Today I’m going to provide an update on the Pixels 2 Pigment workshops that we kicked off on August 4 in Okinawa, the sourthern-most island of Japan. Then next week, because I haven’t done a travelogue style Podcast where I talk about my images and my techniques and artistic decisions, I figured it would be nice to do that and walk you through some of the images that I shot while down on the beautiful island of Okinawa.
Firstly, let’s take a look at our first Pixels 2 Pigment Okinawa workshop, and I’d like to start by thanking Chris Willson for hosting the Okinawa workshop weekend, and I’d also like to thanks Chris for the workshop name too! I had started planning this workshop when Chris contacted me about going to Okinawa, and just dropped the name out in conversation. Over the following 24 hours I couldn’t get the name out of my head, and asked Chris if he minded me using it. He graciously agreed, so huge thanks are in order there as well.
I’d also like to thank the participants that joined us for the two full days. It was a small group but they were all talented photographers, and it was a pleasure to view some of their images and help them optimize their workflows and make some prints of their beautiful work. [Of course, the workshop is open to photographers of all levels, and everyone takes away useful information and a highly efficient, optimized digital workflow.]
Now, I’m not going to report on everything we cover in the workshop, as that would take two days, but to give you an outline we start literally from techniques used to create quality pixels, which is the start of the process. I explain about exposure and shooting techniques, and capturing the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, and why this is important. We then move on to the digital workflow, transferring our images to the computer, with Lightroom tips interwoven, then we create a camera profile with the X-Rite software to apply to our images in Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW.
One major theme throughout the workshop is improving efficiency and optimizing the digital workflow, so tips on how to do that are interspersed throughout, and we move through some Lightroom tips and techniques to calibrating to the display, and how to optimize your system for frustration free image editing through to printing.
Once we have the camera and monitor calibrated, it’s time to move on and create a printer profile. I use various X-Rite calibration tools starting with the i1 Display Pro, ColorMunki Photo and the new top of the range i1 Photo Pro 2. I explain how to print the profile targets and the group gets involved actually scanning the profile target sheets using the ColorMunki and the i1 Pro 2 devices.
Scanning Printer Profile Targets © Chris Willson
Once we have our printer profiles, we’re ready to print! Each participant bought 3 to 5 of their favorite images and as a group we voted and decided which ones of these to soft-proof and print. Breathing Color have kindly provided us with Lyve Canvas and Laminate, and some stretcher bars to create a gallery wrap of three of the groups prints. As the group was relatively small, we chose prints from everyone, and printed three of them for gallery wraps, and two as fine art prints with borders.
We timed the print creation to be completed at the end of day one, so that they’d be able to dry overnight, but before we broke for the day, I explained the various things to consider when choosing a fine art paper, including what to consider when you will hang or display your prints.
On the morning of day two, the first job was to protect our canvas prints with Breathing Color’s Lyve Laminate. I’d also created a print of one of my images so I demonstrated the Lamination process to the group and again, they took turns laminating their own prints, which went really smoothly with my lamination techniques, which took me two weeks of trial and error to perfect. The group had this down in five minutes.
Laminating Breathing Color Lyve Canvas Prints © Chris Willson
While the canvas prints were drying we continuing working on tips and techniques with Lightroom and then Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro 2 and Color Efex Pro 4. Some of the group has not yet used these plugins and were really impressed with how easy it is to make incredibly high quality and well toned black and white images, as well as the stylized color images with Color Efex Pro 4.
We then worked through exporting images from Lightroom including efficient ways to export large numbers of files for various purposes and Lightroom’s Slideshows, Books and Web modules.
Of course, no digital workflow is complete without a powerful and fail-safe backup regime, so we cover that, as well as archival storage for the prints that you’ll make, and we touch of creating Portfolios from both the image selection process to physical portfolio considerations.
By this point, the canvases were dry and ready to trim and stretch onto the gallery wrap stretcher bars. In this image (below) you can see Shawn Miller who I interviewed in Episode 347 of this Podcast last week, trimming a canvas print of his beautiful Clown Fish photograph.
Shawn Miller Trimming his Clown Fish Print
As each participant creating a gallery wrap trimmed their prints, we moved straight on to the stretching process, and they finished their gallery wraps. Here (below) we see Shawn again with his gallery wrap. Note that because I had to take the cutting mat down to Okinawa, we were limited in the size of the gallery wraps that we could create, but once you know how to do this, you can basically create a gallery wrap as long as you can print them. This size is what you can do with a printer capable of printing up to 13×19″ prints.
Shawn Miller with Gallery Wrap
And here is another shot of the group with their prints, and I have the print of my own photograph that I created, which was presented to David Edenfield as I drew his name from the hat as the winner for this gallery wrap.
Okinawa Group with Prints and Gallery Wraps
In addition to giving away a gallery wrap of one of my photos, we also drew names from the hat to give one person a copy of their choice of Nik Software’s plugins worth $100, which Michael Taylor won, and David Orr won an X-Rite ColorChecker passport. These three items will be given away at each workshop, and then when I’ve finished the workshops in each continent, I’d draw another name from the hat to see who will be the lucky winner that will receive Nik Software’s Complete Collection Ultimate Edition worth $500! I’d like to also thank Nik Software for this, as well as Breathing Color and X-Rite, for their support. This workshop would not have been possible without you guys!
