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X-Rite ColorMunki Photo - Review
Colour management made easy? - The ColorMunki Photo
The X-Rite ColorMunki profiling solution [X-Rite] is now available and since we've been helping with some of the device testing we've got this review of some of its main features.
The (approx. $500) ColorMunki device and software allows you to profile your monitor and printers (and data projectors too).
You can also make spot colour measurements.
The ColorMunki range (Mac and PC) is firmly aimed at the large majority of users who might find some of the kit I've reviewed elsewhere, a little daunting for their own requirements.
More advanced articles on our site
Note -June 08 There are reported issues with profiling particular monitors on some PC systems - if you have problems with the profiling locking up, then check the X-Rite support site for a patch.
After that, if you do your own printing, then custom icc printer profiles will usually improve your print quality.
(If you move your mouse over the box image above, you'll see the contents...)
I sometimes see people on forums say it's not really needed. If you value the quality (and consistency) of your final results then this is just plain wrong.
What's not quite so obvious for me (who writes and teaches about the subject) is that a lot of people find colour management really tricky. [It's not! just some people try and make it sound a lot more complex than it needs to be]
X-Rite have looked at this large market, and in the first big new development since their take over of Gretagmacbeth, have produced a new 'all-in-one' device, the ColorMunki.
This is a multipurpose spectrophotometer, based on i1 technology (see the links at the end of this piece, for all our reviews of all the various i1 options.
It is aimed squarely at all those, who in the past, perhaps found the idea of colour management just a bit too much.
I'm limiting this discussion/review to the basic functionality of the ColorMunki Photo, since I'm looking at software that has a few missing features.
Whilst I have some opinions (as you'd expect ;-) on the precise choices available, I'll leave them for a more detailed look at the device and its software.
There is more information available from X-Rite (warning - turn down the sound on your computer first! ;-)
The ColorMunki is available in two versions.
One, the 'ColorMunki Photo', is what I'm looking at here, and is primarily aimed at photographers (particularly the social market and advanced amateurs).
That's the 'black' version.
The white ColorMunki Design is more for graphics designers. It's the same device, but in a white case.
The USB powered measuring device comes with a soft case and software.
There is also the ColorMunki Create package available, which is a monitor calibrator similar to the i1 Display LT, but with all new software (this is included in the features comparison chart in the summary at the end of this review) We hope to cover this further, when the device is available.
The white bar is set to a particular position depending on what you want to do with the device.
The image to the right shows it set for measuring projectors. the sensor looks out through the clear plastic part of the case.
If you point it straight up, then you can see the small diffuser 'bump' used when measuring ambient light.
An important part of the measurement cycle with a device like this is calibration.
My own i1 spectrophotometer comes with its own white tile in a calibration base unit.
With the ColorMunki, the tile is built inside the unit and accessed by pointing the bar down 45 degrees.
Move your mouse pointer over the image to see what I mean.
The images below, show (left to right) the device set for calibration, ambient lighting and projector profiling.
The device needs to go inside its soft case for this.
The long weighted strap (which seems to have some sand in it) is taken to its full length and used to counter balance the weight of the sensor.
The device is hung over your monitor so that the sensor (bar pointing towards the screen) can measure what colours your screen produces.
It's by knowing what colour the screen should be and comparing this with what is measured that is used to make a profile to give you better colour.
There is a small protective shutter in the soft case, which needs to be opened for taking any measurements.
The software allows for fairly limited choices of settings since it just isn't aimed at the likes of me who like to tinker with things ;-)
The default settings will calibrate your monitor to 6500K and a gamma of 2.2.
Advanced mode offers various settings in relation to whitepoint, gamma, ambient compensation and pre-calibration.
However, that's far more information than the target audience wants to know, so lets just say 'it will calibrate your monitor for you'...
Since calibrating your monitor is not a 'one off' process, there is a reminder you can set to tell you when to repeat the process.
I usually check my monitor every few weeks, but unless someone has changed any of your monitor settings, then once a month should be more than adequate for many users. Do remember though, that if you (or your kids for example) change -any- monitor settings then you should re-check.
The view below shows the ColorMunki in place ready to check my screen.
Dual monitor support
Whilst on a Mac this 'just works', on PCs it's a little more complex.
For Win XP you can't to set an individual ICC monitor profile for each of your dual monitors. Only particular video card manufacturers were able to get around this issue.
If your card won't work, we've got some more tips on our Win XP dual monitor page.
By pointing the sensor through the clear plastic band, you can calibrate projectors with the software.
The sensor needs to be taken out of its bag for this and aimed to the centre of the screen. The measurement sensor can be rotated to point out of different parts of the clear window to make it easier to aim.
It's suggested that the ColorMunki should be placed at about the width of the screen away from the screen for optimum results.
Whilst I've only briefly tried this with the pre-release software, the process is not dissimilar to using the i1 Beamer attachment I recently reviewed.
I often get asked for suggestions about learning more about the nuts and bolts of Colour Management.
