Datacolor SpyderX

Simon Baker, 18 April 2020

 

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Introduction

Calibration of your monitor is an important step if you want to ensure you have accurate setup and colour rendering. This is particularly important if you need to match what you see on screen with what your camera captures, of your printer prints. It's also important if you're trying to match the output of several displays either at home or in the office environment, making sure that every user sees the same image and is working to the same baseline. Datacolor have been around the calibration market for a long time, and we've seen various iterations of their popular and fairly budget-conscious 'Spyder' device over the years. We have looked previously at the Spyder2 back in 2007, and then the Spyder3 in 2008. We never had chance to look at the Spyder5 which came later, but Datacolor have apparently "spent the last 3 years creating the completely new lens-based color engine technology" to be featured in their latest device, the SpyderX. Yes, they seem to have jumped 5 whole generations from 5 to 10 in one go, but if Apple can skip the iPhone 9 and jump straight to the X a few years ago, why not? (yes, we do realise that was for their 10th anniversary, don't worry!)

The SpyderX features a brand new lens system, and apparently is their most accurate yet, providing "a higher level of color accuracy with more precise screen color, shadow detail and white balance". This has been designed to work with all recent computer and backlight types, with their website even specifically talking about wide gamut, LED and other types. It is also their fastest device with calibration in under 2 minutes offered. The software has also been revamped and is easier to use with single-click intuitive options, or if you are feeling more adventurous you can delve in to a wide range of options and features instead.

Datacolor's website says "With SpyderX, you can be sure that what you see on screen is the most accurate representation of the shot you took. When you start editing and you know the color on your monitor is accurate, you can confidently control every aspect of your image. And when itís time to print, your output will match what you are seeing on screen and better reflect your creative vision."

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Benefits

The SpyderX series has a range of benefits and features, rather than re-write these in our own words we have included what is listed on the Datacolor website which explains each feature nicely:

 

SUPERIOR COLORIMETER TECHNOLOGY

Based on years of research, SpyderX is a completely new, more accurate way of measuring color. Our groundbreaking lens-based color engine technology features higher light sensitivity and more advanced sensors, so you can experience significantly more precise screen color, white balance and shadow detail.

INTUITIVE SOFTWARE

Whether you are looking for a quick calibration or an expertly customized color profile, SpyderX gives you easy-to-use solutions. SpyderX Pro offers One-click Calibration and Step-by-step Assistant modes. SpyderX Elite offers these modes plus an Expert Console mode with unlimited calibration choices. Both Spyder models feature interactive help every step of the way.

CALIBRATE ALL OF YOUR MONITORS

SpyderX allows you to calibrate multiple laptops and desktop monitors and supports the latest display technologies, so you can be confident that your colours are always accurate no matter which of your computers or displays you are working on. SpyderX Elite can also calibrate front projectors and features StudioMatch, which creates a target that is shareable between attached displays and other computers.

SPYDERPROOF Ė BEFORE & AFTER

With our SpyderProof feature, youíll see the difference right before your eyes. Just one click allows you to compare your monitor colours before and after calibration and see the nuances that matter most. Try it with a Datacolor composite image or upload your own favourite photos. With SpyderX Elite, you can even see images full screen.

ROOM LIGHT MONITORING

SpyderX features an integrated ambient light sensor that can measure your room light throughout the day allowing you to adjust your display brightness and contrast to ideal levels. The software can either warn you to recalibrate or do it automatically using custom profiles based on light level. Both SpyderX Pro and Elite feature 5 levels of ambient light adjustment.

MONITOR PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS

Itís important to know how your monitors perform during color-critical work. With the SpyderX Display Analysis feature, you can better understand the color, brightness, contrast, gamut, tone response and white point of your monitors. With SpyderX Elite, you can also check screen brightness and color uniformity and display color accuracy.

 

SOFTPROOF FEATURE WITH SPYDERX ELITE

Your on-screen images may look different when you print or view them on other devices such as tablets. Softproof, only available with SpyderX Elite, lets you simulate and view these changes on your calibrated screen. For printers, you can see how prints will look for a specific printer model, paper and ink, and upload ICC printer profiles.
 

 

 


What's in the Box

In the small and neat 12 x 12cm box you get the SpyderX sensor, a welcome card with a link to software download and your warranty information, a unique serial number to activate the software (which dictates which features you will have access to based on the package you bought) and a link to online demos, users guides and videos.

        


 


Standard Packages

There are two main packages for the SpyderX device and software, those being the SpyderX Pro and SpyderX Elite (we have with us the Elite version). The actual device is the same in both, but the Elite package allows for  more functions and options from the software. The additional features of the Elite package are shown in the comparison table below.