Pixels 2 Pigment Registration
This first weekend in Okinawa was just the first of a series of workshops that I’ve planned world wide. We’re in Tokyo on August 25-26 and then I fly to sunny California for the first US workshop in Los Angeles on September 1-2, then up to Vancouver in Canada on September 8-9, back down to San Francisco on September 15-16 and across to New York for September 22-23, before going up to Canada again for a weekend in Toronto on September 29-30. Then I fly over to London for the weekend of October 6-7, and to Sydney Australia on October 20-21 and Melbourne on October 27-28. Phew!
It’s going to be a hectic few months, but I am totally stoked to be able to bring this workshop to you personally on your own turf. This Podcast turns seven years old in a couple of weeks time, and we have so many listeners around the world that I have never been able to meet in person, and this is one way that I figured we could make that happen, without you having to come all the way to Japan, so I do hope we get a chance to meet over the next couple of months.
If you’d like to sign up, visit the Pixels 2 Pigment Web site, and click on the links for each location in the middle of the page, then you’ll need to click the Paypal button and pay your workshop fees to commit to joining us.
Note though that for the three US venues, I’ve teamed up with Calumet Photo, and so the registration for these workshops is being handled by Calumet. Spaces are relatively limited, so don’t hang around if you’d like to join us for the Pixels 2 Pigment weekend in your area. I do hope you can make it though. It’s going to be so great meeting some of you listeners in person after all of these years.
As I said, next week I’m going to get back to a travelogue style Podcast for the first time in a while, and walk you through some of the shot that I came back from Okinawa with, as I stayed for an extra week after the workshop and had a great time down their shooting with friends like Pete and Haruna Leong, David and Naoko Orr, Shawn Miller and Michael Taylor. Even the total strangers down on Okinawa are so kind and such warm people, it’s a beautiful place, and I can’t wait to get back down there at some point.
Pixels 2 Pigment Web site: http://www.pixels2pigment.com/
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Today we’re going to take a look at the i1 Photo Pro 2 calibration solution from X-Rite, and i1 Profiler, the software that you’ll use to run the device. For me, this is an upgrade from the i1XTreme UV Cut Color Calibration Solution, so we’ll also touch on the main differences between the two solutions, if you are considering upgrading yourself.
i1 Publish Pro 2 Box
For my testing, I actually used the i1Publish Pro 2, not the i1Photo Pro 2, and as the price of these two solutions is different, I first wanted to touch on the key different between the two.
X-Rite’s marketing materials state that the i1Photo Pro 2 is “Professional Color Management for Photographers” and i1Publish Pro 2 is “Professional Color Management for Prepress, Photo and Imaging Pros”. This really says it all, in that if you are a Photographer that wants ultimate control over your color, then i1Photo Pro 2 is the way to go. If you have a requirement to prepare work for Prepress, the Publish Pro gives you the ability to create CMYK+ printer profiles, so this may be the way to go if that’s the sort of work that you do.
The i1Photo Pro 2 is currently listed at $1,499 on B&H and the i1Publish Pro 2 is listed at $1,999, so you’ve got to really need that CMYK profiling ability to spring the extra $500. Even if you own a professional printer that supports CMYK printing, most photographers don’t print in CMYK, so if you are wondering what your situation is, then the chance are this is not important to you, so as a Photographer you could simply go for the i1Photo Pro 2 solution.
There’s actually a third solution called the i1Basic Pro 2 which does not have printer profiling, but does give you the best available display calibration, as well as Spot Color Measurement and management, which we’ll take a brief look at later. There is the ability to perform print quality checks, but not calibration, so we’ll focus mainly on the i1Photo Pro 2 solution today.
Do I Need the i1Photo Pro 2?
Does every photographer need the i1Photo Pro 2 solution? Of course not. It really depends on how accurate you want your printer profiles to be. If you are using a prosumer printer, the chances are a ColorMunki Photo may well be enough for your needs. I personally decided to upgrade to the i1 series when I bought my Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6350 large format printer, and until then, I’d been very happy with the results I was getting from the ColorMunki Photo. You get what you pay for of course, and so if you want the best, this is it. The choice of course is yours, based on your own budget and requirements.
If you want to see more about the ColorMunki by the way, I published a video review of that back in August 2010, Podcast episode 249, if you want to check that out.
What’s in the Box?
OK, so let’s take a look at what you will get, and the first improvement over the previous version of X-Rite’s flagship calibration solution. The original i1 had a nice carrying case, but although at this point still only a cosmetic upgrade, externally, the new case is very classy indeed.
i1 Pro 2 Carrying Case
(Click on an image to view larger and use your keyboard arrow keys or mouse to navigate back and forth.)
When you open it up, the front half of the case houses the printer calibration backboard and ruler, improvements to which we’ll look at later, and there are also pouches for the software, user manual, ColorChecker Proof and ColorChecker Classic targets, which we’ll also look at briefly later.
Carry Case Front Compartment
I took these out for the photo, but these things are of course usually packed nicely away in pouches built into the case. Next (below) we see the main compartment, which houses the i1Pro 2 Spectrophotometer, and the various holders and cables necessary to use it for it’s many calibration purposes.
