Datacolor Spyder 3 Studio review

My rule of thumb when reviewing products sent to me by manufacturers for testing is that If I find the product unacceptable I simply don’t publish a review. I’m not interested in causing any manufacturer grief or lost business. Also, I recognize that my taste and opinions are just that –mine, and they may not jibe with those of other experienced photographers.

But, occasionally a product comes along that is not so unacceptable that it should be ignored, nor so good that it’s worth my spending a lot of time and effort on.Datacolor’s Spyder 3 Studiofits in this category.

This is actually two products that are sold together and packaged in a single fitted aluminum case for about US $500. The first is theSpyder3 Elite, a Colorimeter designed for profiling your monitor. The second isSpyder3 Printwhich is a so-called Spectrocolorimeter designed for producing printer profiles.

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Spyder3 Elite

This is (obviously) the third generation of the Colorvision Spyder. The original Spyder was one of the first moderately priced screen profiling devices on the market, and indeed the wordspyderhas almost become a synonym for what we use to profile our screens.

The summary on this device is that it does the job. It is unique in that it has a sensor built into the head that allows it to measure the ambient light conditions, and the provided monitor profiling software does an adequate job.

If you prefer to use a more in-depth and powerful monitor calibration program along with the Spyder3, thenColorEyes Display Pro, though it currently doesn’t work with the Spyder3, will be a worthwhile choice in a month or two when it does.

Spyder3 Print

I was excited at first at the prospect of an under $500 print profiling device. Even a cursory glace at the product literature showed that the Spyder3 Print wasn’t a real Spectrophotometer, but rather something which Colorvision calls aSpectrocolorimeter.

Their profiling software at first seemed competent, but I found several flaws. First among these is that there is no recommendation to turn colour management off when printing a profiling target. This is not an obvious step, especially to the profiling neophyte, which is precisely the target audience for this device. Also, there is no user manual – only web-based help, which, obviously, is only available if you have a live net connection when and where you’re working.

After I had printed out a test target for the first time and sat down to scan the target to generate a profile I discovered what I regard as the product’s fatal flaw. It can only scan one patch at a time. In other words, unlike anEye One SpectrophotometerwithEye One Matchsoftware, which can scan a full line of patches at a time, the Spyder3 can not. This means that except for the reduced number targets, scanning the calibration sheet becomes an incredibly tedious task. The provided plastic guide bar would lead you to believe that line scanning would be possible, but such is not the case.

At this point I stopped. Sorry Datacolor, life is simply too short for this. At least my life is. Others may enjoy manually reading 729 separate patches, one at a time. Not me.

Having been stymied I called a friend (another online reviewer) who I knew had also tested the Spyder3 Print, and askedhisimpressions. His response was that he too had been amazed that line scanning wasn’t possible, but that one of the students at a seminar of his had volunteered to do some scans (taking much of an afternoon). My friend’s conclusion was that the profiles generated were "OK" but not in the same league as those from an Eye One spectro system.

Not wanting to just rely in this second-hand impression I returned to the Spyder3 Pro a few days later and sat down to create a profile, even though the process would be tedious. I never got to do so because I could not get the device to do it’s calibration. The software would simply not recognize the device.

I rebooted, reinstalled the software, and plugged and unplugged the device several times. No joy.

At this point I called it quits.

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Conclusion

The bottom line is that theSpyder3 Eliteand its software is a competent system for profiling ones monitor. TheSpyder3 Print isin my opinion not ready for prime time. Though the price appears to be right, it simply doesn’t deliver what it promises. This then makes the Spyder3 Studio combo package less than appealing in my view.

December, 2007