What is a monitor calibrator?
A monitor calibrator is a tool we use to ensure that an image viewed on your computer will look just the same on a monitor in a photo lab on the other side of the world. It uses a lot of complex algorithms that you thankfully don’t have to mess around with to apply common industry standards for colour to your monitor.
Whether it’s minor adjustments in contrast to daylight balancing your tones, a monitor calibrator ensures your colours are precise and accurate.
Sound complex? Thankfully it’s very easy to do. All you need to do is simply mount your monitor calibrator to your screen, use the setup wizard to get it going and then it takes care of the rest.
Over the course of about five minutes the monitor calibrator will move across your screen flashing lights in different colours. What it’s doing is measuring the results of your image on screen versus what it expects, making adjustments as it goes.
Down below we’ll round up some of the best monitor calibrators on the market today, but first, let’s answer some of the common questions people have.
How often should I calibrate my monitor?
As a general rule, you should calibrate your monitor about once a month. Think of it like tuning a guitar. You can get your guitar perfectly in tune, but as you play it and bend strings, it will slowly drift out of tune. The same principle applies to your monitor.
The best monitor calibrators you can buy today
- Calibration reminders
- Easy setup
The Spyder5ELITE+ is DataColor’s top flight monitor calibrator and features a set of easy to use tools that will ensure that your images look as good off screen as they do on. One click calibration, soft proofing and StudioMatch makes the Spyder5ELITE+ one of the most complete solutions out there.
The Spyder5ELITE+ comes in two parts, the hardware that drapes over your monitor, and reads the illumination and the software that analyses the results and adjust the monitor to display the correct brightness, colour and contrast.
Unlike many cheaper monitor calibrators, the Spyder5ELITE+ packs in a variety of advanced features that will appeal to the high-end club photographer as well as professionals.
The entire setup process is fast and straightforward with the software being installed, the Spyder5ELITE being plugged into a spare USB port. Then all you need to do is follow the onscreen instructions and then pretty much leave the software to handle the rest.
Once the software completes you can then save and install the profile that has been created. Next, check the before and after view and set up the software to remind you to recalibrate at regular intervals.
X-Rite i1 Studio
- All-in-one colour management
- Easy to use software
The i1 Studio is the latest all-in-one colour management solution from X-Rite. It’s designed to ensure that you get colour right in camera as well as on monitor and printer. This is also the first major update to the pro range for some years.
Camera calibration is handled by the small ColorChecker Classic, simply photograph the chart in situ, and then run the image through the software. A profile is then created to correct all other images, very quick and handy.
Monitor and printer calibration is handled by the i1 Studio hardware, and each step is guided by the software, easy and relatively quick to use.
The price may seem steep, but the difference you’ll see in your images and print after use is instantly apparent.
If you’re a professional or need to ensure that the colours through your entire workflow are spot on, then the i1 Studio is an ideal colour management solution.
Datacolor Spyder5 Pro
- Personalised Before and After
- Room light monitoring
The Spyder5 Pro is Datacolor’s mid-range monitor calibrator and offers quite a bit of customisation. In particular, Datacolor’s room light monitoring helps ascertain the optimal monitor brightness for where you’re working so that you can see fine details in the shadow areas and highlights of your images.
There’s also a clever ‘Before and After’ analysis of your calibration results using your own images so that you can fine tune according to the details that are important to you.
Full calibration takes about five minutes, and a Display Analysis feature lets you compare the performance of all your many monitors.
X-Rite i1 Display Pro
- Can calibrate any monitor
- Very fast
The X-Rite i1 Display Pro offers a ton of versatility with its ability to profile just about any monitor type, from LED to Plasma to OLED, Wide Gamut and RG Phosphor.
What’s more, its profiling is in intelligent and measures the colour capabilities of each display and adapts accordingly for more accurate tones.
What really impresses, though, is its speed. X-Rite claims the i1 Display Pro is five times faster than previous devices.
Couple that with infinite control of white point, luminance, contrast ratio, gamma and more, and this is a seriously powerful little device.
Datacolor Spyder5 Express
- Can upgrade the software for more features
- Tripod mount
The simplicity of the Spyder5 Express system is instantly apparent with the small box only containing the device and a serial code that’s needed once you have download the software. Other than the Spyder5 there’s nothing else to it, with all documentation and software held online.
The device itself is around 8cm across and lightweight so easy enough to transport with you if you do location work. On the base of the unit is a lens hood that once removed reveals the colorimeter surrounded by a soft foam pad.
On one of the sides of the Spyder5 is a tripod mount, this only comes into play if you upgrade to the Elite version and will enable you to use the Spyder5 to calibrate projectors.
There are three versions of the Spyder with the Express being the entry level model. Actually the hardware for all three versions is identical, it’s just the software that unlocks additional features. This means that you can upgrade the software at any point to suite your needs.
If you have never thought about monitor calibration then the Spyder5 Express is an excellent introduction.