 tablet series. This new family adds some interesting features to the previous generation of tablet. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to use the Intuos 5 Small in the last days. This article doesn’t pretend to be a full review of the product; I will just talk about the good and bad points that impressed me.

Design and multi-touch

First of all I have to say that I really do like the design and the ergonomics of this new product: comfortable and, in the same time, very solid. It really seems designed for professional photographers and artist in mind. Why? Check, for example, how the buttons works and you will find the answer. They are both capacitive and click sensitive. So you can scroll between them without clicking to have a preview on what function they have and then click (having both a tactile and audible confirmation of the input that you gave). This allows you to stay with your eyes (and mind) focused on the screen. No interruption of your workflow, no need to look the tablet.

The first “real” new feature that I noticed is about the multi-touch functionality.  Basically you now get both the high precision that only the Wacom pen technology can give you with the benefits that a multi touch tablet can offer.

You can have an idea of what the touch and pen combo features offer watching the following video.

Essentially I am drawing with the pen and using a 2-finger input to zoom and rotate the canvas in Photoshop. Unfortunately multi touch technology is not deeply implemented in modern software, but I am sure that in the feature we will see huge improvements.  Wacom multi touch is very advanced (supports more than 10 points at the same time) and the good news is that the driver offers a very nice panel to personalize your shortcuts. You can see my setting in the following screen.

Basically you can personalize in a different way each program and get very impressive results. You can choose to assign a different shortcut for each gesture. Just watch the following video to see how I work in Photoshop while using the Pen and the touch in the same workflow.

I really think that the touch feature offers a nice improvement in the way you can approach the software.

The drawbacks of the multi-touch are essentially related to the behavior of the tablet when you approach it with your hands when you want to use the pen. Basically when the pen is close enough to the tablet surface the touch function is disabled. This systems works fine if you get close to the tablet with the pen pointing on it but, if the pen is too far from the surface when you put your hand down, the driver could recognize unwanted inputs. Not a big problem, it’s just a matter of habit. 
Anyway as you may have notice in the video sometime the multi-touch doesn’t react as expected. I have to get confident with this technology but I think that it has great potential.

Another feature that I really like is the extended surface area. You’ll not get your pen nib stuck with the borders of the tablet any more. This was a problem for many users. While drawing on the borders of the area you could get the pen nib in the “duct” on the side of the active area. This again confirms that these products are made with the users in mind.

Other features

Same pressure levels and pens. Wacom found that 2048 levels of pressure are enough and this is why the new generation of Intuos tablet is not offering any improvement in this sense. I have to say that I noticed the improvements from 1024 to 2048 but they where maybe a little bit small and this is why many users are still using (and happy with) the Intuos 3. I agree with Wacom. Regarding the pen I don’t see any possible improvements from the Intuos 4 technology and Wacom engineers must had the same awareness.

Personally I am very enthusiast about the new multi-touch feature but if you don’t want it you can get the new 5 Medium sized tablet for a reduced price (lower than the previous generation of Intuos 4 tablets).

Wacom didn’t change the material that is used for the tablet surface.  This material was made after years of studies and research. What Wacom engineer wanted was a material that, used in combination with the different nibs, can give the best possible drawing experience. I like the material but I don’t like how fast the nib run out when you use it. I have to say that the nib wearing will be much more slow after the few weeks of use. You have to “run in” the tablet. Personally I prefer the feeling of the 24HD surface, but this is really a matter of personal taste. I think that I'll soon make a new post on the blog with more details regarding the nib wearing.

What is new for Intuos users is the wireless module. No longer based on bluetooth technology but on a more efficient one, you just have to plug in the dongle and the software will do the rest. I have been told that with the small sized tablet you should be able to work for 16  hours continuously. This wireless module is exactly the same we have seen on the Bamboo series.

Basically what we have is the same, excellent, Intuos 4 Pen technology with some smart design improvements and the multi-touch. I think Wacom has done a good job.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cintiq 24HD ArtPen problem solved!

I am pleased to announce that, after some moths, Wacom has finally released a firmware update for the Cintiq 24HD. This update is required only if you are using the ArtPen and if you are experiencing problems with it.

I have been in touch with Wacom team and I have to say thank you for the work that you did. I know that the Cintiq 24HD was made to work since the beginning with the ArtPen, but I also know how hard is to fix problems after a product is released.

The new firmware revision is 109 (1.09). I received the new firmware on the 9th of February and I had the time to properly test it.

If you need this update you can directly ask Wacom Europe( Please notice that this file will not be available for download from any link and you will need to ask Wacom. I can’t send the update to anyone. As usual for firmware updates, the procedure is very risky if not done correctly. If your Cintiq 24HD is not properly connected or if the power for some reasons is lost while the firmware is updating that you can be in serious trouble!

All new Cintiq 24HD in production from now have already installed the new firmware.

I tested this new firmware with the more recent drivers from Wacom, in both Windows 7 and MacOS Lion OS. What I really like of this drivers is the “Pen sensibility details” panel, where you really can fine-tune  your pens to best fit your drawing style. I like to have a curve like the one that you can see in the screenshot below.

The firmware update comes in a zip file with attached PDF instructions very easy to follow, I will not explain how to do it but you can trust me if I tell you that it took about 2 minutes to do the whole procedure, including the time need to read the instructions.

What does this firmware change? Well, finally, you can properly use the ArtPen. I decided to re-do some of the tests done in the past moths to show the problems and I am happy to tell you  that the problems are finally gone. For a detailed explanation on each test you can read the original ArtPen Article.

