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ColorVision Spyder2 Plus Review
Review Date: 14/02/06
Rating: Recommended!
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Introduction: The ColorVision Spyder2 Plus is a Monitor and Print colour calibration bundle, an "Advanced Color Calibration System for CRT and LCD displays", the Plus version features the Spyder 2 color sensor device (Colorimeter), Spyder2 Software, ProfilerPLUS Software (for Printer Calibration), PANTONE colorist software, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and an installation guide.

The ColorVision Spyder2 allows you to callibrate your CRT, TFT, or Laptop screen, using a Colorimeter connected to your computer with a USB cable, the process uses an on-screen wizard to guide you through the process. You also get free technical support and a 2 year warranty. The Plus package allows you to create a calibrated colour profile for your printer. Nb. The ColorVision is an American product, as as such their name is spelt the American way, color, as I am based in England, I will be spelling colour the British way when I write the word colour.

ColorVision have this to say about the Spyder2 Plus:

"The Digital Darkroom in a Box – helps you produce better prints. The ColorVision® Spyder2 Plus™ combines the next generation Spyder2™ - the new standard for affordable monitor calibration - with printer color correction and Adobe® Photoshop® Elements 3.0. The ColorVision Spyder2 colorimeter and monitor calibration for advanced amateurs and prosumers delivers precise ICC display profiles for your CRT, LCD or notebook display. ProfilerPLUS provides quick, scanner-based printer profiles. FREE bonus software includes Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 (€99 value)."

You can find more information on their website.

Box contents: ColorVision Spyder2 colorimeter, ColorVision Spyder2 software CD, ColorVision ProfilerPLUS software CD, Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 CD, Warranty card, Quick installation guide, Spyder2 Plus Quick Start Guide, Pantone colorist CD.

Install and in Use process:

Installation of the Spyder2 CD is speedy, and easy to do. Instructions are fairly easy to follow, using the "Spyder2 Installation Guide" my eyes going towards the 1 - 9 step process generally skim reading all the surrounding small print, which meant I didn't know that connecting the Spyder2 was required before running the software (I thought it might instruct me to connect it later), so perhaps the numbered instructions could be expanded to include plugging the device in and then running the program. If I had read the last installation screen, I would have spotted the instruction to plug the Spyder2 in prior to running the program.

Once running the program there are on-screen instructions explaining what to do, and what will happen. There's also a help button to further explain the process as shown below:

The next screen advises you to leave the monitor on for an hour, to plug the Spyder2 in (although the program wont run without the Spyder2 plugged in). The program advises on the best lighting situation, and monitor settings, so that calibration is performed successfully.

The next screen asks you to select CRT or TFT to let the program know which type of screen you have. It displays helpful pictures showing you the difference and explains the difference with text as well. The next screen asks you what target gamma/colour range you would like. The next screen confirms the options you've selected and shows you the current profile being used.

Letting the program know what controls you have on your display is the next step - if you are using a DVI (Digital) connection to your TFT - your on-screen controls could be more limited than with traditional VGA cables. The next screen advises you to rest all settings to the factory defaults. Set Black Luminous level is the next step, they recommend setting the brightness level lower until 4 seperate squares are visible.

In the following step the program asks you what RGB / Kelvin settings your monitor allows you to change. The next step explains what the adjustments allow you to do. After this you get to use the calibration sensor!

ColorVision Spyder2 sensor bottom - showing the suction cups, and sensor.

After arranging the sensor, as long as you manage to balance the Spyder2 successfully you shouldn't need to hold it in place - in the picture below I was simply holding it in place to show the relative size of the sensor. When used with a CRT, you can use the built in suction cups to attache the sensor to the screen, but with a flatscreen TFT you can't use the suction cups. Quick Tip: With TFT/LCD screens, tilting the screen backwards slightly can help the sensor stay more flat to the screen.

Calibration sensor in place.

The calibration sensor is placed hanging in front of the monitor, as shown above, if a CRT, you can use the suction cups to attach it, if a TFT/LCD, then you need to balance the device in front of the screen, using the weight on the USB Cable as a counter balance. If your screen allows you to change settings such as brightness, RGB levels, colour temperature etc, then Inititial colour calibration is quick, taking less than a minute. A new Dell 20" Widescreen TFT that I had just recieved was very close to the target 2:2 / 6500K, so good infact that the difference was less than 0.5, and they didn't recommend changing any settings! By changing RGB settings on the screen I was able to update the reading until the difference was 0.0.

The next / full calibration step produces a proper colour profile, and takes around 17 minutes, this is a good time to go and make a cup of tea! After this step, the program prompts you for a name to give the profile you have just created. This will be loaded automatically at Windows startup and be used by programs such as Adobe Photoshop. The next screen allows you to flick between before and after to show the effect the calibration has had. After this the program can be quit as the monitor is now correctly calibrated! If brightness, or any other settings are changed on the monitor calibration will need repeating.

Results (Here's what I found) - I've included some photographs of the before and after, in an attempt to show the difference, however as these are photographs they may not match the real life results exactly.

New 20" Widescreen Dell TFT 2005FPW using a DVI cable - Small difference between before and after, but noticable, with the after screen less blue in colour. The screen had less than a 0.5 difference before calibration. As the difference between the before and after was quite subtle, I decided not to show comparison photographs.