  • SpyderX Pro - For serious photographers and designers who want a fast, precise and easy-to-use monitor calibrator that helps achieve their creative vision. Includes Spyder X Sensor, Welcome Card with links to download software, user guides, video demonstrations, warranty information and support.
     

  • SpyderX Elite - For Expert and professional photographers and motion image makers looking for the most comprehensive monitor calibration tool for maximum control of their color workflow. Includes Spyder X Sensor, Welcome Card with links to download software, user guides, video demonstrations, warranty information and support.

 


Additional Packages

There are also a couple of additional more advanced packages available which build on the SpyderX Elite package but include a range of additional options aimed at cameras, printers etc. The Capture Pro package is about 100 Euro more than the Elite solution, while the Studio package is another 50 Euro on top of that.

SpyderX Capture Pro

"The ultimate color management tool kit, providing all the essentials needed to precisely manage color in your workflow from capture through editing." Includes:

  • SpyderX Elite - Our most accurate, fastest (4X), easiest monitor calibrator ever.

  • LensCal - Calibrates cameras, lenses and DSLR components.

  • Cube - Set white balance and RAW conversion.

  • Checkr - Next-level camera color calibration with software based HSL-presets

SpyderX Studio

The essential all-in-one photographic workflow solution for precision control from capture, to editing to print. Includes:

  • SpyderX Elite - Our most accurate, fastest (4X), easiest monitor calibrator ever.

  • Cube - Set white balance and RAW conversion.

  • Spyder Print - Printer-profiling based on ICC-standard for any printer/ink/paper combination.

 


SpyderX Calibration Software

We installed the latest v5.4 SpyderX Elite software from the Datacolor website and went through all the options, calibration steps and validation sections. We will try and give you a good overview of these below.

When you load up the software you are asked a series of questions as part of the initial setup, about the display you want to calibrate and measure.

You can select the display manufacturer and enter the model number which will be used to identify your display later on and name the profile and reports.

You can also identify which settings are available within your monitor OSD, and these will then be accounted for during the calibration process and guide you through obtaining the optimal OSD settings first of all, before any corrections are made to the graphics card Look Up Table (LUT). Making adjustments first to the monitor hardware via the OSD is important as it helps retain tonal values and avoid unnecessary graphics card LUT adjustments that might lead to colour loss or other issues like banding.

You are then guided through selecting your backlight type, as the new SpyderX has been specifically created to support all the modern display backlight types, including common wide gamut LED options.

You can choose which calibration method you want to follow, depending on whether you want a more simple step by step guide or to use the "expert console" when you're perhaps more used to the software or want to make tweaks.

The 'expert console' looks like the above, which may be preferred by some to the step by step walk through.

We selected the step by step assistant for now to follow through a typical calibration. You can also choose to recalibrate the screen here if it's been previously profiled, or just complete some basic validation checks (which we will show you later on) through the CheckCAL option. Those validation steps are also included at the end of a calibration process. You can also define your targets for gamma, white point and brightness here - it was nice to see that the targets we aim for in our reviews as standard were the default options here!

The advanced calibration settings menu gives you a few more options to change if you want, including whether you want the device to measure your room ambient light and calibrate the screen brightness accordingly. That might be useful if you want to create something specific to your room and light conditions.

Proceeding to the calibration process guides you to place the device on the centre of the screen where shown. You are guided through some simple OSD adjustments for things like the brightness control, and then the rest of the process is automated for you. It took about 3 min 15 seconds from start to finish including the OSD adjustment process which was good and nice and fast.

We saved the calibrated profile at the end as guided.

You are then taken to the 'SpyderProof' validation section where there are range of images you can examine, with a simple before and after button to see what impact the calibration has had on your setup.

The 'SpyderTune' section also allows you to make some finite adjustments to things like colour temperature and brightness if you want, while examining these images. These kind of post-calibration validation images are fairly common from software packages like these, and might be useful for some visual inspection, but they do lack any "hard data" and measurements. Thankfully that is available elsewhere in the software as we will show you in a moment.

The final step within the calibration process is the 'profile overview' page where the colour gamut of your monitor is plotted within the CIE diagram on the left, and the coverage of difference colour spaces is shown. Here you can see that the colour gamut of the LG 38GL950G we were testing at the time has 100% sRGB coverage, and extends a long way beyond that as to be expected since this is a native wide gamut screen. You can select the other colour spaces from the list to show your results and the relative coverage of your display against those. We will look at the other colour gamut measurements and check their accuracy in the following sections.

