X-Rite’s ColorMunki Photo; A Unique And Compact Color Management Tool

In midwinter I had a sneak peek of a new color management product. I was lucky enough to get a beta unit then and have been using it for the past couple of months. But, I don't review beta products, so I've been holding out for the release version of the product, dubbed ColorMunki Photo (#1). The ColorMunki combines high-end technology with easy-to-use features and a palatable price tag, for most users.

1. ColorMunki is a new color management product from X-Rite that is designed to make it easier and less expensive for the average person to create a color managed workflow.

Typically, you would buy a monitor calibration device like Datacolor's Spyder3 or X-Rite's i1Display 2. These are both colorimeters that sit on your monitor and read a series of colors to define what your monitor is capable of reproducing. In the case of the Spyder3, you can also calibrate a digital projector. Both of these products cost about $250.

This doesn't give you the ability to create custom printer profiles, an important matter for anyone wanting to create high-quality prints of their images. Until now, you were looking at either the Datacolor Spyder3Print for $499 (a bundle, the Spyder3Studio is available for $599 and includes both the Spyder3Elite and Spyder3Print products) or the X-Rite i1Photo. The i1Photo LT is a spectrophotometer that is generally regarded as a more accurate device for measuring color. This product does both monitor and printer profiling at a cost of $1095. But, to have the best possible quality printer profiles, you also needed to purchase additional software, such as the $2495 ProfileMaker software. All this seems like overkill for many photographers and printmakers.

ColorMunki claims to change all of that with a single product that does monitor, printer, and projector profiling, all for $499 (#2). This isn't a stripped-down hardware product either. It uses the same spectrophotometer found in the high-end profiling devices sold by X-Rite, but it brings a much friendlier interface that is more intuitive for the average user.

2. Launching ColorMunki gives you access to all features of the program, including monitor and printer profiling as well as the other components for packaging images and building color palettes.

If you've ever profiled your monitor, you'll be comfortable and familiar with this part of the process. If you have multiple displays, you'll select the one you want to profile (ColorMunki will profile multiple displays for you) and select whether you want Easy or Advanced mode. Advanced mode (#3) lets you set the color temperature and measure ambient room light to optimize the display. To be honest, I find very little difference between the Easy and Advanced modes. The ColorMunki comes with a padded case and strap that you'll hang on your monitor in the location shown on screen (#4), and then the software will display a range of colors that the ColorMunki will read. When completed, the ColorMunki creates a profile for you and gives you the opportunity to see a before and after view before setting it as the default profile (#5). You can also set a calendar reminder that your display should be recalibrated.

3. ColorMunki can profile multiple monitors and has both an Easy and Advanced mode. The Advanced mode lets you set target color temperatures and measure ambient lighting conditions. You can also profile digital projectors with the same device.

4. The ColorMunki hangs off your monitor in the included pouch. A series of color values are read and a monitor profile is built. The entire process takes just a few minutes.

5. Once the profile is complete, you can review before and after settings to verify that the profile is good and to see how much difference there is between uncalibrated and calibrated displays. You can also set the frequency for profiling reminders. I typically profile every two weeks.

Profiling a projector works the same way as a computer display, but rather than placing the ColorMunki on the screen, you mount it on a tripod using the built-in adapter and point it at the screen. One feature that will appeal to the newcomer especially is the on-screen directions. When you use the ColorMunki, it has a built-in calibration routine. The software directs you to turn the dial to the correct position for the current operation and lets you know when it's ready for the next step (#6).

6. The on-screen prompts make ColorMunki pretty foolproof. You access the different modes by turning the dial on the ColorMunki depending on the type of measurement you're doing. The device has a built-in calibration tile and will calibrate itself before measuring your monitor or prints.