Carry Case Main Compartment
The inside of the original i1 case was molded out of some kind of dark spongy polystyrene like packaging, and as I say, it was OK, but this new i1Pro case with its velvety touch just oozes classiness. The pieces drop into their dedicated location much more easily now, and when the case is closed they are met with the other half of the molding to fully protect them during storage and transit.
Because the molding is half in the cover here too, if you open the case the wrong way, the pieces aren’t all going to roll out onto the floor. They just sit in the lid, right there in their respective locations. X-Rite even went to the trouble to include a little indentation for the screw on the top of the Tripod Holder Base Plate to stop it from sliding off, which to me is one of those little extra bits of effort like the ones that Apple does to make our lives just a little bit easier, and generally more pleasant.
i1Photo Pro 2 Contents
So, you have here (above) all the tools you need to fully calibrate your digital workflow. Whereas I use a ColorChecker Passport in the field to ensure that I have accurate color from my camera to start with, there is a ColorChecker Target included in the i1Photo solution too, for use in the studio. You use it in much the same way, but it’s obviously not built to be carried around in your pocket, like the Passport.
All of the i1Pro 2 processes are managed from the new i1Profiler software. This is where you initiate all of the calibration processes and can save and manage your various workflows as well as ICC profiles.
Note too that i1Profiler can also be used with the i1 Display Pro device, which is a great option for color accuracy if you have no intention or requirement to create printer profiles. The software automatically detects which device you have connected to your computer, and if you click the little triangle to open up the Licensing section, you get a graphical indication of the functionality that can be used with that device and your license. You can see here that with the Display Pro plugged in, we have display and projector profiling, but none of the printer profiling options are available.
i1Profiler with i1Display Pro Connected
This is also useful if you travel and need a calibration solution while on the road, but you don’t need the printer profiling, because then you can take the Display Pro with you inside, as it’s a nice small package, but it works with the same software, so you don’t need to install multiple programs to run the devices.
Note that if you were to opt for the very capable ColorMunki Photo, for your display, projector and printer calibration, this does not use the i1 Profiler software. The ColorMunki comes with it’s own dedicated software.
Now, I’m not going to run through all the features of i1Pro, because X-Rite have done a far better job than I could with their training, including an excellent manual and video tutorials available right there in the i1Profiler software. What I will do though, is quickly walk you through the main points of calibrating your display and then a super quick look at projector and printer profiling.
First, let’s hook up the i1Pro 2 Spectrophotometer, and you can see in this screen shot (below) that we now have all the features enabled. The only difference here of course is that you’d not see the CMYK profiling enabled with the i1Photo Pro 2 solution.
i1Profiler with i1Pro 2 Connected
Once you’ve selected Profiling from the Display section on the left, you are given a Workflow along the bottom of the i1Profiler screen. This will walk you through the process, and you can save the settings or workflow to recall later, so you don’t have to remember what you selected each time.
To gain maximum control over my display and how I view it in my work space, I always opt to measure the Luminance of the ambient light, and I’m instructed to first calibrate the i1Pro 2 device, as I start this process.
Calibrate i1Pro 2 Before Use
Then I am instructed to measure the ambient light in my work space, by removing the ambient light measurement head from the base of the tripod holder and fitting it onto the i1Pro 2, and then aim it at the light source, and click the measure button to take a reading.
Measure Ambient Light
Now the 1i Profiler software knows the lighting conditions in which I am working, and viewing my computer displays. This is incredibly important to the entire process, and one that I recommend you include, especially if you print your work.
Note though, that if you use artificial lighting with a strong color cast, this can adversely affect how your prints look, and you don’t want that. In this case, select 120 as a starting point for your Luminance and Illuminant D65 for your White Point. These are good defaults to work with for most situations.
Saved Ambient Light Measurement
Of course, most of us have work environments in which the ambient light levels will change, and to compensate for that, if you have an automatic brightness regulator on your monitor or laptop, by all means use it. This will usually take the brightness setting that you manually select during calibration as a base, and adjust from that point as the ambient light in your work space changes. As long as you set your starting point using a calibration tool you’ll be in good shape.
On the next screen, we select the Profile Settings, and I always just use the defaults, which is ICC Profile Version 4 because it’s the newest, a Tone Response Curve of Gamma 2.2 because that’s the most common, and a Profile Type of Matrix Based, because X-Rite made that the default and I trust them.
On the next screen, we select the patch set size. Those of you that have been listening to the Podcast for a while will know that my Mum embedded two very important principles into my mind from a very early age. The first was “If you’re gonna have one, have a biggun (big one)” and the second was “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. I apply both of these principles on this screen. Although it takes about 20 minutes to run through the calibration process, I always select the largest patch set available here, and give it time to run.
Patch Set Settings
Note too that if you are having problems printing a particular image, you can fine tune your profile by adding color patches sampled from that photo too, which can be extremely helpful.
Patches from Image Files
And the final setting before we start the measurement on the Measurement screen, is whether or not to use Automatic Display Control (ADC) or manual adjust your display’s brightness, contrast and RGB gains. I have tested both methods, and although ADC works perfectly, for my old external Eizo monitor, I generally opt to manually control this, as I have brightness and RGB gain controls. I don’t have the RGB Gain controls on my MacBook Pro’s display though, so hear I generally use Auto Display Control.
