ColorVision Monitor Spyder review
Phil Askey, April 2001

Probably the single biggest cause of ill-adjusted digital photographs are uncalibrated / badly set up monitors. If your monitor isn't set up to any particular standard and if your operating system / photo package doesn't have the correct profile for your monitor you end up in a situation where you correct images to look good on your screen which may well look terrible to everyone else.

For professionals the need to have a calibrated display has been around for a long time, yet the cost of calibration hardware has left the ability to properly set up and calibrate your monitor display to those who can afford it. Well, not for much longer...

ColorVision a new company have entered the market with their new low-cost Monitor Spyder, this calibration device simply connects to your PC (or Mac) via USB then attaches to your monitor screen and in conjunction with either PhotoCal (low end set up / calibration) or OptiCal (processional set up and calibration) software it allows you to first of all properly configure your display and secondly create an accurate ICC profile so that your colour aware applications (and operating systems) can provide you with accurate, consistent colour reproduction on your monitor.

Both PhotoCal and OptiCal generate ICC profiles, these are loaded by a special program at boot up and work by simply reprogramming the video look-up table on your graphics card, the pre-calibration process is required to ensure your monitor is set to its optimum settings to give you the maximum dynamic (light to dark) and gamut (colour) range. On a Windows machine you must ensure you have disabled Adobe Gamma (if installed) and that you clear any ICC profile selected in the "Color Management" tab under display settings.

NOTE: The Monitor Spyder and PhotoCal/OptiCal are designed for the calibration of CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) monitors, they will not work on LCD panels or notebook LCD screens (although we hear that Color Vision are working on a Monitor Spyder for LCD displays which should be launched later this year). PhotoCal and OptiCal are available for Windows 98/2000/Me or Mac OS 8.6+, in this review we'll be testing the Windows version on Windows 2000.

Monitor Spyder Specifications

Measuring Functions CIE-XYZ
Receiver Eight silicon photodetectors; Seven filtered sensors; Single neutral luminance sensor
System Response Closely matches CIE 1931; Standard Observer curves (xl, x2l, yl, zl)
Spectral Range 400 - 700 nm
Dynamic Range 0.1 - 200 cd/m2
Measuring Aperture 12 mm
Measuring Angle Vertical: 10°, Horizontal: 20°
Refresh Rat 40 - 150 Hz
Accuracy (Y > 10 cd/m2) Luminance +/- 4% - Chroma: +/- 0.004 x,y (D65)
Inter-Instrument Consistancy Luminance +/- 1% Y; Chroma: > 0.002 x,y
Linearity (Y) +/- 2% over entire range
Communications USB (Universal Serial Bus)
Dimensions 79 mm (diameter) x 37 mm (height)
Weight 134 g

ColorVision bundle the Monitor Spyder with two different software packages (for different markets and prices):

  ColorVision Monitor Spyder
with PhotoCal
ColorVision Monitor Spyder
with OptiCal
Price US$ 224 US$ 399
Target Prosumers / quick setup / non-critical applications Professional digital artists / photographers / designers
Monitor setup Pre-calibration included in main application
Pre-calibration separate program
Precise calibration a part of OptiCal
Precision mode No Yes, interactive contrast / brightness set up
Colour temperatures 5000K, 6500K D50, D55, D60, D65, D75
4000K, 5000K, 5500K, 6500, 7500, 9300K, Custom
Gamma 1.8, 2.2 1.0, 1.2, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.5, Custom
Manual n/a Curve manipulation
Recalibration n/a Reminder programmable 1 day - 6 months
Validation No Yes

Physical design

During the pre-calibration monitor set up (tuning brightness / contrast / colour balance) and calibration the Spyder itself is attached to the monitor by the three small suckers on its "legs", the sensors in the center of the Spyder sit inside a rubber cup which ensures that as little outside light as possible leaks into the sensor.

NOTES: It was our experience that you must turn off any nearby spot lights / desk lamps and only have normal room lighting turned on, any light which directly strikes the screen from a relatively close distance can affect the calibration process. You should also ensure that you screen is clean. It's also worth noting that if you have a screen with a special anti-reflective coating (such as on our Sony G500) the rubber cup itself will leave a mark on the screen which will require cleaning fluid to remove.

Installation (Windows)

This stage of the process is the same for both PhotoCal and OptiCal. As the Monitor Spyder is a USB device installation was a a breeze, simply connect it to a spare USB port and load the drivers from the supplied CD-ROM. That's it. From now onwards the actual process of set up and calibration differs slightly depending on whether you have purchased the PhotoCal or OptiCal bundle, we'll examine each on the next two pages of the review.