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Datacolor Spyder5PRO monitor calibrator review

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Datacolor Spyder5PRO review

Monitor profiling and calibration, with ambient light measurement


Datacolor offer a range of monitor calibration and profiling solutions. The Spyder 5 Pro is the mid range option, offering a range of features that will suffice for many photographers and designers, not wanting the additional functionality found in the Spyder 5 Elite, reviewed by Keith a while ago.

Keith looks at the process you go through in calibrating your monitor, on his MacBook Pro – the software works just the same on Windows systems.

More info at datacolor.

Spyder5 Elite
B&H | Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK
Spyder5 Pro
B&H | Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK
Spyder5 Express
B&H | Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK

Monitor Calibration – what’s the point

If you’re editing a photo on your monitor and want to print it out yourself, or send it off to a lab, then not knowing the colours you are seeing on your monitor are accurate to start with makes it much less likely that your print is going to be a good one.

In fact, if your images are going to be seen anywhere other than just that single computer and screen you are using, then you can’t be sure how it will look elsewhere.

Will that deep red you see on your screen come out with a tinge of orange, and does that clean white actually have a blue or magenta tint?

I’m a professional photographer, supplying digital images and prints to clients – my business depends on accurate colour, and I have quit a lot of accurate (and expensive) equipment to ensure this. Much of it is reviewed on this site.

I’ve written a lot about colour management on this site – check the category dropdown list at the side of any page. Comments and questions are always welcome – see the foot of the page.

I’ve looked at Datacolor (or ColorVision as it was once also known) Spyder calibrators over many years – back to when we all had huge CRT displays on our desks. They have always offered good value products which do one job, and do it well.

The Spyder 5 Pro offers more ability to customise your settings than the basic Spyder 5 Express model, without going for the full on approach of the Spyder 5 Elite – I’ve a comparison table showing the options at the end of the review (including upgrades from one model to another).

One other thing I should note is that the measuring device you get with the Spyder5Pro is the same one that comes with the S5 Elite – there is no compromise in accuracy in going with the ‘Pro’ version.

The Spyder 5 Pro

The Spyder colorimeter comes in a good hefty box – keep the box for storage and your calibrator should last for many years.

The device and its USB cable are neatly packed inside, along with the device serial number (under the device) and a welcome note that tells you where to get the Spyder software.

spyder5 in box

The colorimeter has a clip on cover that also serves as a counterweight during the profiling stage.

S5 sensor

Note the honeycomb grill – the light measuring part is behind it.

The software site is clear and easy to use – gone are the days of a CD with software, as are the days of installing software from a CD and then immediately needing to check for updates.

startup web

At this point I’m going to point out that opening the box, setting up the software and calibrating your monitor should take less time than it will to read this article.

spyder 5 options

The software will use your serial number to get an activation code via the internet (a non connected option is available)

software activation

A few seconds after entering the serial number from inside the box.

software activation

The code can be used to install the software on other computers you own.

Once set up, the software  is very straightforward to use.

software startup

The Spyder Utility software is also installed – on the Mac this can run some optional features and be used to start up the main profiling software.

On windows systems it also performs some important background setup functions that ensure your monitor profile is being correctly used.

spyderutility after install

Preferences set things like the reminder to check/re-profile, since the process needs repeating every so often.

spyderutility settings

The calibration process

The basic procedure is a simple step by step process.

There is an interactive help display at the right that gives a quick overview of what you are doing.

s5 calibration process

At any point you can open up a much more detailed help panel that will explain far more about what you are doing, and just as importantly -why- you need to do it, or the options available.

extended help

Datacolor has the best such help going for products like this. I make no apology for saying that other manufacturers do their products a great dis-service by not including this level of detail. I know many have discovered video and think it is the solution to explaining things to users. Well, after years of experience in usability research, I can assure them that it is -not- a substitute for clear and well written guides for many people.

I need to tell the software what type of display I’m using.

Since I only have one monitor on this laptop, I don’t need to identify which monitor I’m using (note that there can be some Windows display card issues with multiple monitors if you are not using multiple cards – this is covered in the help info. We don’t have any PCs here for testing).

display type

Then I need to decide the sort of calibration I need.

