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X-Rite Eye One iSis automated patch reader review

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X-Rite Eye One iSis automated patch reader review

Using the i1 iSis XL to measure printer profiling targets

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We’ve reviewed various versions of the Eye One profiling package elsewhere, and in all of them you have to make some effort to align and measure the charts.

Simple, but what about making the process even more foolproof, and adding in the capability of doing both UV and UV filtered profiling chart measurements?  Keith has been looking at what this device from X-Rite does…

i1 isis

I’ts become our target measuring tool of choice.

What do you get with the iSis?

The iSis comes in two varieties, A4+ (standard) and A3+ (XL).

The version I’m having a look at here is the XL size, which means you can read a whole A3+ test chart in one go.

The aluminium case is very strong and the whole device robust enough for use in busy print environments.

I’ve covered quite a bit of the basics of printer profiling in my reviews of the various Eye One systems.

April 2011 – Products are now offered with i1 Profiler software, where the iSis supports OBA compensation.

If you are new to the subject, I’d suggest having a look at some of my previous colour management reviews, where I cover a lot more of the reasons -why- you are doing various things.

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The two key features of the iSis are the fact that it allows you to make measurements both with and without a UV filter and that it can read a whole chart in one go, making use of codes you can add to the charts to make the measurement even more foolproof.

According to x-rite it can measure both UV-Cut and No-Filter on 1,500 patches in eight minutes. You can read 2,500 patches on an A3+ page. I’m going to assume that if you are using targets with that many patches on a sheet, then you really do understand what you are doing and why ;-)

My Eye One spectrophotometer is the usual sort without a filter – if I needed filtered measurements then I’d need to get a second filtered version.

The iSis is not supported from the Eye One Match software I’ve reviewed elsewhere, you need the much more advanced ProfileMaker Pro (PM5). Given it’s complexity I’m not going to go into details of the profile making process here, but you can use the software in its ‘demo’ mode to make measurements (using the MeasureTool ) and save the readings as text files for analysis with whatever software you wish.

You do however need a full version (there are a variety of options available when you buy the software) to make your own custom charts.

Check with X-rite or your local supplier for details of current pricing and software bundle options. There is more iSis information on the GretagMacbeth X-Rite web site

What’s inside the iSis

The photograph below shows more detail of the actual spectrophotometer unit that scans across the test chart. At the back is the motor that moves it across, and you can see one of the chart feed rollers below (with the red rings)

eye one isis scanning unit

Spectrophotometer scanning unit

The underside shows a row of feed rollers and to the left, the white calibration tile for the unit

isis underside

Underside of iSis

Charts are fed into the front and come out the back during the measurement process (so leave space on your desk)

isis profiling software connectionUsing the iSis

The device requires very little setting up.

It has an external 12V power supply and a USB connection to your computer.

I tried it on a Mac, but the software is virtually the same on a PC

Using ProfileMaker Pro to set up the unit for use.

Notice I’ve selected two sets of measurements.

This takes slightly longer than just UVCut on its own.

The spectrophotometer needs calibrating before each use, and there is a built in calibration tile that gets automatically used

position of BRCA calibration tile

Location of BRCA calibration tile

The image below shows how you can access the tile for cleaning – move your mouse over the image to see how

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Access to calibration tile

Charts for the iSis need additional identification and guide markings for the sensor to detect where to make its measurements.

The example below shows a TC9.18 918 patch RGB profiling target as you would print it out. The bar codes are read by the software when making readings in fully automatic mode, so as to minimise the chances of using the wrong reference data.

The small diamonds to either side of the patches are there to align the reading process. As such the iSis can allow for misalignmnet of the test charts that you might get when feeding through a trimmed test sample from a print run.

tc9.18 test chart

A TC9.18 automated reading target

The image below gives an idea of the scanning process – of course I’ve just got the lid open to see what’s going on, normally you’d keep it firmly shut

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Chart reading in progress

If you are using the MeasureTool in PM5 then the results appear in real time.

target measurements

Once completed, you can save the results as text files (and export the data in Lab format)

target data

Note that I’ve got two sets of measurements here, since I’d specified that I wanted both filtered and unfiltered results

I’ll be covering some of the PM5 functionality in a future article, but suffice to say, I just saved the non UV-cut (not filtered) readings and made a profile using default settings. I use it on the old Epson 1160 I have on my desk – clear sharp glossy prints, more than good enough for the (very few) clients who want to see a quick printed version of my photos.

selecting test chartCustom charts

The software supplied comes with quite a collection of ready to use test charts – but what if you want one of your own?

I’ve long admired the work that Bill Atkinson puts into profiling and making his results and profiles freely available for people to use.

Note 2015: The site that used to host Bill’s free targets and icc profiles has evaporated. We’ve links and info for what we’ve got on our Printer test images page.

I took his 1728 patch target data and using the tools in PM5 created my own iSis target, complete with bar code to even further automate the process.

I discovered that you do have to be careful to make sure that all the data and chart names match up, or else the automated reading can go a bit awry.

It should be possible to make much larger (long) targets, that could be printed multiple times on a large printer, trimmed to size and then averaged to get very good sets of data.

