Review of the Spyder5-The Best Budget-Friendly Monitor Calibrator

The Spyder5 is a monitor calibration tool, much like the Colormunki Design.  For many years, I ignored the advice to get a calibrator for my monitor.  I do not do a whole lot of printing and I always thought my brightness and colors looked fine on computer monitors or cell phones, where 99 percent of my images are viewed.  Then came a time where I had an image of mine blown up on a screen in front of fifty photographers and the colors were awful.  It was so embarrassing.  What looked like a great image on my screen of red cliff walls, green trees and blue water appeared on the projection screen to be a bright red mess.  After that, I set out to find the best monitor calibrator I could that wouldn’t break the bank.

I don’t think this was the actual image that embarrassed me, but it was one taken at this beautiful location in the Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah.

What is a monitor calibrator?

A monitor is a big set of individual pixels, all of which contain a certain amount of red, green or blue.  This is also called the RGB color space.  Different monitors have different settings for the value of how much red, green or blue is in each pixel.  This is similar to different camera sensors where one camera may have stronger reds or brighter greens than a different camera.  Another problem is the brightness of the computer monitor.  Computer monitors are often set very bright.

Because of this, if you edit the colors of an image or the brightness to make it look good on your computer screen, it will not look the same when you print it on paper or view it on a screen set to a different brightness or with different color values.

A monitor calibrator is a tool that you hang over your screen and it registers all the colors as a test software runs all the colors through the computer screen.  The calibrator then adjusts the screen settings to ensure accurate color representation.  At that point, you can expect your prints to come out much better (although there are books written about all the steps to get the most accurate printing) and your images should look more uniform on other computers.  The big difference between printing and viewing on computer screens is that you may want to leave the brightness of your screen up if you aren’t printing the image as it will be viewed on other monitors that will likely be set brighter than a calibrated screen.

The Spyder5

The Spyder5 was the first calibrator that came to my mind as I had heard it recommended many times as a reliable option at a good price.   After I received the calibrator and started using it on my laptop, I found that all I heard was absolutely true.  The Spyder5 is budget-friendly, easy to use and produces great results.

The Spyder5 has a seven-detector color engine claimed to be enhanced such that it will provide improved tonal response at lower luminance levels resulting in more accurate shadow detail.

In my search for the best calibrator, I tested 3 different products (I will review the other two in the future).  Of the three, I found the Spyder5 to be the easiest calibrator to set up and use.  It was a very simple process that did not require a bunch of searching online.  The hardware came with a link that led to downloadable software.  Once I installed the software, it provided a very easy-to-follow set-up guide and I was soon calibrating my monitor.

The actual calibration took under five minutes and the results were easily visible.  I was pleased the display was not as dark as I had expected, although this can easily be changed and should be kept brighter if you are not printing.

My first impression after scrolling through some images on my calibrated monitor was that the images appeared a bit warmer than they had on my uncalibrated monitor.  This tells me that my monitor was heavy on the blues and greens before calibration.  Of course, this makes sense thinking back to my embarrassment with the red rock image where I had increased the reds too much.  After using the Spyder5 for a while, I compared some images between my calibrated monitor and my computer at work and the pictures on my calibrated monitor all looked much more pleasing.  While this is to be expected of the images edited on my computer with the calibrated monitor, it seemed to hold true for other images as well.

This image from Glacier National Park was edited on a monitor calibrated with the Spyder5. With all the yellow, it would have been easy for this image to get have its warm tones get crazy if the monitor was off.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the results I got using the Spyder5.  I felt the exposure was a little dark still when I printed some of my images, but usually the colors were very accurate and my tests prints matched very closely what I saw on my computer screen.  By way of disclosure, I used Bay Photo for all my test prints.  As I said above, I do not print a whole lot so do not take this as any kind of educated endorsement, although I did find them easy to use and was happy with the print quality.

As of the time of this article, the Spyder5 was available for under $150 on Amazon, but I have seen it fluctuate up to $180 or so.

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