ReCal is a quicker process, since it relies on previous calibration data – first time using the software I’ll get the FullCal process (a few minutes longer)

calibration options

Note the default display settings.

Gamma 2.2, 6500K and a brightness of 120 cd/m2 are pretty much standard for photo work, but you can change them to different preset values.

calibration settings

The default settings are OK here. I’ll come back to the ‘Room Light’ feature later, but suffice to say, I prefer to keep any ‘auto adjustment’ features firmly deactivated for my own setup.

suggested settings

You might have spotted the ‘Shortcuts’ menu?

This lets you go straight to different parts of the software setup once you become familiar with the software.

shortcuts

After setting everything, I’m ready to go.

ready to go

The sensor is resting lightly on the screen – leaning the display back helps with this. It has a soft surface, so won’t mark your screen.

Datacolor spyder5 pro

The screen will change colour several times during the calibration and profiling.

The software knows what colours the screen is being told to display, whilst the sensor measures the actual colours of your display.

The differences between predicted/measured are used for creating your monitor profile.

Your computer’s operating system takes care of using the profile – you should never need concern yourself with it until in a month or so, you fire up the software to check everything is still fine.

The sensor does not need to be connected for you to benefit from the profile.

The process starts with a check of screen brightness – I needed to adjust it slightly to get it close enough

setting brightness

This brightness may seem rather low, but that is far better if you are editing photos.

One of the most common causes of prints coming out too dark is having your monitor set too bright.

The screen will display a series of colours…

s5 pro calibration

After a few minutes, the necessary measurements have been taken

measurements completed

The monitor profile is created – note how the settings are included in the name.

save profile and reminder

In a month I’ll get a reminder to check again.

The SpyderProof test image is displayed.

This lets you ‘turn off’ the profile and see what your screen was like before.

spyderproof

My old laptop have a distinctly blueish cast when not profiled – very high end monitors may not show much change.

I also get an overview of the profile – showing the relative gamut of my display.

Here, compared with sRGB

profile overview

That’s it – we’re done.

Somewhat later I’ve run the CheckCal function and I note that nothing much has changed.

check calibration

Display quality checks

There are a number of extra measurements and checks that can be made on your monitor using the Display Analysis tool.

Most users would have no need for this, but for the curious…

display analysis

Various test give various interesting graphs and charts, which you can save.

measured tone response

gamut check

It’s potentially  more useful than might first seem, particularly with cheaper monitors.

This from the extra help notes:

Sometimes it’s difficult to know which Preset inside your monitor controls are best for the purposes of a calibrated workflow. This test will help you determine this.

Measurement Process
The first step asks you to add a list of all Presets you would like to test. These can be all type of presets: White Point, Color, Eco Mode, etc. It can also be a combination of presets. Therefore, it only makes sense to perform this test if your monitor offers different presets.

Once the list is completed, you can click on “Next” to start the reading of White Luminance, Black Luminance, Contrast and White Point for each Preset.

Please place the Spyder in the middle of your screen to correctly measure the values before you start the measurement. You’ll have to confirm the measurement of each preset. When switching between the presets, be sure you close your monitor’s OSD menu before you start each measurement.

Result
You’ll get a table with the values of White Luminance (cd/m^2), Black Luminance, Contrast and White Point (Kelvin / CIE coordinates) for each of your presets.

Spyder upgrades

Datacolor offer a number of software upgrade options for their Spyder 5 calibration software, via their web site.

upgrade offer

I’ve covered the Spyder 5 Elite+ options in an update/review, but here’s what you can get.

s5 upgrades

This first one is I’m afraid, something I’d prefer not to have enabled on any display I’m using.

I really don’t want my display changing just because someone drops some papers on my desk or the sun goes behind a cloud.

room light switching

The second one might well be of distinct use if I had a room full of monitors to look after, but the existing setup for a single machine is hardly slow…

1 click cal

Lastly one that I suspect is of more use to Windows PC users – I can already do this in the Mac monitor preferences or free ColorSync Utility (in the Utilities folder on your Mac)

I’d go so far as to say that if you don’t know (on a Mac) how to do this, then you probably don’t need the functionality.

profile management tool

Conclusions

The Spyder 5 Pro continues with Datacolor’s tradition of making easy to use and effective monitor profiling products.

