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measuring a printer profiling targeti1Photo Pro 2 review

The new i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer

Product details - 'i1Photo' package

There is a new version of the i1Pro Spectrophotometer from X-rite, the i1Pro 2.

Keith Cooper has been reviewing the different packages available, which include the i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer and various levels of software functionality.

This review covers the 'Photo' model and describes the printer profiling and OBA compensation options you get.

Given the complexity of the products, there are a series of reviews that cover the different levels of functionality.

Help support our site - the i1Pro 2 is available from: Amazon.com, B&H Photo


... or try at Adorama

More software details are listed/reviewed at our i1 Profiler main page, where we'll include links to other reviews and any useful resources we come across.

The examples that will be shown are using Apple Macs, but the software generally works in the same way on Windows machines.

i1 Pro 2 - a new spectrophotometer for printer profiling

The i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer is the latest product from X-Rite and builds upon the basic design of the original i1Pro spectrophotometer.

If you're new to printer profiling, then I'd also suggest reading my older ColorMunki review, which addresses more of the 'why should I do this' issues relating to colour management. If you're relatively new to colour management in general I'd suggest starting with my ColorMunki Display review, which covers more of the fundamentals.

I've written more about the changes with the new device, and the accessories you get, in the i1Basic Pro 2 review and will concentrate here on the printer profiling functionality that you get with the i1Photo Pro 2 package.

Color Management bookI 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.uk

RWCM 1st Edition RWCM
RWCM 2nd Edition RWCM

Other Amazon sites
Amazon France / Amazon Germany / Amazon Canada

See some other books Keith has on the shelf, on our Books Page

It's worth noting that the new device can be used with older software that only knows of the original i1Pro, although features of the new device will appear as an i1Pro.

The key changes over the original i1Pro are the provision of multiple measurement modes, dependent on whether UV measurements are included.

The i1Pro 2 offers measurements in M0, M1 and M2 modes, since the single tungsten lamp of the i1Pro has been augmented with a UV light source.

M0 corresponds to the original (no filter) i1Pro, whilst M3 would be the 'UV cut' version of the i1Pro spectrophotometer.

M1 mode in the i1Pro 2 corresponds more to a D50 illuminant

This flexibility allows for the OBC (Optical Brightener Compensation) functionality in the i1Photo Pro 2 package.

An overview of why you might choose different measurement modes (from X-Rite), however, do note that the i1Pro 2 does not offer M3 mode (which includes polarisation specifications in addition to M2)

different measuring modes for the i1Pro 2

Also included

A copy of the ColorChecker card with holes in it is supplied.

This is used for proof checking (i.e. does your printer mange to get close to the ColorChecker colours) and as part of the OBA composition process (OBC) which I'll discuss later.

colorchecker proof target

A sleeve is provided to show just the four grey patches used during the OBC profiling process.

colorchecker proof card with OBC mask

There is another smaller ColorChecker card included (no holes) which can be used with the DNG camera profiling software.

Measuring instruments

I've looked at the devices and accessories in more detail in the i1Basic Pro 2 article, but here are the two vital parts needed for measuring printer profiling test targets. Move your mouse over the image.

The base, with its white calibration tile is essential for the acquisition of accurate and repeatable measurements.

i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer and base

Printer profiling

I've installed the i1Profiler software (see i1Basic Pro 2 for more basic software information) and selected RGB printer profiling.

Remember that even though most printers you use have CMYK inks in them, the printer drivers expect RGB data, such as in your photographic images. Our big 12 colour Canon iPF8300 printer is profiled here, as an RGB device.

I need to select the printer I'm going to use and a paper size for the profiling targets I'm going to print.

I'm starting off in the i1Profiler's basic mode, and have selected a 'medium' size target to print.

800 patch profiling target

In the basic mode, you simply select a target, print it, measure it and build an ICC profile for your chosen printer/ink/paper combination.

The longest part of the process by far, is leaving the print overnight to ensure it's dry.

With the vagaries of page layout, I prefer to print my targets from either within Photoshop or using Adobe's print utility.

To do this I first save the target as a TIFF file (which has no colour profile BTW).

Give the file a meaningful name - I do a lot of testing work, so tend to keep all kinds of test files, which I would easily forget.

saving test target

When the print is dry, I need to measure the colour values for each patch, all 800 of them.

Fortunately, the i1Pro 2 can read patches in 'strip' mode, where you just slide it back and forth over the target.