ADC or Manual?
As you start the calibration or measurement process, if you opted to make any changes manually, you’ll be guided to make those changes by on screen messages. In this photo (below) we can see the i1Pro 2 Spectrophotometer attached to the display, but also we can see that this is the part of the process where I was adjusting the brightness of my display to match my work space. There’s an indicator on the display to tell you when you have it right, and this is very much how the RGB gain adjustment is displayed too, if you have the ability to change that.
i1Pro 2 Display Measurement
I wanted to note what I feel is a nice improvement over the original i1 Pro here too, which is that the USB cable for the device now comes out of the top as it hangs down over your display, as opposed to the bottom. I know that some people don’t like this, but I love it, mainly because when I used the old device to calibrate my MacBook Pro’s display, the USB cable would press my keys and generally get in the way. That’s no longer the case. It’s all just neatly over the top of the display and out of the way now.
So, once you have finished your manual settings, if you selected the largest patch set like I do, you go and get a cup or coffee or something while the i1 Pro 2 and your display get jiggy widdit for 20 minutes or so. When they’re done, all you have to do is save the profiles and you’re finished. You can save the profiles as User Level or System Level or both if you’d prefer. I generally save to both.
If you have a second display of course, you just have to repeat the process, selecting your second display at the start. One thing to note here though is that no matter how much you resist the need, there is no way at all to accurately bring two monitors into line without using devices like the i1Pro 2 from X-Rite to calibrate them. Using strips to see adjust the brightness, or on screen tools that you adjust based on your own vision will only work to a point, and are never accurate, and this is most apparent when you compare two displays from totally different manufacturers like this, that are basically in perfect harmony.
Dual Monitors in Perfect Harmony
As we can see here (above) I have my MacBook Pro and my external Eizo display both showing the same image, and the color on both is exactly the same.
OK, so that’s the display calibration process. If I go through the projector and printer profiling with as much detail we’re going to be here all night, and I don’t have time for that, and I’m sure you don’t either, so let me just mention that if you have a need to calibrate a projector, the i1 Pro will do that, but again, so will the i1 Display Pro and the ColorMunki Photo for that matter.
X-Rite Product Comparison
Project calibration is very similar to display calibration, but of course, because the light is being projected onto the screen, you can’t attach the device to the screen itself. You use the Tripod Holder that comes with the i1Pro 2 to stand the Spectrophotometer up and point it at the screen. Alignment is assisted with on screen instructions, so a well trained monkey could do it.
Projector Calibration with the i1Pro 2
Once you’ve completed the calibration, once again, you save the ICC profile, and you’re done. Ideally you would calibrate the projector every time you move it to a new location, but unless you are doing some color critical presentations, once you have a collection of profiles for each location you use your projector in, you can just reselect the profiles you already have as you move between locations.
OK, so just as quickly, let’s touch on printer profiling, although we won’t be able to really do this topic justice today, which is why my Pixels 2 Pigment workshop and seminar is a two day event. Of course we get into lots of other stuff as well, but you know what I mean.
Once again, you start in the i1Profiler software by defining the size of the patch set that you want to print as the basis for your measurement and calibration. As I mentioned earlier, I generally define a patch set with as many patches that I can fit onto two pages. With a bit of tweaking to the patch size, you can fit 920 patches onto two pages of 8.5 x 11″ paper.
Printer Profiling Targets
If you use a prosumer printer, you can go ahead and print them right from inside of the i1Profiler software. In my case though, I often print to roll paper on my large format printer, and don’t carry 8.5 x 11″ sheet paper, so I save the two pages as TIFF files from the Profiler software, and then stick them together in Photoshop. If I have 17″ roll paper, that’s perfect for two 8.5″ tall profiles back to back, as we see in this photograph of the two targets being printed together.
Printing Printer Profiling Targets
You can also save them together lengthways for 24″ paper, if that’s all you have. If I was using an even wide format printer, or need to really go to town on the accuracy of the profile, I could define larger patch sets and print to more pages, and it’s even easier to do that with roll paper like this.
Note that if you do print from Photoshop or Lightroom, you have to ensure that you have no profile selected, and that the printer is also doing no color management. The patch sets have to be printed with no remapping of the colors at all, or your resulting profiles will be useless. In fact, if you ever create a printer ICC profile and then when you print your photos they look all wacky, this is the first thing to recheck in your troubleshooting.
Once you have your printed patch sets and given them at least 15 minutes to dry, longer if possible, you’ll use the backing board and ruler to scan the patches in to the i1Profiler software with the i1Pro 2, to create your ICC profile.
i1 Pro 2 Printer Profiling
Here, a major improvement in version 2 is that the i1Pro 2 now scans from the front of the ruler guide, and not through a slot in the guide. This means that you can read the first few lines of patches much more easily than before. In the past, you often had to hold it all still by hand rather than using the clamp on the base board, because you couldn’t read the first few lines otherwise. That problem has gone away, and again the metal just feels sturdier and higher quality.
Positioning Detection Sensor
More importantly though, is the addition of Positioning Detection Sensor on the bottom of the i1Pro 2 that reads the notches on the metal rule so that differing scanning speeds or even stopping don’t cause errors, and this makes the scanning process much easier and less nerve racking, especially when you’re in a hurry. You can also define patch sizes down to 7mm now, which means you can fit more patches on each page, saving time, ink and paper.
