The first page of this review describes the Monitor Spyder hardware itself, on this page we'll cover the professional set up / calibration software OptiCal (bundle price $399). Included in the OptiCal bundle is the Monitor Spyder itself and a CD-ROM containing the USB driver, OptiCal software and manuals in PDF format. Installation (Windows) of OptiCal is a breeze, just select the option from the autorun menu and you're ready to start.
Unlike PhotoCal OptiCal features a separate pre-calibration (monitor set up) applications. Before calibrating and profiling your monitor it is recommended that you use PreCal to initially correct any major monitor set up problems.
After starting PreCal you first of all select your working colour temperature (4000 K - 9300K or Custom). Next you are requested to set the monitors contrast setting to its maximum and then shown the target (below) with which to adjust the brightness settings.
Next PreCal requests that you set your monitors RGB controls to the default setting closest to the selected colour temperature, you then attach the monitor spyder over the indicated position (below) and PreCal will take a series of measurements (Red, Green, Blue, gray levels).
The result of these measurements are shown in the form of three bar graphs indicating the relative output of each of the red, green and blue guns, the aim now is to adjust your monitor's RGB gain controls so that the levels fall within a maximum difference of 0.25 Duv while maintaining a Luminance value between 85 and 95 cd/m2.
Here's what my monitor setup "control panel" looks like (Sony G500):
After each adjustment simply click on the "Continue" button to take a new measurement (remember to clear the monitor's On Screen Display) until you're happy with the pre-calibration set up:
This is all PreCal does, clicking on Done at this stage simply exits the application, your monitor is now configured as close as possible to the selected colour temperature.
Additionally you can also use the four supplied test images to validate / correct focus, geometric and uniformity problems which may exist, these are available at 640 x 480, 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768 resolutions (I would like to have seen 1280 x 960 and 1600 x 1200 sized charts too).
|1-C: Focus/Linearity/Convergence||2-C: SMTPE Color Bars|
|3-C: Moire/Gray Balance||4-A: Uniformity and Purity|
Optical has two distinct tasks, calibration and profiling. OptiCal starts by default with this small dialog box, here you can select your gamma curve (1.0 - 2.5 or custom) or target (several are supplied by default and you can add more later). You also select colour temperature in this dialog (4000 - 9300 K or custom), note that if the monitor is already calibrated / profiled you can use this dialog to immediately reconfigure your display to the selected target / gamma and colour temperature.
Selecting preferences from the Edit menu and you can enable Precision and Expert Controls modes, both of which will enhance OptiCal's operation. You can also set the recalibration notification (1 day to 6 months, 2 weeks is recommended).
The calibration side of OptiCal is similar to PreCal in that it ensures your monitor is correctly configured and set up, however, in precision mode (enabled through the preferences dialog) the calibration process is far more exact than PreCal. We will use precision mode for the sample below.
Before profiling (producing an ICC profile) we calibrate, note that the setting of the black and white point (brightness and contrast) is far more precise in OptiCal, the Monitor Spyder is used to measure the exact black and white points while adjustments are made rather than relying on your judgement (reduced size images have been cropped for clarity, click for full size window shots).
First of all we attach the Monitor Spyder sensor to the screen then click on Continue, OptiCal takes various measurements of the red, green and blue phosphors and gray samples. Next we must match the monitor's brightness control (black point) to the target value, as we adjust the brightness the live readout is updated.
Next we adjust the contrast control (white point) to match the target value, at any point you can go back to the black point (brightness) test to check that the change in contrast hasn't affected the black point.
After this OptiCal will take numerous colour and gray samples to verify the monitor is set up optimally for the selected colour temperature.
Once the monitor is correctly calibrated we simply use the Profile option to create a new ICC profile, this simply requires the Monitor Spyder to be attached to the screen after which OptiCal will take numerous measurements of colour and gray values to create a new ICC profile.
Once complete we have an accurate ICC colour profile which is saved with the current date and set as the default profile (loaded by OptiCal at system startup).
OptiCal also offers several tools. The Curves window allows you to see the tone response curves created by OptiCal for the current calibration, you can even edit the profile manually by dragging the control points.
The Information dialog shows information about the current calibration.
The Colorimeter allows you to use the Monitor Spyder to take manual readings of any colour.
OptiCal is aimed at professionals, and it certainly delivers, offering far more precise calibration and profiling than we saw in PhotoCal the results are impressive. The additional flexibility and precision offered by OptiCal will no doubt be attractive to anyone who depends on colour accuracy in the professional work, standardising an entire office to OptiCal calibration would ensure everyone is working with properly calibrated monitors which give the same response.
The calibration process is definitely more involved using OptiCal, however this extra time spent calibrating your monitor does pay off. The ability to quickly switch between working gamma's or colour temperatures is also very useful.