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Have you been considering a pen tablet? Let me give you a little push.

Product Review: Bamboo Fun From Wacom

A while ago I wrote about the Intuos4 tablet from Wacom. This is a professional grade tablet that you use instead of your mouse when working with programs like Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter to process your photos and paintings. A tablet gives you much more efficiency of movement and the pressure sensitivity gives you the same kind of control that you would get from a pen, pencil, or paint brush.

What if you don't need a professional grade tablet, but you still want the ability to use a tablet with your applications like Adobe Photoshop elements or Corel Painter Essentials? Well, Wacom has a whole series of tablets made for the consumer just for this purpose. This line is called the Bamboo line and they range from the smaller Bamboo Touch & Pen models to the Bamboo Fun, which is the one that I am reviewing.

Bamboo FunWhat do you need to run the Bamboo Fun?

• Windows XP (SP2), Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Mac OS X10.4.8+
• Color display
• Powered USB port
• CD/DVD drive

What do you get with the Bamboo Fun?

• Bamboo Fun
• The Bamboo Fun pen
• Installation CD
• Quick start guide 
• Bundled software
• Offers from Shutterfly and Café Press

The Bamboo Fun consists of a digitized pad that plugs in to the USB port on your computer. Your computer then treats the device as though it were a mouse but rather with a pen or by finger touch. Then when you use a product like Photoshop or Painter that can take advantage of the rich technology that the pad enables, you use the pen like a brush, where you have more control and affect on your image.

There was a time when the pen tablet was geared just for the commercial artist and very expensive. Over time Wacom introduced more affordable tablets for the professional with the Intous Line. Then they introduced the Graphire line which was aimed at the consumer market. That has now been transformed into the Bamboo line which has more flexibility and power.

The Bamboo line essentially comes in two sizes, small and medium. The small tablet is 8.2" x 5.4" in size with an active area of 4.9" x 3.4". The medium tablet is 13.3" x 8.8" in size with an active area of 7.5" x 5.1". They can both be configured for right- and left-handed people. They come with a pen, touch enabled, or both. They all come with bundled software.

Bamboo Fun

Installation of the Bamboo Fun was very easy. You just insert the driver disk and when it is ready it prompts you to insert the USB connector into the port on your computer. A few minutes later it is installed. On the disk there is a training video that walks you through all of the fundamentals of using the tablet.

What makes the Bamboo Fun different than many of the previous versions of the tablet is its touch ability. Most tablets have a stylus-based device that lets you manipulate the device-aware program on the screen. The difference is that this product also functions in touch mode so you can also use your fingers to manipulate things on the screen as well.

In many ways this is quite like the touch pad on many modern laptop computers except that it has dual touch sensitivity. What this means is that you can use your finger to move the cursor and point and select items on your desktop. But you can also use two fingers to zoom in and out as well as twist your two fingers to rotate items on the screen.

The pen itself has been redesigned, eliminating the rubber grip of the prior versions. It now has a flat surface that makes it much easier to hold. The buttons are easy to get to and work with and very crisp in their action. The pen can reverse ends and turns into an eraser or a delete tool depending on the software.

Whereas the Intous4 line is geared for the medium to upper range professional market, the Bamboo line, with its lower price, perfectly fits the consumer market that it targets. Some of the main differences are the fineness of control that you have with the pen and sensitivity, the programmable keys that are on the unit, and the programmability of the tablet itself.

Bamboo Fun

First and foremost, I feel that if you work with programs like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Corel Painter, or any number of photographic/artistic programs, you have to have a tablet. If you don't, you are just wasting a lot of time working with a mouse. The Bamboo line is a perfect entry level product that has something for everyone, with the Bamboo Fun being the upper end model. Once you get used to using a tablet you will not know how you got along without one. I have worked with a number of types of tablets and the Wacom product just feels like quality and that includes the Bamboo Fun. If you don't have a tablet, you should, and I very highly recommend the Bamboo Fun.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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