My usual suggestion is Bruce Fraser's Real World Colour Management. My own copy is well thumbed. It's my first port of call if I'm asked a question and I feel I don't quite understand an issue well enough to be absolutely sure of an answer.
Check latest price/availability from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.ukRWCM 1st Edition RWCM
RWCM 2nd Edition RWCM
See some other books Keith has on the shelf, on our Books Page
Note - We have a detailed review of printer profiling with the ColorMunki available
The principle of making a custom printer profile is pretty easy.
First you print out a test chart with lots of colours on it.
Then you measure these colours and use the difference between measured colours and what was sent to the printer to produce a set of corrections.
These 'corrections' are essentially what goes into an icc printer profile.
When I make profiles for myself, I may use thousands of colour patches and some fancy (and expensive) hardware to make the measurements (see my i1 iSis review for more info).
The ColorMunki takes a far simpler approach.
Print out a sheet of 50 colours and measure them (after allowing the sheet to dry thoroughly) by sliding the device over the sheet.
Different types of paper take different times to dry to an acceptable degree, and there is even a timer in the software that counts down for you, for the more impatient user ;-)
The image above shows how you slide the ColorMunki along a sheet of paper to measure a strip.
The software prompts you during the measurement process and tells you if a strip is not correctly read in.
You print out and read this second set of colours as before (using exactly the same printer settings).
Now the software goes away and creates an icc profile for you (it supports both RGB and CMYK printer).
The software also allows the option of setting various applications on your computer (Photoshop CS for example) to use this profile by default.
A further refinement is that you can get the software to measure all the colours in an arbitrary image (skin tones for example) and create a further set of test patches for you to print and read.
After printing and reading these additional patches, the software creates an updated profile aimed at improving rendition of the colours in the image you used.
Of course you don't need to know how it all works... in fact, the ColorMunki is very much aimed at people who don't want to know what goes on under the hood ;-)
Note - We've got a more advanced article about black and white printing with the ColorMunki that uses the ColorMunki to make monochrome icc profiles to improve printer specific black and white printing modes (such as Epson ABW)
The ColorMunki also has the ability to make 'spot' measurements of colours and allows you to make use of these measurements in building up palettes and colour schemes.
The picture to the right shows the underside of the device.
You can see the plastic strips that help the device slide over test sheets and the hole in the centre that leads to the actual sensor.
For spot measurements, a small guide flips out if you press the locking button.
If you move your mouse over the image, you can see what happens.
The central part of the device with the three bumps on it is the button you press for making measurements.
Note the way the guide helps get the correct place (mouse over the image to see more).
The ColorMunki Photo software allows you to set up printers, monitors and projectors.
The Photo Color Picker application allows you to create custom palettes, make spot measurements and a whole host of other features I'll have to look at when I'm checking out the production software :-)
One interesting feature is its ability to take an image and extract samples of all the key colours present. It also allows you to see which colours you have in a palette are 'print safe', i.e. which ones can't be printed by certain print setups.
There is also the Digital Pouch application which is designed to allow you to send images to a client/coworker in a digital 'wrapper' that will alert them if they look at the image on a non colour managed system, or one where the colour management is not set up correctly.
The application generates a self executing file which you can send.
Note - this is from using pre-release software
I've calibrated several monitors with the ColorMunki and the profiles looked fine.
The method of attachment for monitor calibration feels a bit odd with the weighted strap, but once again it worked fine.
The printer profiling produced very usable results on my standard 'awkward' test printer - an HP K80 with third party inks, 3rd party photo paper and using open source drivers on an Apple Mac.
Not exhibition quality stuff, but if it can get a reasonable profile from that lot then it shows promise.
X-Rite have told me that they are putting a lot of effort into providing training and user support for the ColorMunki.
There will be extensive training resources available, and I'll be looking at some of them for our more detailed reviews.
As a long time fan of colour management I can only welcome this effort to get it more widely adopted and accepted.
Buying the ColorMunki
We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying the ColorMunki, or any other items at all, via our links with Amazon or B&H
It won't cost any more (nor less we're afraid) but will contribute towards the running costs of our site.
A colour management solution aimed at a much larger market than other X-Rite products.
X-Rite ColorMunki Photo - Minimum System Requirements
X-Rite ColorMunki Photo Package Contents
Updates (Dec 08)
All existing ColorMunki customers and interested buyers now have available unlimited licensing of ColorMunki and can obtain the new end user license agreement for ColorMunki Photo at www.colormunki.com/photo. Simply click the 'support' tab and download the PDF for your records.
Note that ColorMunki solutions are not designed to be upgraded. They are available only in single site or limited multiple seat licenses – i.e., those with a maximum of three computers.
The X-Rite range of products (see below for our reviews of just about all of them...)
Disclosure of Interest
Northlight Images has been involved in testing the ColorMunki, but has no commercial connection with X-Rite. Note that we do not sell hardware or software at all, and do not offer a custom profiling service.
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The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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Northlight Images prides itself on its independence when giving advice. We do not sell hardware or software and have no direct commercial links with any of the software or hardware vendors that may be mentioned here. See our Review Policy for more information.
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