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Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo review: Color accuracy made easy


There are many photographers out there who need to ensure that the colors their gear reproduces are as accurate as possible, and until now, you had to carry a large color chart with you; however; the new Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo is hoping to make things a little easier on creators.

Editors note: Datacolor sent us the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo to review and keep. However, we have not been told what to say and can assure you that all of the thoughts about this product are our own. We tell you this as we always want to be upfront when we get to keep products that we are sent.

Pros

  • Small, easy to carry around
  • Well constructed
  • 48 color patches and two gray scales
  • Easy to use software
  • Helps reproduce accurate colors, IF you do the leg work

Cons

  • A little pricey at $99.99

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo — Technical specifications

All technical specifications for the Datacolor Spyder Checker Photo have been provided by Datacolor:

  • Four interchangeable target color cards
  • Cards are made from 78% bamboo, a renewable resource for paper
  • Ultra-matte finish on long-lasting, ink-printed, museum-quality paper cards
  • Spyder Checkr Photo case
  • Lanyard
  • Software download link and software serial number provided
  • Windows 7 32/64, Windows 8.0, 8.1 32/64, Windows 10 32/64
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher
  • Monitor Resolution 1280×768 or greater
  • 16-bit video card (24 recommended)
  • 1 GB of available RAM
  • 500 MB of available hard disk space
  • Internet access for product activation

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo — Ergonomics and build quality

The Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo is tiny, especially compared to the Datacolor Spyder Checkr and Checkr 24. We’re talking can easily fit in your camera bag, pocket, or wear around your neck with a lanyard (included in the box) tiny. At roughly 5 x 4 x 0.75 inches in size and with a weight of just 0.24lbs, the Spyder Checkr Photo is small enough to go anywhere with you.

The Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo is made entirely from plastic. Unfortunately, each piece of the case has a fair amount of flex. However, the plastic still feels tough and should last a while. The case is white with a small amount of red to break up the monotony of the white. The product looks about as nice as a solid slab of plastic can.

The hinge

The Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo features a tri-fold design. Open the case with the button on the side, and it folds open to reveal a color card on the interior, a middle page that houses another color card. Flip the middle page, and you’ll find two greyscale cards. The cards are held in place with little tabs. I wouldn’t call the tabs great, but they get the job of keeping the cards in place done.

The Checkr Photo can be unfolded and oriented in a few different ways thanks to the hinge. You can open the Checkr and have it laying flat, you can slightly bend the hinge to have it standing upright, or you can have it flat with the middle page upright horizontally. This is great; however, the hinge is incredibly stiff. At times, I had to apply what I would consider excessive force to move it. When you apply this force, the flexibility of the plastic housing can be seen. Still, I have used the Checkr photo numerous times, and nothing has snapped or broken.

Overall, the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo is a well-designed product that should last a while if you take care of it. I have thrown it into several camera bags and have slid it into my pocket numerous times, and it’s still OK. The Checker Photo is small, light and can travel anywhere. These attributes are what will make this product so appealing to many photographers.

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo — Ease of use

You can orient the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo in numerous ways. However, the hinge is a bear.

There are two main parts to the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo. The physical product itself and the software you’ll be downloading. In this section, we’ll take a look at both.

Spyder Checkr Photo

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo
The tabs that hold the color cards in place get the job done.

The Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo is easy to use. Simply find a flat surface, or have your model hold it, open the checker to reveal the color and gray scales cards, light the color cards accordingly, and that’s it. The Checkr Photo itself does nothing else apart from sit quietly on whatever surface you place it. There are no batteries, power options, beeps, boops or bops; it’s just a slab of plastic with color cards in it.

Removing and replacing, or repositioning the cards is easy. You simply push the card out from the clips and slide them back in as needed. Datacolor claims the color cards should last roughly two years with correct usage and storage. However, there is no way for us to test those claims during our short review period.

You can, if you wish, carry the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo with you on a lanyard. On the top of the hinge is a small eyelet where you thread the lanyard through. It’s a simple design, but it’s very effective. In all, the Spyder Checkr Photo is easy to use.

