X-Rite ColorMunki Smile: Color Management Couldn't Be Easier

By Stan Sholik

I imagine that many photographers, and not just entry-level and advanced amateurs, view color management with the same dread as a visit to the dentist. That’s why I love the choice of name for X-Rite’s latest monitor calibration device, the X-Rite ColorMunki Smile. Despite the dread you may feel before you begin, the latest technology makes the process simple, fast, and painless, and results in a new feeling of confidence. It may bring a smile to your face and you may even become willing to follow up on a regular schedule in the future.

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The ColorMunki Smile is X-Rite’s entry-level monitor calibration system. It consists of the mouse-shaped ColorMunki Smile colorimeter, a software CD, and a Quick Start guide in nine languages. The Smile connects to a powered USB port on your computer and the USB cable includes a counterweight that you position behind your monitor to offset the weight of the colorimeter on the screen side.

Color managing your monitor couldn’t be simpler. With the Smile not connected to your computer, you install the ColorMunki Smile software and reboot. Then you connect the Smile and launch the software. When instructed, you position the Smile in the outline displayed on screen and adjust the counterweight so that the device lies flat against the monitor. With the Smile in position, you click the Begin button and the monitor calibration runs automatically to completion. The automation includes installing the profile in its correct location on your computer and selecting it as the default monitor calibration. With the Smile, there is no need to make choices for, or even know anything about, monitor brightness levels, illuminant white point, gamma, or room brightness. You do not even need to come up with a name for your new calibration. Everything is handled automatically in the wizard interface, including the ability to automatically sense whether you are using an LCD or LED monitor.

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X-Rite ColorMunki Smile positioned on a Windows laptop ready to begin calibration. ©Stan Sholik

On a fast Windows 7 64-bit laptop, the monitor calibration took 5.5 minutes to complete. During the process I counted about 160 color patches that the software presented to the Smile device for measurement. With the calibration complete, you can view a before and after image of the final software screen. The “after” view looks decidedly more color correct than the “before” view, but I had to wonder where the “before” view comes from. Having run the monitor calibration several times in succession on the laptop, the “before” version was always off color and was certainly not from the previous Smile calibration run a few minutes before. That aside, the “after” version looked pretty good.

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Smile reading red patch, one of about 160 patches, during the 5.5 minute calibration with the progress bar shown below. ©Stan Sholik

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Close-up of the business side of the Smile colorimeter. The felt patch surrounding the central sensors protects the screen and eliminates stray light from the sensors. ©Stan Sholik

 

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When the monitor calibration cycle is complete, you have the option of viewing before and after versions of this image. This is the uncalibrated (before) view. It seemed to look the same no matter how many times I ran the monitor calibration, so calling it the “before” view doesn’t seem right. The calibrated (after) view shows the image with your new monitor calibration applied.

I can only give it a “pretty good” rating because I have previously calibrated the laptop with my X-Rite i1Photo Pro, and the calibration using the Photo Pro is visually dimmer and more neutral. While the Smile uses the same D65 illuminant and 2.2 gamma as default that I select for the Photo Pro, there is no monitor brightness option in the Smile software. So you must settle for the native brightness of your monitor, rather than a more appropriate but dimmer 120 candela per square meter if you expect your prints to match the brightness of your LCD monitor.

The Smile can color manage multiple monitors on a system. The Smile software automatically detects multiple monitors when you open it, and the wizard automates the color management of both. You can also install the Smile software on an unlimited number of Mac and Windows computers.

A gear icon in the toolbar at the bottom of the Smile software home screen opens a preferences screen. Here you can change the reminder to recalibrate your monitor from the default setting of weekly to other intervals or never, choose not to automatically check for updates, and set your display type to LCD or LED. The Smile can calibrate both types.

In the same toolbar you can select the help icon. A web page opens with options for help videos, FAQs, and downloads of updates and documentation. These are all helpful to users new to color management and are presented in a non-technical and easily understandable way.

With a street price of about $70 and a wizard interface, the ColorMunki Smile is designed for entry-level users who have avoided color management in the past. While it won’t help you if you need a system to ensure that your prints match your monitor, or your scanner or projector deliver accurate color, it is an easy to use system to improve the color accuracy of all of the monitors, of all types, on all of the computers systems that you own.

Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, Calif., specializing in still life and macro photography. His latest book on macro photography for Amherst Media is available this fall.

System Requirements

Macintosh
• Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, or 10.8 (with latest upgrades installed)
• Intel Core 2 Duo CPU or better CPU
• 500MB RAM
• 500MB of available disk space
• Powered USB port
• Display resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels or higher
• User must have Administrator rights to install and uninstall the application
• Internet connection required for software update

Windows
• MicrosoftWindows XP 32-bit, Microsoft Windows Vista 32-bit or 64-bit, Microsoft Windows 7 32- or 64- bit, or Microsoft Windows 8 32- or 64-bit. All operating systems should have latest Service Pack installed
• Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 X2 or better CPU
• 500MB RAM
• 500MB of available disk space
• Powered USB port
• Display resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels or higher
• User must have Administrator rights to install and uninstall the application
• Internet connection required for software update Captions

About

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 16, 2013 8:50 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Behind the Scenes: Jaime DeMarco Workflow with Capture One Pro 7.

The next post in this blog is November 2013 Issue.

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