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.
#1. "RE: X-Rite Colormunki Photo Review" | In response to Reply # 0TiggerGTO Nikonian since 22nd Feb 2006Fri 25-Jul-08 12:35 PM | edited Fri 25-Jul-08 12:35 PM by TiggerGTO
Thanks for the review. I have a Gretag Macbeth Eye-One Display 2 and have been happy with it. Now that I have an Epson 3800, I've been considering getting an Xrite i1 Photo or one of the other similar packages. From what I can tell, the i1's all have the same hardware, but come with different software and/or accessories. I had previously ignored the Colormunki because I had read some initially bad reviews here and elsewhere. I might have to reconsider, or at least do some additional research.
A Nikonian in North Carolina
#2. "RE: X-Rite Colormunki Photo Review" | In response to Reply # 1TiggerGTO Nikonian since 22nd Feb 2006Fri 25-Jul-08 01:21 PM
Speaking of i1 Photo, does anybody know what benefits or features it would have over the new Colormunki? The i1 is quite a bit more expensive.
A Nikonian in North Carolina
#3. "RE: X-Rite Colormunki Photo Review" | In response to Reply # 0
Well, I finally got a working ColorMunki and I think it's very poor for display profiling. I outlined some of my extended pain getting ColorMunki working with the high end NEC displays. It seems that the device itself had a hardware problem and the drivers for my ATI FireGL card interfered with ColorMunki's ability to communicate with my displays. That's finally fixed, but the profiles I get from ColorMunki come out with a distinct pink tinge to the whites. I still have Eye-One Match and the profiles I get using that tool are quite accurate.
Tonight I installed NEC's SpectraView II calibration software that's compatible with the i1 2 colorimeter. The NEC software works with the display's hardware LUTs and the calibration is also obviously more accurate than ColorMunki's.
ColorMunki's advanced mode is miserable in my opinion. The software is dumbed-down so that you have no control over luminance settings. If you have a work area with variable lighting, you'll have to time your calibratio work for a specific time of day. I did a calibration in the evening and the resulting dim luminance value would be unusable during the day. I have blinds that I keep drawn in my studio, but there's still quite a range of brightness in my work area. ColorMunki should allow a manual override of the luminance levels. ColorMunki has poor instructions for adjusting contrast and brightness values. Both should be set to 100% before doing measurements, but the software doesn't tell you to do that. I had already adjusted my displays for Eye-One and found it impossible to get a lock on the green target range via the OSD controls. I relied on all the different calibration tools I've used over the years and dialed up both brightness and contrast to 100% - then I could hit the target green zone. That's an omission that X-rite can fix but I haven't heard back from them on the pink-tinged profiles ColorMunki created for both displays. If my new ColorMunki has some kind of hardware problem then I can't say I'm pleased at being two for two.
A readme file in my new NEC SpectraView II software suggests that one of the problems I had before was with two prior versions of the ATI Catalyst driver for my FireGL card. The latest driver fixes the monitor communication problem, but I think my prior ColorMunki also had a problem with its USB comm. intermittently.
I now have ColorMunki to read swatches and make printer profiles. I won't use it for display profiling. The NEC software isn't pretty, but it's serious and has a full set of controls including one to minimize illumination variance on my displays. I'd highly recommend the SpectraView II software for anyone running one of NEC's 90-series displays. You get hardware profiling with extensive control and the software graphically shows you your display's gamut and profile accuracy. ColorMunki is targeted at users who want a more point and shoot tool. Every profiler should be run in advanced mode to configure the display brightness and/or contrast. Easy mode is fine after that, but only if you get a usable luminance value and a good display setting for tonal rendition.
I haven't used ColorMunki for printer profiling and that's really the only reason anyone should consider a $400 plus device. I guarantee you that ColorMunki will not create profiles that compete with Epson's professional paper profiles. The only paper I'm interested in profiling is the odd stuff. Epson's Exhibition Fiber paper has profiles created using $5000 plus colorimeters and software and that are tweaked by experts. ColorMunki is a decent cheap printer profiler but it's a toy by comparision. Is it worth $400 for third party papers? That depends on how many you might try and profile. You can get professional profiles made using that high end profiling equipment that Xrite markets to pros for around $40 per profile. Unless you do a lot of paper hopping, you can get a good display colorimeter for $200 and buy a few pro paper profiles when you need them.
#4. "RE: X-Rite Colormunki Photo Review" | In response to Reply # 0
I just ordered a Munki to use with my MacBook Pro/Apple 23" Cinema Display/Epson R1800 printer combo. Since you've had your Munki for a while, I am curious what your experience has been over time. I purchased the Munki because, like you, I've struggled with getting good screen/print matches for quite a while and am really impressed by the concept of custom ICC printer profiles. Any feedback or guidance is appreciated.
#5. "RE: X-Rite Colormunki Photo Review" | In response to Reply # 4FredB D3 Nikonian since 26th Jun 2008Thu 09-Apr-09 09:57 AM
Just had to jump in with my Munki experience. It did a nice job for me (and my MacBook Pro/Apple Cinema HD Display/Epson 3800). One time. The next time I tried to use the Munki, while the MacBook "sees" the device when connected (Apple Menu/About This Mac/More/Hardware/USB), the Munki software says it is not connected. I won't go into details, but I have tried everything I, Apple Tech Support, Xrite Tech Support, and my photo dealer can think of to get this working - short of an archive and reinstall on the MacBook, which I am not willing to do at this point because of first the hassle, and second the likelihood that it won't work. I say this from experience with a conflict I had early on between iTunes and Quicken 2007. This conflict finally resolved itself with an update to one or both of these applications.
I'd be interested if others have had similar Munki problems, and if and how the problem was resolved.
#6. "X-rite Colormunki Photo software conflict" | In response to Reply # 5FredB D3 Nikonian since 26th Jun 2008Thu 11-Jun-09 06:41 PM
RE; My 09-Apr-09 Post: Apparently was a conflict. X-rite has updated software, and the Colormunki Photo now works! Also, I learned that the problem is a known issue with X-rite (presumably not based on only my problem). Their tech support site suggests the following fix: Repair permissions, reboot, and re-attach the Colormunki. As I did this AND installed the software update at the same time, I don't know which action (or if both together) actually solved the problem.