Without proper display calibration, you won’t be able to get your images right in post-production. Spyder5 colorimeters are widely trusted by professional photographers and videomakers for calibrating their display screens. However, there are several different versions of Spyder5. In the discussion below, we’ll show you the differences between Spyder5Pro vs Express, which offer different features.
Continue reading below to learn further about:
– Why you must calibrate your display monitor
– The hardware features of Spyder5
– The software features available on each Spyder5 version
– How to use the Spyder5 colorimeter
– Things to consider when choosing between Spyder5Pro vs Express
– The performance and color accuracy of Spyder5
The Importance of Display Calibration
Every person who works with colors needs a properly calibrated display. It is non-debatable. Regardless of whether you are using Canon EOS 6D vs 80D as your main camera, you most probably will still need to do some post-production on a computer before sending or publishing your photographs. At this point, you are prone to making huge mistakes if you don’t have a properly calibrated display.
You see, an uncalibrated display won’t give you accurate colors. Have you ever polished an image with so much effort that it appeared flawless, only to be disappointed after seeing the same image looking terrible on another screen? This is one common problem caused by an uncalibrated display.
Display calibration is important to not only photographers and videographers, but also web designers, illustrators, and pretty much any job that deal with colors. Display calibration ensures what you see on your screen is based on a common standard, and is consistent from day to day.
You calibrate your screen with a colorimeter. There are several products available in the market, and Spyder5 is one of the most renowned. It has three different variants: Express, Pro, and Elite. But we will only focus on Spyder5Pro vs Express here, as these are are the most affordable models. The color profile from the calibration is used by your computer’s operating system to adjust the displayed images, and by other devices such as photo printers to match their output.
Spyder5 is produced by Datacolor. This is the fifth generation. The company was initially called Colorvision when they released the first Spyder colorimeter. Over the years, the company has been listening closely to their users’ demands and upgraded their hardware accordingly.
The previous Spyder3 and Spyder4 models were good. Spyder3 was the first one to support wide-gamut color displays properly, whereas Spyder4 offered improved measurement precision and minimized unit-to-unit variance.
Unfortunately, Spyder3 and Spyder4 weren’t very accurate when dealing with darker tones. This is one of the reasons why the company has released Spyder5. According to the company, Spyder5 is equipped with a new 7-color matrix which can provide up to 55% tonal response improvement as well as faster performance. All of Spyder5Express, Spyder5Pro, and Spyder5Elite have similar hardware.
Compared to the previous generations, Spyder5 is actually more compact. This will allow you to put the unit on your screen more easily. There is now an integrated protective cap which also serves as a counterweight.
When not in use, the cap will shield the color filters from excessive light exposure, which may degrade them and reduce the accuracy. During use, the cap creates a balancing weight so that the main unit can remain stable on your screen. However, the cap is a bit difficult to adjust, so you need to be careful when pulling and positioning it.
The baffle design on the sensor has also been updated. It is now given a deeper honeycomb pattern to prevent stray light from affecting the measurement. When tested, the new pattern seems to be effective for the purpose. Flashing a bright light towards the sensor during a measurement does not cause a major change to the result.
Spyder5Pro and Spyder5Express use the same sensor, and both can produce identical color profiles. Since Spyder5Pro vs Express come with similar hardware, the differences are indeed on the software. Spyder5Pro comes with several additional features which you may or may not need, whereas Spyder5Express only includes the standard calibration function.
Spyder5Express is a decent choice if you don’t need the extra features, which mostly have very limited use in real world. It is the most affordable model, and it comes with the standard calibration function. The software is locked at 6500K color temperature and 2.2 gamma. Of course, this is the most common setting that should be suitable for most users.
The hardware actually has an ambient light sensor, but the ambient light measurement is disabled in the software. Also, there is no quick recalibration, so you will need to run a full calibration which takes about five minutes whenever you need to make an adjustment. Despite the limitations, Spyder5Express already serves the purpose well.
Spyder5Pro is a well-rounded package with some additional features. You can customize the temperature to be 5000K, 5800K, or 6500K, and the gamma to be 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, or 2.4. In addition, the ambient light measurement has been enabled on this version, so that you can adjust your monitor more precisely according to the room’s condition.
Quick recalibration is available on Spyder5Pro. Your monitor may experience minor changes over time, and the light in your room will also vary from time to time. As a result, you may need to make slight adjustments every once in a while. The quick recalibration feature will allow you to perform such adjustments within two or three minutes, instead of running the full calibration process.
How to use Spyder5Pro vs Express
Both versions of Spyder5 works on Windows and Mac OS X. First of all, you need to download and install the software. Note that an Internet connection is also needed to generate the activation code which is tied to your colorimeter’s serial number. This mechanism will prevent Spyder5Express users from using Spyder5Pro’s software or Spyder5Elite’s software.
The Spyder5 software is wizard-based. It is very easy and convenient to use. It will show the relevant features and hide the unsupported features depending on the type of your display screen. For example, if you are on a laptop, it will know that you only have brightness controls. If you are using an Apple laptop, the white LED backlight option is automatically selected. If you are on a desktop, the room light adjustment is made available.
The various settings may be confusing at first, but there is an Interactive Help sidebar which provides essential information about the currently shown settings. First-time users should read it because it is very helpful. A link for a more detailed explanation is also provided. In essence, you only need to follow the step-by-step process as guided by the wizard, and you will get your display calibrated within minutes.
Is Ambient Light Sensor Necessary?
Spyder5Express is fixed at a certain setting, whereas Spyder5 Pro allows you to select the color temperature and gamma. However, the customization becomes relevant only if you are certain about your room’s condition and what adjustments that are needed, or if you can use the ambient light sensor to find out.
The ambient light sensor will allow you to determine your room’s condition along with the recommended display profiling setting. The ambient light measurement is only performed once during the full calibration, and it does not alter the actual color profile afterward. If the Spyder5 colorimeter is connected to your computer, the software will also alert you of any ambient light change so that you can make an adjustment.
However, the ambient light measurement is not really necessary. This is because the default 6500K color temperature and 2.2 gamma are the most commonly used setting. Most of the time, it is the one that will give you the most accurate colors. Indeed, you may reduce the values for reading or watching movies, but reducing the values often makes the display appear too warm.
Performance-wise, Spyder5Express and Spyder5Pro are similar. They both tend to provide similar color profiles, and they both work flawlessly. They can make all kinds of display screens show accurate colors and gradients with proper shadow detail and consistency.
Compared to previous generations, the improvements on Spyder5 are very noticeable. The first thing is the speed. Spyder5 is much faster in performing a full calibration, so you can get to work more quickly. The second major improvement is the tonal accuracy, especially on darker colors. Spyder5 is better in distinguishing color gradients.
Spyder5Express and Spyder5Pro can effortlessly compete against other colorimeters in the market. Compared to the competitors such as the X-Rite models, Spyder5Express and Spyder5Pro seem to provide a little bit better shadow detail as well as less banding.
Spyder5Pro vs Express
If you want to save some money, Spyder5Express is an excellent choice. It already allows you to perform a full calibration, and the performance is great. It provides excellent profiles with highly accurate colors. Meanwhile, Spyder5Pro is only recommended if you really need the ambient light measurement, for example if your room has an uncommon light condition.