One of the few exactitudes in the arcane world of pre-press workflow colour-management is that the entire process is pointless without a properly calibrated monitor. Although the why of this is undisputed, the how is not. Should one use software monitor-calibration, or expensive hardware – in the shape of a photospectrometer or colorimeter?
ColorVision’s Spyder falls into the latter category. It’s a USB device that houses eight silicon photodetector-sensors for measuring the colorimetric values of any given screen. Advocates of hardware calibration say this approach is superior than the by-eye adjustments required by the software route, as it takes subjectivity out of the equation. Software supporters counter this, by claiming that the results of hardware-generated profiles don’t justify the expense.
The Spyder comes bundled with PhotoCal, a lite version of ColorVision’s OptiCal software. The most attractive thing about the device is that it is one of the few affordable hardware solutions able to calibrate LCD monitors as well as CRTs. I tested it on both. The LCD was a Formac Gallery 1740, with which the Spyder is currently being bundled for a discounted rate of £169 (ex VAT). The device hugs the screen by virtue of a counter-balance weight, and it created a fuss-free profile that passed a reference-print test.
If you’re a solo user, save money by calibrating using (free) software and a reference print. Apple’s Monitor Calibration Assistant, or Adobe Gamma (bundled with Adobe’s graphics-software titles) are both adequate. My ICC profiles using this method were as accurate as any of the Spyder’s.
Mixed-screen graphics departments, however, can squeeze more value from the Spyder. Not only is it among the cheaper hardware solutions, but its ability to handle LCD screens is a real boon at the price.