OK, so before we move away from printing, I wanted to quickly mention the ColorChecker Proof process. I mentioned earlier that the i1Photo Pro2 contained a ColorChecker Proof and ColorChecker Classic target. The Classic is used much like the ColorChecker Passport, but it’s more for studio use, and not really built for carrying around in your pocket. The ColorChecker Proof patches though are used for something quite different.
You select the ColorChecker Proof option in i1Profiler and will see a screen similar to this. Your printer ICC profiles are listed, so you select the one you want to proof, and if you select “Show out-of-gamut indicator” you will see which of the colors on the target you may have trouble printing. We can see here that my Breathing Color Vibrance Rag profile will enable me to print all of the colors on the target. If you have any colors that won’t print on a certain paper, they appear with a line through the applicable color patch. To work around that, you can try creating a profile with more patches, but you can use this tool to select other papers that will work if you have the option of changes papers.
To perform a proof, you just need to print out the patches that you see here, and allow it to dry, then place the ColorChecker Proof over the top of the printed patches. If everything matches up, the color you see through the wholes will match the colors on the ColorChecker Proof target itself. If the colors don’t match, you’ll need to check your settings and make sure you don’t have the wrong profile applied when printing etc.
Other New Features
Let’s also take a look at some of the additional new features that I’ve not already touched on, starting with the new i1Pro 2 Spectrophotometer itself. The original i1Pro was the industry standard, and X-Rite improved it, making it the most accurate profiling device available today, including support for the latest developments in ISO standardization.
Dual Illuminant Design and OBC
The i1Pro 2 now has a new Dual Luminance design with automatic Optical Brightener Compensation (OBC). All you have to do is do a dual-scan of your printer patch set sheets, and the second scan uses the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum, which gathers information about how the Optical Brightening Agents in a substrate emit light when they are illuminated with UV light. This also allows profiles to be recalculated later for different illuminants, which in practice will be a big time saver.
Optical Brighteners are found in some modern papers and can cause problems under certain light sources. Basically this can now be automatically corrected as part of the profiling process.
Spot Color Measurement
You can also do Spot Color Measurement, if you need to know the exact color of a physical object. This helps for example if you are photographing products and have to ensure that your resulting images are exactly the same color as the physical products.
Ergonomics Improved Throughout
Ergonomically everything has been totally redesigned. We’ve already touched on most of the updates, but the i1Pro 2 itself also feels much better to handle than the original i1 Pro. The version 2 has a slight rubberized feel, so it’s very easy to grip, and less likely to slip out of your hand as you scan the patches, something that would happen on occasion in the past. In general though, from the case up, everything just feels better to the touch and higher quality. X-Rite have obviously paid a lot of attention to the details making the i1Pro 2 and it’s peripherals a total pleasure to use.
X-Rite have provided a number of upgrade options from previous and other product lines. Visit X-Rite Photo to see what’s available, or check the upgrade packages in the B&H Widget below.
All in all, the new i1Pro 2 and the solutions built around it simply wreak quality, and their ease of use is second to none. It’s an expensive system, and I’m sure many of you would rather get a nice new L lens than the i1Photo Pro 2 solution. That of course is your decision.
If you don’t need the best, X-Rite and a few other manufacturers produce alternatives, such as the ColorMunki Photo or Display Pro that we briefly looked at earlier. Hopefully if you are just considering calibration for the first time, you’ll have a slightly better idea now of what is available, from X-Rite at least. If you print to a large format printer though, or you have to create totally color accurate images for your customers, I suggest you take a good look at the i1Photo Pro 2. It’s simply the best.
If you are still wondering why you should even calibrate in the first place, stay tuned for next week’s Podcast which will be a Webinar that I just finished this morning, with Photoshelter and X-Rite, and we talked about that very topic in some detail.
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X-Rite ColorMunki Review
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Review
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Today we’re going to take a look at a great new product from Reikan Technology called FoCal. The folks at FoCal were kind enough to provide me with a copy of their product to give it a good test, and I really liked what I saw, so decided to share my findings here today. We also have a great deal on FoCal for you, if you decide to give it a try yourself, which we’ll get to at the end of this post.
Three Flavors of FoCal
Before we get started, you’ll want to note that FoCal currently comes in three flavors, Standard, Plus and Pro. Standard gives you Target Setup help and Semi-Automatic Calibration. Plus gives you Fully Automatic Calibration with one button press. Pro gives you Analysis information, Reporting, Target Optimization and extra tests in addition of course to Target Setup and Fully Automatic Calibration. I had a chance to use FoCal Pro, which is what we’ll look at today, but you can see what you get in the other packages here too.
No Delivery Necessary
The great thing about FoCal is that you don’t have to wait for delivery. You print the targets yourself, and detailed instructions are included in your download, so it’s quick and self contained. You do currently need to wait for up to a day for your initial license to be sent to you, but hopefully there’ll be a totally automated licensing system in place at some point.
Right now, FoCal version 184.108.40.206 supports the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 7D and 50D, and the 1Ds Mark III is supported although the Semi Automatic mode is not available for the 1Ds III, and Mirror Lockup isn’t used during the tests on the 1Ds III either. The 1D Mark IV and III are set to be added soon, and support for a range of Nikon cameras is planned for early March, though this could obviously change.
