While most of society hates FB and Google for “learning” about you and advertising to you, I don’t mind it. Sometimes it leads me to something I would have never known about. This is one of those cases; I saw an ad for Palette. It peaked my interest, so I clicked through…turns out, it is a set of physical controls (sliders, knobs or buttons) that you plug into your computer via USB. You can assign a function to each unit instead of using the mouse for certain adjustment operations (think saturation, exposure, white balance, etc. adjustments). I had to try these out for myself, so I contacted Palette and they sent me a review set to spend some time with.
*Full disclosure: I was sent a review unit at no cost to me to play around with and see what I thought. Also, my opinions in regards to this product are solely mine and not a general consensus of SLR Lounge or any of its team members.*
I shoot in raw and have ALL settings turned off in the camera because I want full control over the post process and of the image, not the camera. So I am very much of the school of adjusting things in post. Most often that is WB, exposure, and individual colors. This can prove to be a bit clunky, always going to each one and adjusting the slider with the mouse, which is never as accurate as I would like it to be. With the Palette, the control is very precise and you can assign each one a certain color or adjustment. There is no more hunting and finding each setting to adjust and having to move the mouse with the slider; it is just using the slider/dial for each adjustment and it is done. The controls themselves are very easy and smooth and allowed me to be ambidextrous and use both hands for even more speed.
When I first got my review set, I posted up a photo and a few folks expressed concern about a possible delay in response and that negating the benefits of this sort of system. I saw no delay; it was quick and responsive and as soon as I moved the button or slider, it immediately began controlling whatever adjustment I was working on.
I was informed that they do work best with Adobe CC, but will work with newer versions of Adobe products. Since I solely use CC, I didn’t have an “offline” version to test out the Palette on.
I gave it a five start rating because it does exactly what is promised and does it very, very well. It is fast and has virtually no lag in the setting it is adjusting.
The features of Palette are fairly straightforward and there is not a lot to them. They are simple in what they are designed to do. However, having 3 different control options ups the feature star count, as it allows folks a very customizable set up.
The software itself has a lot of things it can control (particularly in Lightroom). I almost docked it a star as I think the Photoshop control adjustments are lacking some, but it is still fairly extensive, and it may be a limitation of Photoshop and not the program of Palette.
It does work with both MAC and PC, so it has the board pretty well covered there.
A feature, if you will, that would be great to see is a “pick your own kit,” where you could customize what you needed because there were a few buttons I found no major use for and could’ve done without. I’d also add more knobs than sliders.
I know there are some other systems on the market that look more like a DJ board for mixing and controlling sound (there are even some that are exactly that and people have converted them to work with their photo programs). However, this is where I think this Palette system shines above all the others. You can arrange them into almost any shape/configuration to suit your needs. Whether you have limited space on your desk, small/large hands or maybe just very particular how you like things to be, these will accommodate you, not the other way around.
Setting up the Palette for the adjustments you want them to control is stupidly easy and crazy intuitive. I expected some sort of convoluted hooking up, trial and error through a text-only selecting system. That was not the case at all. Once you install the software and connect them to the computer, you get a window that pops up with an image of each one and the configuration you have set up. You then click on one and assign it the function you want it to control. The icing on the cake is that each of these units comes with a strip that illuminates with a color of your choosing (8 different color options), so you can have a very quick visual reference of what it will be controlling (after a while, this became a moot point as I knew from touch memory which one controlled what).
Something I would love to see improved on the design is for the LEDs to have any custom color assigned. My goal would be have close to a dozen units; with the limited colors now, you would have to double up on some colors. Although, at some point, you do get touch memory down and the colors will become irrelevant.
Each unit is very well designed and refined. They are pretty much dripping in brushed aluminum. They have a thin line of frosted material around the parameter of each, which is what displays the color you have chosen for it. The knobs feel great to the touch and give no impression of breaking or failing. You also get one unit that has a small LCD screen which shows you what program you are using them with (this is also the brain of the units).
They also hold together with some fairly strong magnets. These magnets are the right amount of strength. They hold together and take a little elbow grease to pull them apart but not enough to where you risk damaging them and when snapping together, they will not be ripped from your fingers.
A 5-star rating was an easy call here; these bad boys are very, very well put together and designed.
While the starter kits are not super expensive, they are well short of what I would need for my particular post work. I would need at least 12, and that would get expensive very quickly. I could make do with less, I suppose, however, if I am going to do this, I would not want to compromise on the set-up. For that reason alone, I can not give it 5-stars because, at the end of the day, this is more of a convenience than a revolutionary time-saver, and can become costly fairly quickly.
If you a photographer who is shooting tons of events on a weekly basis, then these have a 5-star value. However, I believe that for many photographers, the convenience will not outweigh the cost.
Possibly getting rid of the unit with the LED screen might save on initial cost (mostly because you know what program you are working in and do not need to be reminded of it). My assumption is that the screen is the “brain” so you may need one, but ditching the screen could save on cost.
Again, if you are photographer who is shooting a ton and spending tons of time in post, editing even the slightest corrections on hundreds to thousands of photos on a regular basis, then YES to this system would be great for you. If you are not editing a ton of images and don’t have a lot of extra income to spend, I would wait on this purchase.
So, bottom line, would I buy them? Honestly, I flip-flopped on this. When I originally started writing this article and I wasn’t going to purchase them. However, after spending a bit more time with them, I decided that I am not only going to buy them, but I will buck up and spend a bit more and get the set up I really want.
You can head over to PaletteGear.com and check out further information. You can order directly from them, or you can head over to B&H Photo and get them there as well. You can get a starter kit for 199.00, the expert kit for 299.00 and the professional kit for 499.00. Each addtional module ranges from $29.00-$49.00.