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Last post Author Topic: Graphics Tablets - opinions (nudone, hamradio, tomos etc. care to chime in?)  (Read 13559 times)

Darwin

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I'd really like to buy a graphics tablet but wanted some feedback before taking the plunge. My choices are the full range of Wacom tablets (drool) and what appears to be a relatively new kid on the block - Genius. The price differential is significant, though the new Bamboo line from Wacom is comparable in price to the Genius offering but offers half the touch sensitivity. I suspect, though, that reading specs off a box isn't going to be a reliable way of choosing a tablet. I intend to use it for touching up digital photos, noodling around with ArtRage, and working on graphics for my PhD (archaeological site plans in particular).

So... what I am looking for are opinions about the relative merits of the different Wacom tablets and how Genius compares (assuming anyone has put on through its paces).

Thanks (and I realise that this is a vague and broad bunch of questions - feel free to demand clarification if needed!),

Mike
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Carol Haynes

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Main thing is that most software actively supports Wacom tablets - not sure if there are any significant differences in drivers etc. for other makes that might make interfacing a problem.

I have an old Wacom Graphire 2 tablet which was very good value.

If you want an expensive Intuos tablet try signing up for a $20 course at LVSonline (good value anyway) and then you can buy Wacom products at education prices which are much lower across the range. See http://www.lvsonline.com/ for details.

Some of the discount links are on http://www.lvsonline.com/news.shtml for both hardware and software.

cranioscopical

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Darwin, I haven't tried these (I still use an old WACOM ArtPad II which has been rock solid for years).

One point I'd offer for consideration, however, is the physical size of the tablet itself.  On mine the drawing pad is only 4" x 5".  While this doubtless would be risible to a graphics professional it's more than enough for me to do the kinds of operations to which you refer. 

A small desktop footprint means that the pad is always in place and accessible, without having to be moved around.  FWIW if I were buying another tablet today I'd look for the same small footprint.  Newer versions offer more levels of pressure sensitivity etc.
In my case small footprint = less hassle = greater propensity to use. 

As Carol pointed out WACOM is supported by just about every serious graphics application.  WACOM is good about updating drivers, too.

If you've not had a graphics tablet before you're in for quite a bit of fun.  I hope you enjoy yours when it comes. 
A good chance to deploy some of those smokin' dollars  :)


BigJim

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I've had a Wacom for a couple of years and support all of the above (positive) comments. I've often wished that I'd spent a few more dollars for the Bluetooth model though. Sometimes you want to just kick back to draw, etc. Untethered reduces concerns and considerations about footprint, too. It's easier to stick it out of the way yet still have it readily available.  :-*
TruckerJim says "You can go down a hill too slow a thousand times. But too fast only once."

nudone

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oh dear. i smashed up my A4 sized 'Trust' tablet and pen last week. if i hadn't been so angry at the time i would have put it to one side and considered giving it away - meaning i could have sent it to you as a gift. oh well, too late now.

why did i smash it up (yes, pen snapped in half and tablet split into several pieces)?

it was unreliable. i only plugged it in when i needed it (usb). i'd have to change the options each time i did this but i didn't mind. but then it just refused to work one day. i checked the battery in the pen - perfect. i tried unplugging it plugging it back in a few times - no difference. so i decided it must hate me - so i killed it.

if it had been a wacom tablet i wouldn't have destroyed it - because of the cost they are. 'Trust' products are always bargain priced so this A4 tablet was about £50 ($100) which is a great deal less than a Wacom A4 sized tablet.

Admittedly, the Trust tablet only had about 512 levels or sensitivity - half of the current Wacoms. does that matter? i think it doesn't matter at all. when using these types of pens i've never seen anything that would demonstrate 512 (or double) the levels or pressure being translated onto the screen. they look like they've got about 12 levels of pressure to me, i.e they are nothing like using a real life pencil with all the subtlety that allows. mouser sent me an older Wacom tablet a few years back and i wasn't impressed by that either (i can't remember now which DC member received it after me).

another thing that annoys me about tablets is the poor 'absolute' positioning they have. to me this should translate to one inch moved across the tablet with the pen should equal one inch moved across my monitor with the cursor - but it doesn't. maybe new Wacoms can be adjusted to perfection, i've not had the privilege of using one.

