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TOPIC: X-Right Colour Checker

X-Right Colour Checker 3 years 1 month ago #354

  • Les Peters
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For the last few years I've been using a Spyder Cube to nail my exposures and colour in the field. However, I've often looked at the X-Right Colour Checkers and wondered how well they work.

You should know before I go any further that I'm quite obsessive about the correctness of colour- in terms of its general accuracy and getting the correct light temperature. More often than not, I shudder when I see pictures that are "wonderfully saturated with colour." Oh, I like the morning and evening happy hours as much as the next man, maybe more so, but light that goes so far as to hide the colours of birds isn't my cup of tea. High contrast, high colour images hide too much of the real colour detail for my taste. And as you might image, I'm also generally light handed with sharpening programs.

So what does this X-Right gizmo do? You set the light temperature using it first, which is a simple matter of photographing one of the panels found within it. Then you take a picture of second panel it has, which has a set of 24 colours. You load this latter image into your computer and convert it to a DNG file, so that the X-right program can study the RAW file no matter what type of camera you have. This program "knows", for lack of a better word, the real colour of each of the 24 panels. Comparing the picture you have taken, with what the colour should be, allows it to create a camera profile for use in Lightroom and Photoshop. Using different ISOs for the test image will have some influence on the outcome, so you may need multiple profiles for your camera. Once you have created a profile, you just use it in ACR.

What differences do you get to see? Well, that depends, but generally a higher variation in image saturation and greater range/stepping of of contrast. It's not always obvious. If it was, I would be doubtful of its accuracy and usefulness. The end result for me is I'm spending less time adjusting images and finding that, to my eye, the image is hitting the nail on the head, in terms of the colours that were actually present when the picture was taken.

Now lots of people might not like this outcome. After all, noon sun isn't usually attractive, and if you are traveling you don't always get to choose when you can photograph. For such circumstances, the checker has a nice extra which I've only used before in cinematography. It has a panel with a set of greys on it which go from mildly blue ( which zaps up the greens nicely, but realistically) to the option of three warmer tones. Previously I've just printed off a sheet of photographic paper with a suitable grey for the same purpose, but the X-rite is more subtle and fit for purpose.

Is it worth it? For a JPG shooter who is out to enjoy taking pictures, probably not. But if you like to get the colour right as much as I do, probably yes.

At the moment I'm going back though some of my favorite pictures taken with my D300 of old. Many people suggest "it takes hours of adjusting in front of a computer to get a picture right with those fancy computer programs", but I find it takes just one of two minutes to polish up a good image, with the result that things look a dam sight more natural. ...or maybe just plain better.

To conclude, I recommend the X-right to those who put a high value on colour accuracy.

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