If you press the 'view info' button you can also see some of the measurements for the colour primaries as well as the resulting luminance, black point, dE colour accuracy and gamma. You can see that the 2.2 target gamma and luminance targets had been met nicely through this calibration. Unfortunately this section didn't confirm the white point  as a familiar colour temperature (e.g. 6500k) which would have been handy, or confirm the contrast ratio specifically. Although that can be calculated by dividing luminance by black point - in this case resulting in 712:1 which is a little lower than we would expect for this screen. We will test the accuracy of this measurement against our normal i1 Display Pro Plus device in a moment.

 

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Validation Options

We will also take a look at the various validation and reporting functions of the software. This is something often missed from provided software in the past we have found, so it was great to see various tests and reports included here. The first is available via the 'CheckCAL' function shown above.

This does a quick test of the screen which takes about 17 seconds total and then presents results as shown above. Again it would have been useful to show the white point in a normal colour temperature format like 6500k, especially since that's what you have selected as your target earlier on for calibration. Gamma is confirmed here though too. These two results are the only thing included in the CheckCAL function though. The really good stuff is available in the 'Display Analysis' section of the software that you access via the 'shortcuts' menu in the bottom left. This doesn't seem to be linked to from any other part of the software or process oddly.

Within the 'Display Analysis' section you can select from a range of tests you want to run and report on as shown above. You can run each individually, or run through all (or some) of them in turn before the report is created and viewed.

The 'Gamut' test measures the colour space of your monitor, and can be repeated in different preset modes if you want. Including if you have a wide gamut screen but also an sRGB emulation preset mode. It takes some quick measurements which takes only about 6 seconds before presenting you with the option to save the report. Then you can use the 'view report' button to look at these results. The gamut results confirm the colour space covered by the backlight relative to common colour spaces of sRGB, Adobe RGB, NTSC and DCI-P3. The coverage % is shown and you can choose which are plotted on the CIE diagram too.

The gamma sections allows you to measure the gamma curve of your screen including any specific gamma modes the OSD menu might have. Measurement takes about 10 seconds per mode and you are asked to name each one so you can easily match the result to each option in the menu. For instance here on the LG 38GL950G we were testing on there are three modes in the OSD menu labelled mode 1, mode 2 and mode 3. We measured each and the results are then captured within the report. A gamma 'tone response' curve is shown along with a 'gray ramp' for each mode, and you can scroll down to see the other measured modes. Above are the results shown for the first mode 1.

The 'Brightness and contrast' test asks you to set your screen at a range of brightness levels (0, 25, 50, 75 and 100%) and then takes very quick measurements at each. A 3 x 3 white and black ANSI grid is shown and measured. The report then confirms the measured brightness, black depth, contrast ratio (now calculated for you unlike in the calibration process 'info' section), and the white point (now showing as a temperature 6500k unlike before). This is a useful section to quickly and easily measure the brightness range and contrast stability of the screen as well as ensuring that the white point doesn't fluctuate as the brightness changes.

The 'White point at different OSD settings' test allows you to measure different preset modes of the display. You can add and name as many preset modes as you want here, we just included 3 of the options from the LG 38GL950G for now. The device then takes very quick measurements for about 3 seconds on each mode, while telling you when to switch to each within the OSD menu. The results show again the brightness (relative to whatever you've set the brightness control to), black depth, contrast ratio and white point. This is a handy section to quickly and easily measure the setup in each mode. It would have perhaps been nice to see a gamma and colour gamut measurement included in these tests to give you a fuller picture of each preset mode all in one place. Maybe Datacolor can add that in a future software update.

The 'Screen uniformity' section allows you to measure your display in a 3 X 3 grid (9 regions) and is fairly easy and quick to complete. Each section takes around 8 seconds to measure, and you have to move your device to each section as guided. At the end you are presented with some on screen results showing the luminance variance relative to the central segment, and at different levels of grey from dark > light > white. These are labelled as "screen brightness" with 100% bright being a white measurement. In the resulting report shown above you are presented with results showing the colour uniformity at each "brightness level" (i.e. each grey shade and white), and then as you scroll down also the luminance uniformity. This is pretty useful although doesn't allow for any more measurements or a more precise grid if you wanted so it's a little restrictive.

The final 'colour accuracy' test allows you to test the dE of your profile. You can choose how detailed you want this report to be, from a sample of 12, 24 or 48 shades. The results from 12 shades are shown above.

And from 24 measurements too for reference. Results are presented by each shade, along with a min/max and average figure.

 


Accuracy

We wanted to see how accurate the results were from the SpyderX device. This is somewhat tricky to do, as you have to settle on something as the "reference device". Here we will compare the measurements and results from the SpyderX against the well established and high end devices we use in our reviews from X-rite. Their i1 Pro 2 spectrophotometer, and their new i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter. We use both devices in our reviews for a range of tests. The i1 Pro 2 is very reliable and versatile when it comes to measuring different backlight types, and we use that to measure colour gamut, white point, gamma curve and colour accuracy (dE). The i1 Pro 2 is not as versatile for lower black points and so we use an i1 Display Pro Plus to measure the luminance, black point and contrast ratio for increased accuracy.