i see many artists using Wacoms online and producing brilliant pieces of work so i know that you can get good results - you adapt to the tool in hand and learn to compensate for its shortcomings, of course. so i hope to do the same when i eventually buy a new wacom tablet. hopefully i'll be able to test drive one before i buy it as i really don't want to waste money on something that is going to work exactly the same as a £50 Trust tablet but costs six times as much (i know Wacoms have many more features but i don't think they are worth six times the price).

another thing about tablets, i don't think they are all they are cracked up to be. if you are painting/drawing/sketching within a program like photoshop it makes sense. if all you are doing is drawing selections around parts of an image and doing a few other non painterly type edits then a tablet it pretty pointless.

i've seen one or two friends buy a tablet (Trust) only to be frustrated when they realised they had better control using a mouse. they found it difficult to coordinate with the pen and tablet and for how much they were going to use it (just drawing selections around peoples head, etc) they'd never master it - so back to the mouse they went.

i can draw kinda okay just using the mouse. i can't apply different levels of pressure but after using a tablet i'd say so what. a tablet doesn't allow me to apply the same levels of pressure a pencil does.

from using the Trust and the old Wacom tablet i'd say using these things is like using a fat bendy ink pen whilst wearing thick leather gloves that restrict your finger movement. in other words, they are crap compared to real pens (and paint brushes). but, again, the art i've seen online obviously means people are more than capable of getting brilliant results from them - though, i think this is mainly because of all the other editing features you get from using software like layers, dodging/burning, masking and undo - which can be done with a mouse. obviously using a tablet and pen will be quicker for drawing but i find them bad for navigating around your operating system - double clicking and all that can be awkward (hence the double click button on all pens).

conclusion:
i really, really, hope that when i finally get around to buying a new Wacom i'm blown away by how responsive it is. if you're going to be doing detailed paintings then maybe a Wacom really is going to be essential but i would put money on a decent artist being able to get exactly the same results from a bottom of the line budget tablet and pen.

my advice, try the Genius first.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2007, 05:51:56 AM by nudone »

tomos

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Mike, have a look at the first 6 pages or so here :D
http://www.google.de...amp;client=firefox-a
reports tend to be very mixed,
guess depends where you coming from & what you want to do with it maybe

Then there's Dolphin/Aiptek/Medion/Trust which all seem to be same product -
possibly only available europe (Medion is Aldi related "brand")

I still use a mouse :P
Tom

tomos

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nudone, I suspect most artists use the top of the range wacom
which *is* supposed to be a huge/whole lot better..
Tom

ak_

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Well, i've always been told that absolutely no brand was reliable except Wacom but i've always taken advice from illustrators who used their tablets intensively, so maybe another brand could be ok for your use. If i were you, i'd try to find a Wacom Graphire 2 (a brand new one) because they're very nice (when my old tablet died, i used a Graphire 2 to work and it was ok) and now they're very cheap because Graphire's current version is 4, as i heard. So if you can get your hands on an old Graphire version, it could be a nice solution.

This said, i'd like to add a few words to answer Nudone's post. I've been using a (Wacom) tablet for about 7 or 8 years now. I draw with it, paint with it and i don't even use pencil sketches or anything because i'm totally used to working this way. I use it for illustrations (the pressure is absolutely essential to me because of the paint-like render i use), comics (comic book artist Scott Mc Loud draws with a tablet too, and i think the number of comic book artists working this way is increasing these days) and i don't feel like using "a fat bendy ink pen whilst wearing thick leather gloves". I guess it's just a matter of practice.

And about :
Quote from: nudone
the art i've seen online obviously means people are more than capable of getting brilliant results from them - though, i think this is mainly because of all the other editing features you get from using software like layers, dodging/burning, masking and undo
This is a false idea. I used to hang on art forums a while ago, and regularly there were new guys coming with the same (very very false) idea that their computer will help them making better art. They were always given the same answers : "If you can't use a pencil properly, you won't use a tablet any better" and "A computer can't replace taste/skills/technique/imagination". Of course, the features you mentionned are very useful, but they are just a way to do things easier or quicker. A good coder can use notepad, and end up with a great program, but the lack of features will make the process long and painful - this is equally true for artists, i guess.

