I have been looking at the i1 Product Line that began with the i1 Basic over the course of several articles. In this installment, I am going to look at the i1 Digital Camera Upgrade Module. The use of this module is to build a custom profile for your digital camera.
There are two fundamental paths that you can take with the i1 line: i1 Basic and the i1 XTreme. The i1 Basic is marketed as an affordable, upgradeable, professional spectral color measurement solution and monitor profiler. Once you own the i1 Basic, you own the capabilities of the other modules; you only need to purchase an access code to activate them. Here I will look at the ease of use of the i1 Digital Camera Upgrade Module. This camera profiler module will allow you to accurately match the colors your camera captures with what you see on the screen and eventually send to the printer. This module comes standard comes as a part of the i1 XTreme.
What does it take to run the i1 Basic? Either a Windows 2000, XP, or Vista with a 300 MHz processor or better, or Mac OS X (10.3 or higher) Power G3 or higher processor, a powered USB port, 128 MB RAM, and 100 MB of hard-drive space.
Once you have your module installed, you need to make sure that you have your monitor calibrated as in part one of this series. Now it is time to calibrate your camera. Effectively what you will be doing is taking a photograph of a color chart in the type of lighting that you use to photograph in. One thing to note is that along with purchasing the upgrade module, you will need to purchase a color chart as well. The one that I am using is the Digital Color Checker SG from XRite.
With your monitor calibrated, you fire up the Eye-One Match software. When it starts up you will choose the camera module. Please note that although there may be other modules visible, they will not be active unless have purchased the add-on functionality, or have purchased the i1 XTreme. Also note, on the right of the screen there is context-sensitive help that can guide you if you are having some problems. If your camera module is not active, make sure that your access code was properly installed.
Now that everything is installed, the first thing that you need to do is to take a picture of the ColorChecker SG. In the studio you would set up two light sources similar to your working lights and illuminate the chart from both sides. You can use the spectrophotometer to check the lighting equipment to make sure that you have the correct levels of illumination.
This part is kind of touchy because not only do you have to avoid reflections along, but you have to do this while getting the lighting just right to expose the brightest patches between 210 and 245, and the darkest patches below 20 in 8-bit digital coding. You should also balance the camera on the neutral patches. You can also use standard as well as flash lighting to calibrate as well.
Once you have your photograph of the chart, you load it into the software and crop it to eliminate everything but the chart. The software then analyzes the photo and lets you know if it is over- or under-exposed. If it is not right, you will have to do it again until you get it correct.
When everything is set, the system calculates the profile. With that's done, you will then load a photo of your own to make additional adjustments. These adjustments include contrast and exposure, saturation, pastel colors, and shadows. When everything is finished, you save the profile on your system.
Now how do you use this profile? In Adobe Photoshop CS4, you look under the menus for Assign Profile. You are provided a dialog box where you choose profile and under the dropdown select the .ICC file you just made and Photoshop will use this to color correct for your camera.
Just like my experience with the printer profiling in the Output module, I found the i1 Digital Camera Upgrade Module extremely easy to work with and get professional results from. It was a little touchy with trying to get the image correct, but outside of that, everything was pretty straightforward.
Remember that the spectrophotometer is a precision instrument and should be treated as such. Not only should care be taken when handling (don't throw it down or otherwise misuse it), but it also should be kept in its case when not in use. The i1 Match software is so intuitive to use with the easy mode, it's almost a no-brainer that anyone can use.
At $199, i1 Digital Camera Upgrade Module is reasonably priced for someone who is trying to become professional. As the i1 Basic makes for the perfect entry point to professional quality display profiling, the i1 Digital Camera Upgrade Module will take you to the next level, so I very highly recommend this product.