Color management is a wonderful technology for keeping your color consistent across different devices–monitors, scanners, printers–but it succeeds or fails on the accuracy of the ColorSync profiles you use to describe these devices. Color giant GretagMacbeth has long been known for making industrial-strength color instrumentation and software, with industrial-strength price tags to match. Its new Eye-One line of spectrophotometer-based products may not be inexpensive, but they offer color-measurement and device-profiling capabilities at a cost mere mortals can afford, and they don’t require a Ph.D. in color science to get great results.
Eye-One comes in three flavors. The top-of-the-line offering that we reviewed has the ungainly moniker Eye-One Pro with Eye-One Match. The $2,800 package comprises the Eye-One Pro, a spectrophotometer capable of measuring emissive (monitor) color and reflective color (ink, toner wax, and so forth on paper), and Eye-One Match, a piece of OS X-native software that lets you create profiles for scanners, monitors, and just about any hard-copy output device from a desktop ink-jet to a gravure press.
The second Eye-One version is the $600 Eye-One Monitor, which, as its name suggests, deals solely with monitor color using an emissive-only (meaning that it measures only monitor color) spectrophotometer with software that lets you calibrate and profile CRT and LCD monitors, and measure colors on screen. The $1,500 Eye-One Pro, which includes the same emissive/reflective spectrophotometer as the high-end package, lets you calibrate and profile monitors, and measure and store reflective colors, but it lacks the ability to build scanner and output profiles.
The Eye-One Pro
The Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer is a nifty little device. It includes adapters for mounting to CRT or LCD monitors, and a transparent plastic guide for measuring reflective targets in scan mode. You can use the instrument to take spot readings by simply lining up the measurement aperture on the sample and pressing the measure button, but scan mode is really the standout feature.
Most of the work in building printer profiles is in measuring a large number of color patches (the Eye-One Match printer targets use 288 patches for RGB, and 323 for CMYK). With most handheld spectrophotometers, this is an agonizing exercise–align the instrument on the sample, press the measure button, move to the next sample, press the button, repeat another 286 times–but Eye-One Pro’s scan mode makes it almost painless. You align the plastic rule to the row of patches you want to measure, place the instrument in the guide slot, press and hold the measure button, and wait for a beep. Once you hear the beep, you simply drag the instrument across the row, using the plastic rule as a guide, while holding the measure button, then release the button when you get to the end. You can measure an entire row in three or four seconds and measure the entire target in a couple of minutes.
The only downside to the Eye-One Pro is that scan mode works only with targets that were designed for it–not only does the instrument need specific-size patches, but it also needs each patch to be sufficiently (that is, a lot) different from the preceding one so that it can distinguish one patch from the next. The RGB and CMYK targets that come with Eye-One Match work well, and third-party profiling packages are slowly starting to produce targets that the Eye-One Pro can scan, so it isn’t a major problem.
We found the Eye-One to be stable and accurate on both emissive and reflective measurements. In fact, it produced results that were almost identical to those of GretagMacbeth’s more expensive Spectrolino.
The Eye-One Pro draws its power through the USB connector. The only potential problem here is that if you have other devices drawing power from USB, you may need to invest in a powered hub. But in short, the Eye-One Pro is a very capable instrument.
The first thing you notice about the wizard-based Eye-One Match software is that it cheerfully violates most user-interface guidelines under both OS 9 and OS X. If this is a problem for you, do your blood pressure a favor and go with a different product. But we encountered few problems.
The opening screen asks you to pick which kind of device–monitor, scanner, or printer–you want to profile, then prompts you to click on the right arrow to proceed to the next screen, which asks you to calibrate your Eye-One device. (Some users may find the use of the term
to describe both the thing you’re trying to profile and the Eye-One a tad confusing.)
We quickly got into the habit of keeping the Eye-One resting on the separate base plate that contains the white calibration tile, because that way the Eye-One automatically calibrates itself and advances you to the next screen. If the instrument isn’t on the white tile, you get an error message that directs you to place it there and click on the measure button.
The subsequent screens step you through the process of profiling your selected device, using a somewhat idiosyncratic on-screen help system that’s fairly easy to overlook because it’s presented as a “wizard-within-a-wizard” that doesn’t resemble anything else we’ve ever seen. However, in each case the process is simple enough that you’ll probably need to read the help file only once.
The application guides you through making the necessary measurements, then produces a profile. The only decisions you have to make are your choice of white point (5,000K, 6,500K or 9,300K) and gamma (1.8 or 2.2) for monitors, whether to use the included reflective scanner target or an IT8 for scanners, and what type of printer you’re dealing with for printers. The profiles that Eye-One Match produces are identical to profiles made with GretagMacbeth’s industrial-strength profiling tool, ProfileMaker Pro, at the latter’s default settings. You don’t get control over black generation or ink limits on CMYK profiles, but the default settings are the product of a great deal of research and experience, and work well.
In fact, the only real problem we encountered isn’t of GretagMacbeth’s doing. Monitors calibrated using OS X 10.1.2 on Macs that use Nvidia video cards may develop a little shadowed box that follows the cursor around, although restarting the Mac sometimes makes it disappear. Sources at Apple indicated that a fix should appear shortly.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
If you want to step into the world of printer-profile creation, Eye-One Pro with Eye-One Match will give you top-notch results without making you climb a learning curve steeper than Mount Everest. If you absolutely must have control over black generation and ink limiting, you’ll need a more complex software package than Eye-One Match. However, long after you’ve graduated to more full-featured software, you’ll still find the Eye-One instrument indispensable.