Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I'm currently using a spyder 2 for my color calibration needs. I see a variety of other color calibration products out there on the market, and am having trouble finding a review of many of these things side-by-side.

I'm not even sure what I should take into consideration when I move up. I right now have a viewsonic 24" widescreen monitor that looks 'reasonable', whatever that means, but the prints coming out of the r800 are nowhere near what I think they should be. That printer was old and busted, and I've since decided to go with a canon pixma 9500 mk II (as per this question here: http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1901/what-printer-should-i-get-to-replace-an-epson-r800) as a replacement printer.

Also, is it worth it to get the printer profiled as well, just so that everything's all in the same color space? (Or should that be a separate question?)

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Great choice of printer, it produces some excellent quality prints. It is particularly great at landscape and nature reproduction, with its red and green inks (I can personally attest to its stellar output on Fine Art media, particularly Hahnemuhle Photo Rag...absolutely fantastic landscape output on that paper.) :-)

Given that you do have (or plant to get) the Canon PIXMA Pro9500 II, I would recommend the Spyder3 Studio SR. I recently purchased the Studio SR myself, as a complete calibration solution from start to finish. It provides screen calibration with the Spyder3 Elite, printer calibration with the Spyder3 Print, and camera color checking with their SypderCube, a White, Black, and 18% Gray cube. The SpyderCube is an ok tool, however I think a standar ColorChecker card is a better tool. I personally am looking into getting the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport for field work. The new Spyter3 Elite 4.0 software is a significant upgrade from the previous software, and it offers some extensive calibration options.

The printer calibration is a Strip Reader (SR) calibrator with a nice guiding template, and it makes it very easy to properly calibrate your printer for any paper and any ink (either brand ink or third party, if your interested in getting an external continuous ink supply system.) I have not used it extensively myself, only on standard Canon papers (particularly Semi-Gloss and Pro Photo Platinum) which tend to have too much of a red-saturation shift. I am working on finding and ordering some Hahnemuhle papers, such as canvas, which will require calibration.

The Spyder3 Elite monitor calibrator and Elite 4.0 software are also a good step up from the Spyder2 calibrator. You have both the express calibration options, as well as some extensive advanced calibration and statistical options. It supports things like luminosity uniformity, graphing, multiple display calibration and output comparison, full gray balance, and a bunch more.

You can read a great review of the Spyder3Print at Northlight Images. You can find the Spyder3Studio SR at DataColor's web site.

Alternatively, if you want some of the best calibration available, with fully automatic patch scanning and high speed profile generation, you could get one of the X-Rite ProfileMaker 5 and i1 bundles. These offer some top of the line calibration, however you do pay for it, as they range from $4000-$5000.

UPDATE:

Working a little more with the Spyder3Studio package, I've learned about some additional features that make it even better. The software has the ability to generate profiles for different lighting conditions without even rescanning the patches. You just provide the necessary settings for color temperature and room brightness, and you can regenerate multiple variants of a profile from a single set of scanned patches. This is pretty handy, as viewing light can affect the perceived colors in a print, particularly for papers with optical brighteners (they are often designed to look best when viewed with light that includes UV wavelengths, which is often absent in artificial lighting.) There are many, many options and tweaks that can be made with the Spyder3Print software, and I've barely begun to explore. I just thought I would add a note that for its relatively low cost ($550 list, and there is currently a $50 rebate, which is about 1/10th the cost of more "professional" equipment like the x-Rite EyeOne kit), it certainly seems to produce excellent results and offers a tremendous range of settings and capabilities in the software.

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Whoa. That is a hefty price tag-- does it save you headaches? Is this the kind of thing that if I low-ball my price, I'll end up regretting it in time and prints lost? What other calibrators/systems have you tried? –  mmr Sep 12 '10 at 21:33
    
The price tag for the Spider3Studio is about $550, which isn't too bad for a complete solution. I have not tried any other printer calibration systems, however I did quite a bit of research before I chose. It came down to the X-Rite and the DataColor offerings. The much cheaper DataColor solution does what I need, and it seems to be pretty accurate. I've been using the 225 patch options so far, but it also offers more accurate 729 patch options if you need a more specific calibration. The monitor calibration is stellar, never had problems with the Spyder3 there. I used a Spyder3 Pro before. –  jrista Sep 12 '10 at 21:43
    
Just a little note here: the X-Rite ColorMunki is also an end-to-end solution, and is not significantly different in price from the equivalent Spyder3 solution. I don't know how much fine-tuning of printer profiles the Spyder allows; the ColorMunki will let you tweak the hell out of the tones that matter most to you (like, say, skin tones for a portrait photog). –  user2719 Apr 30 '11 at 20:31

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