I hope i don't seem angry, because i am really not :)

nudone

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like i said, i really, really hope i'm impressed when i eventually buy a decent wacom tablet.

can ak_, or anyone else, answer whether the absolute positioning is adjustable with a decent wacom or whether it's perfect right out of the box. if it is, then i'm more likely to buy a wacom in the very near future.

edit:
just thought i better clarify. i wasn't trying to say that a computer will do all the work for someone that can't draw.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2007, 05:47:57 AM by nudone »

tomos

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so,
which tablet (Wacom i presume) are you currently using ak_?
Tom

Perry Mowbray

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I think the best investment I made many years ago was to buy a second-hand Wacom 12x12 tablet. It was really cheap at the time, I think the fellow was desperate for some cash, and I got a great deal (made me feel a little guilty though :-[ the deal was too good)

I built a cradle under the desk so that it slides away when I don't want it, and it's still really easy to get at (and I don't have to worry about its footprint  ;)).

The large size really is fantastic, and makes the absolute positioning brilliant. Took a bit to get used to: but it was an extravagant and excellent purchase I'll never regret! Works with everything, though the newer models have better sensitivity, but for my level of use it's more than adequate.

Darwin

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Wow! Thanks everyone. I think I'll take nudone's advice (modified) and buy a small Bamboo Fun. They appear to be the replacement to the Graphire and have "Wacom Quality". The Genius is a bit bigger and has more sensitivity for the same price ($99) but from what I've been reading since I posted this, the extra sensitivity may not translate into a noticeable difference when using it. Also, Wacom's solution is completely usb powered whereas the Genius product requires batteries.

PS what's got me in a lather now is that the same sized Intuos is on sale at the moment for $199...  :o This is alarming because I quite often go in to a shop intending to spend $50 on a basic tool and walk out having spent several times that to get something with more features. I could just seem myself dropping $459 on an 8 x 6 Intuos.

Anyway, thank you all again!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

tranglos

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Out of curiosity, are such tablets useful for tasks other than editing graphics? For example, would a tablet provide some added convenience when editing densely tagged text, making lots of twiddly little edits like adding/removing spaces, changing commas to semi-colons, correcting typos, selecting/copying/pasting small amounts of text, where one has to watch very carefully for surrounding tags, linebreaks etc? Would a tablet be more convenient than keyboard+mouse when performing such tasks for several hours a day? (Thankfully this is not *all* I do :) but it is a significant part of reviewing software localization projects...)

Also, do all/some tablet models support character recognition under WinXP, and how well does it work?

I've been eyeing tablets at a local computer store, but it's hard to know how useful it's going to be without actually trying it out for a while.

.marek

ak_

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nudone> i'm sure you weren't saying that :) But you said that you thought that digital art you like were good "mainly because of all the other editing features you get from using software" and i say they are good because the guy holding the stylus (or mouse) is a good artist. Computer just helped him achieve his goal faster/easier.

tomos> i use a Wacom Intuos 3 6x8 (A5 here in France).

tranglos> i don't know if it could really help you in these tasks. My tablet has some buttons that i find very useful (i can assign shortcuts to them and make things go faster), but actually they're useful when i'm drawing and that's it. My opinion is that tablets aren't useful outside graphic activities (even if i've known people preferring tablet over mouse for casual use - i don't).

nudone

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fair enough, i'll accept what i said didn't come out the way i meant it to. i thought i was saying the opposite, i'll not try and correct myself as i'll probably end up saying the same wrong thing again.

as for a wacom's ability to adjust the way the movement of the pen translates onto the screen - anyone else care to answer?

ak_

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nudone> i tried to to come up with an answer to that, but as i never had issues with "absolute positionning", i don't know if it's because i've always used Wacom tablets or because the problem you're referring to never bothered me. So i think i can't help you here, sorry :(

nudone

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ak_, can i ask if you have it set to relative or absolute? well, i guess the question is more if you think that 1 inch on the tablet equals 1 inch on the screen (i'm hoping you'll say that 1 inch on the tablet doesn't equate to a great deal more than 1 inch on the screen).

if the tablet and screen movements are almost identical then i'd be happy. i probably sound like i'm making a big issue over nothing but it's something i was alarmed about when i last used a wacom. it's the main reason i don't own one right now. i'd always assumed that you'd be able to adjust this kind of thing with the leading tablet brand.

in other words, when you use a wacom and draw a circle about 1mm in diameter do you get a 1mm circle nicely drawn on screen (looking at 1mm even seems a bit too big really so maybe 0.5mm would be a better indication to test).

ak_

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Honestly, i don't see how such a thing would be convenient. I mean when i draw a line from the bottom-left corner to the upper-right of my tablet, it draws a line from the bottom-left corner to the upper-right of my screen and i think that's great, because i don't feel like buying a 24" tablet :) I don't feel like using 50% of my screen either.