Other Future Features
Other features that I’m told are on the roadmap are AF Low Light Performance checks. This not only allows you to check the test environment, but will also give you an idea of your lowest exposures at which you can expect good autofocus in the field. Also, a test to find the sharpest apertures of your lenses is coming, and this is very powerful. Imagine being able to just press a few buttons and find your optimal aperture for all your lenses!
Also, Shutter Vibration tests are coming, and this will basically find which shutter speeds are most affected by shutter vibration. I know for example that around 1/50 of the second is really bad for vibration with my 600mm f4 lens, but I’ve not really looked into this for other lenses. Again, being able to work through your lenses finding these details, probably in one fell swoop, is huge in my opinion.
Mac Version on the Way Too
One other thing to bear in mind too is that FoCal is only supported on Windows at this point in time. I have Windows machines available but as I’m now a Mac user, I decided to run my tests using Parallels
to ensure that this worked, and it did work fine, so is certainly an option until a Mac version of the FoCal software is made available.
Start with the Documentation
Although there’s nothing particularly difficult about FoCal, you’ll benefit from reading the documentation before you start to actually use the product. As of February 2012, FoCal comes with two PDF documents, which are the product manual and a FoCal Testing Guide. Do take the time to read the Testing Guide, as this helps you to fully understand the product and the process, though I am going to walk you through much of this today as well.
Printing Your Targets
Before you can start the calibration, you’ll want to print the target pages that are included in your download package. The two target pages that include three targets. The first (left) is a middle sized target used for testing between 17mm and 300mm, and the second (right) contains a large target for longer telephotos and a tiny little target for calibrating macro lenses close up.
Large and Small Target
The advice is to print these targets on heavyweight matte paper with an inkjet printer. The use of heavyweight paper is for strength in the targets, so if you don’t mind printing new targets as yours become tattered then normal A4 paper will work apparently. Matte paper is used to reduce reflection.
The targets are designed to be printed at 300dpi, so to control the size, ensure that no scaling is carried out. I had to trim a bit of white space from around the edges of the files and then just select to print the image centered on the page with no scaling when printing from Photoshop. This ensures that the file is printed at its native resolution.
For the FoCal software to work, for Canon cameras at least for now, you also need to ensure that you have the Canon’s EOS Utility application that comes with your camera installed. Once you have EOS Utility on your system, just run the FoCal software installer, which is very straightforward and needs no explanation here.
One FoCal license allows you to register the serial number of up to 5 camera bodies, and these can be changed any time for free, so you’re not forced to buy a new license when you upgrade your bodies. You just contact Reiken Technology, the makers of FoCal, to remove your old camera’s serial number and add the new one. Hopefully the initial serial number registration and this kind of update will be something that you can do online at some point, without any human intervention, at least for a limited number of changes before a reset is necessary.
When you start the FoCal software the first time, when the Camera Selector window is displayed, click on the License button and install the license that you’ll have received by mail when you buy the product.
Searching for Cameras
This is also the screen that you’ll see once a license is installed, but no cameras are connected. After you connect your camera to your computer with a USB cable, it will appear in the list for you to select. Under the Setting menu in the main dialog, you can turn on a checkbox to automatically select the camera if only one camera is detected. I turned this on as I doubt I’ll ever have multiple cameras connected at once for this kind of testing.
Target Setup / Distance
Tape or use Bluetack or something to attach your test targets to a wall, at the same height as your camera, also ensuring that you can get the right distance from the target to your camera. You can perform the test at any distance, and if you often use your lens at Minimum Focus Distance, you might want to calibrate at that distance, as the results can vary, but the FoCal documentation quotes the Canon advice of calibrating at 50x the focal length of the lens.
This means if you are calibrating a 50mm lens, the distance should be 2,500mm, which is of course 2.5m or 8ft. It doesn’t really matter to the test how far away you set your camera, but this will be the distance at which the microadjustment is the most accurate, so keep this in mind as you run your tests.
The same goes for zoom lenses. You can calibrate at any focal length that the lens can be set at, but this will mean that the lens’ focus will be most accurate at that focal length and may run off slightly as you move away from that focal length. So, if you want the best performance across all focal lengths, then you might want to set say a 24-70mm to around 50mm, in the middle of it’s range. Alternatively, if you pretty much always shoot at 70mm, you could choose to calibrate and microadjust at 70mm.
The FoCal documentation also suggests calibrating at both extremes of the lens, finding the microadjustment values, say +4 for 24mm and +7 for 70mm, and making your decision based on these values. For example you could set at either of these values for best focusing at either extreme, or choose microadjustment of +5 or +6 to get a happy medium.
Although this seems a little bit haphazard, the new 1D X is actually going to have the ability to a microadjustment value for either end of the focal length range to remove the guesswork, so Canon fully understands that there is something missing from the microadjustment on cameras to date.
FoCal states the general advice of calibrating at the telephoto end of a zoom lens, 70mm in the case of a 24-70mm lens, as the depth of field is shallower at 70mm, allowing for more accurate microadjustment values.
