NOTE: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS FOR THE ADVANCED USER. POSSIBLE SNORE TIME AHEAD IF YOU ARE A CASUAL SHOOTER.
We try to bring you reviews of products that everyone can use. This one may be more than you want,
but we do hope to explain why you need this product.
Our experience in digital printing had been spotty in its success rate.
Loved the traditional darkroom and it was time to do it for real in a digital darkroom.
Why was it that the color, contrast and nuances that had been tweaked on the monitor weren’t quite the same when printed?
We had the great recommended printer at that time (Epson 2000P), great archival paper, Photoshop, nice large files. And that ink and paper is darn expensive. How many times do we have to tweak and print to get a print we like? And how much time, ink, paper, money do we have to waste?
Well, this is what we found out: GIGO (garbage in, garbage out)
You may think your monitor is true color, but chances are its not. You must calibrate it with the proper tool to accurately “tune” it.
Yes, the if you want to create digital files that look the same on the paper as on you monitor, that is your first step.
Ideally, you would use a CRT, keep the monitor in a dimly lit room, and keep blinders on the monitor so extraneous light doesnâ€™t affect it.
Ideally sure. Most of us..not so much.
You probably have your monitor in a convenient place for working. Keeping your printer, scanner, and external hard drive close by. And most likely, the light is changeable through the day.
This is who we are, and, weâ€™ll guess, most of you.
So stay with us in this review of color calibration devices and we’ll try to shed a bit of light on how you can get the prints you want out of your high end digital darkroom.
The units we will look at are:
Monaco – OptixRXPro
Colorvision – Spyder2Pro.
What they do:
All of these come with the software and calibration device, which plugs into your USB port and either rests on your LCD screen or attach to your CRT with suction cups.
Once the unit, think of it as a kind of light meter for color, is attached properly to your monitor,
the software on all of them will walk you through the process.Pretty easily actually.
Basically, the testing starts, various color and light tests are shown on the screen, the calibration device reads these, and at the end of the software run test, a “profile ” is created. That “profile” is a setting that is specific to your monitor that should show accurate color. It will be saved to your folder of choice.
That is essentially the deal. Once your monitor is color correct, your prints should look better. Or at least what you are seeing on the monitor will be more true.
But there is another step in the world of digital darkrooms.
You should also do a ” profile” of your printer so there is a correlation between what you see and what prints out.
The 3 devices we will discuss have the options for advanced packages to help you do just that.
You can either print a test page from your printer, once your monitor is calibrated, then scan, and be able to read the accuracy of your system. If the scanner can read the colors accurately from the test print, and they match the monitor, you are in business.
Or…one of the systems has a special calibration device spectrophotometer, you can buy which will read the test print (or any other) for color accuracy.
Now all of the devices tested will give you whatâ€™s called “pleasing color” in the trade, when used in BASIC mode.
This is fine for most advanced hobbyists.
The advanced mode in all of the products lets you choose the gamma (contrast ratio), white point, and brightness settings you want your monitor to display, so you can adjust your monitor for flesh tones and gray-scale images. It lets you adjust the fine details in shadows and highlights to be as neutral as possible, but this requires advanced color-adjustment skills.
How they netted out:
The Spyder2Pro is the slowest of the three, but somehow it seemed like it may make it be more accurate due to longer calibration process.
And it is easy to use for advanced hobbyists.
Spyder2Pro offers great performance and value.
Monaco OptixXR Pro
The Monaco OptixXR Pro has ability to match profiles from different monitors. After you import color profiles from your other systems, you click on the Match Profiles button and resave the new profiles to their respective monitors.
Eye-One Display 2 [photopress:eyeone.JPG.jpg,full,alignright]
Easy to use; very reasonably priced; great tutorials.
The Eye-One Display 2 also has the feature with Eye-Share software included, that will a low you to match profiles on different monitors. And it has Pantone color charts that you can download to ease the sharing.
If you want to go further and get a studio quality full package, GretagMacbeth will give you a $200 trade-in allowance on its Eye-One Photo spectrophotometer, which will help you profile your scanner, printer, and projector. A bit pricey, but youâ€™ve invested this much so why not go all the way.
Now there is yet another way to get the right color print once youâ€™ve calibrated your monitor:
Some of the pro labs have a printer profile on their websites that you can download.
Once youâ€™ve worked on you photograph and have what you feel is a beautiful finished image, the printer profile has been imported into Photoshop, you can output a digital file and send it to one of these labs for printing.Chck this one out : A & I Labs in Los Angeles
A little simpler. Just takes more time. Like days.Its the back and forth from the lab.
And you want to be able to print at home at your leisure.
Most pros use separate dedicated packages for monitor and output profiling, rather than relying on one system that tries to do it all. If thats where your needs lie ,see GretagMacbeth for that total sytem.
So where does that leave us?
The honest truth is that they will all do the job. Each one has some features that are easier to manuever through than the other.
For simplest , great for the value:
Recommended: Monaco OptixXR Pro .
Coming a close second was ColorVisionâ€™s Spyder2Pro for straight calibration; it allowed us to set the most accurate, neutral color.
The Eye-One Display 2 was easy to use and produced pleasing profiles in basic mode.The advanced mode was a bit trickier to navigate, just not as easy a road to travel for the color management neophyte.
Get a color calibration system for your monitor. Period. And remember, not unlike flossing, calibrate everyday. Wait a week, and although your naked eye can’t tell, your calibration device will detect the subtle changes. Up to you depending how much you print. Or look at true color.
We like to look at , what we consider, accurate colors whenever we look at our images.
And not curse so much when we print.
Because we like to print at our leisure, we went with the Monaco EZStudio suite.
And since we do like to print at home, this week weâ€™ll review our favorite printer, hands down: Epson 2400.
There you have it. Hope it , um, sheds some light on the subject.
Feel free to contact us with questions. Or comments.