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Product Review – i1Photo Pro 2: Part I From X-Rite

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X-Rite has release three new color management solutions. i1Basic Pro 2, i1Photo Pro 2, and i1Publish Pro 2. They are spectrophotometer based units for high end profiling, quality verification, and spot color management. The unit I will be reviewing is the i1Photo Pro 2 which handles monitor, printer, camera, and projector profiling for the RGB world. The i1Publish Pro does all this but allows you to work with CMYK workspace as well.

The i1Basic Pro 2 provides for high-end monitor and projector profiling, monitor and RGB print verification, and spot color measurement. The i1Photo Pro 2 also adds in the ability to calibrate the camera to the monitor and the projector, along with the RGB printer. The i1Publish Pro 2 is the ultimate, fully-featured ICC profiling solution for those that need to color manage their cameras, displays, projectors, as well as their RGB/CMYK+ printers and presses with complete quality assurance validation and verification functions. In this first part I will look at the monitor and printer profiling.

 i1Photo Pro 2

The i1Photo Pro 2 comes with the i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, i1Profiler profiling software, PANTONE color manager software, ColorChecker camera calibration software, ColorChecker Proof targets, and introductory ColorChecker Classic Target (mini). It also comes with the i1 Pro 2 Spectrophotometer, a calibration plate, USB Cable, monitor holder, positioning target, scanning ruler, the light measurement head, and a case to keep it all in. This gives you everything that you need to get started with full scale profiling.

The i1Photo Pro 2 is designed for photo professionals to manage their RGB workflow from camera to display and projector to print. i1Photo Pro 2 is designed to provide high quality color results that especially target highlight and shadow details and deliver greater color accuracy for more neutral grays and natural skin tones. With i1Photo Pro 2 you can
create custom profiles for cameras, monitors, digital projectors and RGB printers, ensuring color accuracy from capture to output.

 i1Photo Pro 2

What is new with the i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer?

• New illuminant design – allows for 3 standard measurement conditions (ISO 13655 M0: Tungsten; ISO 13655 M1: D50; ISO 13655 M2: UV Cut) plus Optical Brightener Compensation (OBC) without changing filters or needing a second instrument and ensures your investment well into the future.

• Positioning Detection Sensor – gives you a more robust scanning experience even on special substrates and low-resolution printers. It allows for the measurement of smaller patch sizes (as low as 7mm) in manual mode saving time and money on consumables and enabling dual measurement workflows for OBC, M1 and M2.

• New Status LED – will help guide you through the measurement process and give you feedback on device status, improving the user experience and saving time.

• Better design ergonomics – throughout allows for greater usability, flexibility, cleaning, protection, and storage of the precision i1Pro 2 device, assuring the highest level of reliability and productivity.

• Better temperature stability and higher brightness levels now help to improve emissive measurement which result in the best possible calibration and profiling of monitors and projectors

• All new diagnostics and self-correction features – give you built-in wavelength calibration technology allows for self-diagnosis of optical grating in relation to sensor during white calibration (with automatic correction and notifications) eliminating worry about your device’s measurement accuracy.

• Maintaining and protecting – the spectrophotometer as well as your investment is now easier than ever. There is a self-cleanable aperture protection glass and calibration white tile cover provides additional built-in protection from dust and dirt keeping your device working at top performance at all times.

• XRGA equipped – means that the i1Pro 2 is equipped with the X-Rite Graphic Arts Standard (XRGA) to make it quicker and easier for companies and professionals involved in digital production printing to adhere to ISO standards and have confidence that data sent or received from all links in the supply chain is reliable and repeatable.

 i1Photo Pro 2

 

How does the i1Photo Pro 2 work?

When working with the i1Profiler software you can profile CRTs, LCDs, and laptop displays. There are two modes available to you. The first is basic mode which will give you a quick accurate profile based on the defaults for your type of display. Advanced gives you much more control and will let you choose all your settings and really drill down for a much more accurate profile.

After installing the software, the first thing that you will want to do is to profile your monitor. What this does is to take a reading of how your monitor displays specific colors and compare them to what the actual color should be.

Keep in mind that you want to make sure your monitor has been on for at least 30 minutes to make sure that the colors are stable. Once it is, you will want to plug in the i1 Pro Spectrophotometer in to a USB port and then start up the i1Profiler software.

After you have started the software up you will choose the mode – basic or advanced, and then display profiling. Also note that there is context sensitive help available as well as videos that you can watch to help you understand what the options are that are available to you.

While choosing basic mode may be the best place to start for those new to profiling, or for basic needs, it is the advanced mode gives you more options and control over your color profiles. Using advanced mode will require more knowledge and experience, where easy mode makes most of the choices for you.