Once you have your targets attached to a wall and your camera distance sorted, you’ll want to setup your camera for the tests. For the tests to work, you need to ensure your camera is in Av mode, with the AF set to ONE SHOT and select only the center focus point, not automatic selection. Also turn off image stabilization if you are testing an IS lens.
Your test environment also needs to be bright enough to get at least a 1/4 of a second exposure at f2.8, ISO 100, although brighter will help to get more reliable results. 1/125 of a second at f2.8, ISO 100 is recommended.
Fire up FoCal
Connect your camera to your computer with the USB cable that came with the camera, and fire up the FoCal software. Assuming this isn’t the first time you start FoCal, and you already have a licensed camera connected, you’ll either see the Camera Selector screen, or you’ll see the following screen if you have set FoCal to automatically select the camera when only once camera is selected. The details of your camera and lens, as well as any Microadjustment you might already have set for the lens attached will be displayed.
FoCal Main Screen
To get your camera aligned with the Target, click Show Tools and then Target Setup, and your camera will go into LiveView and show you your target on the wall. At this point, even on a sunny afternoon, with my normal room lights turned on, the image on the screen was very dark.
Target Setup Help
Even after getting a standard light from another room, there didn’t seem to be enough light, but the software was able to guide me to the point that it was happy to start the tests.
Target Setup Complete
The on-screen alignment help is very cool. It not only tells you when you need to move your camer up, down, right or left, but it detects too much rotation or if you are looking at the target from too much of an angle from the sides, or above or below the target. Once you have everything lined up correctly, you’ll see a check mark on the screen, showing you that you’re good to proceed with the tests.
I found though that if you measure the distance from the floor to the center of your lens, and make sure the target is attached to the wall with the round circle in the middle at the same height, then just judging by eye if the camera was square on, then looking through the finder and putting the center focus point over the circle, the test passed first time. Also, as the test is also run when you start the Fully Automatic Microfocus Adjustment Test, and won’t proceed if there are problems, this is probably the quickest workflow.
You also get a distance readout, so you can see how far away from the target your camera is. In the above screenshots I was 2.2m away, but changed this to the recommended 2.5m for the test with my 50mm lens.
Once you have your camera lined up, just hit the Fully Automated AF Microadjust button on the main screen, and the Test screen is displayed, and you just hit the Start button to kick off the test. The test takes a minute or so, and your camera will make a number of exposures.
Once the test is finished you’ll see a specific amount to adjust the lens by, which in the case of my 50mm f1.2L lens was +7. This is not surprising as I actually had Canon set this lens to front-focus slightly, as I found that there were discrepancies between the center focus point and the peripheral points, and we were trying to reach a happy medium. This setting might negate some of that of course, but that’s not what we’re here to look at today.
At this point, you are actually able to set the amount of microadjustment in the camera right there, and you’re done.
If you hit the Analysis button on this screen, you can see the various microadjustment settings mapped out on a graph and check how blurred or sharp the image became between each setting by clicking on the nodes, which is really useful. (Click the image to view details)
I went on to test my 70-200mm f2.8 L II lens, and found that at both 70mm and 200mm, there was no microadjustment necessary, which didn’t really surprise me, as I’ve never had any problems with this lens at all. Note that I did perform this test at 2.5 meters though, which is a bit close per the recommended calibration distance, but I often use this lens quite close too, so I left it as it was.
70-200mm Spot on!
I then calibrated my 24-70mm f2.8 L lens and found that although no microadjustment was necessary at 24mm at 1.25m, at around 3m I required +4 adjustment at 70mm. Based on this, I tested the lens at 50mm at around 2.5m and found that no microadjustment was needed at this focal length and distance either. I then ran the test again at 3 meters at 50mm, and found that once again, +4 adjustment was necessary. I started to wonder now whether the problem was in the focussing distance, or the focal length? So I did the test again at 24mm from 3m, and found that the lens needed a -2 adjustment at this distance.
I hadn’t really understood the Semi-Automatic AFMA Test to this point, but then found the value in this feature once I had a lens that had somewhat sporadic focus adjustment measurements. The manual has a good explanation of how to use this module, which you’ll need to read, especially if you opt for the Standard version of FoCal, in which this is your main workflow.
Semi-Automatic AFMA Test
For me though, I found it useful to be able to run the test while switching through a few different focal lengths and settings to see where the happy medium lays. Once you have a lens that requires a difference microadjustment amount for various focal lengths and focusing distances, you really just have to find the best value as a compromise between the various possibilities, which this tool enables you to do by playing with the possibilities, then applying various adjustments and refocusing using the onscreen buttons, and see how the sharpness improves each time.
The higher the line on the graph by the way, the sharper the image. The graph here is a bit all over the place, because it shows three different focal lengths. I’m not sure if this is how it should be used, but it helped me to lock in on +2 as my final microadjustment.
Check Your Settings!
After I’d finished running my tests on these three lenses, closed the application and unplugged my camera, I noticed that my camera’s file format was left at Large Fine JPEG, and the meter mode was set to Spot Metering. I found in the manual that the software does try to return camera settings to their original values, but this didn’t happen with me, probably caused by the camera going to sleep while I was making notes and the software lost its connection with the camera. Either that, or because I changed lenses with the camera connected and software open, which I also read can cause problems.
