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Finally a Spyder3Express!

Deep Background

Back in the early 1990s, when I was working for Kodak Electronic Publishing Systems, I was first introduced to the whole concept of total system calibration, from original artwork to finished printed publication.

In those days, very few CRT monitors could be correctly calibrated in a professional environment, and the equipment and software where very expensive.

Since then, a number of very affordable Monitor Calibration systems have come to market, and there are several under $100.

Current Background

Recently, I got a new LCD monitor, which had a much higher contrast ratio and was general much brighter, when compared to my first LCD purchased some six years ago.

Over the years, I had developed many custom profiles for my various output scenarios, and felt I had everything in control, but knew I could do better.

When I started to use my new flat panel monitor, the first thing I noticed that there was a ‘ghosting’ of letters on all my desktop icons, which made them very difficult to read.

I was happy to see, that between my video card and the monitor, I technically had more control over how images were being displayed, and I was quickly able to set up a first round of  color correction.

When I started to look at my own Photography work again, there was definitely a difference, which I tried to correct with more monitor settings and software controls, and thought I was done, until I checked on a different system.

Which Calibration System?

So is the fun with monitors and calibration, and with my recent adventures in doing HDR and Tone Mapping, I decided to finally break down and get my own calibration system.

There are many calibration system on the market these days, and for a first timer, it can be very confusing.

Having worked with high-end systems in my past, I knew the sky was the limit in regards to cost and features.

I knew that with my simple environment, I did not need to spend a lot of money.

I just wanted to get a system that could get me to an easily repeatable ‘norm’, and from there, I could tweak as needed.

Several years ago, I worked with one client who had purchased a Spyder2PRO, and it worked rather well in that environment, so I took another look at the Datacolor Spyder3 series.

It also helped that during my pricing investigations, the Spyder3’s were consistently getting high marks!

Install, Calibrate & Done

My Spyder3Express shipment arrived this morning from B&H Photo, and after installing the base software with the supplied disc, I went up to to download and install the latest version. (There is a feature to check for Updates, but old habits die-hard.)

On initial launch, you are requested to register and get a confirming license code for future installations.

The main application greets you with an overview of general steps needed for a successful first calibration, and with a click of a Next button, the Wizard starts, asking you which type of monitor you have CRT vs. LCD.

On the next screen, you are asked to place the Spyder3 in an outlined area near the center of your monitor.

It was here that I noticed the first difference between the Spyder2Pro and Spyder3Express, and that was the lack of a suction cup to hold the Spyder in place during the actual color calibration, but one can get around this by tilting the monitor slightly up.

Once rested in the correction position, you click another Next button, and go and refresh your beverage.

By the time you come back, in less than 5 minutes, you get a final screen that will toggle for comparing un-calibrated vs. calibrated images.

You are done!

That is it!


I would be lying if I said it took less than 5 minutes, only because one should have their monitor ‘warmed-up’ for at least 30 minutes before running a calibration, and if you are very critical about your color, run the calibration again after a couple of hours of use.

I am still getting use to my new monitor colors, but have already seen a difference in my desktop icon letters (it was their shading that was getting blown out…), and I am seeing better details in my darker-mid-tones.

So far, I am happy with my Spyder3Express, and would recommend it for anyone interested in starting to explore the wonderful world of calibrated color environments.

Related Topics

As I mentioned earlier in this Post, one can spend all sorts of time and money to control their color environment, and at times, it can feel like you are chasing your tail in vain.

With that being said, some other areas of interest include:

  • Camera Calibration
  • Scanner Calibration
  • Printer Calibration
  • Color Space

A simple search engine search will bring up many articles and pages related to these subjects!

If you have any question of comments please feel free to contact me.

– Andrew
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By Andrew

A Father, Photographer and Computer Geek living in Chester County (PA).

My Photo Journal of images taken in Chester and Lancaster Counties, including Covered Bridges, Barns, Nature, Fine Art and Events. Images can also be found on and