The first thing you will need to do is to choose your white point. The choice of white point is dependent on where and in what industry that you work. For photographers and graphics designers it is usually the CIE Illuminant D65 option, for prepress it is D50 as well several others for various situations. Again you have a lot of ability to choose your options.

 i1Photo Pro 2

Now you pick your luminance values. Luminance is a measurement of the overall brightness of your display. This should be chosen to give you comfortable viewing in your standard working conditions. For most LCD’s, this will be a value of 120.

Now you need to calibrate your device. You take the white tile calibration plate and place your spectrophotometer on it and press calibrate. You have one of two options for measurement. You can let the software work with the display to automatically set the brightness and contrast controls, or you can manually set them yourself. When you press the start measurement button, the software will walk you through the remainder of the process. You then save the ICC profile, it is installed on your system and you’re done.

After calibrating your monitor it is time to calibrate the printer. Calibrating your printer will make sure that what you see on the screen gets printed on the paper. While there are a lot variables that can go into calibrating a printer – especially when using i1Profiler program, it all revolves around several basic steps.

One big key to this is that you will need to perform a profile once for each printer/paper/ink combination. For most people, the ink will not change as long as you use the same brand. The printer may if you have multiple printers, but it will be the papers that will change the most. There is most certainly a difference between Epson Premium Glossy vs. Epson Glossy vs. Epson Semi Glossy. But there is also a difference between Epson Glossy vs. Canon Glossy vs. Kodak Glossy. So you will need to create a profile for each one of these to make sure that what you see on the screen comes out in the printer.

 i1Photo Pro 2

What you want to do first is to generate a test chart. This chart will be tied to a type of printer (RGB, CMYK, CMYK+) and a measuring device – in this case the i1Pro 2. You first select the number of patches you want to generate. The number of test patches can range from 400 to 6000. The more patches the more accurate your readings will be, but that also means the more paper that you will print, the more ink that you will use, as well as more time you will spend with measurements. You will get around 405 patches per sheet for letter size paper. Then you will need to save your test chart for use and print your chart to the target printer.

Once you print your test sheet, you will need to leave them dry. How long, that depends on your environmental conditions, the type of ink, the type of paper etc. Ideally maybe 24 hours, realistically, you might get away with 60 minutes.

Once you are ready, you then need to calibrate your spectrophotometer with the white tile provided. Next you put your dry, printed test chart into the i1Ruler Board and place the i1Ruler over top. Position your spectrophotometer on the first column of the first row, and when prompted, scan the row. The software will prompt you when you have a clean read and you can move to the next row, if not, you will be prompted to rescan the same row again. Once all of the rows from all pages are complete, you are done with profiling, and you will want to save the profile with a meaningful name that includes the printer name and model, paper type, and perhaps ink information.

 i1Photo Pro 2

Now how do you use this profile? Well for printing say in Adobe Photoshop, in your printer dialog, you would select the Color Management and let Photoshop handle color management. Then in your printer profile drop down, you choose the appropriate profile for the media that you are using. In Photoshop you can even use the proof setup functionality to soft proof your image before you ever print it

I have to say that there is a lot to like about this unit. The whole redesign – from the packaging to the spectrophotometer to the individual parts, is nothing short of incredible. The case, which holds all the parts, is really solid without being very heavy. To me it snugly holds each item securely and protects them from moving around and being jarred or running into each other. The sections are held into place by tight Velcro snaps and even the Ruler board has an attached foam blocker – which you can’t lose, to keep the aluminum ruler from sliding around on the board.

 i1Photo Pro 2

Then there is the spectrophotometer which is very well designed. It fits into your hand really nicely and has two lights on the top that provide feedback into various aspects of your profiling. The white tile calibration plate now has a sliding cover that will help keep it clean when not in use. The display holder now sports a soft back weight so that it won’t scratch the back surface of your monitor.

What I especially love is the lights on the top of the spectrophotometer with regard to printer profiling. Before, you would have to scan a line, look up to the monitor to see if it scanned correctly, now you can keep your focus on the spectrophotometer for the feedback. If it blinks green your on to the next line, if it is red, you need to rescan. While this sounds like a little thing, as I said before, if you have two printers and you frequently use five different kinds of paper, that can be ten calibrations with 14 lines on each sheet. If you are using 400 tiles to calibrate, that is one sheet per calibration. If you are using 3000 tiles that is six sheets per calibration – 60 times 14 lines means that you’re sliding 840 times. Now most people won’t have two printers, but even for five papers on a single printer this will be a big time saver.

Next time I will look at the remaining features of the i1Photo Pro 2 which include the ability to profile the projector that you use to display your images to your clients, the ColorChecker Camera calibration system, and the PANTONE Color Manager.

 i1Photo Pro 2

While at $1549 USD, this may be out of the range for the average consumer; for those I would recommend the ColorMunki Photo, but for the professional, or someone who is trying to become professional especially for those who are printing their own prints the i1Photo Pro 2 is very worth it over the long term and will earn its keep over and over again so I highly recommend the i1Photo Pro 2.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.