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X-Rite ColorTRUE and the CamRanger

  |   Articles and reviews, Colour management, Monitor calibration, Review, Software review, X-Rite   |   No comment

X-Rite ColorTRUE and the CamRanger

iPad display profiling for when it matters

Keith has recently been looking at X-rite’s new calibration system for the iPad.

It works for various types of iOS and Android devices too, but the iPad is the only such device to be found in Keith’s office…

measure patches for calibration

ColorTRUE is a free App that makes use of a calibration device attached to a computer on the same network as your device.

The software allows you to bring display profiling to the iPads and their ilk.

It so happens that Keith also recently acquired a CamRanger wireless tethering device for his Canon 1Ds mk3 and 100D (aka SL1).

We’ll have a much more detailed review of the CamRanger in due course, but its software on the iPad is one of the first Apps to make effective use of ColorTRUE.

Tablet device profiling – why bother?

If you look at the sunset image below, then how do you know that what you are seeing on your monitor accurately represents what’s in the picture file?

One reason I calibrate and profile my laptop and other Macs I work on, is that consistent and reliable colour rendition is important to my work.

For an introduction to monitor profiling, see the ColorMunki Smile review, that I got this image from.

Over the years, I’ve looked at many different profiling solutions for my computers, but they all relied on having a measuring device attached to the computer and running calibration software.

Tablets are different – so different that much like my iPhone I don’t actually use our iPad for any ‘serious’ work whatsoever.

Not quite true, it made for a great ‘picture frame’ for showing some portfolio shots to clients, when I didn’t have my laptop with me.

rutland water sunset - test printSo, when X-rite first announced ColorTRUE, I’m afraid my personal reaction was just a bit ‘so what?’.

Previously, any images I put on my iPad would be resized and converted to sRGB before I upload them. The sorts of occasions I’d use the iPad are more spontaneous ‘look at this’ moments, where the fact that the iPad display was designed to ‘look good’ rather than accurate, is almost a benefit.

ColorTRUE also lets you try versions of soft proofing, with a selection of print profiles, but I couldn’t think why I’d ever use it? None of the print profiles match anything I ever use (as a photographer) and you don’t seem able to set your own.

From a technical POV, ColorTRUE is a great idea – I could use a remotely attached i1 Pro 2 spectrophotometer and produce a display profile for my iPad.

The technology is a very nifty idea – it just needed what was for me, a ‘real’ use.

Then I noticed that the CamRanger App, that controls my camera wirelessly through the small CamRanger unit, now supports ColorTRUE.

Suddenly (more) accurate colour (and contrast/linearity) -is- important.

What is ColorTRUE

I’ll quote X-Rite’s summary of just what ColorTRUE is for:

  • ColorTRUE creates a custom display profile for iOS and Android mobile devices using a supported X-Rite measurement device. The user simply places the connected device on the tablet or phone when prompted and the measurement process begins automatically. The profile is applied to all images displayed through the ColorTRUE Image Gallery, providing the user with the most accurate color match to a desktop reference monitor, or other color managed monitors.

The gallery application offers plenty of features too:

  • Ambient Light Compensation – ColorTRUE will adjust to any ambient viewing condition ensuring that images are displayed correctly regardless of the lighting condition and display brightness setting
  • Print Simulation – Preview or soft-proof images using different printer profiles and rendering intents
  • White Point – Match your tablet to your desktop – to ensure you are assessing the same image on tablet and desktop, ColorTRUE lets you choose between D65, D50 and Native white point
  • ICC Profile – Embedded image profiles are used or you can manually select correct working color spaces for your images (sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto RGB)
  • Before and After – Toggle the calibration on and off to see the color accuracy improvements on your images

Quite a few measuring devices are supported:

  • iOS phones and tablets support ColorMunki Smile, ColorMunki Display, i1Display Pro, and i1Pro 2
  • Android phones and tablets support ColorMunki Display and i1Display Pro.

BTW if you’re an App developer, there is more info about the free SDK for ColorTRUE at X-Rite

Calibrating my iPad

The photos here are exactly how I used ColorTRUE – with the iPad just sitting on my desk.

iPad using remote i1Pro 2 for display calibration

The ColorTRUE App quickly finds the i1 Pro 2 attached to my Mac.

connecting to measurement device

I need to calibrate the spectrophotometer first – it’s sitting on its stand/calibration unit.

calibrating spectrophotometer

The calibration takes a short while.

remote access to device

Once calibrated, I need to place the measurement end of the i1 Pro 2 over the orange disk.

calibration setup

The iPad displays a number of coloured patches, and a lot of grey ones.

measuring iPad screen characteristics

I know from looking at images on my iPad that linearity is not so good for highlights and shadows, so I’m assuming that the ColorTRUE App takes much more care in this area.

