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X-Rite ColorMunki Photo (CMUNPH)
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Designed especially for professional photographers and passionate hobbyists, the ColorMunki Photo is an all-in-one spectrophotometer that allows you to adjust and match colors between devices. The ColorMunki is the only device you need to calibrate your computer monitors, projectors, and printers so that the color you see on screen is precisely the same as the color you'll get in print. With ColorMunki, you'll finally be able to stop wasting ink, paper, and valuable time with trial-and-error color correction, and enjoy the benefits of precise color from the beginning. As a photographer, you know perfect color is essential. But with today's complex digital imaging workflows, getting colors to match between devices can be a challenge. ColorMunki simplifies this challenge with its easy-to-use interface and self-guided system, streamlining the process while still delivering optimal results. In just minutes, you'll be able to synchronize your monitor's colors with the colors of your printer or projector. To calibrate your monitor, all you have to do is point the ColorMunki' s sensor at the screen and allow it to measure the colors your screen displays. The device will then compare the measured colors with "ideal" colors, and create a color profile accordingly. Printer profiling is easy, too. By using RGB and CMYK printer profiling technology, the ColorMunki is able to deliver a high-quality profile in seconds. Simply scan a printed test chart with the device, and ColorMunki will detect your printer's coloration tendencies and dynamically correct them. You can even use ColorMunki to optimize your color profile based on images for black-and-white, sepia tones, flesh tones, and more. ColorMunki also features AppSet software, which allows it to interact with a variety of different design applications. Once you've finished creating a color profile, AppSet will automatically synchronize it.
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Using the calibration is a two step process. First you install the device drivers and software, reboot, then access the software, plug in the Smile, and basically let it read the colors as they cycle in a box on your screen. The screen needs to be titled back slightly so the Smile sits flat on the screen with no light gaps. If you allow light gaps, the calibration will be flawed and the resulting 'improved' image will not be good. This process takes between 3-6 minutes depending on the OS and PC performance. Once done, the colors are matched well across devices. If, like me, you are using multiple displays, it calibrates them so the image color and contrast is consistent across them. This is very beneficial with a laptop and external display, or multiple multi-vendor displays, when dealing with colors for video editing, photo editing, or graphic work in general.
That was the good news. The bad news is that it is sometimes very finicky getting it to work. The issues come in multiple forms. First, you need to connect the Smile to a USB 2.0 port that has sufficient power. Many un-powered hubs will not provide enough juice and the error will simply be "Device not found." This is especially confusing when plugging directly into your PC's USB port and getting this message. Only when I realized that it required a direct USB 2.0 connection on the PC, rather than through most hubs or built-in USB 3.0 ports, did it work. This was true on more than a few of my systems making each distinct system a new problem to solve. This is also true on Mac's and PC's alike. For example, it works fine on one MacBook Pro but not on another older or newer one depending on their USB configurations. Heaven only knows if this will work at all on systems with only USB-C ports with dongles...
In addition to the aforementioned USB issue, the driver software is horrible on Windows. They claim their software is Windows 10 compatible, however, the latest version is not. What is ironic, is that the older version is. A quick look at the INF file (used for loading the drivers) included with the latest 1.0.2 version of their software, shows no OS later than Windows 7 listed. Consequently, when you open the device manager, you will see that no driver is loaded for the Smile, and therefore the software can't find the device. If you had Windows 7 with X-Rites drivers already installed and you upgraded to Windows 10, the driver will continue to function. However, if you just received that shiny new laptop and are installing the software anew, it won't work. Even manually forcing the driver to load (by hunting it down and manually selecting it), will not work because it is not a signed driver and is listed as incompatible with Windows 10. The installer however, gleefully ignores these issues during install and reports no problems at all. Unless you know enough to drill into the device manager and INF files, you won't ever figure out what the problem is.
The solution I found, is to find and download the older version 1.0.1. When you install the older version the driver is picked up by Windows 10 as compliant, and you will see the device being installed and configured by the device manager. Reboot and launch the software and it will inform you there is an upgrade available. Just ignore that. The calibration should now work. You may also need to right-click the ColorMunki Smile shortcut icon created by the installer, and choose 'Run as Administrator' for it to work, again making this kind of trial and error effort.
While the ColorMunki Smile works, the support is basically non-existent and the software hasn't seen a meaningful update in two years. What's funny is they list the latest software as being released in late August, 2016 but this is the version (1.0.2) that won't work with a fresh Windows 10 install. Due to the flaky nature of their software, and the hit and miss nature of the USB compatibility, I have to dock a star for each issue.
Would I recommend this? For color calibration yes, but only if you want to mess with the aforementioned issues. Other options are more expensive so I guess you get what you pay for, and X-Rite is content with that.
In my case the first problem was that the app kept crashing - I couldn't run it at all. I had recently updated my video card drivers (AMD) and it turns out that there is some kind of glitch with them that was causing the Colormunki app to crash repeatedly. The resolution to this was to roll back to the last good drivers installed and - hurray - no more crashing.
Okay, great, the app was then able to run all the way through. I followed the instructions exactly, but when I ran the Colormunki app all the way through the first time, I thought the results were too dark and too yellowish. Hmm. Why? I then proceeded to run the app several more times thinking I'd get better/different results by choosing different options, but no. It was making me crazy.
Then, I thought about the fact that I had already tried to calibrate my monitors using the monitor's own adjustments AND the Windows color calibration tool, and I realized that I should reset everything to factory default before trying to run the Colormunki. I used the monitors' built-in controls to reset each of them AND I also went into the Windows Control Panel to Color Management and for each monitor, I set every option to the one clearly marked "Default."
I ran Colormunki again for both monitors and the result was MUCH better. No weird color cast, not nearly as dark (though darker than what I had been using before all this, which was one of the issues with my images looking darker on other monitors or when printed).
The app is very simple to use, takes about 5-10 minutes to do everything depending upon your setup and the options you choose. The ambient light sensor is a nice touch and I don't find it to be obtrusive on my desktop. The device is only about 2.5" high, 2.5" wide, and 1.5" front to back. You can set it to check ambient light levels at various intervals and you can set the app to alert you to run through the steps to recalibrate after so many weeks.
Here's my particulars:
Windows 7 x64; AMD Radeon HD 5700 Series graphics; Acer G276HL monitors
For the first time, color is uniform across all the displays!! This is huge in flight simulations... you don't want brown grass on one screen and dark green on the next - it does NOT look right and ruins the impact of triple-monitors.
WORTH EVERY PENNY. If you're sitting on the fence - BUY IT, you won't be sad! I was conflicted, it seemed like a substantial cost. The old saying of you get what you pay for still chimes true and doubly-so here. If you can't do it with the eyes God gave you (and I surely could NOT), then let XRite's ColorMonki bring it home for you!
HINT: Download the latest software and drivers direct from XRite's site. Simple to use. I never touched a manual. The on-screen directions made it child's play. Balanced all 6 computers. They didn't look this good when the monitors were new! Eliminated the white light 'bleed' at the sides and bottom of the screen! That was worth all the money all by itself!
MUST OWN item.