Macworld Expo: Color freak

Demonstrations of Xrite/Pantone's ColorMunki Photo color calibration package at Macworld Expo brought out the color freak in me. The package offers an interesting piece of hardware and a software with an easy-to-use interface that looks to take the sweat out of printer and monitor calibration.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

ColorMunki Photo was released earlier in the year but I hadn't had a chance to see it in action. I admit that I once worked in the color calibration industry, so I'm a soft touch for a demo.

(If you don't get what the deal is about color calibration, it's the search for ways to improve the consistency and accuracy of your color devices, such as a monitor and a printer, so that what you see on one device you may get on hardcopy. It's not easy technology, nor inexpensive. The ColorMunki Photo has a list price of about $500; and it's around $400 online.)

The black plastic ColorMunki device is like the Swiss army knife of color calibration. It looks a tape measure. But it's powerful.

The device's integrated spectrophotometer can calibrate a monitor in one setting of its dial and handle your printer with another. Flip down a little hinge and it can read the color of a physical object. Point it at the screen and it can calibrate a projector. It even has its own calibration reference swatch inside its housing, a very nice feature.

The software is straightforward and guides the user through the complicated calibration process. The software talks to your monitor and for some, it can make the adjustments for you (certainly true for current Macs and the Apple Cinema display). In the demo by product manager Steve Rankin, I found it quick and easy to calibrate an iMac, hanging the device over the monitor with a cloth sling.

Afterwards, we went through the steps to calibrate a printer. The procedure was very understandable. I've used earlier printer calibration systems and ColorMunki Photo one avoided a number of tricky steps and didn't require extra pieces of hardware that could get lost.

In addition to the calibration modules, the software offers a number of interesting tools for pulling colors palettes from digital photos and relating those colors to existing color collections from design houses.

Reading the message threads in some discussion groups online after the demo, there appears to be some issues with this product and Windows systems. On a Mac, it all seemed to work — go figure.

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