Anyway, regardless of why this happens, you’ll want to check these when you’re finished, to avoid shooting JPEG afterwards, or ending up in the wrong metering mode etc. I spoke with the FoCal people about this, and have been told that this should get more robust in future versions. They’re a great team and really listen their customers.
In general, I found FoCal to be very easy to use. It takes a bit of time to get up to speed on how to use it, reading through the documentation, but none of it is difficult to grasp. Now that I’ve calibrated three of my main workhorse lenses, I’m going to set aside another couple of hours to calibrate my other lenses, and then run through them all again with my two other bodies. Based on these initial tests, I’d say it will probably take me about two hours or so, as I have a lot of lenses, and three bodies, but it will be worth it.
Note that although I received a copy of FoCal for these tests, I have not received any financial or material compensation from Reikan Technology in connection with this review. As is always the case with my reviews, these are my own honest opinions, based on a spending some time using and testing the product.
Discount for MBP Visitors!
Just for MBP visitors and Podcast listeners, Reikan Technology have provided a very healthy time limited discount when you buy your copy of FoCal. FoCal Standard is only £19.95 anyway, so that’s not included, but you can get FoCal Plus, which is usually £39.95 for just £25, and FoCal Pro, which is usually £69.95 for just £45, which is more than a 35% discount of both products.
This discount will be available until March 31st 2012, but only if you buy from a special page setup specifically for MBP listeners. Head over to http://www.fo-cal.co.uk/mbp45 [link and discount no longer valid] before March 31st, to pick up your discounted copy of FoCal. If you are catching up after March 31st, 2012, but are interested in buying FoCal, still check this page, as I’m told there’ll be some sort of discount for you, even though it won’t be quite as hefty a saving as the initial offering.
Note too that even if your camera is not yet supported you can either buy the software now at the discounted price, and wait for the free update when the additional Canon and a range of Nikon cameras are added, but also, do check back through February and March, as there are some changes coming very soon, probably before this initial discount expires.
Andrew S. Gibson, one of my fellow Craft & Vision authors, just released an interview with me on his blog if you are interested. Andrew asked some great questions, and we touch on how I prepared to leave my old job, to pursue my passion in full time photography. You can take a read here: http://www.andrewsgibson.com/blog/2012/02/making-the-print-an-interview-with-photographer-author-martin-bailey/
FoCal Web site: https://www.reikanfocal.com
Music by UniqueTracks
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Today I take you through a full monitor and printer calibration with the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo, and we also take a look at how to optimize a printer profile.
Although it was a little late, I finally published an iPod optimized version of the video via the iTunes/RRS stream, so recheck iTunes if that’s where you usually get your MBP fix.
The full-sized video will only be available here, or on Vimeo, to download the video for offline viewing.
By the way, if you live in Japan, in or close to Tokyo, it would be great to see you in Gotanda for my Color Managed Digital Workflow seminar, at X-Rite Japan. See my Workshops Web site for details.
The Martin Bailey Photography Podcast is sponsored by WebSpy, the Internet monitoring, analysis and reporting specialists. For details of WebSpy products and a 10% discount, visit our landing page at http://www.webspy.com/mbp.
I’m proud to announce that I recently joined the Coloratti, who, in X-Rite’s words…
Include the world’s top professional photographers, a group whose vision, passion, leadership, and partnership are recognized and valued by X-Rite. Coloratti photographers are highly respected by their peers and are admired by up-and-coming professionals, enthusiasts, and students alike.
The Coloratti understand the importance of implementing color management in their workflow and freely share their knowledge on how to get the very best color for all your images, no matter how it is presented – on screen or in print. The Coloratti photographers have a dedicated passion for the world of photography and achieving accurate color is presented in many of their workshops, seminars and at sponsored X-Rite events. They foster creativity in others and inspire their students and audiences to easily master color control in their imagery and their art.
I’m honored to be included in this group of photographers, many of whom I already know and admire. I won’t name names, as there are currently 53 of us (as of May 2010) but if you are interested, do take a look at the Coloratti page on X-Rite’s Web site, and see for yourself. You can also check out my Coloratti profile page, from my thumbnail, currently on page four.
X-Rite Color Calibration & Management Products
Among other great tools, X-Rite are the manufacturer’s of the ColorChecker Passport and ColorMunki Photo, color management and calibration tools that I have fallen in love with in recent months. I’ve totally converted my digital workflow, now centered around the these tools, and thanks to X-Rite, I now incorporate color management in the digital workflow lectures into my Workshops.
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
Color Managed Digtial Workflow Seminar
I am actually just finalizing plans for a one day Color Managed Digital Workflow seminar in conjunction with X-Rite Japan, designed for a group of up to 10 participants.
Full details will soon be available on my Workshops web site, but it will be a full day hands-on color managed digital workflow seminar, taking you from image capture to print, and also include output to the Web and Slideshows. It’s centered on Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, making full use of X-Rite calibration tools. The place will be Gotanda, Tokyo, one Saturday in July or August, 2010.
The seminar will cost ¥10,000 (around US$110) including lunch. We might even be able to go for a few beers afterward. 🙂
If you are interested, drop me a line.
Once again, I’m proud to be a part of this elite group of photographers, and thank X-Rite for their interest in me and my work, and for their kind support.