Top positive review
23 people found this helpful
on 24 January 2011
All in all I found this product really easy to use, and it does exactly what it is supposed to. The software is intuitive and simple and it gave noticeable and pleasing results, which is what you want from any calibrator! Although it was quite expensive it is an essential ingredient in any colour-managed work flow and I would definitely recommend it. I'm going to apologise in advance because my review reads a bit like marketing copy; I just really wanted to do this product justice!
It's important to use a colour-calibrated monitor when editing and proofing images. But what many people don't realise is that the camera sensor itself doesn't understand "colour"; colour values are assigned according to a software profile from the camera manufacturer. This is a "canned profile" - one size fits all, regardless of minor variations in individual cameras or major differences between different sets of shooting conditions.
The X-Rite ColorChecker Passport provides exactly known colour values, and with the bundled software allows the photographer to quickly and easily model exactly how their particular camera perceives the colour patches under a given set of lighting conditions. The software can then be used to create a profile which is inserted into Adobe Camera Raw's profile list in the "Camera Calibration" menu (and therefore also in Lightroom's list if you use version 2 or above).
You can therefore create "canned profiles" of your own, appropriate to camera+lens combinations under different lighting conditions, and apply these to candid and opportunistic images. For planned and studio shoots you can of course create profiles specifically for those conditions, just by including the Passport in the first of a sequence of shots! Because the profile tells your software the difference between the known colour values of the patches on the Passport, and the colours which the camera recorded, the software can then correct the recorded image accordingly.
You create a profile by taking a RAW image of the Passport card with your camera, saving it as a DNG, and then dragging it to the ColorChecker Passport software. The software locates the Passport and identifies the coloured patches, then writes a profile which you can save with a custom name. You can save as many profiles as you like and it is perhaps sensible to produce different profiles for different lighting conditions, so that Camera Raw and Lightroom know how YOUR camera sees colours under YOUR actual shooting conditions.
There is a "dual illuminant" function which allows two different DNGs to be used to create one profile, which can save time in post-processing. For example I have produced a dual-illuminant using tungsten-lit and flash-lit shots, since a great deal of my work is done indoors. Passport also inserts a plug-in into Lightroom's EXPORT menu, to speed things up yet further. You can select one image or a pair of images in Lightroom and simply run "Export with preset -> ColorChecker Passport" and the profile will be automatically created. If the plug-in can't locate the colour patches in the images, it will stop and ask you to use the main application.
You are well-advised to check the support pages for ColorChecker Passport on the manufacturer's web site, especially the FAQ pages, as they give lots of invaluable information about how best to use this product. I also suggest you register the product so that you can download the free DNG Profile Manager software and an interactive training video. To register you need your serial number (everything following the "MSCCPP-SN#" on the quality guarantee inside the back cover of the passport).
In the box is the software, a lanyard, and the Passport itself. This is a folding plastic device which can stand on its own. It contains an 18% grey target for setting in-camera white balance, an industry standard Gretag-Macbeth colour target, and the "creative enhancement" target which has a variety of uses such as controlled warming and cooling. There is also the quality guarantee which includes a space for you to write in the date of first use; X-rite recommend the passport is replaced every two years although I am not certain how big the blast radius will be if you don't do that.
(For some reason these aren't on the Amazon product page)
* Microsoft Windows XP 32 or 64 bit (with latest Service Pack installed), Microsoft Windows Vista 32 or 64 bit (with latest Service Pack installed), or Microsoft Windows 7 32 or 64 bit (latest Service Pack installed)
* 512MB RAM
* Intel Pentium IV or AMD Athlon XP or better CPU
* 200 MB of available disk space
* MacOS X 10.4, 10.5, or 10.6 (with the latest update installed)
* 512MB RAM
* G4 Processor or higher (Intel processor recommended)
* 350MB of available disk space
For using DNG Profiles:
* Lightroom 2.0 or newer
* Photoshop Camera Raw 4.5 or newer
* Photoshop CS3 or newer
* Photoshop Elements 7 or newer
* Bridge CS3 or newer
The Passport software creates .dcp profiles which are placed into the CameraProfiles folder in Adobe's CameraRaw application data folder. They are intended for use by applications which use the Adobe RAW engine and camera profiling. For sampling colour patches however, any RAW editor with a click-to-sample custom white balance tool could be used (although you could save some money by buying a colour reference without the software).