Spyder 4 Elite Hardware Review. Calibrate your monitor, iPhone & iPad!

App Reviews March 19th 2012 9:44 PM 7 Comments

Datacolor Spyder4 Elite

Whether you are a serious photographer, retoucher, or a just a color-perfectionist, calibrating your monitor is should be an essential part of your photographic workflow. I myself shoot fashion and commercial photography in Los Angeles and I know that it is important that my monitors’ colors are very accurate.

I’m sure a lot of you share my sentiment that the factory default monitor profile that comes with the monitor aren’t exactly the most true to color. One of the reasons why is because the lighting condition and color temperature of the room will affect how your eyes will see that monitor. That is why it is important that the color calibration device not only can calibrate your screen, but can also analyze the ambient lighting in your room.

Pre-Conclusion Conclusion

5-of-5-stars SLR Lounge Approved Datacolor Spyder 4 Elite Does the Spyder 4 Elite have what it takes?

UPDATE: After thinking about it overnight, I decided to upgrade my rating to 5 out of 5 because the Spyder 4 Elite did really do its job. How fast you will get your display calibrated correctly will depend on how old your screen is, but overall once it’s done, all five of the monitors that I tested look good. I tested the Spyder 4 Elite on five monitors: My Acer 4820TG-780S laptop screen, My LG22LG30 HDTV monitor, my friend’s iMac screen, a Gateway LCD monitor, and a Westinghouse LCD monitor.

Three displays calibrated without a hitch – the Acer laptop, the iMac, and the Westinghouse monitor. The LG HDTV monitor and the Gateway LCD had problems getting the correct calibration and I had to tweak the initial adjustments on the monitor a little bit more. It seems that the older and less high-end the monitor is, the harder the calibration seems to be. 

I love Spyder 4 Elite‘s StudioMatch multi-monitor calibration that allows you to fine tune each monitors independently to match each other. That helped me adjust my monitor to match the laptop screen a little bit better and really makes it easy to use my laptop monitor as my second screen for Lightroom and Photoshop. Now I can put all my Photoshop panels and Lightroom Grid on the second screen and keep my first screen relatively clutter-free.

Oh, and here’s a cool kicker for you Apple fans: The Spyder 4 also calibrates your iPhone and iPad. But unfortunately, no love for Android users like me. Hopefully it’ll be something they can implement in the future. If the Spyder 4 can calibrate different manufacturer’s computer monitors, it should be capable of calibrating different Android phones, right? That said, I couldn’t test out those Apple products because I don’t have them (gasp!).

How does it work?

So if you are not familiar with the way the Spyder 4 colorimeter calibration system works, here is a quick overview:
In the package, you get the software on CD and the hardware that dangles in front of your monitor. This Spyder works in tangent with the profiling software in reading how your monitor is showing the Red, Green, Blue, White, and Black colors compared to its own database of those colors. The Spyder 4 unit works by being placed on the screen of a monitor with its sensor sitting right on the monitor itself. The software then displays the different colors and makes the adjustments with the graphic card and monitor profile to compensate the differences in color. It’s a fairly straightforward process, like driving a car without knowing how an internal combustion engine work.

Datacolor Spyder 4 Sensor
The inside look to Spyder 4’s Color Sensor Engine

Do I get the Spyder 4 Express, Pro, or Elite?

Spyder 4 Comparison Chart
The main differences between each models is the amount of fine-tuning and calibration comparison that is available. While the Express only measure the screen with one ICC profile standard, the Pro and Elite can also measure the ambient light, calibrate more than one monitors, and have an option to recalibrate. The Elite then adds fine-tuning capability in the form of SpyderTune, and the ability to also match multiple displays’ screen via StudioMatch. If you are a professional or uses two monitors at the same time that has to match each other, I’d suggest the Elite. It’s worth the extra money. If you are operating on a less demanding level, the Pro is fine. I want to say that the Express is good enough, but honestly, the ambient sensor is worth the upgrade.

Installation

The step-by-step instruction is pretty simple, and for the most part, easy to follow.
01 Spyder 4 Welcome

The first screen goes over some of the things you have to do before starting the calibration, like making sure your display has been on for at least 30 minutes.

02 Spyder 4 Display Type
03 Spyder 4 Make Model
04 Spyder 4 Display Technology
You then choose what type of display that you have, who makes it, and if there are some extra technology in it.

05 Spyder 4 Calibration Settings
With all that info, Spyder 4 recommends the parameters that you should set your display to.

05a Spyder 4 Ambient Calibration
If you choose to use the ambient sensor test, you will do so here. After it reads the ambient light and how much it will affect your display, the program will give a suggestion on how bright your screen needs to be. I like this feature, but if there is a lot of ambient light and your monitor doesn’t have enough brightness range, it can screw with your result.

06 Spyder 4 Calibration
And now you put the Spyder on the monitor to begin the actual display measurement.

06a Spyder 4 Calibration
06b Spyder 4 Calibration

07 Spyder 4 Name Saved Profile
08 Spyder 4 Save Profile
Once that is done, you save the profile and choose when will be the next time that you want to calibrate again.

09 Spyder 4 Spyder Proof Calibrated View
The Spyder Proof is great because you can really see how different types of photos will look before and after calibration. There are a range of things you can see from each of the photo, from skin color to saturation to even the tonal range of black and white photos. You can literally spend a good half hour just looking at each one. The Elite also has that SpyderTune and StudioMatch that allows the fine tuning and matching of multiple displays. Like I said before, I love this feature!