Simple to set up and use, it quickly improves the look of most displays.

It has room light measurement functions as well, and whilst this will quickly tell you if your monitor environment is too brightly lit (or too dim – see the excellent help notes), I’d not personally use it for choosing my calibration settings or continued monitoring of lighting levels. My calibrator goes back into its box until next needed.

For many photographers and designers, setting their display calibration options to 6500/2.2/120 is just fine. You might want to try a lower temperature like 5800K if you do a lot of print work, but I have to say I still prefer 6500K for day to day work (especially for web use)

I’d note that the Spyder 5 calibrator (colorimeter) is supported by several high end monitor profiling software packages – such as the one that comes with the BenQ 32″ 4k wide gamut monitor I recently reviewed.

Buying Spyder products (many available as bundles)

SpyderCapturePro at B&H | Adorama
SpyderPrint at B&H | Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK

SpyderCheckr at Amazon.com | Amazon UK | B&H | Adorama
SpyderCube at Amazon.com | Amazon UK | B&H | Adorama
SpyderLensCal at Amazon.com | Amazon UK | B&H | Adorama
Spyder5 Elite at B&H | Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK

Spyder5 Pro B&H | Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK
Spyder5 Express at B&H | Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon UK
Spyder5 at Wex (UK)

If you buy any item via a link on our site, then we receive a small commission, which helps in the running of the site. We have no commercial connection with Datacolor, and believe strongly that readers should be aware how we run the site.

Spyder5Pro 5.1  Minimum System Requirements (from datacolor)

  • USB port
  • 24-bit video card
  • Mac OS X 10.7+
  • Windows 7 32/64, Windows 8.0, 8.1 32/64, Windows 10 32/64
  • Colour monitor with at least 1280×768 resolution
Features
  • Interactive On-Screen Help: Easy to follow, on-screen help for all software elements.
  • Display Analysis: Advanced features to evaluate your displays performance at different brightness levels.
  • SpyderProof Interface: Shows Before and After comparisons of display calibration of custom images.
  • Web Activation & Automatic Update Checks: Allows for easy product activation over the web.

Important

  1. Please set your screen size to at least 1280×768. If your screen is set to a smaller size you will not be able to access all of the Spyder5Pro user interface.
  2. For Windows users, please make sure you use Default font size in your Display Properties. If you use *”Large Fonts” this may cause some cosmetic anomalies in the Spyder5Pro user interface.
  3. For Windows users, it is necessary to use a separate video card for each monitor. Multi-head video cards (one card that drives multiple monitors) will not work because Windows will not allow you to assign a different profile to each monitor.

*”Large Fonts” specifically means changing the setting in Control Panel-> Display-> Settings-> Advanced-> General-> Display-> DPI setting. Changing the font size in Control Panel-> Display-> Appearance-> Colour scheme or Control Panel-> Display-> Appearance-> Font size does not cause any issue.

Which Spyder?

If you look at the range of options for profiling and know you need more, then take that as a hint to check my Spyder 5 Elite review.

The Spyder upgrades are interesting in that the Spyder 5 Elite+ updates look interesting, whilst the Spyder 5 Pro+ ones look somewhat less essential, but YMMV…

