There are many interesting gadgets on the market to make editing images faster, more precise, and fun. I typically don’t use Wacom tablets to edit my images, it’s all just the standard Mac keyboard and mouse and it seems to be enough. After seeing Palette and its kickstarter campaign, I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks. I knew there will be a time when I give it a try. It was a popular holiday gift and I am guessing many people are curious about the gadget and if it’s something that’s needed for everyday editing. Here are my thoughts.
Palette is made by a Canadian company. The team is not big, so you always know that key people are working on the product and managing all sides of business, from social media to customer emails. I spoke with a few guys on their team and it’s always been a pleasure. I think the typical complaint with software is tech support responsiveness, and these guys are on top of it. I don’t think you’ll need to email anyone since the setup is very seamless and quick.
When you get the box, it’s definitely an unusual experience because it’s such an unusual gadget. There are multiple elements in each kit, 4 different setups available for purchase. You can go with aluminum or wood and also pick the needed number of modules. There will always be a central control display module. It’s really cool actually, mine says Asilda Lightroom. Once the “parent” model is plugged in and lights up, you’re good to attach the rest. depending on the app you plan to use the Palette with, you’ll see different controls available for each software app. I personally only used Palette with Lightroom, this is 99% of all my image editing needs. As you connect each module, you can choose it’s function. It really is less than 7-10 min of original setup. Given that you know Lightroom and needed controls of course. Once all plugged in and configured, you can begin working.
Physically, the modules are not too heavy, have a nice grip for the bottom that is placed on your desk, so nothing will move out of place, and everything is quite well made. I expected a bit more of an expensive build, for the $300 kit, but I guess there would be no way to keep the costs where they are if you go with the more quality build. You’ll see aluminum and nice polished plastic. They are quality, but not too high end. I am curious to see if the $899 kit worked this in. I feel that whether it’s a button, slider, or a dial, each one could have a bit more of a mechanical feel to it, more like a vintage audio system from the 60s. But then of course, the price tag would be different. You can see the original modules in the Kickstarter campaign and the progress on quality is definitely self-evident.
So when you get the package, there are 4 types of modules. The display one is the core and needs to be plugged in all the time. Power and USB connection go through it as well. It lets the soft to identify the app and makes sure your controls are working smoothly and accurately. I didn’t have any issues with lags or incorrect value adjustments (temperature or exposure per say). You have three modules that you can really use for editing: button, dial, and slider. It’s all about personal preference and I ended up putting one slider back to the box since I didn’t need it for my most commonly used functions. You can buy any extra module as an add-on for $49. Buttons are awesome for flagging, rating, moving in the gallery, and performing since actions that are available through the menus. Dials slides are more fun for me, because I felt that I could be more precise and quite faster than usual when I edit temperature, exposure, blacks, etc. on my keyboard or with my mouse. I always felt that I need more accuracy and sensitivity and this Palette kit was my answer. Here is the way I set up my modules in Lightroom.
Palette is a very fun gadget to own. But the real question is whether it’s really needed and worth its price tag. I think for many people who occasionally shoot and edit images, it’s not worth purchasing extra gadgets. I think you need to get out and shoot more. It’s a great gift, definitely a unique one, but it’s not the solution to perfecting the images. For photographers who shoot every day and need to process 5,000-10,000 images each month, even just as keyboarding and library management thing, Palette begins to make much more sense. You’ll spend 1-2 days tweaking the setup and then begin enjoying the fruits of boosted productivity with the Palette. In my really busy months, I’d definitely want to have such a tool available. When I work on other things and don’t edit much on a weekly basis, I know that Palette will begin collecting dust. So either you want a cool toy that you might not need, or you will become more efficient on a daily basis. For everyone with a Wacom, I don’t think Palette will replace it. I see it as two independent tools. Wacoms, in my opinion, are more about 1-5 hr edits on a single shot while Palette gives you sort of quick essentials for 5-20 min edits of the shots. These are my numbers, don’t take them as a rule of thumb, but I hope this gives an idea of how these two are different.
Next, there is a question of the price tag. $200-900 price range hits most kinds of users, but for many it’s still a considerable investment for something you can do with your keyboard. For me, Palette didn’t completely replace my keyboard, it was always next to it for essential tasks. So in a way, you’re adding on another gadget and not removing any. I think if you spend a lot of time editing, it’s definitely a worthy investment. I think it’s perfect for studio shooters, wedding and event shooters, and anyone who does a lot of editing personally. I found myself using the Palette quite a bit when I had a lot of shoots going on and putting it back in the box when it was not needed. It will be a perfect purchase if you always keep the Palette in front of you and use it daily or at least several times a week. That’s how I’d make my purchase decision.
I shipped my loaner Palette back after the review and now I kind of really miss it. I just finished editing and gain through 1,200 images and I wish I had my slides and dials next to me. head over to palettegear.com to learn more about the products. And if you wonder how well they are selling, they are back on pre-orders, so everything that was in stock sold out of the last few months. B&H carries them as well.