The picture below shows the target definition file – note how the patches get rearranged for making a target in the subsequent picture.

target definition file

Building the target (multi page if need be)

printer profiling test chart generation

Color Management book

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

RWCM  2nd Edition RWCM 

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

Designing your own charts is not a trivial process, but the iSis makes using them with PM5 a lot simpler.


The reader worked rapidly and reliably – apart from a few initial chart feed problems which were solved by making sure the plastic plate (over which you feed the chart) was firmly in place.

I suspect this was due to the unit tested being an early production model.

There is a clear plastic sheet for stopping the scanner unit moving during shipping – this has been replaced with a locking mechanism in current devices.

The iSis is not a cheap bit of kit, so the big question is… do you need an automated reader like the iSis?

According to X-Rite you should consider the iSis over a solution like the Eye One iO if you:

  • Create more than two profiles a week
  • Linearise or re-calibrate a device often
  • Create profiles for a team, group or company
  • Need to read very large charts or numbers of patches
  • Need to measure charts in a multicolour environment
  • Need to average measurements for a press or digital press
  • Want to automate your colour profiling process OR
  • Have inexperienced users measuring colour

For many press and publishing users, the additional robustness, speed and lower operating skills are likely to be a real attraction. It’s not uncommon for such organisations to need to measure hundreds of test charts a month.

If you need UV filtered measurements for your particular software, then the dual measurement technology saves you buying two spectrophotometers.

As to whether you need UV filtered measurements, then the subject regularly provokes intense discussion on lists. At least with the iSis I have the option :-)

I liked being able to produce profiles quickly with large numbers of patches, and the 1728 patch Atkinson target was very easy to set up and use. The iSis makes the whole measurement process a lot simpler and removes potential sources of error.

As you would expect for a precision instrument like this, each device comes with its own calibration certificate.

Not as impressive to casual visitors to the office as the iO robot arm, but given my natural laziness, it encouraged me to do a bit more experimentation with large target profiles (which are not always better than ones made with smaller sets).

The iSis is available at B&H Photo (US)

Additional Notes/updates

September 2015 – All of Bill Atkinson’s files are gone – We’ve links and info for what we’ve got on our Printer test images page.

2012 -Note that the iSis now works with i1Profiler software

June 2011 – The measuring part of the new i1Pro 2 is based on that in the iSis, and offers similar dual mode measurements and OBC

June 2011 – The iSis is what we used for much of our testing and review of i1Profiler

February 2009 – We’ve a review of the i1 iSis specific OBA compensation module

July 2007 Bill Atkinson has updated his sets of target info with some for the two versions of the iSis Download them at (site is dead)

It seems that if you make the two sets of measurements (UV and non UV) then Profilemaker can use the differences to more accurately compensate for OBA’s in paper. This was mentioned on the Apple ColorSync list with this comment (attributed to X-rite)

“In ProfileMaker’s MeasureTool when the instrument is in “UV Cut” mode, it will take 1 measurement. When the instrument is in “UV Cut + No” mode, it will take 2 measurements, and use the difference between them to compute the effects of any optical brighteners in the paper stock.”

To make use of this feature (and I missed it in any documentation) you need to make a combined UV + UV cut measurement file and use this in Profilemaker.

x-rite eye-one iSis review summarySummary

Efficient and fast measurement of printer profiling targets. Aimed at the market who can justify the additional expense through improved speed and reduction of potential errors in a busy environments.

Current (Apr 07) price on the US GMB web site is $4,995 for the Standard and $5,695 for the XL

Works on both Macs and PCs, available either on its own, or in conjunction with different level profiling solutions from X-Rite/GretagMacbeth (more details)

Specifications (From manufacturers)

Spectral Engine: Eye-One technology (holographic diffraction grating with diode array)
Spectral Range: 380 – 730 nm
Optical bandwidth: 10 nm
Sampling interval: 3.5 nm (100 bands)
Spectral reporting: 10 nm
Interface: USB
Physical dimensions: Eye-One iSis (A4+)
Width 42 cm, depth 16 cm, height 12 cm (16.5 x 6.3 x 4.7 inches)Eye-One iSis XL (A3+)
Width 53 cm, depth 16 cm, height 12 cm (20.5 x 6.3 x 4.7 inches)
Weight: Eye-One iSis 3.2 kg (112.9 oz.)
Eye-One iSis XL 3.9 kg ( 137.6 oz.)
Inter-instrument agreement: Average 0.4 DE*94 (deviation from X-Rite manufacturing standard at a temperature of 23°C on 12 BCRA tiles (D50, 2°))
Short term repeatability: 0.1 DE*94 (D50, 2°), on white
Chart Specifications
Paper Width: Eye-One iSis (A4+): 6 to 23 cm (2.4 to 9 in.)
Eye-One iSis XL (A3+): 6 to 33 cm (2.4 to 13 in.)
Paper Length: 17 cm to 66 cm (6.7 to 26 in.)
Paper Thickness: 0.08 to 0.45 mm
Supported Materials: Coated Paper, Uncoated Paper, Copier Paper, Photo Paper and others
Minimal patch size: 6 x 6 mm
Patches / Chart: 1 to 3,000 patches

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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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