Spyder5 functionality for different versions
Feature
Spyder 5 express
Spyder 5 pro
Spyder 5 elite
Designed for Hobbyist photographers seeking a simple monitor color calibration solution Serious photographers and designers seeking a full-featured and advanced color accuracy solution Professional photographers, studios, and calibration perfectionists seeking ultimate control of their color workflow
Price (MSRP)
$129
$189
$279
Hardware
Spyder5 Colorimeter
Spyder5 Colorimeter
Spyder5 Colorimeter
Software
4 Step Process, Interactive Help
Wizard, Interactive help, Advanced Features Wizard, Interactive Help, Expert Console, Suite of Expert Features
Calibration Settings
Fixed (2)
16 Choices
Unlimited choices, user-defined, and Rec.709 for videography
Multiple Monitor Support
Laptops, Desktop Monitors
Laptops, Desktop Monitors
Laptops, Desktop Monitors, Front Projectors, Studio Match Assistant
Before & After Calibration Evaluation
Standard Datacolor Image
Standard Datacolor Image, Imported User Images Standard Datacolor Image, Imported User Images (Full Screen Mode)
Room Light Monitoring
not available
3 Ambient Light Settings
5 Ambient Light Settings
Fast Recalibration Option
not available
feature available
feature available
Display Analysis
not available
Basic
Advanced including Screen Uniformity
Feature
Spyder 5 express
Spyder 5 pro
Spyder 5 elite
Gamma Choices
2.2
1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4
Unlimited
Color Temperature Choices
6500K
5000K, 5800K, 6500K, native
Unlimited
Custom Targets
not available
not available
Spyder5 ColorimeterNTSC, PAL/SECAM, ITU-R Rec.BT.709, ITU-R Rec.BT.2020, Cineon, L-Star*
ICC Profile Support
ICC 2
ICC 2, ICC 4
ICC 2, ICC 4
Multiple Display Calibration
feature available
feature available
feature available
On-Screen Interactive Help
feature available
feature available
feature available
Front Projector Calibration
not available
not available
feature available
Room Light Measurement
not available
Simple
Advanced
Re-calibration Wizard
not available
2.5 min
2.5 min
Expert Console
not available
not available
feature available
Custom B/W Luminance Control
not available
not available
feature available
Display History Utility
not available
not available
feature available
SpyderProof – Before & After Calibration Evaluation
feature available
Imported User Image Imported User Image + Full Screen
StudioMatch
not available
not available
feature available
Gamma Curve Editing
not available
not available
feature available
Continuous Profile & Calibration Check
feature available
feature available
feature available
L-Star Workflow Option
not available
not available
feature available
Curves Import Function
not available
not available
feature available
Improved Gray Balance
not available
not available
feature available
Web Activation & Automatic Update Checks
feature available
feature available
feature available
Feature
Spyder 5 express
Spyder 5 pro
Spyder 5 elite
Color Sensor
7 Filter/Detector
7 Filter/Detector
7 Filter/Detector
Aperture Size
27 mm
27 mm
27 mm
Encapsulated Optical Module
feature available
feature available
feature available
Integrated Tripod Mount
feature available
feature available
feature available
Sensor Lens cap
feature available
feature available
feature available
Initial Calibration Time
5 min
5 min
5 min
Recalibration Time
not available
2.5 min
2.5 min
Mounting Methods
Lens cap Counterweight
Lens cap Counterweight
Lens cap Counterweight or Integrated Tripod Mount
Physical Dimensions 2.73 in.(L) x 2.93 in.(W) x 1.71 in.(H) 2.73 in.(L) x 2.93 in.(W) x 1.71 in.(H) 2.73 in.(L) x 2.93 in.(W) x 1.71 in.(H)
Computer Connection
USB
USB
USB
Hardware Warranty 1 Year (for countries of the EU, the period is 2 years) 1 Year (for countries of the EU, the period is 2 years) 1 Year (for countries of the EU, the period is 2 years)
Comparing with the Spyder 3/4

Spyder 4 and Spyder 3 comparisons

More colour management and printing related information

For information about printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main printers and printing page, or use the search box at the top of any page.
All colour management articles and reviews are indexed on the main Colour Management page - please do let Keith know if you've any questions, either via the comments or just email us?

Some specific articles that may be of interest:  

  • Why don't my prints match my screen? A short article showing why there is more to getting your prints to match your screen, than just calibrating your monitor. It's the vital first step, but you do need to consider some other factors for best results.
  • Why are my prints too dark - some basic suggestions to this common problem.

 


Buying anything from Amazon (not just what's listed) via any of the links below helps Keith and Karen keep the site going - thanks if you do! [Amazon UK]

 



 

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