The new metal ruler feels more robust, and with the striped pattern, lets you make multiple passes over the patches, so as to get readings in the different 'M' modes.

i1pro 2 and new measuring ruler

There is a base unit that you can use to hold prints in place

target holder and i1pro for target reading

Although I didn't personally use them, the LEDs on top of the device indicate different colours, giving you feedback on when to scan and whether the readings were OK.

You may find this easier than looking at the screen and/or listening for beeps.

General device status LEDs:

After a scan, the following codes apply from the LEDs

I did notice that before the first scan of any set, there was a slight delay - this is allowing the tungsten lamp to warm up and give more repeatable measurements.

Before any sets of measurements, you will need to calibrate your device on the supplied base unit.

calibrating the i1Pro 2

The software includes tips and help aimed at making it easier to use.

The help information is effective, although it doesn't offer any more detailed coverage of 'why' you might want to do something, rather than just 'how'.

There are training videos supplied on the software disk, and more resources freely available on X-Rite's web site.

guide to scanning targets with the i1pro 2

device measurement modesYou can select what information is recorded in your measurements.

Whilst single scan might seem easier, if you are planning to do more with the data, the multi-scan option might be worth considering.

If all this manual scanning seems a bit like hard work, then there is an updated version of the iO scanning arm available.

Our own iO is the original version for the i1Pro, and needs a factory update to handle the different shape of the i1Pro 2.

You can see how it works in my original review of the i1 iO

For even more efficient measuring of patches, you could choose the i1iSis reader, which scans whole sheets at a time. This is what I use for much of our normal profiling, where I can get several thousand patches on a single A3 sheet of paper.

The iSis also supports multiple scan options for UV measurement and OBC working.

The software knows what it's expecting to see in your measurements, and will alert you if a row is incorrectly read.

It may take a few goes to get a smooth fluid reading motion - don't rush things.

error detection in patch reading

After completing measurements, it's time to select what lighting you want as the default for your profile.

D50 is the most common one to select.

The graph shows the spectrum for this lighting source.

D50 lighting source spectrum

Another light source. This is 'F2' based on a fluorescent lighting source.

Note how it's quite different to the D50 one. This is one reason prints can look different under different lighting types.

spectrum for F2 light source

After this, your profile gets made for you.

workflow stage indicator

Be sure to give the profile a meaningful name, since you will forget what you were doing at some point in the future.

building an icc printer profile

After creating an ICC profile, I like to make a print, preferably using the same software and workflow as I'm going to be using with the profile.

in this instance I'm printing to our iPF8300, via the Photoshop plugin.

The image is a composite of a standard test image and one of my own architectural images.

testing the new profile with a test print

It's specifically chosen for those intense reds and blues, which are a tough test for any printer.

The paper I'm testing is a new one, that's not currently on the market. I know from the specifications that it contains a modest amount of optical brightener.

Optical Brightening Agent compensation (OBC)

The paper looks brighter, the moment I go outdoors. Even on a cloudy day, UV light is being absorbed and re-emitted at longer wavelengths.

I took some measurements with the i1Pro 2, using X-Rite's free ColorPort software, and the example below shows some of the measurements of a patch printed at 10% black.

measurements of ink patch, showing effects of OBAs

  • I've looked at ColorPort in some more detail in an accompanying article covering using it and the i1Pro 2 for linearising black and white printing modes in some printers.
  • Compare with this same 10% patch on a warm OBA free paper.

a warm OBA free paper

The blue tint in the lower half of the top rectangle is from the blue light re-emitted by the OBAs. Similarly, the low 'b' value (-9.147) and distinct bump in the spectral response are the footprints of OBAs in the paper.

The perceived 'blueness' of this 10% black patch can make profiling software produce profiles that attempt to correct for it by adding a bit more yellow to the mix.

  • Note that to our eyes, this blueness often just looks to be a 'whiter' white (one reason you find OBAs in soap powders)

This may be OK in some print lighting, but use a lighting source that has no UV component and that excess yellow ink is probably not what your image needed.

It might be thought that if you profile with a UV-cut spectrophotometer, then the problem goes away. Unfortunately, look at your print anywhere where there is much UV and that blueness will shine through.

The multi-mode measurement capability of the i1Pro 2 allows for an estimation of just how much reflected light is coming from any OBAs present (take one reading with and one without UV)

This can then be allowed for, by the software, in the profiling.

