For many years, my favorite Lightroom gadgets have been the Contour Shuttle Pro v2 and Wacom Intuos Tablets. Can anything knock them off the top spot? We shall see!
The Shuttle Pro has 2 dials and 15 buttons, and you can program them to suit your needs, using any of Lightroom’s native shortcuts. You’ll find my favorite settings for the Develop module here. The trick is to float the cursor over the slider you want to adjust (using a mouse, trackpad or graphics tablet) and then turn the dial on the Shuttle, which gives you access to every slider in the Develop module. This is much more accurate than trying to move the slider itself, which improves efficiency.
Unlike some of the other gadgets I’ve tested, you can’t access Develop or Local Adjustment Presets using the Shuttle, however since you already have the pen (or mouse) in your other hand, it’s not a problem to simply click in the Presets panel.
Some recent Wacom tablets have 6 buttons and 1 dial, which could be used in a similar way, although I generally just use the pen/touchpad.
Unlike some of the other gadgets we’ll review, the Shuttle and Wacom tablet are very flexible. You program them to work your way. You’re not limited to a specific screen layout (although you need to be able to see the sliders, of course), and all of the keyboard shortcuts work as normal.
The Contour Shuttle Pro can be used with practically any software on your computer, for example, the dial may scroll in your web browser, change the brush size in Photoshop and change the font size in Microsoft Word, and the buttons can be assigned to different shortcuts in each program. Likewise, the Wacom tablet can completely replace your mouse or trackpad in every application.
The learning curve with the Shuttle is minimal, because there are only 15 buttons to remember (and I only usually use the top 9, plus the left and right buttons). The dials couldn’t be easier, because you turn one way to increase the selected slider value and the other way to decrease.
A graphics pen takes a little longer to learn to use. I recommend putting your mouse or trackpad in a drawer, at least for a few weeks while you’re getting used to it, as it’s easy to drift back to familiar tools. Some people only use the pen for drawing with Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush or in Photoshop, but I use it for everything, replacing a mouse.
Size & Ergonomics
The Contour Shuttle Pro has a footprint of only 8″ x 4.4″ (20cm x 11cm) so it doesn’t take up much space on your desk. It’s also shallow and tapers to the desk, so it’s very comfortable to use for hours at a time.
Using a pen or pencil is a very natural movement, learned at an early age, so a Wacom pen is also very comfortable to hold for long periods. Some say this can help to reduce RSI issues, often associated with using mice and trackballs, and this has certainly been true for me.
The size of your graphics tablet depends on your needs. I’d recommend upgrading to a medium size if you run dual monitors, but the small size works fine with single monitors.
OS & Lightroom Compatibility
Because these gadgets use Lightroom’s own shortcuts, they work with every Lightroom version and don’t need updating when you install a new Lightroom release.
They do require drivers, but both Contour and Wacom are quick to release drivers for new operating systems, so I’ve never run into compatibility problems.
Instructions & Support
Installation of the Shuttle and Wacom drivers is very straightforward. There are written manuals for the Shuttle and videos for the Wacom tablet, which explain how to program the available controls. The Shuttle does come with some Lightroom settings built in, but in my experience, they’re not as useful, so try programming my controls instead.
Cost & Trial Versions
As they’re hardware gadgets, trial versions are not available, although online stores such as Amazon may allow returns.
* Prices correct at the time of writing.