First test is done inside the “popular” black/red line test in Photoshop. The test consists in drawing a vertical line to join two horizontal lines already drawn on the screen. This test has been done in Window 7 Ultimate. 

Here you can see the old video:

And now the new video:

As you can see the new firmware allows the Cintiq 24HD to really detect when the pressure is released. Now you don’t get any more “following” of the pen while you draw.

The first video has been made with Windows 7. I have also tested the Cintiq 24HD with the new firmware on a MacOs Lion based computer and, as you can see, the ArtPen works fine also on this configuration.


Now I can finally enjoy the Cintiq 24HD. Thanks Wacom!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lightroom 4 Beta – Moiré Brush

The new Lightroom 4 Beta that you can find here (free download for both Windows 7 and MacOS users) offers some new interesting features.

I’d like to give a practical example. The image that follows was taken a few days ago with a PhaseOne P30+.

 This is a 100% crop (click to enlarge):

As you can notice there is some moiré. This is a very common problem for photographers working with clothes. I personally used different techniques to remove moiré and I found that this new moiré brush works really well. Let’s see how it worked with this example.

In just a few seconds the moiré is almost completely removed. I spent just a few seconds doing a very rough selection with the mouse. This moiré was both in L*, a* and b* channels, not an easy task for a tool. You can adjust the moiré filter brush from -100 to +100. I used a +100 setting for the example above, but also a +50 settings seems to do the job:

I’ll do more tests, but first impressions with this new Lightroom release are very good!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

basICColor Display 5

The new SpectraView Profiler software come out a few days ago.

This software is based on the basICColor Display 5.0.1 software and comes with new interesting features.

The software has a new, very user-friendly interface with some standard presets (honestly I never used them, but I think that they can come handy for some users).

I am testing the new software on different configurations. I am using a dual SpectraView 301 configuration to make some tests at the moment.

My usual workspace is a SpectraView 271 and a Cintiq 24HD (not shown).
As usual I am working with the basICColor Discus.

The validation from the SpectraView 301 is very good.Not a surprise, I personally think that basICColor Display used in combination with Discus colorimeter is the best solution for monitor calibration and profiling nowadays.

More importantly the monitors performed very well with some test images that I always use to test new software and hardware for color management. Gradients are uniform and difference between small luminance value are clearly noticeable. Good.

A feature that I like of this new release is the Color space simulation.

If you own the software and a monitor with hardware-calibration capable LUTs you can now use them to emulate another device (printer or monitor). I am testing this feature to emulate printer profiles and monitor profiler (sRGB for web output, for example).

It seems to work nicely, better than other soft-proof that I have tried in the past. For my personal needs I always prefer to make an “hard-test” printing a small detail of the final print if I need good color-accuracy, but I think that this function can help.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wacom is working to fix the ArtPen problem

I have been told that Wacom is working on the Cintiq 24HD to solve the ArtPen problem.

They gave me no information about how long this process will take. The good thing is that they are working on it. The bad thing is that I lost more than one work due to this problems with the ArtPen.

The latest drivers for both Mac and PC (6.2.0-2) doesn’t fix the problem. This drivers have been removed from the download page but they are reported here.

I have the drivers installed on both my PC and my MAC workstations, and the good news is that they offer a very nice fine-tune possibility for the pen sensibility. I don’t know why they have been removed now, I will ask Wacom.

I hope to have soon good news from Wacom USA.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ArtPen (BAD) news.

I have just received this email from Wacom USA:

As of right now there is no fix for this problem and there may not be one in the future. I would suggest not using the Art Pen with the Cintiq 24HD and using only the included Grip Pen.

XXX XXXSenior Customer Care Technician
Wacom Technology Services, Corp

I think that no other comments are needed. Please notice that in the  Wacom internet site the 
Art Pen is reported to be compatible with the Cintiq 24HD.

You can read the original post here (description of the problems). After more than one moth waiting for news I have been told that maybe the ArtPen will never work with the Cintiq 24HD.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cintiq 24HD: ArtPen Problem Update

I have made two more YouTube videos to show the problem that I am expereicing with the ArtPen and the Cintiq 24HD.

Please read the previous post to have more information about this problem.

Notice that both the Cintiq 24HD and the ArtPen that I am using now are new units from Wacom. Wacom has changed my ArtPen and my Cintiq 24HD but the problem is still there.

Update (29th October, 2011):
Not only a Windows 7 problem: here you can see the same problem in OSX 10.7.2!

Here is the first video - problems in OneNote2011:

1) (first 10 seconds) If I get close with the ArtPen to the Cintiq 24HD there is an unwanted input (as you can see I draw small dots on the screen also if I am not applying any pressure, I am about 1cm away from the surface). As you can see pressure level in the Dignostic tool inside the driver stands to 0%! I am not touching the screen with the nib but little dots/lines are drawn!

2) (from second 10 to the end) When I release pressure the ArtPen doesn’t stop to draw.

This is not acceptable. I can’t work in this way!This is not acceptable. I can't work in this way!

Second videoproblem in Wacom Driver “Sensibility details:

As you can see the problem of “unwanted lines” is present also in the driver. This is definitely not a problem of any application.

This is how the problem is described by another user of the Cintiq 24HD (“jonstatt” in the Wacom European Forum):

Try drawing a line at moderate speed and then very quickly lift the pen away from the tablet at the end. An extra vertical line appears even though the pen was not in contact with the tablet. This only occurs with the art pen and even can be seen in the tablet driver section where you can test draw the pen on the screen. It is definitely not application specific. It is the driver.

To know what Wacom says about this problem you can follow the discussion on the official European Wacom forum.