11 Spyder 4 Profile Overview
Finally, you can see how well your display matches up with sRGB, NTSC, and AdobeRGB. The Apple iMac‘s screen sure does a great job with sRGB.

What’s hot!?

Despite some setbacks and extra adjustments, all five monitors are now properly calibrated and the result is very noticeable. My friend noted that on her iMac, all this time the her display showed a slight green tint to it. Take a look at her calibrated vs. uncalibrated view:

09 Spyder 4 Spyder Proof Calibrated View

Calibrated

10 Spyder 4 Spyder Proof Uncalibrated View

Uncalibrated

The ability to calibrate the iPad is also very important if you use it as your electronic portfolio to show off to your prospective clients. If you work so hard to get those colors right on your computer, the last thing you want is for your iPad to inaccurately display your photos.

What’s lukewarm

My one year old Acer 4820TG-780S laptop’s screen, the Westinghouse LCD and my friend’s iMac calibrated accurately on the first try, but my LG 22LG30 22″ HDTV monitor that doubles as my main monitor took several tries. In fact, the first couple of attempts looked overblown in highlights and a tad warm. Luckily, after setting my monitor to cool prior to calibration and kinda cheating with the ambient test by angling the unit a little away from the front of the monitor, I was able to get a proper calibration. I think that maybe my 4 year old HDTV monitor is not as flexible and really put the Spyder 4 to the test. The 2 year old Gateway monitor ended being calibrated much cooler than normal, despite it being set to the factory default. I changed the monitor color to cool temperature and then was able to get a correct calibration. Of course, in the end, the Spyder 4 still did a great job calibrating it correctly.

Another factor that will affect how well your result will be is how much ambient light is in your room. If the ambient sensor reads it as HIGH, which is actually not a lot at all, older and cheaper monitors may not be able to go bright enough.

Conclusion

5-of-5-stars SLR Lounge Approved Datacolor Spyder 4 Elite So all in all, I really do like the Spyder 4 Elite. I may have had problems with it with some displays, but in the end, the result came out pretty darn good. Now, some of you, including me, will have to face the fact that you may have to upgrade your monitor because it can’t actually handle the parameters that the Spyder 4 set up as the correct calibration. So is the Spyder 4 absolutely essential?
Well, you may be able to get away with using Windows or Apple’s monitor calibration, or a third party application to get pretty good results, but you’re pretty much eye-balling it during the calibration process because you won’t have a hardware sensor that can really measure the colors and ambient like the Spyder 4 system.

I have to say for me, as a working professional fashion and commercial photographer, the Spyder 4 Elite is an important investment. Now I just gotta upgrade my monitor =)


The Spyder 4 can be bought at Amazon.com for $114 for the Express, $169 for the Pro, and $249 for the Elite.

Stay creative!

Article written by

Joe Gunawan | fotosiamo.com
Joe Gunawan is a commercial and fashion photographer based out of Los Angeles, California. Check out his work at fotosiamo fotografie

 

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About

Joe is a rising fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs. Be sure to check out his work at www.fotosiamo.com and connect with him on Google Plus and on Facebook

7 Comments

  1. Mariopezzo

    Just one question: does it calibrate the whole iPad screen appearance or just the appearance of the iPad pictures, showed in its dedicated program?
    I was wondering because I just bought an iPad3 and the screen look a little yellowish compared to my iPad1

  2. Challenge: How Well is Your Ability to See Color? Free Photography Tips Tutorials Reviews and Wordpress Themes | Photography tips and photography tutorials and more

    [...] Challenge: How Well is Your Ability to See Color? October 22, 2012 – Article by joe fotosiamo So you are a discerning photographer looking to get all the colors correct in your images. You use a grey card or an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport to calibrate the white balance and color of your photo. You have also calibrated your monitor. [...]

  3. neenah

    Thank God I found this article! I am an aspiring photographer myself and a correctly calibrated screen/monitor is OUR lifeline. I have an Acer Aspire4730Z laptop which I had for several years, before I got into photography. I attended a photography workshop and my instructor told me that my laptop screen needs to be calibrated. At first, I didn’t get what he meant so we compared the screen of his MacbookPro against my laptop screen using one image. There was a HUGE difference. On his laptop, the colors are so vibrant and real while the image looked dull and bland on my screen. I cannot afford an iMac or a MacBookPro but knowing that I have other options gave me hope. 

  4. ivan bayu

    Hey Joe, belinya dimana kalo di Indonesia?

  5. Derek Wood

    One thing the windows calibration or many of the screen adjustments simply can’t do is correct the “black point”

    Normally no one seems to care how the dark bits are done and you will often get clipping of the black pixels.

    I do Astro-Photography: Imaging the Universe, and there’s an awful lot of nearly-black which needs rendering as nearly black, not completely black. Using my spyder4elite on various screens they all now agree on what black looks like. Something that NONE of the windows or screen controls allowed me to correct.

    agreed.. 5/5 stars

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    […] Calibration – Spyder4 pro or elite from DataColor $99 (Elite matches both monitors correctly) http://www.slrlounge.com/spyder-4-elite-hardware-review-calibrate-your-monitor-iphone-ipad   Steps By Step Guide for: ( CARD LIST ) When you go out for doing some Portrait photography […]

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