Monitor calibration is one of the dark art areas of photography: you know you should do it, but the how and when of monitor calibration is a bit of a mystery. The Spyder5 Express is an easy to use monitor calibration tool that handles the whole process for you.
Monitor calibration is incredibly important because if you work on an image, correcting tone and colour, you want that tone and colour to be correct where ever viewed.
If you calibrate by eye then it’s all too easy to make major mistakes, with the ambient light often directly effecting the image. Adjust an image during the day, in daylight, and then come back to it in the evening under artificial light and you will more than likely see a difference.
This really highlights the importance of good monitor calibration and this is what the Datacolor Spyder5 Express is all about.
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 Spyder5 Express is an incredibly simple looking device and the main idea of the hardware is to make calibration as quick, simple and painless as possible.
The devices 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.
Finally there’s a USB cable that plugs into your computer.
Installation and set-up of the Spyder5 Express
Getting started is very easy despite there being no get started pamphlet in the box, however as the lid is removed and before you even get to see the Spyder5 there is a paper notice that gives you a URL to get started.
Once you’ve visited the URL and downloaded the software the rest of the process is really very straightforward with no challenges at any point.
Install the software, follow the instructions, plug-in the Spyder5 and run the test and you’re done. It really is as pain-free as it gets.
The process basically works by ensuring you select the correct monitor type and model and then hooking the Spyder5 over your monitor with the lens cover removed so that the device rests on the screen.
The foam pad rests against the monitor so there’s no fear of causing an accidental scratch or mark. (It’s also worth giving your monitor a good clean with a proper screen cleaner before you start, and if using a moisture cleaner or wipe make sure the screen has fully dried before you start).
Once the process is complete you can then save the profile and exit the application. The profile will be automatically applied.
Spyder5Express calibrated monitor
After calibration the difference in the monitor is instantly apparent. I’m using a MacPro with 32” Cinema display and instantly after the calibration process the colour’s looked more vivid, shadow detail was lifted and the overall brightness of the screen was reduced.
In the Spyder5Express software it’s possible to see a quick before and after, so you can compare results.
Switch to your monitor’s colour settings and you can switch between the saved profile you have just created and existing ones that come with your system.
I find that having a few different profiles for stills, video and documents is always a good idea.
Spyder5 Express review verdict
The Spyder5 Express couldn’t be easier to use with clear software that guides you through the calibration process.
Creating and saving profiles is easy enough, although it would have been nice if there was a way to specify the type of use you intend for each profile. Then once a profile has been created having a quick way to switch between each without going into the system preferences would have been ideal.
When calibrating, the Spyder5 needs to lay flush with the monitor, in order to do this you do need to tilt the monitor up. For the majority of decent monitors this shouldn’t be an issue, but one monitor I tried was limited in the angle it would tilt, however this monitor is at the cheaper end of the scale.
If you have never thought about monitor calibration then the Spyder5 Express is an excellent introduction. The other great point about the Spyder5 hardware is that if you need the additional features of Pro or Elite versions then all you need to do is upgrade the software.
The Spyder5Express is a simple clean solution for outstanding monitor calibration.
The Spyder5 Express costs £89.99. For more detail check out www.datacolor.com