These tests were conducted on the LG 38GL950G, calibrated first of all with the SpyderX Elite and then using the 'Display analysis' section to check various results and provide the reports we wanted. We then took measurements with our X-rite devices to compare using various other bits of software.
 

Measurement

SpyderX

i1 Pro

i1 Display Pro Plus

Comments

Colour gamut

100% sRGB
95% DCI-P3

130.9% sRGB
96.5% DCI-P3

-

The SpyderX software doesn't tell you how much over-coverage there is for a colour space, so 100% sRGB is listed, when really it extends a long way beyond sRGB. DCI-P3 gamut measurement of the SpyderX was pretty accurate which was great news. It can measure a wide gamut backlight fine

Luminance

 

 

 

Brightness measurements of the SpyderX seem accurate relative to the i1 Display Pro Plus and within only a few cd/m2

Brightness 0%

58.4

-

57.8

Brightness 50%

255.6

-

252.0

Brightness 100%

454.6

-

449.1

Black depth

 

 

 

Black depth measurements of the SpyderX seem fairly accurate relative to the i1 Display Pro Plus and within only 0.02 - 0.03 cd/m2. This is a good result, and leads to only a minor difference in the contrast ratio figure below

Black depth 0%

0.07

-

0.07

Black depth 50%

0.32

-

0.30

Black depth 100%

0.55

-

0.54

Contrast Ratio

 

 

 

Contrast ratio figures of the SpyderX are slightly too  low. They are nevertheless within about 40:1 from our measurements with the X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus which was good

Contrast ratio 0%

800:1

-

826:1

Contrast ratio 50%

800:1

-

840:1

Contrast ratio 100%

820:1

-

832:1

White point

 

 

 

 

The white point (colour temperature) measurements were very good, within 83k from the measurements made with our i1 Pro 2 spectrophotometer. White point measurement of older generation colorimeter devices like the Spyder2 and 3 was always a challenge, as they were set up for only standard gamut CCFL backlights, but thankfully the new SpyderX works with a range of colour spaces and backlight types.

 

White point (calibrated Gamer 1)

6500k

6565k

-

White point (FPS mode)

7800k

7883k

-

White point (sRGB mode)

7100k

7183k

-

Colour accuracy

 

 

 

Very close to our validated checks using the i1 Pro 2

dE average

0.6

0.5

-

dE max

1.0

1.3

-

Gamma

 

 

 

Accurate measurement from the SpyderX

Gamma curve

2.2

2.2

-


We were very impressed with the results here for what is still a very affordable calibration tool. Colorimeter devices like this often have trouble measuring white point accurately, especially when considering backlights with different colour spaces and different technologies. That didn't seem to be an issue here at all, with it correctly measuring the white point from the wide gamut LED backlight, as well as when using the sRGB emulation mode. Brightness, black depth, contrast, gamma, colour gamut and colour accuracy measurements were all very good as well. Impressive.

 


Conclusion

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We have to say that we were impressed by the SpyderX device, Datacolor have done a really good job with the latest sensor, it's capability and the software as well. You've got a good selection of packages available, and for typical monitor calibration needs the Pro or Elite packages are likely to be the best options. If you need any support for cameras and printers then the Capture Pro and Studio options are available. The device and software are easy to install and use, and the calibration process is well thought out and simple to follow. There's enough settings and configuration options for you to be specific with what you are trying to do, and about the display you are calibrating which was great news.

We were initially a little worried at the end of the calibration process that we would only have the fairly typical "photo comparison" validation features, along with a few basic validation stats from the results page. That's pretty common from a lot of calibration software packages. We were really pleased though to see the 'Display analysis' section includes a massive range of tests and checks to give you the kind of data and reports we really like to have access to. Not everyone will need these, and will be happy just to trust in the calibration they've done, but for users like us who are used to reviewing the data it was great to see. The ability to measure and check all those results was excellent and well thought out, and the process was easy to follow and reports easy to review, save and revisit later if you want. There were a couple of sections of the software where things could be tweaked to present results in a uniform way throughout the various sections. Like including the contrast ratio measurement along with luminance and black point at the end of the calibration in the 'info' section, or listing the white point as a colour temperature in places.

Most impressive of all was the accuracy of the device relative to our normal calibration tools, with very little overall deviance from our reference measurements. We were expecting issues reading the white point of varying modern backlight types but that didn't seem to phase the SpyderX either. You can check the latest pricing in various regions below but the SpyderX Pro and Elite packages are very well priced and are a very good all-in-one calibration and testing device.

 

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