Color Management and the iPad

iPad 2 gamut in White, sRGB gamut in Green

As interest in the new iPad, with its higher resolution, larger gamut screen, comes to a head this week, I am hearing more and more about using the iPad as a photo portfolio, and other color critical uses. This, in turn, raises questions about color management and the iPad. While we will have to wait until Friday to be able to discuss color management in relation to the “New iPad” as Apple calls it, we can talk about color management in terms of other iOS devices in advance.

The image at the top of this post is a measurement for the gamut of an iPad or iPad2 (they both use the same screen). Its a bit more complementary than other measurements I have made on other iPads and iPhones, but overall they tend to have a fairly similar color gamut. This gamut is high in the blues, with no deep blue capability, and similarly short on the reds, making a really satisfying Christmas red out of reach, plus rather yellow in the greens, which makes images of lush greenery a rather unsatisfying duller tone than expected.

As soon as I received the original iPad, I looked at a standard color test image on it and diagnosed this set of color limitations without even measuring the screen. But measurements soon backed up my visual impressions, and I was immediately interested in the puzzle this laid out: would it be possible to color manage the iPad, as one would a regular monitor? If so, what methods could be used, since standard color management at the operating system  level was conspicuously absent in iOS. And would users be satisfied with the results, since color management for screens these days is more about choking back the display of images on high end graphics displays with a gamut much larger than sRGB, not attempting to display images on a gamut significantly smaller than sRGB.

Color Management On and Off on the iPad

The short answer to these questions is: Yes, Datacolor was able to develop a color management application for the iPad (and more recently for the iPhone as well; and we now have Android in our sights). And that app, named SpyderGallery, did indeed improve color on the device; though only within our own image viewing app, since the process called “sandboxing” keeps apps from interacting under iOS the way they can under desktop operating systems. And the SpyderGallery app even offers two rendering intents, for different types of images or different user preferences, that can be changed at will as the app is presenting images. The image above is an emulation of the results of toggling the color management switch on and off in SpyderGallery, showing a difficult image with, and without calibration. Sorry for the flashing effect while you are trying to read, but the before and after effect is important enough that I was willing to break that rule this one time.

SpyderGallery is, to date, the only color management app for iOS. It works by using a Datacolor Spyder3 or Spyder4 connected to your computer, which in turn communicates wirelessly with your iPhone or iPad, to coordinate the display of color patches, reading of those patches, creation of a color profile, and transfer of that profile from the computer to the iOS device. This process is illustrated in this screenshot of that section of the software below.

Once the iPad or iPhone is calibrated, you can view any of your images from the photo galleries on your device though the gallery component of SpyderGallery. This is unusual for an image app under iOS; most apps force you to import your images into their own internal gallery, leading to a constant mismatch between what you have on the device, and what you have in the app, and taking up twice as much precious hard disc space with the repeat copies of images. As well as viewing your iPhone or iPad galleries, SpyderGallery also allows you to access  your Flickr and Facebook galleries directly from the web, and apply color management to them as well. This increases the number of images and albums which you have color control over.

SpyderGallery displaying images from the iOS device's native galleries

One last tip for adding color management to your presentation applications and other apps under iOS. If you bring up an image in SpyderGallery, and take a screenshot of it, you will then have a full screen, color corrected image which you can crop or adjust as desired, and place in any iOS app, to provide color management outside of SpyderGallery.

Now we all have to wait until the new iPad is released on Friday, to see just how its increased color gamut and increased resolution interacts with SpyderGallery; and whether an update will be needed to the SpyderGallery application for any of the new functions in the new iPad.  Stay tuned for more on the topic, once the new iPad is out! For more information on SpyderGallery see the SpyderGallery Product Page.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012.   Website:   Return to Blog’s Main Page

Published by cdtobie

This blog covers a range of issues of interest to photographers and those involved in the digital photographic workflow, digital tools and platforms, and fine art output.

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