Left: Before, Right: After Toshiba screen calibrated. (photographed)

Old 15" Toshiba Laptop TFT - There were no built in options to change brightness / contrast or colour. The difference between before and after was quite dramatic, making the image darker, less pink, and less blue. My only concern is that the screen has a fairly poor visibility angle, if you are too high, or too low the screen brightness and colour changes quite dramatically, so it's important that I remain at a certain viewpoint when using this screen.

17" NFren (Generic) TFT - Left: Before, Right: After calibration. (photographed)

The 17" TFT I have is a "NFren" and was manufactured by BTC. The monitor always seemed too dark, even with full brightness, until I calibrated it, and after calibration I was quite impressed by the appearance of the monitor. For over a year I've been unable to improve the brightness simply using the monitors controls.

Printer Calibration using ProfilerPlus software: In order to use the Pantone Profiler Plus printer calibration, you will need a 300dpi (or greater) colour flatbed scanner. This is used to scan the printout from the printer. After installing the Pantone Profiler Plus program, you need to open Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Elements (provided with the Spyder2 Plus), and select File, Automate, ProfilerPLUS in order to generate the calibration image and then print it. Instructions are included in the printed Quick Start Guide, and the Quick Start Guide PDF file on the CD-ROM - Using the printed "Quick Start Guide" seemed easier to follow

After printing the calibration print, you need to scan the image at 300 dpi. I opened the image in Photoshop / Photoshop Elements, and in ProfilerPlus (File, Automate, ProfilerPLUS), I was able to build a print profile, using the "Build Profile" option, saving the printer profile with the other colour profiles. I was then able to print the calibration print with the new colour profile.

Results: I used the Photobox calibration image as a test print, along with this photo, in order to print before and after examples. I then scanned them in so that I could show the difference printer calibration made. Do note that this was performed in less than an hour, and my printer, a budget Canon Pixma iP1500, wasn't working it's best.

Colour Calibrated prints, scanned with an Agfa SnapScan 1212u, Left: Before, Right: After

Despite all this, I do think that the second print out is a more accurate representation of the original image(s), and has produced a more pleasing print of the photos. The original image appears to be overly pink, slightly light as noticable in the gril's face, and in the green grass in the lower images. The second print more accurately represents the images as they appear on a calibrated screen as well. With a better printer and further time spent calibrating the printer I expect very good results should be acheivable.

Ease of Use: Once you've done the monitor calibration process once, it's much easier to do the process a second or third time, without having to refer back to the printed instructions. The only problem I found was the fairly slow full calibration, taking around 17 minutes. Printer calibration was more difficult, but still successful, with fairly limited and basic instructions included.

Value for Money: The basic package of just the ColorVision Spyder2 is very good value for money at around £140 / 189 Euros - this is a price that makes it accessible to amatuers interested in calibrating their home setup - if this is too much - then ColorVision offer the ColorPlus calibration system for only £65 / 85 Euros. The ColorVision Spyder2 Plus pack, at £180 / 249 Euros, allows you to calibrate your monitor, and allows you to use a scanner to calibrate and setup a custom colour profile for your printer as well, it's currently the cheapest monitor and printer calibration solution available from ColorVision. The ColorVision Spyder2PRO Studio pack, at £200 / 299 Euros, adds additional custom Gamma, and colour temperature options, custom targets, multiple monitor support (on one computer), and an advanced feature portfolio (although it lacks the ColorVision Spyder2 Plus's printer calibration feature).

RecommendedSummary: The ColorVision Spyder2 Plus is a very good monitor and printer calibration solution that produces excellent monitor calibration and very good printer calibration. The package is priced very competitively and allows you to calibrate a number of monitors. This is very useful for people wanting to view images, photographs, graphics and videos at their best, and is especially useful for people who regularly show their work to other people, such as web designers, photographers, etc. The calibration will allow you to view images with the right brightness, the right colour warmth etc. If you've ever printed images and found they look completely different to what's on screen or want to make sure prints look the way they are meant to look, then this combination of monitor and printer calibration will provide the solution. The only negatives I found when using this solution were the slightly confusing initial instructions that came with the monitor calibration, and the overly basic printer calibration instructions. For a long time I've been working with two screens, one too bright, the other too dark, both lacking controls to correct them, but with the ColorVision Spyder2 I've been able to solve that problem and ended up with two monitors that display images correctly!

ColorVision Spyder2 Plus Rating: Recommended!
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What I like:

  • Excellent monitor colour calibration
  • Easy to use Monitor Calibration
  • Works with all monitors regardless of how many controls the monitor has
  • Can give new life to an old or poorly performing monitor and printer
  • Good to Very good printer calibration, results are immediately visible
  • Cheapest monitor and printer calibration solution available from ColorVision

What I don't like:

  • Monitor calibration: "Installation Guide" Instructions could be easier to follow - with more printed step by step instructions.
  • Slow full monitor calibration
  • Overly basic printer calibration instructions, slightly confusing at times
  • Scanner required for printer calibration - it's a shame the Spyder2 colorimeter sensor couldn't be used.
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