Of course this compensation only works at its best for one light source. Others may or may not look better than with no compensation.

To make profiles using the OBC functionality, you need to be in the advanced mode for i1Profiler.

The workflow is somewhat longer.

OBC profiling workflow

You still need to print out a normal target, such as this 729 patch one.

729 patch OBC profiling target

Given I'm going to be printing two A4 sheets, I figured that it's worth maximising the number of patches on the sheets.

The slider allows you to set the number of patches.

There is however a curiosity, in that the range of patches doesn't vary smoothly.

Look at the patch set for 1005 patches below, and move your mouse over the image to see 1006 patches.

different numbers of patches in targets

Is it just me, or have I just lost the greyscale ramp and the RGB tints?

Anyway, I went for 1005 patches, and the two page A4 target.

two page printer profiling target

Once again I save the target image as a TIFF file for printing.

saving tiff files of the targets, for printing

Printing with the iPF8300 print plugin set to 'no colour correction'.

printing a test target.

I measure the patches as before.

For OBC you measure each row twice, in opposite directions.

reading targets for OBC printer profiling

I've now got a data set that could be used for profiling, but I need an extra step for OBC.

I need to make a special grey OBC test chart.

I've the option to make it for either my i1 iSis, or using the ColorChecker proof card (the one with the holes).

create OBC test char

A grey test chart is produced.

generated OBC chart

Having saved the OBC chart, I open and print it (again with no colour management).

printing custom OBC chart

Here's the file that was created.

Notice how yellow it is. This is going to be used to see how much yellow needs to be added to compensate for the effects of the re-emitted blue (OBA) light.

the actual OBC test target file

I now need to see what patches match up to the patches on the ColorChecker card, I can then put these readings into the OBC settings for profiling.

OBC test strip readings

This is the bit you need to do by eye.

I've taken a number of photos that give a feel for doing this - I've not been particularly precise in white balancing these shots between lighting sources, but that actually gives a feel for the suddenly rather imprecise nature of this step (after all the precision of using the spectrophotometer).

First - two views in tungsten lighting.

OBC test strip measurement 7

OBC test strip measurement 6

Three views, using a 'daylight' Grafilite (OTT lite) based 'tasklamp'.

OBC test strip measurement 5

OBC test strip measurement 4

OBC test strip measurement 3

Outside, on a cloudy day.

OBC test strip measurement 2

Indoors near a window.

OBC test strip measurement 1

Yes, it does take quite a bit of practice.

Note that the values for each line of grey patches may not be the same. Also, it's the lighter patches that are important, since these are where the OBA light will be most noticeable.

Once you've these readings, you can choose the illuminant for your profile.

spectral power distribution for D50 light source

It seems reasonable that if you've tested in different lighting, you might decide to use that lighting in your profile.

Here I am, measuring the light from my Grafilite (OTT lite).

Whilst I do have a full print viewing cabinet (PDV-3e), I find the GrafiLite most useful as an inspection and test light.

measuring the spectrum of a grafilite

Note that I've fitted the ambient light measuring cover, for the readings.

Remember the cunningly hidden location of the ambient measuring attachment... (mouse over image to see).

cover for ambient lighting attachment

There is a guide to taking lighting measurements.

device setup for ambient measurment

Here's the measured spectrum from the GrafiLite.

spectral output of grafilite

For comparison, the halogen spot lights in my kitchen.

output from halogen spot lighting

The lighting setting here raise an interesting problem. How do you capture lighting settings for later use, if you are not in the middle of profiling?

The only way I could easily see to do this was to open a profiling workflow at the lighting stage and store a custom light setting.

It seems like a bit of a hole in the functionality of the supplied software.

Once you've decided on your lighting, it's time to use the assorted data, to make a profile.

There are lots of adjustments you can make here, but as I've noticed before with i1Profiler, there is information about what the adjustments do, but very little on the 'why' side of using or altering them.

In using i1Profiler over the last year or so (mostly with an i1 iSis) I've found that lowering the contrast a bit from the default for 'colorful' (40) makes for perceptual rendering intents I'm a little more inclined to use (although relative colorimetric fits more of my images).

profile creation settings

Once you've made and saved profiles, it's possible to refine them by creating a second set of patches.

This refinement works well if you only start off with a hundred patches, but perhaps I'm spoilt by having an iSis and wonder just why I'd use so few patches to start with? From my own experience and reports I've read, the refinement doesn't make much difference once you start getting to 1000 patches.

