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PMA 2003 Mini-Roundup - Continued

GretagMacbeth has revamped its colour management hardware and software product line to better serve the professional digital photographer. It has added two new packages - Eye-One Display and Eye One Photo - revamped Eye-One Pro + Eye-One Match (adding an Ambient Light Head and renaming it Eye-One Publish) and done away with Eye-One Monitor altogether. The net result is a combination of offerings that will make RGB printer (think inkjet, Fuji Pictrography) profiling in particular more affordable, and all forms of colour management more accessible and useful to the professional digital photographer.

In addition, the company has announced the upcoming availability of Eye-One Beamer, an add-on for the Eye-One spectrophotometer that enables the calibration and profiling of LCD projectors, a plug-in for Powerpoint that makes the presentation application colour management-savvy and the addition of an Ambient Light Head accessory for the Eye-One. The company also offered a peek at a new ColorChecker Gray Balance Card, ColorChecker White Balance Card and ColorChecker Gray Scale Balance Card that are currently in development. GretagMacbeth has clearly been busy.

Eye-One Display

eye-one_match.jpgA new monitor colorimeter, called Eye-One Display, and a new version of Eye-One Match for Mac and Windows, enables the calibration and profiling of both CRT and LCD monitors. With a suggested list price of US$249, the Eye-One Display device and Eye-One Match 2.0 software combo (together, they're simply called Eye-One Display), will also be among the least expensive monitor calibration and profiling options.

Any monitor profiling package is comprised of three elements: the hardware device that you position on the screen, the software that reads the data from the device, and the resulting calibration and profile.

The Eye-One Display colorimeter itself has been developed in conjunction with Sequel Imaging. Taking a page from Remington's Victor Kiam, GretagMacbeth liked the colorimeter so much they bought the company: at PMA 2003, the Switzerland-based firm announced their intent to acquire the New Hampshire-based Sequel, which also supplies colorimeters to Sony, Monaco and LaCie. Though similar to Sequel's Gamma 4, the Eye-One Display colorimeter contains a fourth filter not found in the Gamma 4. The fourth filter, says Sequel's Nick Milley, enables the Eye-One Display to detect monitor refresh, and thereby determine whether it's staring at an LCD or CRT. In the future, says Milley, this fourth filter will be called on to provide other helpful information, but what the full capabilities of the fourth filter are has not been specified.

The industrial design of the Eye-One Display device is first rate: low-power suction cups make it possible to safely and easily attach it to both CRT and LCD, without risk of damaging the screen of LCD displays in particular. A counterweight on the cord helps balance things when Eye-One Display is attached to an LCD. There isn't an easier monitor calibration device to attach and remove from both CRTand LCD screen types. It also features a trim rubber ring that should help keep stray light from fouling up the calibration process.

Eye-One Match 2.0's monitor profiling module is a definite improvement over v1.3. Easy and Advanced modes are now included, though in practice it will probably make sense to use Easy for LCD displays and Advanced for CRT. The Advanced mode is expected to have roughly the same features as v1.3's only mode, including the ability to set monitor brightness, monitor contrast and balance R,G and B (though R, G and B controls were not to be found in the Match 2.0 beta being demonstrated at PMA).

Eye-One Match 2.0 includes more white point and gamma options than v1.3, however. Overall, the monitor module's feature set should be enough for most photographers. Perhaps the most obvious change in v2.0 is the display of the 42 patches during the calibration and profiling process. Previously, these patches flashed by in a small vertical window. Now, they fill almost the entire screen area, thereby eliminating the need to target the colorimeter carefully within a small area on the monitor.

So, the hardware looks solid, the software decently-appointed and easy to use. What about the quality of the monitor profile? Well, there's the rub. The Match 2.0 beta driving an Eye-One Display attached to an Apple Cinema HD Display produced a profile that was vintage GretagMacbeth. That is, while the neutrals were fairly neutral, shadow detail was excessively clipped and colours overly saturated. Like Eye-One Match 1.3 and even the up-market ProfileMaker Pro 4.1.1, monitor profiling is definitely one of the weakest parts of any GretagMacbeth package. I hope that GretagMacbeth will, before Eye-One Display ships next month, be able to bring up the quality of the monitor profiling component of Match 2.0 to match the excellent hardware that Eye-One Display appears to be.

Eye-One Display will include a US$200 voucher to apply against the cost of Eye-One Photo, Eye-One Publish and Eye-One Beamer. The included Eye-One Match 2.0 is compatible with Mac OS 9 and OS X, Windows 2000 and XP. Eye-One Display is expected to ship in mid-April 2003.

Eye-One Display at US$249 would have made the US$600 (approximate street price) Eye-One Monitor package, which included a monitor-only version of the Eye-One spectrophotometer and Match software, a tough sell. As a result, Eye-One Monitor will be discontinued (and is currently being heavily discounted by some retailers).

Eye-One Photo

The next step up the Eye-One food chain is Eye-One Photo. This package is for photographers who need to calibrate their LCD or CRT monitors and profile RGB output devices. Included in Eye-One Photo is an Eye-One spectrophotometer, Eye-One Match 2.0 software (with both the monitor and RGB printer modules enabled) and an Ambient Light Head for the Eye-One that enables it to take spectral readings of ambient light.

Note: If you own virtually own any inkjet, you own what is effectively an RGB printer, because the drivers utilized by these printers expect RGB data only, which they then convert to CMYK (or, more likely, CcMmYK) using their own conversion recipe. In addition, certain printers are actually RGB, including the Fuji PG-series.