This said, maybe the solution to your problem is using the stylus in "mouse mode" (you can select that in the configuration panel). But i think using the stylus this way would be really painful and annoying.

nudone

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ah right, i'm very surprised you are using it that way especially with the large monitor you've got.

the trust tablet i had was A4 in size, so quite large, and yet i found the 'relative' mode that you are using your tablet in to be kind of annoying. so i switched to 'absolute', only that it wasn't absolute - screen cursor movements were slightly exaggerated - but obviously not as much as they were compared to using 'relative' mode.

clearly you get used to whatever you have. to me 'absolute' seemed better because it seemed more accurate. it meant doing a stroking motion to get the cursor from one end of the screen to the other but after a few minutes this seemed perfectly natural. going back to 'relative' positioning seemed very strange - almost uncontrollable as the cursor jumps to match the location of the pen on the tablet rather than just following the short movements of your hand.

ideally it would be nice to have a tablet that corresponds to the screen 1:1 and then 'relative' and 'absolute' become the same. pity wacom cintiqs are crazy money.

tinjaw

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As an outside observer in this thread, one who has never looked into all of this, my guess is that the dpi of the screen (like 96 DPI on today's average LCD) would need to be calibrated to the DPI of the graphics tablet. They don't need to be in a 1:1 relationship, but once that is calibrated, you should get your "absolute" mode, nudone. If you held a gun to my head and asked me to speculate further, the software you had, nudone, might have been calibrated to a 72DPI screen, or some similar disparity may have existed.

jgpaiva

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If you held a gun to my head and asked me to speculate further
Nudone holding a gun? Nah! He'd get cody and his thugs to do it for him :P

Darwin

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Hi all - bought a small Bamboo fun this morning. Quite like it. There is no absolute option but I am getting used to the scaling of the thing. The navigable area is mapped to the monitor so if I want to click on the upper right most corner of my screen (for example the close icon on a maximized window), I move the pen to the corresponding point on my tablet - the upper right-most corner of the navigable area. To draw it's a bit awkward getting used to watching the monitor to see what your hand is doing, so to speak. If you can get into this mindset, the scaling isn't an issue. I'm not quite there, yet, but I think this will be fine.

Now, I've 14 days to return/exchange this puppy and should note that I passed on the same sized Graphire 4 for 30 THIRTY dollars less (clearance priced at 69.95 vs 99.95 for the Bamboo with pen and mouse). From my reading around the internet for the past couple of days it seems the Bamboo is essentially a replacement for the Graphire with some new features. Anyone know of a compelling reason (other than those $30) to exchange the Bamboo for the Graphire? I chose the Bamboo because I didn't think I'd like the clear plastic surface of the Graphire and it comes with more up to date free software. However, I haven't installed it yet and realise that I don't really have any desire too! FWIW it's Adobe Photoshop Elements 5 (vs. 3 in the Graphire) and Painter Essentials 3 (vs. 2 in the Graphire). I wish that I had kept notes on the reviews and opinions that I read last night but somewhere someone was comparing the two and suggested that the Bamboo was actually higher spec than the Graphire, but reading the boxes I can't see the difference, other than aesthetics...

Anyway, don't get me wrong - there's no buyer's remorse. Just thinking about that $30 differential and wondering if I was being foolish with my loot!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

cranioscopical

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would a tablet provide some added convenience when editing densely tagged text
I concur with ak_'s view that the tablet's not much help outside of graphics.

A long time back, in order to try this out, I ran my system for a couple of weeks using the tablet in place of a mouse or trackball. I found doing that to be more trouble than it's worth. For precise editing of dense text, specifically, I found positioning the cursor to be more difficult with the tablet than otherwise.


Darwin

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Yes - I've been playing around with using the tablet and the pen in place of a mouse - not very convenient. I'm having better luck with the Bamboo mouse, though I'm not sure that it will replace my battery operated wireless one... It's a bit awkward being restricted to a 6x5 area. However, I've been working with it without significant trouble all afternoon, so who knows?!
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Deozaan

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To draw it's a bit awkward getting used to watching the monitor to see what your hand is doing, so to speak. If you can get into this mindset, the scaling isn't an issue. I'm not quite there, yet, but I think this will be fine.

My math teacher has a tablet with a pen, so he actually writes on paper while it's showing up digitally on the computer. If he messes up, he can (obviously) erase but the paper is still inked with the mistakes. If your tablet has a similar function, or maybe you can get a tablet pen with a similar functionality, it would be the solution.