Profile refinement does enable you to incorporate colours from images and spot colours, but I've just never had any reason to need this (i.e. the first profile worked well enough).

A slightly different option is the print QA proofing workflow, where you can create an image that should match the (holed) ColorChecker target.

colorchecker proof workflow

I tried making profiles with different illuminants selected and then producing test images. These are saved as TIFFs with the profile included.

Opening several of them (and using the embedded profiles) shows the differences. Printing them out produces quite obviously different looking versions.

These should then look at their best under each images's appropriate lighting.

Choosing some illuminants severely restricts the gamut of the profile - you can see this clearly below, where the software can indicate out of gamut colours - this is for a profile built with 'Illuminant A'.

QA target shows out of gamut colours

I tried this with various images printed out with specialised lighting profiles, and compared how they looked.

Profiling results

With the bright lustre finish paper, the very best profile was based on the look of the OBA chart in bright indoor lighting, with a mix of some indirect daylight and tungsten lighting.

There was not a great deal of difference with other light sources, although the daylight one produced an OBC profile that looked noticeably better - when viewed outside. That's fine but in the normal course of events, I don't produce prints for outdoors, and also avoid papers with high OBA content.

The OBC profiles that worked best were all made with D50 illuminant. I have to say, that picking a custom illuminant during the profile creation stage did not make a big difference, and that in many instances I much preferred the D50 one (I'm always inclined to remember that with photography - accurate colour is not always the best looking colour).

Using custom illuminants can work well, since I've seen it demonstrated in light boxes. I just found that in real world print viewing locations (for my own photography) that the benefits were much less tangible.

The light measurement aspects of the software could do with some refinement. An 'lighting workflow' would be a useful addition to the collection. The old i1Share software might have had one of the more ghastly interfaces I've ever come across, but it might be time to consider adding some of its lighting functionality into i1Profiler.

Whilst considering i1Share, its colour palette and Pantone functionality is available via the supplied 'PANTONE Color Manager' software (Pantone Info). I don't do any graphic design work here, so my involvement is limited to the occasional photography (not printing) of items using Pantone colours.

i1Profiler does also include functionality for comparison and analysis of measurement sets, such as below, where I've loaded measurement sets from two different papers, to see what aspects of their colour reproduction differ the most.

comparison of mesurement sets

That's it for printer profiling with the i1Pro 2

Do have a look at some of my other articles about i1Profiler software, which cover aspects of monitor and projector profiling, as well as printer profiling.

One aspect of i1Profiler that drew some criticism when it was launched, was the loss of camera ICC profiling capabilities, that you used to get when using the ColorChecker SG target.

Well, this is still absent, but you do get a small ColorChecker card and the ColorChecker Passport software.

Making DNG Camera profiles

I've a full review of using this software (which doesn't need the i1Pro 2) written up elsewhere, so I'll not repeat it here, other than to say it allows for making custom DNG camera profiles.

These can be of use if you use Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop or Lightroom for processing your RAW camera files.

mini colorchecker target for DNG profiling

I sometimes create them when carrying out product photography in unusual lighting conditions, such as you might find in factories. The photo above used one, since it's lit with the CFL lighting panels I sometimes use for small product shots.

General Observations and conclusions

The i1Pro has been the standard spectrophotometer for several years, and X-Rite have put a lot of effort into making a device that is just 'better' all round.

From measurement accuracy and repeatability, right through to physical build quality, there is a lot to commend the device.

The accessories and case all show similar design input - not just to look good, but functional as well.

The new ruler design makes for easier target reading, whilst the smaller patch sizes make it less of a chore to manually read larger patch count targets.

The i1Profiler software works well, but I feel still has a number of (relatively minor) usability issues - there is not enough emphasis on 'why' you are doing things in the help documentation.

It might be thought that only colour management professionals would be buying such kit, but it's clear from X-Rite's marketing that the i1Photo Pro 2 is aimed at photographers and other non colour management experts too.

There is no shortage of 'How to' training for the i1Pro 2, but I'm a strong believer that people understand how to use profiling tools and the like when they understand why things are done.

A simple example that sums this up, is the profile generation parameters window. What do those numbers mean? Why would you alter them? Not everyone has the time to make profiles at a range of settings and compare them, yet alone to work out combinations of multiple sliders. I've tested the software since before it came out, and I'm still not confident enough to write down what I think those numbers mean...

software glitchThere are still a few underlying glitches in the software, revealed by such oddities as the vast number beside a spectral graph.

