I've used Datacolor products now for several years, mostly to calibrate my monitors and printers. The monitor calibrators (Spyder4) are some of the best available. I've had excellent results with them and they make color management so much easier. The printer calibration (Spyder Print) is tedious to use, and I've had mixed results with it. The lens calibration (LensCal) is also very good, but I've graduated to a more sophisticated tool (FOCAL). I looked forward to evaluating Datacolor's tool for calibrating camera color and obtained SpyderCheckr recently. Checkr comes in a compact, brushed aluminum-looking plastic case that folds in half. The case has connectors for a tripod mount and accepts either male or female connections. A spring-loaded device on the side retracts the male threaded screw to keep it out of the way...nice touch. The case opens to show a grid of 48 different color-calibrated swatches. The case has a small FadeChecker swatch that will fade from red to yellow as the chart is exposed to sun. When this happens, it is a warning to replace the swatches, or recalibrate your settings.
Datacolor also incorporated gray scale calibration panels on the reverse side of the color panels. By lifting the plastic, hinged frames that are secured with magnets, and flipping the color swatch panels over, you can get two panels that feature large swatches of neutral gray, and 12 swatches that cover 12 zones from black to white with various shades of gray. By shooting your photos with this gray card, you can easily correct for variations of color in your scenes and help set exposure levels. It can also be used to help determine the neutrality of you monitor visually.
All in all, the quality of the device is high quality, and designed to be very functional.
The package comes with software that is registered and licensed to the user. I can't really see why it is copy-protected since the software has little value by itself.
Why would you use this system? It would help you remove color variances in camera/lens combinations for a given camera, or for various cameras that you use in your shooting. I was surprised at how much correction my Canon 7d needed to match the color swatches. Granted, it was nothing major, but there were noticeable tweaks for some of the colors.
To use the system, all you need to do is take a RAW photo of the color swatches, using uniform lighting. The conditions for the test shot are not stringent, and should not take long to accomplish. You then open the shots in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) or Lightroom for processing. I am an Aperture man, and sorry to say, SpyderCheckr is not compatible with Aperture (Aperture users must use Bridge or ACR). The test shots are adjusted for exposure and color balance. This is clearly explained in the manual. The photo is cropped using alignment guides located on the sides of the calibration frame. The cropped photo is saved in Tif if using ACR. Lightroom has a setting for letting you edit the image directly in the Checkr software, which is convenient.
The software will open your cropped and adjusted test image. You align the color swatches of your test image to the samples in the software, set the intent (portrait, colorimetric, saturation),and save the results to either Lightroom, ACR or Phocus. The result is an XMP sidecar file that sits in your settings folder for ACR or suitable folder for Lightroom and Phocus. These settings can be applied to one or more images using Bridge, ACR, Lightroom, or Phocus. When I applied the settings to some of my RAW images, I could see the colors shift slightly, indicating that the system was working. Was I happy with the results? Well, yes. In some cases (race cars, decals, paintings), you don't really have a basis for comparison when setting your color balance in post processing, and it is nice to rely on the presets as a starting point for adjusting your image colors. I would imagine that a portrait photographer would find this system valuable too. Many of the color swatches in the calibrator feature various skin tones.
I will be making a series of presets for my various cameras and lens combinations. Storing them in ACR as presets, I know they will always be available to check my color results.
As a tool for the discriminating photographer, I think SpyderCheckr is a valuable tool, easy to use, and professionally packaged.