The whole process took no more than 5-6 minutes.

measuring multiple colour patches

At the end, my profile is created and whisked off to ‘the cloud’.

creating profile for decie

Personally I don’t much care for storing stuff in ‘the cloud’ wherever that may be, but in this case, it’s rather important, since any App that wishes to use the profile will need to pull a copy down to use.

This restriction is more down to the architecture of operating systems like iOS, than any deliberate choice. In case you were worrying about needing internet connectivity to use the profiles, then don’t, since pulling down the profile is only needed when setting things up. Just as well, since my iPad is wireless only.

That said, I would like access to the profile, and some ability to fine tune its its creation parameters – i.e I want a version of colorTRUE that works like my normal monitor profiling software.

The Image Gallery App works well and has some interesting functions, although making it so easy to turn on/turn off colour management (before/after) rather assumes you’ll be showing it to far more people who will appreciate this switching ability than maybe you know?

Now for the App that (for me) suddenly moves ColorTRUE (and to be fair, the iPad too) into the genuinely useful category…

CamRanger and ColorTRUE

The CamRanger is a small WiFi unit that connects to my camera with a USB lead and allows full wireless control of my cameras, whether that is my old Canon 1Ds mark 3 or newer Canon 100D [CamRanger info]

I’m running an App on my iPad to control the camera, full live view and a host of other functions that I’d normally expect from software on my Mac, when working tethered, in the studio.

Particularly with macro work, it can be tricky to make small adjustments in setup, when having to keep referring back to my main monitor.

As you can see above, the iPad lets me have an easy to use control station/monitor to set everything up.

The photos I take, are stored on the camera’s storage cards, and processed normally afterwards. For a busy shoot, I’m still likely to use the camera tethered to a laptop or desktop computer, but that’s a workflow choice.

Where I’m needing better colour accuracy for my final photos, I’ll likely make a DNG Profile for the camera and light combination with my ColorChecker Passport card.

See more details of its use in my ColorChecker Passport review.

In the example I’m showing here, the scene is lit with CFL light panels, and I do have several custom profiles, but that’s for processing my RAW files, not liveview from the camera.

What about when I’m taking the photos?

A grey card always helps set a rough white point for the shots (there is one included with the Passport above), but it’s nice to know that the tonality I’m seeing on my iPad is coming from the camera and not just the display I’m looking at.

A simple example shows the sort of difference I’m seeing after taking the trouble to calibrate with ColorTRUE.

Move your mouse over the image below to see the uncalibrated version.

Obviously, you’re seeing a web version of a photo of an iPad screen, so strict colour accuracy left the room a while ago, but hopefully you can see some of the changes.

It’s possible to change the white point from D65 to D50 – more common in print proofing, but far too yellow for most people’s tastes. The ‘Native’ setting is quite close to the D65.

There is a feature for setting ambient lighting correction too, not something I’d normally consider at all, but I have to keep reminding myself that the iPad is still not something you’d use for colour critical work.

I couldn’t be sure, but in setting the screen to a D50 or D65 whitepoint, the interface elements seem unchanged, suggesting that full colour management under iOS is less than comprehensive in extent.


Simple to use and simple to set up, you can now have an element of colour management for tablets and supported mobile devices.

The only thing that caught me out was that when the iPad is connected to the CamRanger wireless network, there is no internet connection to download your profile. Once I realised this, I went back and opened the CamRanger App whilst on our office network, to enable ColorTRUE, before switching back to connect to the CamRanger device.

As someone who likes to know what’s going on ‘under the hood’ I’d like to be able to know more technical details about my iPad’s screen profile, and the parameters for creating it. I know that’s something relatively few of us would want to know about (and probably even less ‘need’ ) but ColorTRUE does (IMHO) need to move in the direction of a fully fledged ‘profiling’ solution.

That said, I know that devices like the iPad are powered by operating systems that have a relatively half hearted attitude towards colour management, and many developers unfamiliar with the concept, so just getting it to work as it is, is a move in the right direction.

Colour management is to some extent a chain of situations you can decide to exert some control over, and ColorTRUE helps fix one more weak link.

As with any good colour management application, once set up, it just works…

Note – Keith regularly tests beta versions of equipment and software for X-Rite and other manufacturers, and is one of X-Rite’s Coloratti. Neither Keith or Northlight Images has any other business relationship with X-Rite – please see our review policies for more details.


Display calibration and profiling for tablets and mobile devices. Makes use of a measuring device attached to a computer on your network, to produce profiles.

Profiles are then available for other Apps to make use of (they do need to be written to make use of them).

ColorTRUE App is free, but does require that you have an appropriate measurement device.

Software requirements
  • iOS phones and tablets support ColorMunki Smile, ColorMunki Display, i1Display Pro, and i1Pro 2
  • Android phones and tablets support ColorMunki Display and i1Display Pro.

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.

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