The Color Calibration Status Quo
Photographers have long understood that the most important element in controlling their color is display calibration. And those that are serious about making their own prints also understand the value of custom printer profiles in getting the best results and reducing trial-and-error test prints. But many photographers are only recently becoming aware of capture calibration. Datacolor’s new SpyderCAPTURE PRO product is designed with this new interest in capture calibration in mind.
The Idea of Camera ICC Profiles
Photographers have been using ICC profiles for their displays and printers for many years. But their early attempts at camera calibration using ICC profiles were often unsatisfying. When color management customers would ask me about capture calibration, that was the term they originally used: Camera ICC profile. But ICC profiles are not ideal for many types of capture calibration, since they build a single light source assumption into the profile, rendering it invalid for most images. In order to use ICC profiles for camera calibration, a new profile must be made for each and every lighting condition, and many situations do not allow for the care appropriate for shooting a color target to use for camera calibration.
Camera Calibration versus Scene Correction
To further complicate matters, when customers would show me images that they assumed a camera profile would “fix”; these images most often had white balance and exposure issues. This resulted in the first capture product from Datacolor not being a camera calibrator, but a white balance and exposure tool: SpyderCUBE. This is a fast and easy product to shoot under differing lighting conditions, which provides white balance and exposure data for later RAW adjustment of the images. It can also be used to determine optimal camera settings on site, and to configure lighting set-ups for photo shoots were lights, reflectors, and gels are used. Photographers who integrated SpyderCube into their photo workflows found that it solved many of their color problems.
Camera Color Matching and Correction
But there were still color issues that were not corrected by the SpyderCUBE; issues such as different cameras providing different color flavors in the images they produced. And localized color issues such as logo colors or difficult colors which did not shoot quite as expected. These are true camera calibration issues, and SpyderCHECKR was designed specifically to deal with them. Shooting the SpyderCHECKR carefully, under controlled lighting conditions produces a camera calibration that can then be used with virtually any image shot with that camera, or that camera and lens combination, for lenses which have a visible color flavor.
A Complete Capture Color Solution
A photo workflow based on using SpyderCHECKR camera calibration for each camera body or body and less combination used, and SpyderCube for site lighting and exposure info produces a robust color workflow with better camera-to-camera matching, and more accurate and consistent color across the board. The learning curve to incorporate this solution into your photo workflow is short and sweet; results can be seen immediately, and soon become second nature to photographers who adopt a Spyder Capture Workflow.
Lens AutoFocus Calibration
There is one other camera function which can be calibrated; and while it is not color related, its definitely image quality related. This is auto-focus calibration. Datacolor added SpyderLENSCAL to the product like to allow photographers to check the autofocus on their cameras, and as a tool for adjusting the micro-focus functions in the more recent high-end DSLR models. Since the release of SpyderLENSCAL, it has become even more useful, with some recent camera models now allowing micro-adjustment of the focus at both ends of the zoom range of zoom lenses. As auto-focus becomes more effective in newer cameras, more and more photographers are depending on auto-focus for more types of photography; not just fast action photography and photo-journalism, but glamour, fashion, street, and even architecture and landscape. The more a photographer depends on auto-focus, the more important auto-focus testing and adjustment becomes.
AutoFocus for Tuning as well as Correction
Once photographers started using SpyderLENSCAL, they realized that it was not just useful to center a lens’s depth of focus on the focal point, but could also be used to bias the depth of field for differing types of photography. So a glamour shooter may prefer to move the focal range a bit forward, so that when the eye is in focus, the nose is also sharp, instead of the ear. A landscape photographer might prefer to do the opposite, and have the landscape behind the focal point be more in-focus than items in the foreground. And with multi-adjustment camera bodies, it is now possible to set a 70-200mm lens to front focus a bit for portraits and people shots at 70mm, but back focus a bit for landscape and street shots at 200mm; the best of both worlds in a single lens.
Now a Bundled Solution
All of these Datacolor capture products have been available individually, but as interest in capture calibration has increased, more and more customers have been looking for a bundle including these product to meet their needs. So SpyderCAPTURE PRO was created, including all three of these capture products, plus Spyder4ELITE for calibration of displays, projectors, and mobile devices. This solution offers a generous price savings over individual purchase of the included products, and also includes the popular fitted metal case that has been a signature of Datacolor bundles over the years. So if you are ready to improve your capture color and sharpness, as well as trust the color you see while viewing and editing these images, Datacolor SpyderCAPTURE PRO may be just what you are looking for.