The Spyder Checkr Photo is designed to fix the variations in camera sensors and lenses that can shift colors and tones in unwanted directions. It’s a simple and very portable color swatch tool in a folding plastic case that works alongside Spyder Checkr software to deliver accurate color corrections in Lightroom Classic, Adobe Camera Raw and the Hasselblad Phocus software.
You place the Checkr in the scene you’re photographing and in the same lighting as your subject, take a photo and then use this to carry out a pretty straightforward calibration and colour correction process.
It can in principle be used with third party tools to create custom profiles, but we tested it using its key workflow – as a Lightroom calibration tool.
Swatches: 24-patch color, 24-patch grayscale (plus large 18% and 50% gray targets), 6 portrait color swatches, 6 black and white adjustment swatches.
Dimensions: 116 x 90mm, 110g
Windows: Win 7 32/64, Win 8 32/64, Win 10 32/64
Mac: Mac OS X 10.10, 10.11, 10.12, 10.13, 10.14
Monitor: 1280×768 or greater, 16-bit video card (24-bit recommended)
Hard disk space: 500MB
The Spyder Checkr Photo opens out two ways to display a regular color checker swatch set used by the Spyder utility, and a set of black and white swatches with 18% and 50% gray swatches for ad hoc white balance and exposure adjustments – with the Spyder Checkr Photo you won’t need a separate gray card, and you can also simulate incident light value readings.
It works alongside a SpyderCheckr software utility that takes a TIFF file generated from your test photo and uses it to create a set of HSL (Hue Saturation Lightness) adjustment that can be applied in Lightroom as a preset. There are other potential workflows and ways of using the Spyder Checkr Photo, but this is what it’s designed for.
Build and handling
The Spyder Checkr Photo is physically like a small plastic book where you press a central catch to open either the regular color swatches (front) or the grayscale targets (back). If you open both it makes a ’T’ shape that can be stood vertically to display either swatch set to the camera.
It’s best to position the Spyder Checkr Photo perpendicular to the camera to minimize the need for perspective adjustments later, but it doesn’t have to fill the frame.
Once you’ve take a shot with the Spyder Checkr Photo in the scene, you can remove it and shoot as normal – the correction comes later.
To apply corrections, you open your test image in Lightroom (this works best with raw files), crop into the target itself, correct the white balance with they eydropper on a neutral patch, then make a simple exposure adjustment to get the 90% white and 4% patches at the right level. Now you can export a TIFF file to the SpyderCheckr app, which is installed as a Lightroom plug-in.
In the app you simply need to line up an overlay showing the swatch colors with the patches themselves, then export a preset for Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw or Phocus.
You have a choice of rendering modes:
• Colorimetric Mode for the most literal results
• Saturation Mode provides a generally more pleasing boost in Saturation
• Portrait Mode reduces the skin tone saturation for easier portrait processing
It is a little annoying to have to restart Lightroom to show new profiles you've just added, but that's probably more to do with Lightroom than the Color Checkr Photo.
Spyder Checkr Photo is designed for accuracy and repeatability, not dramatic tonal shifts. In our tests using an indoor scene, it had perhaps a larger effect on shadow density (an improvement) than any color hues. We also tried it outside using our Panasonic Lumix G9, which has a tendency to reproduce darker yellow tones, such as coarse, dry grass, with a red tinge – and it fixed that perfectly.
Where Spyder Checkr Photo is really likely to score is ensuring consistency when using different cameras or lenses for the same subject.
Spyder Checkr Photo is fairly straightforward to use, but you may have to create multiple profiles for a host of different camera and lens combinations and lighting conditions. It’s effective, but it could also prove quite time consuming if you use it across your photography. It might be best reserved for critical commercial work in controlled lighting.
Having said that, it could prove really useful to have the Spyder Checkr Photo’s 18% and 50% gray swatches in a scene for quick and simple custom white balance and exposure settings you can apply there and then.