The Eye-One spectrophotometer that's part of the Eye-One Photo package is identical to the device formerly known as Eye-One Pro. The Eye-One has become the colour measurement device of choice for colour geeks everywhere. It's capable of both emissive and reflective measurements, which means it can profile monitors, printer targets and scanner targets, though the Eye-One Photo package doesn't include scanner or CMYK printer profiling (Eye-One Publish does, however).

New to the Eye-One, and included in the Eye-One Photo package, is the Ambient Light Head accessory, which can be used to capture the spectral information from light sources under which photos will be displayed. Initially, the freeware program Eye-One Share 1.3, which will be available for download from the i1color web site, will display this spectral information.One of the purposes of capturing spectral data like this is to enable the building of printer profiles that take into account the light source under which the prints will be viewed. Profiles built to the ICC v4 specification allow for this, says GretagMacbeth's Dietmar Fuchs.

As of this writing, however, it's not clear to me if or how this spectral information can be slotted into the profile generation path of Eye-One Match 2.0, and GretagMacbeth booth staff weren't certain about this either. It's possible that an upcoming revision of ProfileMaker will be required to take full advantage of the spectral data gleaned from the Ambient Light Head accessory. In the meantime, Eye-One Share 1.3 will allow for photographers to check the illumination in their viewing booth. And, with some hand-eye coordination, it's expected to be possible to capture the spectral information from flash units as well.

Eye-One Photo is expected to ship in mid-April 2003 at a suggested list price of US$1495. Eye-One Photo's Eye-One Match 2.0 can be upgraded, through the purchase of the appropriate access code, to profile scanners or CMYK output devices. Upgrading Eye-One Photo with scanner and CMYK profiling capabilities effectively turns it into Eye-One Publish.

Note: Existing Eye-One owners can obtain the Ambient Light Head accessory for their device, but doing so is expensive and the process somewhat cumbersome. The Eye-One must be sent to a GretagMacbeth facility in Switzerland, where the it is recalibrated and the Ambient Light Head matched to the device. The turnaround time is estimated to be several weeks. The suggested list price for the Ambient Light Head upgrade is US$595.

Eye-One Publish

Eye-One Publish has all the capabilities of the current Eye-One Pro with Eye-One Match, including monitor, scanner, RGB and CMYK output profiling. As with Eye-One Photo, the software at the centre of it all is Eye-One Match 2.0, but with the monitor, scanner, RGB and CMYK modules switched on. The Ambient Light Head is included with Eye-One Publish.

Eye-One Publish has a suggested list price of US$2695 and is to ship in mid-April. Until it ships, GretagMacbeth plans to discount the cost of the current Eye-One Pro with Eye-One Match to US$2395.

Eye-One Beamer

eye-one_beamer.jpgIn North America they're called LCD projectors, but over the pond in Europe they're more commonly known as beamers. Naturally enough, then, the Swiss folks at GretagMacbeth chose the name Eye-One Beamer for their LCD projector calibration and profiling accessory. The Eye-One Beamer package includes an Eye-One spectrophotometer, the Beamer attachment and holder for same, Eye-One Match 2.0 (with only the monitor and LCD projector modules enabled) and a carrying case.

Once the Eye-One with the Beamer attachment is correctly pointed at the screen (GretagMacbeth has come up with an ingenious method for assisting with the pointing) on which the projector is displaying its image, the calibration and profiling process is much the same as it is with a CRT or LCD monitor, including the display of 42 colour patches.

The Eye-One Beamer package enables the calibration of any type of monitor, and has a suggested list price of US$1595. Like the rest of the new Eye-One line, it is expected to ship in mid-April 2003. Eye-One Beamer does not include printer profiling. It is, however, possible to add the Beamer accessory to Eye-One Photo or Eye-One Publish for a suggested list price of US$595 (in addition to the cost of Photo or Publish).

GretagMacbeth has also developed a plug-in for Microsoft Powerpoint that enables presentations to be colour managed across both the presenter's monitor and the display that the audience is viewing. The plug-in, which will ship initially for the Windows version of Powerpoint, followed by a Mac version sometime later, will honour embedded profiles in photos, and defaults to sRGB for photos that lack embedded profiles. Other on-screen elements, including coloured text, are also assumed to be sRGB and are displayed accordingly.

Expanded ColorChecker line

GretabMacbeth was also showing off new products in its ColorChecker line, including:

  • ColorChecker Gray Balance Card. About the same size as the original 24-patch ColorChecker, but filled corner to corner with neutral gray. In essence, GretagMacbeth has taken the neutral gray square that's on the bottom row, fourth from the left on the original ColorChecker and given it its own card. It's produced the same way, using the same automobile paint formulation as the original ColorChecker. The card is aimed at photographers whose cameras or processing software works best when setting the balance in the photo off something gray.
  • ColorChecker White Balance Card. A close cousin to the Gray Balance Card, the ColorChecker White Balance Card is also derived from one of the squares on the original ColorChecker, this time the white square in the lower left corner.The card is aimed at photographers whose cameras or processing software works best when setting the balance in the photo off something white.
  • ColorChecker Gray Scale Balance Card. This card contains three vertical patches: white, gray and black, and is meant to streamline the process of optimizing image contrast.

All three cards are perhaps 6-8 weeks away from shipping, and each is expected to have a suggested list price of about US$69. GretagMacbeth is also working on a revised version of the original ColorChecker that will have the same 24 patches made from the same colourants, but with a saturation-enhancing coating that should enable camera profiling software to generate profiles with a wider colour gamut.

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