Most users in the creative industry know they should regularly calibrate and profile their monitor for colour-critical work, but there’s more to colour accuracy than keeping your monitor in shape colour-wise. If you’re going to be printing or projecting your photos, art or videos, you’d better calibrate the output equipment as well. In fact, if you want to be absolutely certain colours will be accurately rendered from input to output, you will need to calibrate — or at least profile — cameras, scanners, monitors, printers and projectors. There’s only one affordable option that is accurate enough: the Red Dot Award winning X-Rite i1Pro 2 and I had the chance to test the Photo edition.
The i1Pro 2 device is a so-called spectrophotometer. It is widely used by photographers and printing companies to measure spot colours, calibrate devices and create colour profiles — the files that describe how a device perceives colour and/or renders it.
I used to have a GretagMacbeth i1Pro and although the device was quite accurate, it was slow and display profiles created with it were not as accurate as those made using an X-Rite or GretagMacbeth colorimeter. Most importantly, if I were to have used paper with UV-brighteners I would have had to buy a separate i1Pro to profile those. The i1Pro 2 changes all that.
The i1Photo Pro 2 for photographers I tested is among the most accurate profile devices available today and is the only one that is affordable. The Photo version has an expanded feature set that offers photographers the ability to measure output while correcting for optical brighteners often found in photo papers — all with the same device.
The i1Photo Pro 2 integrates with the included i1Profiler software, for which it also acts as a software dongle. The software features basic and advanced modes for professionally calibrated and profiled monitors including presets for video production workflows, projectors, scanners and RGB printers.
It also includes display and printer quality assurance functions. The Photo edition only calibrates and profiles RGB printers, while a more expensive Publish edition also lets you profile CMYK printers. The latter being used almost exclusively by printing companies, most photographers will settle for the Photo version. However, if you output to a true CMYK printer of which a few affordable ones are around, or need to create specialist DeviceLink profiles, you are better off with the Publish version as that one comes with a complete feature set.
The nicely designed and ergonomic i1Photo Pro 2 device comes in its own semi-soft carrying case that also contains a ColorChecker camera calibration target to produce custom camera profiles that you need for RAW workflows. It’s touted to work with the downloadable ColorChecker Camera Calibration app, but that one hasn’t been updated since 2010. Luckily, Adobe has integrated this type of RAW colour management functionality in its Lightroom product.
The i1Photo Pro 2 includes the ColorChecker Classic target mini, ColorChecker Proof target, an Ambient Light Measurement Head, Monitor Holder, Projector Holder, Scanning Ruler, Backup Board and a Spot Colour Positioning Target. All of these accessories are carefully designed and robust — more robust than those of its predecessor’s and with a much better design.
Another downloadable app, the PANTONE Color Manager, is said to help you capture and manage spot colours with the i1Photo Pro 2 device, but only if your macOS version runs behind at least two versions. On newer macOS versions — certainly on Sierra — the app sometimes crashes for no obvious reason.
When it does work, this app lets you find the closest PANTONE colour patch to any scanned colour, but it is of less value if you just want to know the exact RGB values. There’s a trick to get these anyway, but that involves using the i1Profiler app in a “creative” way.
Software-wise, the i1Photo Pro 2 is well up to its main purpose in life: calibrate and profile all modern laptop and desktop displays, such as LED, Plasma, RG Phosphor, OLED and Wide Gamut, and all input and output devices bar CMYK printers. Most photographers, however, will want to do more with their kit, such as adjusting the monitor to any ambient light condition for optimal viewing of colour-critical work and predicting how colours printed on optically brightened media will look under specific lighting conditions. Some of them will also want to calibrate and profile their iOS or Android devices so they can be sure a client presentation is as accurate in the client’s office as it is in their studio.
All of that, the i1Photo Pro does with panache — the latter with the free ColorTRUE app. Heck, it will even let you capture the ambient lighting conditions of a gallery to apply to your printer profile for the most accurate colour rendition.
Still, I can’t help but find it a pity X-Rite doesn’t update its software for calibrating cameras and finding colour values of scanned colour patches anymore or more often. It would make a fantastic product simply perfect. The i1Photo Pro 2 costs around €1,500.
Also take a look at the short video I made of how you go about measuring spot colours with the i1Pro 2: