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When you look up 'match my monitor colors,' Datacolor wants to be the top result

The company hopes to tackle the esoteric process of display color calibration in a more approachable way.

The new colorimeter (thing that measures color) has an attached sensor cover that doubles as a counterweight. Sarah Tew/CNET

While Datacolor has updated its Spyder5 hardware with some notable changes, the real push for the update is to spread the gospel of calibration to a surprisingly uninitiated crowd. According to the company, its research showed that 80-plus percent of hobbyists and prosumers did not know about calibration solutions.

While my snarky side wonders why more people haven't searched the Web for "match my monitor colors," it's true that calibration is an esoteric subject and can often be a seriously frustrating task. So with the Spyder5 bundles, Datacolor reinvented and rewrote its help system, making it more interactive and context-sensitive; added a wizard to walk you through the process; and simplified its vocabulary. Goodbye, "ambient light," hello, "room light."

What's new?

  • Updated colorimeter: In addition to a physical redesign that makes it more compact -- Spyder got its legs cut off -- it's now got a second tethered piece that doubles as a sensor cover and as a counterweight. Datacolor has also reduced the size of the baffle -- the filter through which light passes to the sensor -- to block out more light and obtain ostensibly better sensitivity at dimmer brightness levels. The optical module is more durable as well. Jettisoning the installation disc, Datacolor made the box small enough to toss in your bag and uses a design that doesn't make you want to rip your hair out if you want to box the unit up again. Since the new design doesn't come with a stand, there's a standard tripod mount for calibrating projectors.
  • Software: The most basic bundle, Spyder5Express ($130; that directly converts to £90 or AU$170), now will support calibration for multiple displays and before and after preview. Because it's the same hardware as the other packages, with the room-light sensor, you'll also you'll possibly be able to upgrade software if you want at some point in the future. The hobbyist package, Spyder5Pro ($190; around £130 or AU$250), has the same feature set but adds the ability to use your own photos for before/after views and 3 levels of room light sensing, up from 2. The pro-targeted bundle, Spyder5Elite ($280; roughly £190 or AU$370), supplements the previous bundle with 5 room-light up from 4, more video calibration standards (like Rec. 2020) and a full-screen before and after view.

My take

Calibration is like backup. It's something everyone working with images should do, but really, who wants the hassle and the complicated procedures? Anything that makes accurate color easier to achieve with a more approachable process gets a thumbs up from me.

Once I've got my new system set up -- USB ports that actually work! -- I'll be able to tell you if it achieves its goal. And though existing Spyder users aren't Datacolor's primary target for this, it looks like it might be worth an upgrade to your colorimeter. I'll report back on that as well.

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