March 01, 2012 — There was a time when labs would take care of color management—from processing to print—for all but the most dedicated fine art photographers. However, now that our computers have turned into our own private labs and digital darkrooms, we have to pay more attention to color management and accuracy.
Luckily, the equipment that we use to calibrate our displays has improved, becoming faster, more reliable and more accurate, and with better lens and filter technology even in entry-level consumer devices. There are primarily two types of devices on the market with the ability to calibrate and profile our displays and projectors: a color spectrophotometer and a colorimeter. The color spectrophotometer will also do paper profiling and measure object colors, whereas the colorimeter is limited only to display and projector calibration. The focus here will be on two new colorimeters recently released by X-Rite—the ColorMunki Display and the i1Display Pro.
The New Hardware
ColorMunki display follows in the footsteps of the successful professional level color spectrophotometer called the ColorMunki Photo. The ColorMunki Display is designed for both serious enthusiasts and professional photographers who want an automated color workflow solution. The i1Display Pro, on the other hand, is X-Rite’s new entry-level professional color workflow solution designed for season professional photographers, editors and pre-press publishers who demand the best color accuracy and full control over their color workflow solutions.
These new devices are enclosed in new body design that’s compact, durable and easy to use. Even better is a new lens and filter design, future-proofing the device against any emerging display and projector technologies, via software updates from the manufacturer.
Both products have a convenient built-in, pivoting lens cover that serves three purposes: to protect the lens when it’s not in use; serve as a diffusion lens cover for ambient light measurement in the closed position; and work as a stand for projector profiling.
The USB cord along with the adjustable counter weight is built into the device, as well as a tripod mount for projector profiling in larger rooms. X-Rite has produced a perfect all-in-one solution for both studio operation and photographers on the road.
New and Improved Software
Along with the new enclosure, lens and filter, X-Rite has also introduce new software features in these devices. Auto Display Correction (ADC) allows the ColorMunki software to communicate directly with the computer display to adjust the brightness or luminance to the optimum setting, or value defined by users. Ambient Light Smart Control lets the device constantly measure the ambient light and automatically optimize the profile for best color and contrast reproduction, or notify the user of the change in ambient light. With Flair Correct, the device measures the amount of light falling and reflecting on the display and adjusts the profile based on the lighting and screen type. Finally, Iterative Profiling allows for even greater accuracy in generating profiles by reading the expanded set of color patches and generating an extra set optimized for the display or projector that it is profiling.
ColorMunki Display and i1Display Pro
The software for both devices is easy to use and designed to guide users through profile creation with simple steps. ColorMunki Display’s software is priced lower and geared toward an automated color workflow. However, the feature set offered is robust and should not be dismissed over the professional counterpart, i1Display Pro. The software has two-calibration modes: Easy and Advanced. In Easy mode, the software measures the ambient light and decides the proper luminance level and white point for your display. Advanced mode provides you with an option to set the white point and white luminance to either a fixed value or have the device measure the ambient lighting and determine the proper luminance. At this point, the software will also prompt you to enable and select the Ambient Light Smart Control and Flair Correct features. Once these are set, simply follow the steps to calibrate the display.
The i1Display Pro uses the same i1Profile software to drive all of the advanced and high-end i1 spectrophotometer devices. The software does everything that the ColorMunki Display can do, plus gives users additional control over every aspect of profiling from display backlit type, luminance level down to the number of patches used in profiling.
The software allows users to load their own images to generate custom color patch for profiling as well. In addition, Pantone color swatches from the included Pantone Library can be loaded for profiling. When all of the settings are chosen, you can save a custom color profiling workflow for later use—helpful when you are in a studio environment with multiple displays and workstations to profile.
Going Beyond ColorMunki
The i1Profiler, along with the i1Display Pro, will go beyond the ColorMunki Display and measure your display uniformity by measuring nine different locations on the screen, ensuring luminance and color consistency—a useful add-on for extreme color critical work.
One of i1Profiler’s best features is the Display QA (Quality Assurance). This is where the software reevaluates the display and display profile for color consistency, based on various industrial standard color sets, and generates a report with discrepancy values that may be used to plot a graph for trending overtime. Display QA reports the results with a value called Delta E, which is a comparative value for color deviation used in determining color accuracy. Generally, a lower Delta E value is associated with better color accuracy and in turn better display or projector quality. This type of software is generally only built into higher-end professional devices that carry a much higher pricetag.
Though advanced, the software still has two modes of operation: Basic and Advanced. Where the Basic mode still gives you control, the interface prompts are simplified and act in a similar fashion to the ColorMunki Display.
The advantage of the i1Display Pro besides the software is its speed; on average, this device is about five times faster than the ColorMunki Display. It’s therefore ready to take on large sets of color patches to create profiles for display or projector with greater accuracy.
From end users that are just getting stated with display profiling, to photographers who are beginning to create their color workflow to advanced photographers, printing and publishing; these will not disappoint. The ColorMunki Display carries a manufacture retail price of $189 and the i1Display Pro at $269.
Art Suwansang is an award-winning international wedding photographer, educator and lecturer based in Southern California. He lectures for multiple photographic organizations, consults for multiple photographers and companies internationally, and offers digital photography tutorials through his new Web site, Rule of 3Rds (www.Ro3Rds.com). Additionally, he is an adjunct professor with a specialization in emerging digital imaging technologies at Santa Monica College and University of La Verne. Visit his Web Site at www.wedding64.com.