June 20, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Loupedeck CT – Review 2020

7 min read

The Loupedeck CT ($549) is an intriguing, albeit pricey, add-on for photographers, videographers, musicians, and others who work in creative applications. It mixes physical dials and keys with programmable touch functions, delivering a powerful, extensible control experience. It’s a better fit for workstations than for mobile editors, but it can certainly improve your workflow. The asking price is steep, but the Loupedeck CT offers functionality that competing products don’t quite match, which might make it worth the price or entry for you.

Smart Design

The Loupedeck CT is the second major hardware design from the company. Its a desktop console, not one for mobile editing, with a footprint that’s a bit bigger than Apple’s second-generation Magic Trackpad, and a lot smaller than the original LoupeDeck keyboard.

Loupedeck CT

The CT measures 1.2 by 5.9 by 6.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 12.9 ounces. It ships with a braided USB-C to USB-C cable to plug it into your Mac or PC. The hardware includes Bluetooth, but it’s not activated with the current firmware—wireless operation isn’t possible, though, as the hardware doesn’t include a battery.

The CT—short for Creative Tool—is a mix of buttons, dials, and touch-sensitive displays. It includes six programmable dials, along with a bank of twelve programmable touch buttons—basically a touch-sensitive display with a physical frame, so you’re less likely to tap the wrong icon.

A row of eight buttons sits below, roughly at the midpoint of the device. A jog wheel is below them, centered, and topped with its own touch display. Two additional groups of keys sit to its left and right.

It’s able to coexist with your other input device in a much more elegant manner than the Loupedeck keyboard. I toyed around with its position on my desk, but found that placing it to the right of my trackpad worked best, as I’m right-handed. I can see mouse users placing it in between the mouse and keyboard, and I’m clueless as to what works best for lefties, but you’ve got some freedom to play with its position on your desk.

Desk is the operative word. If you’re a mobile editor, or like to cut video and edit photos when curled up on the couch with a laptop or iPad Pro, you’re not going to find something like the Loupedeck, or any of its competitors like the TourBox or Monogram system, to be of much use.

Supported Applications

I connected the CT to an iMac with macOS Catalina and used it primarily with Adobe Lightroom Classic, the creative app that I use the most.

Profiles are preloaded for other apps too, including Ableton Live, Apple Final Cut Pro, Phase One Capture One Pro, and a number of Adobe apps (Audition, Illustrator, Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro).

You’re also able to create your own custom profile for an app, or extend functionality by downloading additional presets. The current selection includes other popular creative software, such as Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, Apple Logic X Pro, Photo Mechanic, and others.

These custom profiles, as well as any that you want to create on your own, are a little limited in comparison with Loupedeck’s offerings. The creative app has to support keyboard shortcuts for functions in the first place, so your dreams of quickly swapping between different film looks in the Nik Collection by DxO are quashed.

Customization, With Some Effort

Apps with built-in support are another matter entirely. I was able to assign direct button functions to many Lightroom features that don’t offer keyboard shortcuts. Putting my favorite RNI All Films presets into a pair of touch pages (one for color and one for black-and-white) made it possible to swap between looks more easily than fumbling through the long lists of options shown in Adobe’s interface.

Loupedeck CT

The Loupedeck CT software is powerful and extensible. You can create pages and pages of touch menus, grouping the tools you use into sensible clusters. The individual dial functions can be remapped as well—for Lightroom I set them to change exposure settings, but you can easily map one to set saturation, vibrance, clarity, or other sundry controls if you use them frequently.

The hands-on approach is especially nice for photo editing. Lightroom supports individual adjustments for toning photos, but changing contrast also affects black levels and shadow detail, just as one example. Individual control dials make it easier to see how different adjustments work in conjunction with each other.

The dials also feel quite good. Detents provide some haptic feedback, and a press action zeroes out the adjustment. The physical buttons feel good too. Loupedeck’s first-generation keyboard had rather cheap-feeling keys, so it’s good to see better fit and finish here.

The large jog wheel is also solid. It turns smoothly, without any sort of rotation or drag, a plus for video editors who need to scrub through footage to find the right clip for an edit. For photo editing, I found the most useful function was for fine rotation—it’s a lot easier to make very small adjustments to your canvas with the wheel versus a mouse or trackpad.

My big complaint with the customization process, and Loupedeck’s software in general, is that it’s not very intuitive to use, and what you can or cannot do is not always apparent. Functions vary based on what workspace you’re using in your creative app—for Lightroom you’ll see different tools for the Library and Develop panels, for example. It can be hard to suss out what shows up where.

Loupedeck Software

I ran into this issue when trying to change the way the main jog wheel works along with image rotation. Tapping the R button on my keyboard, or using the Crop & Rotate icon on the Loupedeck’s display, switches the dial appropriately, but defaults to adjusting the crop size, rather than the rotation, out of the box. It’s quick to switch—you just need to tap the top half of the dial to switch to rotation—but I wanted to make it the default behavior.

I struggled finding the function in the configuration app on my own. Loupedeck’s support team offered up a solution and I got it working, but it exemplifies some of the shortcomings in the software. It’s easy enough to configure if you can find what you’re looking for, but if you want to change the way something very specific works, you may struggle to find it.

Loupedeck CT

Along with the learning curve, it makes the Loupedeck CT a little less than user-friendly when it comes to customization. You get a visual representation of the device, which helps, but it’s not always apparent what controls will show up in what software modes, and what menus nest into each other.

There are some bugs and quirks too. The app isn’t great about letting you know if there’s an error—if you see a message at the bottom in red saying that it’s waiting to communicate with the CT, reboot. It’ll save some time and frustration.

A Better Loupedeck

The Loupedeck CT is a big step forward in design for the company. Its first-generation Loupedeck keyboard, and the modestly upgraded Loupedeck+ that followed, are a bit too large to be practical for many workstations.

A smaller footprint, the addition of touch controls, and quality buttons and dials come at a cost, though. At $549, the CT isn’t something you’re likely to pick up on a whim. If you love the idea of the console, and work in one of its natively supported apps, it can be something that speeds up your workflow and makes the time you spend staring at Adobe Creative Cloud apps a little more pleasant.

Loupedeck CT

You will have to deal with software that isn’t exactly easy to use, but that’s not a deal breaker. I’d like to see it be a little bit simpler, especially in terms of locating functions you’d like to tweak, but it’s by no means unusable, and for many the default settings will be absolutely fine.

are a few different devices like the Loupedeck CT out there. None quite match its functionality, which mixes touch, dial, and traditional key controls into one device. You pay for it—the CT is more than twice the price of the Loupedeck+ ($249) and TourBox ($169)—but you may find its feature set worthwhile.

There’s still room for improvement. The hardware includes Bluetooth, even though it’s not yet utilized, and there’s certainly room to make the software a easier to navigate. In the meantime, I’m just happy to have hot key access to my favorite Lightroom presets and dial-based adjustments to tone photos to taste.

Loupedeck CT Specs

Number of Keys 20
Interface USB-C
Key Backlighting Single-Color
Media Controls Dedicated
Onboard Profile Storage Yes
Passthrough Ports None
Palm Rest None

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