Who Needs Hotkeys Anyway? The Loupedeck Creative Tool Reviewed

The Loupedeck Creative Tool allows for custom workflows for all of your photo editing and content creation needs.

The Loupedeck Creative Tool promises to make editing easier and more intuitive. This builds upon the foundation first introduced with the Loupedeck and Loupedeck+. Given our lukewarm reception of previous offerings, we were skeptical when the folks at Loupedeck sent their new Creative Tool for review. While you were able to streamline your post-processing workflow using the Loupedeck and Loupedeck+, support for applications outside of Lightroom Classic never lived up to expectations. Instead of a plasticky keyboard-like input device, the folks at Loupedeck have designed a brand new device from the ground up. The Loupedeck CT features two customizable touchscreens with haptic feedback, a wealth of customizable buttons, and plenty of anodized aluminum touchpoints. Judging from looks alone, the Loupedeck CT already appears to be a huge leap forward. They’ve nailed the form part for sure, but the true test lies in the CT’s function. Has the Loupedeck finally nailed it with the Creative Tool?

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Premium build quality, significantly better than original Loupedeck & Loupedeck+
  • Plug and Play (once you install the Loupedeck software)
  • Tons of customization
  • Works with lots of different applications, including much improved Capture One support

Cons

  • Lacks basic tilt adjustments
  • Included USB Type-A to Type-C cable is quite short
  • No USB Type-C to Type-C cable or Type-A to Type-C adapter included
  • At press time, wireless connectivity is not yet supported (Bluetooth support will supposedly be patched in via software update)
  • Quite pricey (MSRP: US $549)

Gear Used

We tested the Loupedeck Creative Tool with:

  • Custom-built editing PC (running Windows 10 Pro – Version 1909, November 2019 Update)
  • Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (running Windows 10 Pro – Version 1909, November 2019 Update)
  • Adobe Photoshop 2020
  • Capture One 20.0.4 Pro.

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the Loupedeck Creative Tool taken from the Amazon product page:

  • READY RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX
    • By default, Loupedeck CT comes with a set of predefined tools and functions known as workspaces, so you can learn the ins and outs of Loupedeck CT and begin editing faster.
  • POWERFUL CUSTOMIZATION SOFTWARE
    • Utilize the full potential of your favorite programs by creating your own custom profile, assigning tools and functions to almost any button, touchscreen, wheel or dial on the Loupedeck CT, according to your liking. Our software even unlocks special features like macros and full-screen editing.
  • MADE FOR PROS
    • The Loupedeck Creative Tool is a premium grade tool that meets the demands of professionals who work within an array of creative environments and software.
  • PREMIUM BUILD
    • With its high-quality aluminum cover and dials, touchscreens, LED backlighting, machine-quality ball bearings and more, Loupedeck CT is a versatile and beautiful addition to your workstation.
  • COMPATIBLE SOFTWARE
    • Adobe Lightroom Classic, Photoshop CC with Camera Raw, Premiere Pro CC, After Effects, Illustrator, Audition, Final Cut Pro X and Ableton Live 10.

Ergonomics

The Loupedeck Creative Tool combines elements from the original Loupedeck or Loupedeck+, a DJ controller pad, and an Elgato stream deck. The resulting hybrid is a slightly larger editing console than Apple’s latest Magic Trackpad. Obviously, the Loupedeck CT sports more customizability and functionality. A braided USB Type-A to Type-C cable and a printed quick-start guide comes included in the box.

The Creative Tool is divided into what Loupedeck calls Workspace Elements and General Elements. Workspace Elements consist of the six dials and touch screen which occupy the top of the CT along with the large wheel at the bottom. General Elements include eight round buttons and 12 square buttons that surround the wheel. Just about every element on the Loupedeck CT can be customized with the exception of a few of the square General Elements buttons.