Datacolor Software — Setup

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo

Making color profiles through the Datacolor software is where you’re going to spend a little bit of time. For the Spyder Checkr Photo to do its job correctly, you’ll need to create image profiles for every camera and lens combination you have. Fortunately, profile creation is relatively straightforward.

You take an image of the Spyder Checkr Photo with the camera and lens combo you’ll be using and the lighting conditions used in your shoot. Once this is done, you import the image into your editing software, crop the image, and then adjust the white balance of either white, 20% gray and the black square. You adjust to where white is roughly 90% on your image editor’s histogram and to where black is approximately 4%. From there, you export it as TIFF and load it into the Datacolor software.

You’ll be using Spyder Checkr Camera Utility a lot

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo
The camera utility is a simple piece of software that can be a little painful to use at times.

Once the image is in Datacolor’s software, you then make a profile for one of three (or all three) profiles that will eventually be exported to your editing software (Lightroom, ACR or Hasselblad’s Phocus). First, though, you’ll need to load the .tiff you created and calibrate target squares into each color patch in the image. This process can be frustrating.

Once done, you create profiles for saturation, colorimetric and portrait. Remember, you have to go through these steps for every camera and lens combo you need profiles for, and ideally, you’ll want to create new profiles every time you shoot with different lighting conditions. For example, if you move your model or item to a new location with different lighting conditions, you need to reshoot the Spyder Checkr Photo and create more profiles for that series of images.

Once you have saved the profiles you want, the next time you launch your editing software, the profiles will be available for you to use.

Greyscale cards

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo
The greyscale cards are great for when you want to calibrate your camera’s white balance.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo comes with two greyscale cards. These cards can be used to calibrate the white balance in your camera. By calibrating the white balance in your camera, you’ll be able to ensure that the initial image previews you see on your camera are color accurate.

This will be especially handy for those who like to share JPEG files immediately with clients. Of course, if you don’t ever share JPEGs with clients, this might not interest you, but it’s nice to have and adds value to the product overall.

Editing software

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo
Once you create the profiles for each camera and lens combo, the camera utility from Datacolor will import them directly to your editing software.

As you can see in the image above, the three profiles I made in Datacolor’s software now appear in the menu on the left-hand side of Lightroom. You will need to name each profile individually. Just remember to name the profiles with something that makes sense to you.

When you apply the profiles to your images, the profile will automatically adjust the HSL sliders in Lightroom. Once applied, the software will reproduce colors as accurately as possible from the lighting, camera and lens combo you used. Overall the software from Datacolor is easy to use. The software works seamlessly with Lightroom, making it painless to use.

Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo — Results

If you buy the Datacolor Spyder Checkr Photo thinking your eyes will be wowed with gorgeous, vibrant colors, move along. This is not what the Spyder Checkr Photo is about. Instead, the Checkr Photo is a tool designed to make very subtle tweaks to images so that colors are as accurate as they can be.

At first, you might not believe that the profiles are doing much — if anything — but look closely, and you’ll see the differences between your RAW image and the new color-corrected image.

I could see the changes and was quite impressed at how well the saturation profile (image above) reproduced the lime green color. I printed the image and, again, was very happy with the result. The image with the saturation profile produced deeper and richer colors and more closely represented how the green looked with my own eyes. This profile, according to Datacolor, will work well with most types of images.

Quite impressive

The colorimetric profile (above) is supposed to produce the most literal results. The image becomes very flat and muted to my eyes. However, this is supposed to be the profile you use when reproducing artwork and color-critical work. For example, if you’re a fashion photographer and need the blue in your model’s shirt to be 100% accurate, this is the profile you’d use.

The portrait color profile, as you would guess, targets colors that impact skin tones. The profile desaturates skin tones so that they look more natural, which make processing portrait images much easier.

In all, the profiles did an excellent job at bringing colors under control, which is impressive when you consider just how wild some colors can be straight out of the camera. Once you have made the profiles and have imported them into your editing software, they’re easy to use and provide subtle yet pleasant results.



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Rafael Jones

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