Though we stare at our screens for at least some portion of the day, we don’t typically think of our monitors to not be accurate in what they show us. Typically though, displays are not calibrated out of the factory, and even if they are, everyone has had a kid fool about with the settings, astutely changing everything to 0. For photo and video editing, having a monitor that presents true-to-life color is crucial, and for that, a calibrated monitor is a must. Many units are out there that will adjust your monitor’s gamma, RGB, and temperature levels, but today let’s look at the Spyder4Elite from Datacolor.
The Spyder4Elite comes in three versions: the Elite, Pro, and Express, priced at $249.99, $169.99, and $119.99 respectively, consisting of a software suite, and a sensor that detects color levels from your screen. All three differ only in the software, meaning they all have the same quality sensor. The Spyder4Elite will calibrate your LCD, LED, OLED, or CRT monitor, and even a few more exotic devices like your HDTV, iPhone, or iPad. Datacolor recommends keeping your screen on for at least half an hour before calibrating; this is especially important for CRT screens that take time to warm up.
Datacolor does an excellent job of making the software a clearly worded step-by-step process. Installation is easy, as is navigating the rest of the program. You are given three options: to begin a full calibration, to recalibrate using previous data, and to check a current calibration for accuracy. Even a full calibration only takes about 5 minutes, during which you will be asked to place the sensor on the screen while the program displays various colors and grids to determine the gamma value, color temperature, and brightness. Going in for a recalibration will take even less time. After the process is done, the software creates and stores an ICC profile that adjusts your monitor’s settings every time you start your computer. Spyder4Elite also generates useful information about your display, such as how much of the Adobe RGB color space it can output.
Photography is about manipulating light into whatever form we want, but this definition can only be taken so far if our monitors don’t display true colors. Using Photoshop to tone down red levels in a photo will never have a chance at producing a perfect result if the red balance on the monitor is far too low, and because we get so accustomed to our own computers, putting in an unbiased opinion can be difficult. The Datacolor Spyder4Elite makes the guesswork irrelevant, and effortlessly makes our monitors the best they can be. While there are countless options when shopping for these devices, the ease of use of the Spyder4Elite is something that genuinely sticks out.
Bill Green is an engineering student and freelancer for Photo.net. Photo.net offers hundreds of reviews of cameras, lenses and photography equipment.