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Monitor calibration for 0 to 100 €
by Vincent Alzieu
Published on June 22, 2006

Calibrating for accurate colours
The Email that we receive the most is: "Thank you, I followed your advice and bought the monitor X. It’s great but can you give me your calibration parameters for accurate colours? "

Unfortunately, our answer is always the same, no, this isn´t possible. The created profile only works with our computer. Using a profile from another computer doesn’t change colors or worse, they become even more inaccurate. Also, ideally calibration is required every month or several times per week if you need professional quality.

We use daily the LaCie colorimeter and we chose it amongst its many competitors. And to be perfectly honest, we know them really well and this allows us to send them feedback, remarks and see the software evolving with each new version. The Blue Eye Pro colorimeter is only supposed to work with LaCie monitors (it does however work with all monitors) and it doesn´t com cheap at approximately 330€. Not everyone can afford such a product.

Of course, the best solution would be for manufacturer to start selling computers with accurate colors from the beginning and this seems only logical. Unfortunately as long as it isn´t the case, we will have to adjust them with the least expensive solution possible. Here is a survey of "cheap" calibration solutions from 0 to 100€!

Wrong colours ?
There are some improvements as we notice each month in our surveys. However, this progress comes more from an evolution of the panel manufacturer rather than monitors assemblers. LG-Philips now sells IPS panels that are the most accurate with standard parameters.

They are followed by Samsung. It has been over a year since their panels appeared to be correctly adjusted. Then comes CMO and AU Optronics, who haven´t realised how important it is to have accurate colors. Generally, too many monitors are sold with poor standard parameters. And even if some new monitors have satisfactory results there is still an enormous amount of monitors that display wrong colours. We started talking with several manufacturers and some were amazed to see the difference with real colours and the ones displayed. Others were well aware of the problem. Amongst them, the Samsung´s Korean management told us that their point of view was a little bit different than ours. On the one hand they have monitors for demanding users like the SyncMaster 970P on which we have indeed measured accurate colours. And on the other hand they have "general public" products on which accuracy is from their point of view less important the vividness of colors. However, in the end we end up with poor colours because of today´s chain of:

camera -> monitor / picture editing ? -> personal or photo lab print.

The problem is that the manufacturers at each step follow the same reasoning. Clients do not want accurate colours but bright and shiny images. So, the camera takes more vivid colours that will be even more increased by the monitor. Imagine what will color correction result in at this stage or what accuracy we will have in the end? These colours will be even different on personal or professional printers whose color space is different. Tones and contrast are accentuated, reds are often over represented. In the end, we end up with much different colours compared to the original. So let´s try to reduce the possible damages. Having a monitor that truly displays the original picture is possible.

Calibration methods
We don´t want you to purchase the most expensive tools. So we started from the cheapest solution possible, test patterns available on-line. For each method the procedure is the same; we evaluate standard color quality without adjustment. Then we apply it the method and measure its efficacy. To compare results before and after calibration we use one of the functions of our Blue Eye Pro colorimeter where we measure the Lab values of 18 basic colors form black to white and red to pastel cyan.

Finally, we found a monitor with initial inaccurate colours. The star of the day was the ViewSonic VX922. This is a wonderful monitor for games but on which standard color quality isn´t up to par. We will come back to this below.

For now, here is the list of methods we selected:

-Cost: 0€. Nothing.

Do not touch anything, close your eyes and hope for accuracy. We measured the result with our LaCie colorimeter. This was the standard by which compared the other methods of calibration.

- Cost : 0 €. Nokia Test.

The Nokia Test seems to be the most popular tool and it’s often recommended in forums. Adjustments are made with your eyes and there is no indication or guide.

- Cost : 0 €. QuickGamma.

This is a free software but it’s protected by copyright.
This time you are guided. In the end you will have adjusted contrast, brightness and gamma for each color component: red, green and blue.

- Cost : 72 €. Kodak Professional Color Management Check-Up kit.

Colour Confidence, an English specialist of color newly arrived in France, and Kodak have released a cheap solution. The kit includes two version of one set of photos one on paper and the other numeric. It is up to you to compare both and adjust.

- Cost: 99 €. ColorVision Spyder2express.

ColorVision is the first company to have realised the greater interest for accurate colours. They were among the first to sell affordable colorimeters. The first results weren´t really up to our expectations but here is a new one!

- Cost : 99 €. Gretagmacbeth Huey.

Gretag only used to sell expensive products and up until not so long ago, there was no product under 300€. Their products are good and often used by image professionals. Our LaCie colorimeter is in fact a Gretag with LaCie software that we like so much.
Gretag selling "inexpensive" products, is it a revolution?

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