In an earlier review, I looked at X-Rite's new product called the ColorMunki which really blew me away with the quality and performance of this product. Over the course of several articles, I will now look at X-Rite's all new i1 product line that was just showcased at the photokina in Cologne Germany in September and at Graph Expo in Chicago, IL in October.
There are two fundamental paths that you can take with the i1 line, i1 Basic and the i1 XTreme. The i1 Basic, which is marketed as an affordable, upgradeable, professional spectral color measurement solution and monitor profiler. With the i1 Basic, creative and prepress professionals can scan spectral color, obtain accurate color on all displays, linearize their printers through support of leading RIPs, and easily add new profiling functionality to meet their growing needs with new affordable upgrade modules.
What does it take to run the i1 Basic? Either a Windows 2000, XP, or Vista with a 300 MHz PC 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.
The i1 Basic comes with the i1 Pro spectrophotometer and the i1Match Monitor profiling software. The i1 Basic will let you scan spectral color and obtain accurate color on all of your displays. You will be able to linearize your printers and by purchasing upgrade modules, and you can add profiling functionality when you need it.
When working with the i1 Basic you can profile CRTs, LCDs, and laptop displays. There are two modes available to you. The first is easy mode which will give you a quick accurate profile based on the defaults for your type of display. Advanced will let you choose the setting and really drill down for a much more accurate profile.
With the i1 Basic 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 a specific color and compare them to what the actual color should be. To do this, you plug in the i1 Pro Spectrophotometer into a USB port and then start up the software.
When the software starts up, you will choose the display module. Please note that although there may be other modules visible, they will not be active unless you purchase the addon functionality, or have purchased the i1 XTreme. Also note that on the right of the screen is the context-sensitive help.
While choosing easy mode may be the best place to start for basic needs or for those new to profiling, it is the advanced mode that will let you bring out the most accurate color profiles. Keep in mind that it also requires more knowledge and experience to do it well, where easy mode makes the choices for you.
In advanced mode, the first choice you have is the white point. The choice of white point will be dependent on where and in what industry that you work. In the U.S., for print it is probably 5000 Kelvin. In Europe it most likely is 6500 Kevin. The point is here that you have the choice.
Then you have the Gamma settings. These refer to the mid-tone brightness of the display. The higher the value of the gamma number, the darker the mid-tones will show on the screen. Apple monitors are native at 1.8 and Windows are native at 2.2. Here you want to choose the setting that is correct for your machine.
Luminance is a measurement of the overall brightness of your display. If you are in a workgroup, you can use i1 Match to measure the luminance of all of the monitors in your group and set them accordingly to assure that all of the images are viewed equally on all displays. You also have the option to measure the ambient light in your workspace. This will allow you to determine if the color temperature and the amount of light in your workspace will accommodate good color judgment on screen.
After this, the advanced mode is the same as the easy mode. You hang the i1 Pro spectrophotometer on your screen and it checks the colors with target values. When it is done you will be able to save your profile in an ICC file that can be used with software products like Adobe Photoshop.
With the i1 Basic along with the i1 Pro Spectrophotometer and the i1 Match software, you also get a calibration plate, USB Cable, monitor holder, positioning target, scanning ruler, the light measurement head, and a case to keep it all in. This will give you everything that you need to get started, as well as everything that you need to add modules in the when you need them.
Just like my experience with the ColorMunki, I found the i1 Basic extremely easy to work with and easy to get professional results from. The spectrophotometer itself is widely regarded as the standard in the photography industry. It 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 just as intuitive to use, with the easy mode almost being a no-brainer that anyone can use, and while the advanced mode is more complicated, once you understand what is going on, it, too, is pretty straightforward.
At $995 USD, this may be out of the price range for the average consumer; for them I would recommend the ColorMunki. However, for the professional, or someone who is trying to become professional, the i1 Basic makes for the perfect entry point to professional quality display profiling. Then as you need to, you can add on the individual modules via an access code, which will give you the ability to turn on the additional features. I very highly recommend this product.