You can go to great lengths to ensure accurate in-camera white balance and consistent color in software raw processing, but all this effort is wasted if your monitor is deceiving you by displaying incorrect color.
Fortunately there's a quick, easy and effective fix for this: monitor calibration. Spend a couple of minutes calibrating your monitor and you'd be amazed at the color transformation many monitors are capable of, and how a screen you once thought was accurate is revealed to have been displaying a pronounced color cast all along.
Datacolor is one of two big names in monitor calibration, and its Spyder series of monitor calibrators have long been highly respected for their accuracy and ease of use. In fact we use a Spyder5 Elite colorimeter for checking the factory color accuracy of monitors we review.
Now Datacolor is back with its successor to the Spyder5 series: SpyderX, promising enhanced accuracy and increased calibration speed.
At first glance there isn't a great deal to separate the SpyderX from its Spyder5 predecessor , apart from the change from a black to white plastic casing, of course. Both are a similar size and shape, though the SpyderX's thickness tapers to a slimmer point as it reaches the USB cable.
The big change is visible on the underside, as the SpyderX uses a brand new lens-based sensor system rather than the honeycomb baffle on the Spyder5. The result is a claimed increase in calibration accuracy, especially in the lightest and darkest image regions, and a sub-2-minute calibration time, making this the fastest Spyder calibrator ever.
Datacolor also maintains the accompanying calibration software is even easier to use than before.
- Single click & wizard calibration capability
- Multiple monitor support
- Ambient light monitoring & profile switching
- Before and after calibration review
- Advanced display mapping & analysis tools
- Unlimited calibration setting choices
- Expert console calibration
- Video & cinema calibration targets
- Soft proof of print results
- Projector calibration
- Display matching in studio
- Visual fine tuning for side-by-side display match
Setting up the SpyderX is as easy as installing its corresponding software from the link on the enclosed information card and entering the serial code printed inside the product packaging.
The calibration software is almost identical to that used by the old Spyder5 Elite, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. While the interface design is starting to look a bit dated, the software does manage to combine extensive functionality and features with plenty of informative explanation and a logical wizard-driven calibration process. Or there's a full-on Expert Console if you want to delve in and adjust every conceivable calibration option. The software caters well for any level of user expertise.
Once you've clicked through the various monitor set-up parameters - including extensive options for defining your display type and monitor backlight technology - it's time to start the calibration itself. The SpyderX colorimeter rests on your display, with its sensor cover hanging over the back of your monitor to act as a counterweight. The software then fires a series of colors through the monitor which are then analysed by the SpyderX to see how close your monitor gets to meeting the SpyderX's colour accuracy targets.
And it's at this point you really experience the SpyderX advantage. Our test monitor was a Dell XPS 15 laptop with a 4K IPS display and 100% Adobe RGB coverage. Calibrating with our Spyder5 Elite took 5 minutes 17 seconds, whereas an identical calibration with the SpyderX was completed in a blistering 1 minute 15 seconds. Given monitor calibration isn't a once-only procedure - you should calibration roughly once a month to ensure consistent color accuracy - such a noticeable time saving is very handy indeed.
As for color accuracy, switching back and forth between our Spyder5 and SpyderX color profiles showed no noticeable colour differences. While the SpyderX is undoubtedly at the forefront of calibration technology, the Spyder5 is still a highly accurate calibration tool, so it should come as little surprise that the two are closely matched for accuracy.
With each new revision of a monitor calibrator inevitably comes talk of quicker calibration times and increased accuracy. While the latter is more of an incremental upgrade over the outgoing Sypder5, the SpyderX does at least provide a huge speed benefit and is a worthwhile upgrade if you need to calibrate multiple monitors or regularly calibrate your main display. We can forgive Datacolor for not having done much to improve its calibration software, as it was already satisfying to use.
As for which version of the SpyderX you should buy, the Pro edition costs £159/$170/€179 and makes the most sense for photographers, as you still get the same lens-based sensor tech as in the Elite, along with ambient light monitoring and multi-monitor support.
The Elite adds projector profiling, pro-orientated advanced calibration options, and its video color space targets are useful for video editing, but it commands a £249/$270/€279 price tag.
However, if you just want good calibration accuracy and are happy for the calibration process to take a bit longer, the Spyder5 Pro and Elite can still be found, for a tempting £99/$150 and £178/ $250 respectively.