Build Quality

Loupedeck has come a long way since they first launched their original editing tool. The six dials, the scroll ring around the wheel, and the face of the Creative Tool itself are made from black anodized aluminum. The touchscreens located on the upper half of the CT and the one integrated into the wheel both feature haptic feedback. The round and square General Elements buttons click with confidence. Everything about the Loupedeck CT feels premium. One can tell Loupedeck listened to user feedback and addressed a lot of the complaints about the original Loupedeck and the revised Loupedeck+.

Some minor niggles hold the Loupedeck CT back from being truly perfect. The included USB Type-A to Type-C cable is roughly three feet long. While this should be adequate for most laptop users, it may be too short for many working on desktop editing rigs. We’d also like to see a Type-C to Type-C cable included since more and more laptops only feature them nowadays. Like the original Loupedeck and the revised Loupedeck+, tilt adjustments are nowhere to be found on the Loupedeck Creative Tool. What gives? This is a huge knock against the Loupedeck CT in terms of ergonomics. Finally, we’d love for Loupedeck to increase the resistance when turning the wheel. The wheel on the current version of the Loupedeck CT turns a little too easily. We’ve often had to backtrack when using the wheel to make adjustments because of how sensitive it is.

Ease of Use

Setting up the Loupedeck CT is a breeze. Simply install the Loupedeck software (downloadable from their website), plug the Creative Tool into your computer, and you’re good to go. The Creative Tool will detect the program you’re using and automatically augment its layout accordingly. When you fire up Capture One, the touch screen elements will switch over to Capture One-specific functions. Switch over to Adobe Photoshop, and the Creative Tool will change to a Photoshop-specific layout. It just works. The default profiles for each of the supported applications work very well out of the box. To get the most out of the Creative Tool, however, you should spend some time customizing the various buttons and dials with the Loupedeck software. It’s a process of trial and error, but well worth the time investment. Using the Loupedeck Creative Tool becomes second nature once you’ve got it tailored to your specific workflow for each program. The days of having to remember endless amounts of hotkey combinations for different programs are a thing of the past.

The original Loupedeck always felt like a one-trick pony that only1 played nice with Adobe Lightroom. The Loupedeck+ ushered in support for additional applications, but using it with anything other than Lightroom felt like a forced experience. The Loupedeck Creative Tool offers significantly more versatility by comparison. The CT’s greatest strength lies in its ability to be customized. The Creative Tool supports a huge variety of applications out of the box, With the Loupedeck software, you can customize the CT’s interface to perfectly suit your workflow within each application. At press time, the Loupedeck Creative Tool supports Adobe Lightroom Classic, Adobe Photoshop, and Capture One running version 3.2 of the Loupedeck software. Additional content creation programs like Ableton Live, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Audition, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Premiere Pro, as well as Streamlabs OBS are supported as well.

Bluetooth support for the Loupedeck Creative Tool has been promised for some time now. However, we haven’t been able to put this to the test yet: the latest version 3.2 of the Loupedeck software still lacks the long-promised update. Since the CT lacks a built-in battery, you’d still need to plug the CT to a power source in order to use it. And if you have to keep the CT plugged in, Bluetooth support seems like a moot point.

Conclusions

The folks over at Loupedeck have really upped their game with the Loupedeck Creative Tool. The Loupedeck CT is significantly more versatile over previous offerings while vastly improving the build quality as well. All of these refinements come at a cost though. The Loupedeck Creative Tool retails for US $549. That’s more than double the MSRP of the Loupedeck+. Versatile as it may be, that price of admission may be too much for some. Price notwithstanding, the Loupedeck CT delivers across the board in terms of build quality and ease of use.

For the power users out there who can navigate the various photo editing and content creation applications using just keyboard shortcuts, the Loupedeck CT will most likely be a waste. If the idea of memorizing all these hotkeys seems too daunting a task though, the Loupedeck Creative Tool can definitely help with most of the heavy lifting. As long as you can afford the price of admission, the Loupedeck Creative Tool can be a gamechanger in optimizing your content creation and post-production workflows.

The Loupedeck Creative Tool receives four out of five stars. Want to add one to your editing rig? It’s available now from Amazon for US $549.00.

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.