Datacolor Spyder 5: The best desktop color management tool keeps getting better

There is nothing more frustrating to a photographer than not being able to judge the color of their images. Even black and white images need accurate tonal values. That’s why I’ve long been a proponent of a fully color-managed workflow, providing the best chance that images shown on your monitor will match the way they came out of the camera and the way they look when printed. There are plenty of solutions, but having tried most of them, the one that stands out as a combination of functionality, ease-of-use, and reasonable price. That’s the Spyder line from Datacolor. This week Datacolor released a sleek new version – the Spyder5. I’ve been using it for a while now during its beta test, and am impressed…

The first thing you notice about the Spyder5 is its new, compact, design. The counterweight for use with LCDs is now integrated as a snap-on cover for the 7-band colorimeter. The main unit plus cover are a nice size to throw in a camera bag for use on location. Of course the most important thing is the results. I used Spyder5 to calibrate and profile my laptop (Dell XPS 15 touch) and a variety of displays in my studio (from HP, Dell, and Samsung). In almost every case Spyder5 provided a larger color gamut than the Spyder4 it replaces. I’d like to say that the colors are also better, but that is such a subjective topic that I hesitate to make that claim – although as measured by Datacolor Spyder5 provides up to 55% improvement in tonal response, providing more accurate shadow detail and smoother gradients.

The Spyder5 software also has greatly expanded context-sensitive documentation that follows along with the calibration process. Datacolor has made the process so simple that it almost doesn't need any help, but it is nice to see written explanations of what each step means as you go through it.

Spyder5 comes in three versions, Express for $129, Pro (which adds an ambient light sensor and more calibration settings) for $189, and Elite (which adds projector calibration, more calibration options, and multi-display matching for studio use) for $279. All are available to order at B&H for shipment on April 14th.

PS As full disclosure, after many years of working with and recommending Datacolor’s products, I do also write for their blog now, so I am not an entirely neutral observer.