Datacolor’s Spyder5 series of products is their latest in calibration tools to help digital artists make sure they are always seeing the most accurate colors on any monitor display. There are three models to choose from: Express, Pro, and Elite+, with the Spyder5Elite+ version receiving a large software update last year. Now Datacolor is making it even easier to get a better calibration for your workflow by offering discounted prices when you upgrade to their Spyder5Elite+ model from any of their previous models or competitors products.
Datacolor’s current promotion, running until September 30, 2017, lets you upgrade from any existing device to their top of the line Spyder5Elite+ at a discounted price of $139. That gets you the Elite calibration device and the Elite+ upgraded software. As a bonus, you also get 90 days of free Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan membership. To get this deal all you have to do is go to Datacolor's website and enter your current device’s serial number (any brand) to verify it and redeem your order discount.
If your current workflow involves an older model calibration tool then this might be the perfect time to upgrade. If you are a working professional or doing any printing at all and still not using any calibration, then you really should be looking into investing in one. There is no getting around the fact that everyone on the Internet is seeing color (amongst other things) differently from you. Between different display technologies, aging bulbs, and factory default calibrations, there is just no maintained standard. If you're printing this becomes an even bigger problem since monitors and printers don't see color the same way. When your monitor is uncalibrated you are even further from getting accurate prints.
I’m not a calibration expert and the process can go from simple upkeep to increasingly complicated depending on how involved you want to get. However, color and making sure my edits are exactly what I see is very important to me. I even wrote about how you can test your own eyes' color accuracy. I bought my first calibration device many years ago, a ColorVision Spyder2Pro. It served me well for a long time and the only reason I upgraded was the software became outdated. That's when I picked up one of the latest Spyder5 models. Right after I did my first calibration I realized with the newer Spyder5Express I was getting much better gray scale representation than with my version 2 model. I honestly only upgraded because installing the software on Windows 10 had become too difficult. None of the newer features from the 2 to the 5 really seemed necessary and I wasn't having any issues with my prints or clients. What I hadn't realized is over the years as my monitors had gotten better (and bigger) with more options, the Spyder2 wasn't capable of fully taking advantage of this fact. Things like backlight brightness, gamma, and room ambient light made the biggest difference when comparing my two identical monitors calibrated each with one device.
Upgrading further to the Spyder5Elite+ with its software improvements over the Express model has been an even bigger jump in my workflow. I looked at the differences between each model when I purchased the Express version, and like a lot of users wasn't able to see the value in the expensive Elite one. After getting to use both for some time I can see now, which one you buy really is dependent on each individual's workflow needs and your environment. That being said the Elite+ really is a big upgrade from the Express. If the features you get with it help or fit into your current workflow needs then I can definitely recommend it over the other models especially if you pick it up during the discounted promotional price.
What You Get With the Spyder5Elite+
- Studio Match
- Soft Proofing/Device Simulation
- 1-Click Calibration
- Automatic Room Light Switching
- Profile Management Tool
- Advanced Display Analysis
The Studio Match feature is, in my opinion, one of the new updates that really makes the Elite+ worth the upgrade. Even just a few years ago the average user probably only needed to calibrate on one computer. Today with the power of lightweight laptops, a lot of photographers are doing more editing on the road. Maybe you have a home computer you edit on as well as a work station at the studio. This is the situation I find myself in. I use two different desktops for editing on a regular basis and my Surface Pro 4 while traveling. The Elite+ makes calibrating all my computers easier and gives me a visual way to match that calibration between them. It's a good idea to match your monitors to the one that has the best color representation. For example, if you have a nice expensive monitor at the studio and cheaper one at home. Then you will want to match the home display to your studio one.
Soft Proofing/Device Simulation
Anyone who has used Photoshop is probably familiar with Soft Proofing as it’s been an important feature to compare what your images will look like on another device like a specific printer. Now you can compare profiles from a list of devices including commercial and consumer printers in the SpyderUtility software. It even has profiles for various mobile devices like iPad and Google Nexus. I think the printing profiles will have more value for most users especially if you are doing a lot of your own printing. Though I suppose with the rise of social media and the fact that the majority of images will be seen on a smart device, this could become a valuable feature. I often show my portfolio on a tablet or even my phone so being able to see how my images will look sounds great. Now with wide Gamut monitors becoming cheaper, it's easy to forget that it probably won't look as good on your iPad.
This one may not be important to a lot of people but if you find updating your calibration regularly a pain, or have two or more monitors at your work station like me, then being able to quickly recalibrate without having to run through all the setup each time might be more relevant.
Automatic Room Light Switching
This is a pretty interesting feature and I really would need to experiment more with it to decide if I would find it useful in my workflow. A lot of people forget that our work environment can have as much effect on how we see color and contrast as the device we are looking at. I’ve even seen a video editing workstation go so far as to paint all the walls 18% gray. It's always best to have subdued lighting in the room you are working in but this may not always be possible. With this feature enabled and the device plugged in the SpyderUtility will automatically adjust screen brightness for the ambient lighting conditions throughout the day. So if you start editing with sunlight coming in through a window and end in the evening with room lights, it will take periodic measurements and adjust accordingly. This is great for anyone who is used to creating different profiles for day and night editing and would switch between them. I typically don't edit in any direct light so it will be interesting to see if I notice this feature working.
Profile Management Tool
This is another feature I feel for the right individual is probably really important. I'm uncertain how it would fit in my current workflow though. The only time I change between display profiles is if I’m playing video games at home and want bright vibrant unnatural colors. I can already switch between profiles via the Nvidia management tool. The Spyder utility does make this process simple and also allows for deleting, renaming, and copying profiles. I imagine if you do a lot of video editing then you might have different profiles. Or perhaps if you want the monitor to be calibrated to a specific output profile temporarily rather than use the soft proofing features. If this feature is something you use a lot or are interested in let me know in the comments how you are using it I’d be interested in learning more about it.
Advanced Display Analysis
This seems like overkill for the average user but I really liked exploring the different tests you can perform. The information is way more than I would know what to do with but showed me just how different my monitors are from each other in quality and performance. There are a variety of tests to perform but the most interesting one I found was the screen uniformity test. I have several different types of monitors of different quality and it was very interesting to see how well each display's brightness from edge to edge. Basically, the test divides the monitor up into nine sections and tests each section individually. Even on my nicer displays I wouldn't have thought there was so much of a difference between the sections. Something to think about when I upgrade monitors next.
If you’re not using some sort of calibration tool for your workflow, you really need to invest in at least a basic device. The entire lineup of the Spyder5 series is excellent. The Spyder name has been around for a long time and is definitely a leader in the industry. You really can't go wrong with any of their products. I personally bought a Spyder because I felt some of the other big name companies weren't updating their lineup with newer tech. Also, all the 5 series devices come with an ambient sensor which I feel is an important part of calibrating your display. If you already have an older device of any brand then upgrading during this promotion is probably the best deal you can get on any newer device. Had this been available when I upgraded from my Spyder2Pro I wouldn't have thought twice. The Elite+ is packed full of amazing features besides all the new exclusives I mentioned above and at $139 it's the best deal on the market. Even if you have one of the other 5 series models like the Express or Pro you can upgrade to the Elite+ at an even further discounted price. However, I would really look over all the feature and decide if it's something you need. A lot of the high-end features might just be overkill for some users. For someone like myself who uses several computers to edit, does a little printing, and uses my tablet to display a portfolio, the Studio Match feature and Soft Proofing abilities make the Elite+ worth upgrading to.
Get your upgrade here before the promotion runs out September 30.