29 October, 2016

x-rite i1 Display Pro

Sony 70-200mm - Coolangatta, Queensland [Click on image to enlarge]

Because I print wide format, I soon learned how expensive ink and paper are. Trial and error will never be entirely left behind, but soft proofing (seeing an approximation on the screen of how an image will look using a particular printer and paper) is invaluable.

But for soft proofing to work effectively, there has to be monitor calibration to ensure the display is speaking the same language (with the same accent) as the printer.

For example, if my monitor is set too bright, then I will dial down the brightness on an image in Lightroom to make it look right. But when I go to print — the brightness of the image having been turned down — the print will come out too dark. Colours are similarly affected by a misadjusted monitor.

For monitor calibration, from time to time I use a colorimeter — a device that sits on the front my monitor to measure how it responds to colour patches that x-rite's profiling software provides on screen. Then I adjust the monitor to respond to the images in the same way that my printer will respond to the images when they're printed. And, happily my display has little drift so I don't have to calibrate too often.

Some people claim to be able to calibrate from a reference image. You print a known image, and judge from the print whether the monitor is too bright, too dark, too red.... You get the idea. I don't doubt the claim that it's doable; I'm just know I'm not one of those people that can do it.

Even though it's relatively inexpensive, my non-Apple, wide-gamut (96% Adobe RGB) monitor is more amenable to such calibration than most Apple displays, because it allows direct hardware adjustment. But I understand that the i1 Display Pro can work with Apple's current crop as well. (I have to admit that the resolution of Apple's 5K Retina Display looks pretty impressive — too glossy, but impressive)

This discussion (finally) leads me to my point. In moving to the Mac I upgraded my colorimeter from the older x-rite eye-one Display 2, to the i1 Display Pro. The new device is a joy.

The old, egg shaped, device had its day. It did the job and it did it well, but it came from a time when most monitors were still Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs). The old colorimeter had suction cups on the front to make it stick to the display's glass surface. But when I used it in on my LCD flat screen, I had to be careful not to let the cups stick as they could damage the screen.

Without an in-depth review of the i1 Display Pro (there are plenty of those around), I can say it's the difference between night and day. Easy to use and essential for predictable colour.

There are other colorimeters out there, but I have no experience of those.  So, the most that I can say is that the i1 Display Pro works for me.

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