Wacom combines touch sensitive gesture and pen control in the new Bamboo range. What Digital Camera reviews the Wacom Bamboo Fun to test how it works out...

Renowned for its pro-grade graphics tablets, Wacom’s new Bamboo range shifts its target audience to, well, just about anyone that uses a computer. Combining a touch-sensitive pad that you can use with both the provided pen and your fingers, the new Bamboo Fun combines the traditional use of a graphics tablet with the sort of hands-on touch-sensitive control you’d get from something like an iPhone.

For those unfamiliar, this allows multi-touch finger gestures – though limited to two fingers maximum with the Bamboo – to rotate, pinch to zoom, or flick to navigate between slides and the like without getting anywhere near a mouse. It’s the sort of technology that we’re seeing more of implemented across a series of devices, such as the trackpads in Macbooks which have a similar, yet more advanced version of this technology (recent versions recognise up to four fingers, combinations of which do all sorts of quick-access commands to speed up your workflow significantly). Forthcoming Windows 7 looks to make best use of touch-based technologies too, something which a number of companies seem to be getting excited about. And for Wacom, that seems to be part of the inspiration of this new product, not least for photographers, retouchers and graphic artists, but the standard user too. Office workers that prefer to physically write direct to screen, kids that can interact with the power of touch – the range extends to a whole variety. A ‘Bamboo Dock’ and variety of downloadable ‘minis’ also allows for a variety of custom-built applications that are free to download. A prime example is Drawtweet, a ‘widget’ that allows direct drawing into a panel to then share through the Twitter site. That’s one example of many others and, looking to the future, many others will also be available for free. The sky’s the limit.

The Bamboo Fun tablet is available in a small 14.7×9.2cm tablet or a medium sized 21.7×13.7cm version. The full area is touch sensitive, with 1024 pen pressure levels (actually as good as that of the highly regarded Wacom intuos3) and has a ‘paper-like’ surface with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Be you left or right handed, a simple turn of the tablet will align it for your best personal use, with the quick-access ExpressKeys easily accessible. The concept itself is simple, yet relatively effective compared to many touch-based technologies. In Photoshop for example, a quick removal of the pen from the ‘page’ and an inward pinch will zoom you in immediately for more intricate work. It takes some getting used to, especially if your process is already fixed as a keyboard and tablet combination effort (it can be hard to force yourself away from those quick-keys, but once you do it all makes more sense). Using the tablet as a touch-panel alone also has some application, though those with Mac trackpads, for example, wont find this a necessary addition given.

It’s all been made more portable too, with the traditional ‘ink well’ pen holder now gone, there’s a simple material holder tagged to the side of the Bamboo itself. It may not look quite as pro, but it makes it easier to pick up and move from place to place. And, for the £90 that’s being asked for a small version, it’s actually really good value. Given the multi-touch facility, the Bamboo Fun is essentially one of the best start-ups for photographers looking to get into accurate brushing in their retouching work. Very good indeed.

Likes: Touch-gesture, value, broad market appeal

Dislikes: Lack of ‘ink well’ pen holder

Price: £90 (for small), £170 (for medium)

What Digital Camera Score: 88%