Product Review (January 2005)
ColorVision - Spyder2PRO™ Studio

Color calibration is nothing new to digital photographers trying to create accurate looking images. Color differences between the camera, monitor and printer can drive serious users crazy. Producing accurate images are also beneficial to those watching DVD movies on their PCs as more computers are being used more for general multimedia purposes. Unfortunately, few users take the time to calibrate their displays and beyond the simple black and white level adjustments that can be done with the naked eye, accurate color calibration requires a color analyzer and software to correct for gray-scale errors. Due to manufacturing variations, display colors not only differ from model to model, but also from unit to unit within the same model. In addition, displays typically change characteristics as they age, so the only way to ensure you are getting an accurate picture is to properly calibrate the display at reasonable intervals. Calibration equipment has typically been expensive and only used by professionals. Furthermore, many of the older color sensors only worked with CRT displays and were not accurate on newer flat panel LCD monitors. Fortunately, a company called ColorVision has been making color management tools for the industry for years and has recently released their latest Spyder2PRO™ calibration package. The new system leverages on the original SpyderPRO system that received much praise from users.

The Spyder2PRO™ Studio package includes an all-new colorimeter along with their pro-level monitor calibration software to create ICC profiles for CRT or LCD screens. According to ColorVision, the new colorimeter uses advanced photo sensors along with a color filter system to provide a 5-fold increase in color sensitivity and consistent color readings. In addition, the new precision-molded filter pack and light baffle produces accurate LCD display measurements. The result is superior gray balance and tonal response with accurate flesh tones. The sensor is attached to a long eight-foot cable with a standard USB connector on the other side. The Studio package includes ColorVision's DoctorPRO ($110 value), PANTONE® colorist ($49 value), and the nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 Standard Edition ($49 value). The new Spyder2PRO™ Studio package retails for an affordable $299. To put this price into perspective, my first color analyzer retailed for $2500 and it only worked on CRT displays.

Calibration
Calibrating a monitor is a simple process that requires the user to attach the color sensor using the suction cups for CRT displays or the additional filter attachment wih felt pads for LCD displays. A counterweight is attached to the cable to help balance the weight of the sensor when calibrating LCD flat panels.The installed drivers automatically recognize the Spyder 2 Color Sensor upon plugging it in. The user simply launches the Spyder2PRO application to start the calibration process. The software guides you through the necessary steps needed to optimize the display.

The system defaults with a color temperature of 6500K and a gamma setting of 2.2, which is perfect for most users. However, these parameters can be changed by simply selecting different values. Contrast (White level) and brightness (Black level) monitor controls can be adjusted visually and is recommended for the best results. We commonly make these adjustments manually based on the viewing environment for our home theater screen calibrations. The software takes color readings as it goes through a series of red, green, blue and gray levels once the color sensor is attached. When the calibration is completed, the color temperature is verified automatically. The user can then compare the before and after screens to see the difference between the pre and post calibration parameters. In our case, the calibrated (after) screen was clearly better with excellent color balance and accurate flesh tones. The before picture was pushed towards blue and presented a higher color temperature. The new ICC profile is then saved and applied to the system.

We also ran the same calibration on our Sony Vaio laptop with its LCD screen for comparison. LCD technology inherently does not have the deep blacks that CRT displays are capable of producing. Therefore, one cannot expect the same performance in this regard when viewing photographs or watching movies. In addition, off-axis viewing greatly changes the quality of the image, so it is important to make sure the adjustments are made while being completely perpendicular to the screen. The calibration of this display resulted in a very nice color balance from our viewpoint.

We looked at some of our still images taken with our Fujifilm S602 digital camera and the colors were excellent. Rather than washed out looking images, the pictures maximized the dynamic range of the display. DVDs also looked much better on our laptop and PC once they were properly calibrated. Skin tones appeared natural without looking too saturated. Shadow detail was noticeably improved on the CRT monitor and LCD display.

Bundled Software
What makes the new Spyder2PRO™ Studio package so attractive is the software that comes bundled with it. In addition to ColorVision's Pro Calibration software, also included is DOCTORPRO™, which is a powerful application that runs within Photoshop® to edit output profiles. The software is designed to allow the user to record a script while editing an image to match the printer output. Once the global adjustments are made to the image, the script can be applied to an output profile.

PANTONE® colorist also packaged with the Studio version enables web and graphic designers to choose from Pantone Matching Systems colors. The software features the latest RGB and HTML values from Pantone's coated library and includes a scrollable palette of 1,114 Pantone colors. Some programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, Apple Keynote, Macromedia Dreamweaver and Flash will benefit from the software since they do not have Pantone's libraries built-in.

The nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 Standard Edition is also packaged with the Studio version. The software allows users to create impressive digital lighting effects that would otherwise require the use of a camera filter. A set of 19 filter options are included in the Standard Edition offering a variety of color/lighting enhancements.

We will follow up with a review of the PrintFIX™ (patch reader) that is included with the PrintFIX™ Suite. This package includes the Spyder2PRO Studio package and provides a complete color management solution.

Conclusion
Spyder2PRO™ Studio is a complete calibration package competively priced with other similar products and allows anyone to manage their display colors. The product includes the new color sensor design that provides better accuracy for today's LCD monitors. Setup is incredibly easy and the accuracy of the results is impressive. Our pictures and DVD movies never looked better with rich, well saturated colors and natural looking hues. The additional software included with the Studio package makes the product an exceptional value. Whether you choose the Spyder2PRO™ Studio or Spyder2™ Standard, the calibrated image will make your photos and movies realize their full potential.

- Kevin Nakano


Review System

Desktop - Sony VAIO PCV-RX550 1.5 GHz, Viewsonic G810-2 21" CRT Monitor
Laptop: Sony Vaio PCV-GRX550, 1.5GHz Pentium 4, 15" LCD Screen


Review - At a Glance


ColorVision - Spyder2PRO™ Studio

Features

  • Precise calibration of CRT, LCD, and notebook displays (Mac and Windows)
  • Wizard software with easy-to-follow instructions (site license)
  • Superior gray balance and tonal response
  • Incredibly accurate flesh tones
  • Multiple monitor calibration and matching

    System Requirements

  • CRT, LCD or notebook display(s)
  • Windows® 2000 or XP
  • Mac OS X10.2 or better
  • USB port

    Includes

  • All new Spyder2 Colorimeter
  • All new Spyder2PRO pro-level monitor calibration software (site license)
  • FREE nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 Standard Edition software
  • FREE PANTONE® colorist software
  • FREE ColorVision® DoctorPRO software
  • 2 Year Spyder2 hardware warranty
  • FREE technical support
  • FREE software updates

    Source: Manufacture Supplied
    MSRP: $299


    Company Information
    ColorVision, Inc.
    5 Princess Road
    Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

    Tel: 609.895.7430 / 800.554.8688
    Fax: 609.895.7447

    Website: http://www.colorvision.com
    Email: customerservice@colorvision.com

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