X-Rite ColorMunki Photo Review

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ColorMunki Conclusion

Photographers who want photos with accurate, predictable color need color management tools. For professionals, color management is mandatory. The real question is which color management solution to invest in. If your work is primarily for the Web, you can get by with a device that just calibrates your computer monitor. But as soon as you start making prints you’ll want to calibrate your printer as well. High-end solutions for printer calibration, including ones from X-Rite, generally start at $1000 and can get much more expensive. There aren’t many devices below that price range that will do both monitor and print.

Even with all the possibilities, it’s hard to use the ColorMunki for several weeks without feeling that it’s unfinished. The device design is a bit immature. The dial and pouch, while cute at first, soon become annoying. The software and instructions also need to be refined. The ColorMunki’s documentation explains how to perform it’s various functions, but it doesn’t answer questions like, “What does this setting on the dial do?” or, “What do you mean by ‘turn off the color management settings’ on my printer driver?” More effort needs to be made to help avoid errors while doing printer calibration and it needs to be a little more Mac-friendly. The three-computer limit is also a headache. At a minimum, you should be able to purchase additional licenses if you own or use more than three computers. I hope that future software updates will address these issues.

At the $500 price point, it’s most fair to pit the ColorMunki Photo against Datacolor’s Spyder3. I lack the eye or the ability to measure the accuracy of the two devices against each other. Objectively I can say that the ColorMunki does calibrate faster than the Spyder. Subjectively I can say that the ColorMunki software was easier to use than my old Spyder2, though the ColorMunki hardware is physically more klunky and awkward.

Based purely on calibration, the Spyder3 might win based on the more mature software, CRT support, lack of a three-computer license limit, and advanced options, though those same advanced options prevent it from being more user friendly. But the ColorMunki does more than calibration. I’m much more excited to use the ColorMunki regularly as it lets me be a Color DJ, sampling and remixing colors from my physical and online environments. Calibration is a chore; coming up with palettes is creative. Are creativity and excitement valid criteria for judging a color management solution? If the dust on my old Spyder2 can be counted as a vote, the answer is yes.

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All photos copyright Ken Conley and/or PhotographyREVIEW.com.

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