BTW, 3.9 x 10234 is vastly more than the number of photons in the observable universe, yet alone mere atomic particles (~1080)

Profiling

I've looked at monitor and projector profiling in the i1Basic Pro 2 review, where I note it's effectiveness and accuracy.

This is continued into printer profiling, where I'm happy to use i1Profiler to create profiles for our large format Canon iPF8300 printer.

Even relatively low numbers of patches (a few hundred) will give acceptable results with modern printers. These profiles can be refined through an iterative process or, with the improved scanning ruler, you could just use higher patch counts in your first target.

For photographers wanting to get into serious printing and reproduction of their work, the i1Photo Pro 2 is capable of very good results, giving a chance to get the best out of the advances in modern inks, printers and media.

Whilst hand scanning is fine if you are just making a few profiles, regular use suggests that you might want to look at the iO scanning table [original review]. I've reviewed the iO table in the past and found it makes profile creation even easier. It's also ideal for media that is just too thick to go through our i1 iSis.

Our own iO fits the original i1Pro spectrophotometer and needs an update to use with the differently shaped i1Pro 2.

We'll look at including a review of the new iO later this year, when we've more details of the update/alteration process.

OBC profiling

Buying the i1Photo Pro 2

We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying the i1Pro 2, or any other items at all, via our links with Amazon or B&H
Amazon UK link / Amazon Fr / Amazon De
Amazon USA link / Amazon Canada link

It won't cost any more (nor less we're afraid) but will contribute towards the running costs of our site.

i1Photo Pro 2 from B&H Photo

The problems with profiling papers containing larger amounts of optical brighteners have been addressed in many ways over the years, with varying degrees of success, and the approach taken with the i1Pro 2 in this package is an effective one.

I've used it in the past with our i1 iSis and it's good to see it available in a much more generally affordable measuring device.

It should be noted though, that it's easier to use with papers that don't have a lot of brighteners, and for most photographers like myself, it's easier to pick papers that if not OBA free, contain relatively small amounts.

The i1Pro 2

There are a number of ways of obtaining the new spectrophotometer.

The different packages are outlined in the chart below.

Note that there are various upgrade programmes for software and hardware. These vary around the world, so it's best to look at the X-Rite web site for what's on offer, and what you might be able to get from a local dealer.

The i1Pro 2 doesn't make the old i1Pro any less useful. If I'm using our unfiltered i1Pro on our iO scanning table to profile a very thick paper, then the i1Profiler software will make just as good a profile. However, if the media had any significant quantity of optical brightener in it, I wouldn't get the chance to try the OBC profiling option.

If you're in a process control situation where consistency and accuracy really do matter, then the new i1Pro 2 offers many new features that should give greater confidence in its use.

The new carry case is a better made option to keep all your kit together and safe, whilst the accessories all feel more robust - important if you're taking the kit out to clients.

digital B/WFYI: I've set up a LinkedIn group (~6000 members) for people interested in all aspects of Digital Black and White photography: Digital Black and White

The i1Pro 2 really does feel like a tool for those who want to get serious about their colour management.

Available from:
Amazon.com, B&H Photo

If you've any questions or comments - please let us know

Article History - first published June 2012

  • Disclosure: Keith has tested pre-release software and hardware for X-Rite and is a member of X-Rite's Coloratti. Neither he nor Northlight Images sells hardware or software, and neither have any commercial relationships with X-Rite or other related manufacturers or suppliers.
X-Rite supplied information
Thank you to everyone who has ever purchased something via these links. If you follow a link and then buy absolutely anything it helps me run this site (the articles are all written by myself in my spare time)
- Keith (Other ways to help the site)
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Specifications

  • Note - X-Rite is releasing a software development kit (SDK) for the i1Pro 2, so you should start seeing support for it in RIPs and other systems which currently support the i1Pro.

Macintosh

Windows

i1Pro Hardware Specifications

SPECTRAL ENGINE

OPTICS

REFLECTANCE MEASUREMENT

Data Format: Spectral Reflectance [dimensionless] Measurement Conditions:

EMISSIVE MEASUREMENT

AMBIENT LIGHT MEASUREMENT

OPERATING CONDITIONS

INTERFACE, DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT

Physical dimensions

i1Photo PRO 2 INCLUDES:

More product details from X-Rite

The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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