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X-Rite Colormunki Photo Review


Western PA, US
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spiritualized67 Moderator Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, most notably in Street & Landscape Photography Nikonian since 01st Mar 2007
Thu 24-Jul-08 09:18 PM

The "Munki" may finally be off my back!

Well, I pulled the trigger on the new X-Rite Colormunki Photo "all-in-one" calibration tool--thanks in no short part to the banner ad that was on Nikonians. Of course, I did some research too.

For about two years now, I've been struggling with color management. For whatever reason, I've never been able to make my Epson prints match what I see on screen. I have a MacBook + 23" Apple Cinema Display + Epson R2400 combo. My previous calibrator, Spyder2 did not work out at all for whatever reason.

So, I've had a chance to fool around with it for a few days. And I must say, that the initial prints do seem to match what I'm seeing on screen--which is an epiphany for me. At least it gives me a place to start for further color/paper/profile tweaking.

What really sold me on this product was the fact that it calibrates both your monitor and printer. So, you can create custom icc paper profiles by using the Munki to scan some test strips that come out of your printer based on the exact paper you are using--even third party paper such as Harmon Gloss. The software syncs this up with your monitor profile and....out comes a matched print. You can even optimize the icc profile to fine tune certain colors--such as achieving more accurate skin tones--although I have not tried this feature yet.

That's not to say that I did not experience some glitches along the way. When I first attempted to calibrate using the advanced mode (which takes into consideration brightness/contrast/luminance and white point), my Apple display blacked out/locked-up. X-Rite tech support had me re-building disk permissions in my Mac utilities. They also sent me a DDC patch that disables something that would cause this type of lock-up on certain monitors. This seemed to fix that problem.

Second issue had to do with my Apple Cinema Display, which does not have a contrast setting, only brightness. After the lock-up fix, I ran the advanced calibration mode again, and was unable to adjust the brightness in the software (based on what it was telling me to do), but I was still able to change it on the monitor. After another call to Tech support, they told me to basically uncheck the luminance box, then proceed. Last night, it did work (advanced mode)...however, now my monitor appears too dark. As a matter of fact, so dark it would make editing difficult. Also the contrast seems a little screwy. Their theory is that many monitors start out much too bright given the ambient lighting conditions that you work in, so the software tries to bring these levels down. But I was reading from another source that you should not mess with trying to color calibrate the brightness on a Apple Display (using a product like ColorMunki), because the brightness button is also the contrast button. This might explain why a few of the images I test edited last night appeared posterized when I tried brightening them up and adding minimal contrast. Think I'm going back to the "easy mode." which gave me good results.

Not sure the advanced calibration mode is ready for prime time--at least not with my Mac/Apple Cinema set-up. I've heard the Munki has PC issues too (I think Nikonians member BJ had some issues). The good news is that their tech service seems very knowledgeable, which makes up for some of the bugs in their system--especially if you are willing to call them. "In-software" help is not too bad, and they even include some video tutorials to watch in case you get hung up.

Other than that, the software is easy to load and use. It took me a little while to learn how to scan the test strips, but I got the hang of it after a few tries (I was not lining the scanner up correctly). Probably my biggest issue with the Munki is the fact that it is really designed for color workflow, not B&W. When you calibrate, the test strips that come out are in color. And they ask you to keep your settings exactly the same when you calibrate (per the Epson driver print settings), and when you actually print based on the saved icc profile that it creates. The problem with this is that when I print B&W, I need to change the color setting to advanced B&W, which means that the saved icc profile won't have the same settings as my print settings. I think there is a guy out there who has created a B&W workaround using the Munki and one of the B&W RIP engines, but it seems like a lot of work. I guess I'll just have to use the icc profile that the paper manufacturer creates for my B&W work. And of course, my other big issue is the fact that "advanced" mode seems unworkable for me--which means I'm running off of 50% functionality--albeit good functionality.

Is it worth the $400+ dollars?--well for me, the answer is yes because I finally have a print that matches my display. For others, maybe not. Although the custom icc paper profiling is real real nice. Time will tell, as I have a big order of Epson Exhibition Fiber and Harmon Gloss AB coming, and I plan on doing some extensive printing based on the custom icc profile the Munki creates, along with the monitor calibration it conducts. So far, so good.


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