David Saffir: Datacolor Spyder4 Review: Advanced Features of the Spyder4 Elite (Pt. 3 of 3)
Jul 2012 12

I find this tool useful for a quick comparison of multiple monitors in a workgroup environment. It’s pretty straightforward, allowing you to measure a specific color on one screen, and measure that same color on another display for comparison. This can serve at least two purposes: first, it’s pretty convincing to a client or colleague when you measure an RGB color (based on the numbers) or spot color and show that monitor #2 is not performing in the same way as its nearby cousin. Second, it can be a quick and effect quality check in your own studio.

From the Spyder4 Elite main screen, go to the Menu Item >Tools, and choose Colorimeter.

You’ll see this screen. You can enter any set of RGB values at top right that you desire:

Use the Spyder4 device to measure the patch as displayed on-screen. Measurement values will appear immediately below the
RGB settings boxes, as shown in this screen shot.

One can also measure any color displayed on screen. Simply click twice on the large color patch, and the color picker will appear:

Note the “magnifying glass” top left of the “Colors” screen (outlined in yellow here). Click on this once, and move the icon to the color area on screen to be measured. Click again, and that color will appear in the color patch area. Now measure as before.
Some of the other advanced management and analysis tools provided with the system include:

Gamut

This measurement tool will, after calibration is complete, compare your display’s performance against a known value, such as another color space or another display, or both. In this case, note that an Apple cinema display is compared to a second, similar display, and also sRGB. Comparisons can be made to NTSC or AdobeRGB as well.

StudioMatch is, in a way, self-explanatory. One can, for example, work to achieve the closest match possible between two monitors sitting in proximity to one another. Note: while this sounds fine in theory, the fact is that monitors that have significantly different physical or display characteristics are very difficult, it not impossible, to match. A very old monitor, for example, probably cannot be matched to a new one. And factors like sharpness can still make well matched displays still appear differently. (adjust viewing to 100%/actual pixels for best results in this area).

From the first StudioMatch screen, one takes an ambient light measurement. The software will then recommend settings for the other monitors, as shown in this screen shot:

When you click next, you’ll be prompted to save these settings as a target, and then load this target when calibrating other monitors in the group to be matched.

One proceeds with each calibration as per normal – however, the saved target should be selected at the beginning of the calibration cycle for each display. It will continue to be the default choice in the future, once selected. The following utilities and reports are also available through an additional software application provided with the Spyder4 – Spyder4ELITE MQA.

Screen Uniformity (color uniformity/selected brightness level)

The Spyder4 is used to measure performance of the display, over nine sectors, and the results are mapped to a graph and a reference table as shown. In this case, color uniformity is analyzed at brightness level 83% (other levels are automatically graphed as well):

Next, one can generate a report that provides quantitative analysis of the variance between standardized values and the calibrated performance of the display. In this case, I find the delta-E column to be most useful: values below 3 are considered to be acceptable. Here, upper left sector is out of limits.

Color Accuracy

The software can generate a table that, among other things, shows you the delta-E between standardized color values and actual performance. Again, a delta-E value less than three is within acceptable limits. Note that in this case, a couple of colors measure are out of limits, however, overall delta-E is below 3:

Yet another report available through MQA is a summary of the performance of your display. It compares a number of variables measured in an easy-to-read format. This would of course be useful in gauging the condition of a display over time (the report can be printed and archived). It can also be useful, as are the other reports, in comparing the performance of one display against another.

The Tone Response test (screen not shown) measures the response (gamma) of the monitor and plots a graph comparing the measured tone response to standard gamma curves.

Overall, the Spyder4 Elite solution, and its companion MQA software, provide a diverse and flexible toolbox that can meet the needs of almost any professional involved in workplace color management. It’s well suited to a single-workstation or multi-workstation environment, and managing offsite assets as well. If you need more information or support, see the Datacolor website, or contact Datacolor technical support. Support tools and information are also available through the website.

David Saffir is a commercial and fine art photographer and printmaker, located in Southern California, and a well-known speaker at workshops and conferences across the US.