Two weeks ago, I wrote that Color Management is Essential. The resulting comments, as well as personal discussions, I’ve had since then have been interesting indeed. One of the biggest questions that I’ve gotten has been: “So, what exactly makes a more expensive calibrator better? Why does it make better profiles?”
There are two parts to answering this question. The first is that you’d expect that the more expensive calibration units, such as the Gretag Macbeth Eye One Display 2 would have better hardware than the lower end units, such as the huey. It’s not necessarily the case, but you’d at least expect it.
The second part of the question is on the software side. When the heuy profiles a display, it samples fewer colors than when the Eye One Display 2 does its profiling. I’ve not compiled a list of the color swatches being used as they go by, but from casual observation the heuy seems to spend most of its time profiling luminance values by using grey swatches and then uses a few red, blue, and green samples to catch the color information. By contrast, the Eye One Match software for the Display 2 calibrator seems to roll through an entire Pantone swatch book. Well, not really, but its sampling a lot more colors than the heuy does. By definition, more samples should equal a better profile.
The second most frequent question seems to be “So what’s the difference between Pantone, Gretag Macbeth, Monaco?” Well, it can be quite confusing. But here’s how it breaks down (or at least seems to, circa December 2006). Gretag Macbeth is owned by Xrite and makes the Eye One set of products as well as the huey. Pantone also sells the Eye One set of products and the huey—probably under some sort of OEM arrangement. So, if you see the Eye One Display 2 with a Gretag Macbeth label on it or with a Pantone label on it, it’s the same thing.
Now, Monaco, who makes the Optix set of calibration tools was recently purchased by, and merged with, Xrite who has merged its product line with the Gretag Macbeth line. As part of the merger, the Optix line of tools are going away in favor of the Eye One set of tools.
The third question is “Well, how do the Gretag Macbeth/Xrite tools compare with the ColorVision ones?”. People have had good results with both. The tools I use fall into the Xrite camp, so that’s what I have experience with. One of these days, maybe I’ll get commissioned to write an article comparing all the tools–along with access to all of them. But, until then, the best statement I have on the matter is: Profile your display. Any tool is better than none.