If you are serious about your photography then calibrating your screen is a must. If your printing yourself or sending off for print and wondering why they don’t look like ‘they did on my screen,’ then a monitor which isn’t calibrated could be one broken step in your workflow. Fortunately there are simple and affordable methods of doing it properly, and the Spyder 5 Express from Datacolor is one of those options. Here are my thoughts on Datacolor’s offering.
The first thing that struck me with the Spyder 5 Express was the compact packaging. It’s small but sturdy that you feel confident it is going to protect the product but not too big that you can’t have it sitting close to hand on your desk. Which is important as your monitor’s calibration will shift over time and you’ll need to calibrate regularly. The lack of install disc for the calibration software is another reason for the small packaging, and I welcome this approach. In a world of fast internet and computers without optical drivers who needs an install disc to loose?
A simple leaflet with your Spyder 5 Express points you to the URL you’ll need for the download, which is small enough that with an average broadband connection you’ll have it downloaded in no time. The installation process is simple and painless, and if like myself for the purpose of testing this you are using macOS you get a handy Spyder menu item for quick access to the software.
You can have excellent hardware but if the software is flawed then it can be a massive turn off. Datacolor have nailed it with the software. The interface is clean and easy to use, guiding you through every step of the calibration. It is so simple and quick you may actually be thinking you missed a step. The act of calibrating your screen means placing the Spyder over your monitor on the designated spot, as highlighted by the software. Datacolor have really thought this through nicely. The unit splits in half so the back half acts as the ‘anchor’ so the business end of the Spyder doesn’t slide down your monitor. It’s a simple but effective design.
Even with this ‘Express’ version there are some useful features. You can calibrate multiple displays, and give a name to these so you can easily identify your colour profile within ‘Displays’ in System Preferences (macOS). Once you have finished calibrating the interface gives you a grid of images where you can easily turn the calibration on and off. So if you are in any doubt whether your screen is calibrated you can quickly and easily see the results. As I mentioned earlier you’ll need to calibrate regularly so the reminder feature built in is very useful.
As for the calibration itself my results have been good. Displays are typically weighted to cool out of the box which gives you punchy colours. The Spyder in my experience has added some warmth without pushing too far but more importantly has maintained good whites and strong blacks which can often become ‘muddy.’
If you are printing, sharing or just want an accurate representation of your photography on your display then calibration is key. Sure you can calibrate using your built in software for your operating system, but you are relying on your judgement. The Spyder 5 Express offers excellent value for money in a compact design which is incredibly easy to use.