Buyer's Guide: 10 Essential Color Management Devices
|The X-Rite Colormunki Display's design incorporates a diffuser panel (top) used for ambient light readings|
One of the more recent additions to the X-Rite stable of color management products, the ColorMunki Display is a screen calibration device aimed at beginner and intermediate users. Intended as a 'no stress' solution it can be used to calibrate a range of displays, from projectors to wide-gamut LCDs, and is provided with both easy and advanced software wizards to suit the user’s technical capabilities and desired level of control.
The colorimeter itself has a counterweight on its cable, and is fitted with a diffusing panel for the measurement of ambient light readings, while towards the end of the calibration procedure it can also be held against the display to measure flare. Once the luminance of the display has been correctly adjusted the calibration process takes little over five minutes, and post-calibration before-and-after examples illustrate the degree to which changes have been made.
The Colormunki is a user-friendly, inexpensive screen calibration device. For more advanced users, or those hankering after a higher level of control, the more expensive X-Rite i1Display Pro is designed on the same lines as the Colormunki Display but offers a raft of additional functionality, including an integrated tripod mount and infinite control of white point, luminance, contrast ratio and gamma.
|The Spyder3Print SR creates and reads a range of different patches for basic or advanced printer
Monitor profiling is relatively easy, but for ultimate control over color there is an extra step. Many photographers probably don't think to take their printer's color reproduction into account, but depending on the type of media that you're using, printer calibration can make a real difference.
If you stick with recommended ink and paper from your printer manufacturer, or you use paper from a well-supported third-party brand which provides profiles, you probably don't need to bother with printer calibration. Where devices like the Spyder3Print SR come in really handy is if you chose to use third-party inks and/or more obscure, less well-supported media, where pre-created profiles are not available, and the generic profiles included with your printer are unlikely to yield accurate results.
The Spyder3Print SR is one of the most popular standalone print profiling devices on the market. It combines a spectrocolorimeter with a platform (pictured) together with software that allows you to print a range of color targets. Once printed on your media of choice, you simply run the spectrocolorimeter along the patches and measure each one to assess your printer's color reproduction. This information is used to create a profile for your specific machine and media, and profiles can be tweaked using the supplied software.
The Spyder3Studio SR package combines the same spectrocolorimeter as the Spyder3Print SR but includes a separate colorimeter for display calibration, at a slightly smaller outlay than the combined price of the two.
- Street price: $69.01 (US) / £52.08 (UK) / €69.70 (EU)
- www.colourconfidence.com (follow link for price/purchase options)
|The Grafilite is ideal for prints up to A4 (8.3 x 11.7 in) in size, although a larger
'Twin Pack' version is also available if you like to make larger prints.
You can have the best monitor and printer profiles possible, but that doesn't change the fact that the appearance of a photographic print is always going to be subject to the conditions under which it is viewed. Colors that appear different under one type of lighting can appear similar same under another (an effect known as metamerism), while neutral areas can easily take on a color bias from the lights under which they are viewed.
The Grafilite, by British color calibration specialists Colour Confidence isn't a color calibration tool as such, but it is a very useful tool in ensuring that your prints look right. The Grafilite kit comprises a folding lamp with an energy-efficient 230V daylight simulation bulb rated for up to 10,000 hours, together with a gray mat designed to be used as a neutral background (the latter being particularly important give that the appearance of colors is affected by what's around them).
The kit as a whole is fairly compact and the lamp can be folded into itself when not in use, while the mat itself measures just 8.3 x 11.7 inches in size. Should you be regularly making prints larger than this, the more expensive Grafilite 'Twin Pack' includes two bulbs, in two separate stands, and a double-sized (11.7 x 16.5 inches) gray mat.
Although Colour Confidence ships internationally, those in the US keen to avoid high shipping charges may wish to consider the Ottlite Folding Desk Lamp instead. Although it doesn't come with a gray mat like the Grafilite, you can supplement it with an inexpensive grey card to act as a neutral background.