This Datacolor Spyder 3 Print SR review is being done now because having just upgraded my printer from an Epson 3880 to a new 7900 I was a little reluctant to go out an buy a load of new printer profiles again for a few reasons. Firstly I plan on using a wide variety of papers and settings on the Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and to get custom print profiles created for all these combinations would not only be costly but also time consuming and inconvenient because evey time I wanted to try out a new paper I would have to get a print profile made to see what the paper was truly capable of.
The main reason I wanted to test out Datacolor’s latest print profiling software is because I like to have total control over the prints I output and being able to create my own custom printer profiles gives me that little bit more creative control. Custom print profiles combined with knowing the best settings to use means that I should be able to create outstanding prints, each and everytime. You may want to read my article on getting better prints
- Spyder3Print SR™ Spectrocolorimeter & Base
- 6′ USB Cable
- Software CD
- Quick Start Guide
- Free Online Support
You can buy the Spyder 3 Print SR from Amazon
Heres what comes in the box, usually supplied without the grubby paw prints, yes mine has already seen quite a bit of use. Best to keep it in the box after you’ve used it to keep the white calibration base clean.
Here is the Spectrocolorimeter and base unit.
The included Spyder guide which can be used with the new strip reading feature.
Installing the software
Installing the included software was very straightforward, the software on the CD is an older version so make sure you update via the automatic updater or from the Datacolor site before you start profiling. The software that comes with the Spyder 3 Print SR is pretty impressive and the included help software is amongst the best I’ve seen. It not only includes how to use the Spyder 3 print SR but it also gives quite a bit of useful information on colour management and workflows which is really helpful.
Now I should point out that I got the Spyder 3 Print SR to produce printer profiles for my high end printer so that I could create fine art prints for my clients. I have very high prints standards and talk on forums about the quality of the spectrocolorimeter used by the Spyder 3 versus more high end and expensive spectrophotometers from the likes of Xrite lead me to be a little sceptical about the quality of the profiles that I would be able to produce using the Spyder 3 Print Sr. However just like a lot of people I wanted to see what was possible with this reasonably priced bit of kit.
Using the software is pretty simple, basically follow the on screen instructions, if you have a Spyder 3 monitor calibrater then you will be familiar with the layout.
I make sure that I name my profiles accurately because once you start getting a large collection of profiles and targets then you can easily get confused if you havn’t labelled them well.
This information is then printed on your colour targets so you don’t get them mixed up
Before you print out your target it is really important to use the media settings check to make sure that you are using the best possible media settings for your printer and paper combination. The suggested settings by the paper manufacturer are not always the best and so it is worth doing a quick check first to make sure there are no issues with over inking or banding. You can fit 4 test images onto a page of A4 using the provided quadrants which cuts down on the paper used.
Once you have determined the best media settings then all you have to do is choose your target type. There are lots of different targets to choose from including the new 255 patch EZ targets as well as 729 patch classic targets and specialist black and white targets that have more gray patches.
Here you can see the difference between the EZ targets and the 729 patch targets.
Once you have printed out the targets for the papers that you want then I would suggest leaving them under some tissue paper overnight to make sure that the colours dont shift after you have measured the targets. This is particularly important for dye inks which are more prone to colour shifts than pigment inks.
Reading the Targets
Reading your measurement targets is quite a straightforward process and is much quicker thanks to the ability of the Spectrocolorimeter to strip read. Using the strip reading function and the Spyder guide makes it a pretty quick process and I could get an EZ target read with no errors in about 10 minutes. I also found it was possible to strip read larger targets without the Spyder Guide but I did sometimes get a few errors. In the end I am after the best possible profiles I can get so I decided to read my 729 patch targets one patch at a time to avoid any errors. It took about 25 minutes to do this and it is boring but it’s a price I’m prepared to pay to ensure accurate results. I’m sure with practise you can strip read these larger targets but I wanted to ensure I made the best profile possible and felt that patch reading was the way to go.
The software in strip reading mode shows you which line you are on and you can easily switch between what the colours should look like and what your measurements are so that you can pick up any obvious errors.
Once you have taken your target readings the software creates a profile which you can view via a softproof to see what the test image would look like on your printer/paper combination. Datacolor recommends using Saturation rendering intent and this is consistent with my results too.
If you are not quite happy with how your profile looks then you have the option to make adjustments to various settings. This gives you a great deal of flexibility to create profiles for particular images or lighting scenarios. I have messed around with these settings but have not found the need to alter the initial profiles that the software creates.
I have made profiles for the following papers so far Canson baryta, Canson Rag, Hahnemuhle German Etching, Harman Gloss baryta 320, Ilford Smooth Gloss and Epson Hot Press Bright. I have not yet profiled Epson Premium Semi-Gloss and Luster becasue the profiles provided by Epson seem dead on but I will do so at some point and see if I can improve upon the results.
The very first profile I made was actually on a Canon Pro 9000 mk 2 printer and it was awful, it was so bad that it was obvious that I had made errors reading the target patches, there was over inking and the colours were shocking. The good thing about the Datacolor software is that you can simply go back and re measure a target so you don’t have to start all over again which can be so frustrating.
I simply went back and on closer inspection of the target patches found a bunch of errors which I corrected and the result was a very good profile which matched my calibrated monitor almost perfectly. The colours were rich and there were no technical flaws in the print.
Put simply the Spyder 3 Print SR has produced very good printer profiles for me each and every time since that first profile.When I compare the profiles created by the Spyder 3 Print SR against custom profiles that I have had created using much more expensive kit I honestly struggle to see the differences. I would be very interested to compare the profiles created by the Spyder 3 Print SR against X-rites i1 photo pro equipment.
The Spyder 3 Print SR is definately capable of producing excellent printer profiles that I am more than happy to put my name to. Based on my experience I would suspect that any complaints of poor performance are more likely down to user error than anything to do with the hardware itself.
I was particularly impressed that the profile produced for Epson Hot Press Bright using the 255 target with extended grays actually outperformed Epsons own profile for this paper on a black and white shot of mine.
Now if only Datacolor would introduce an automated reader like the X-rite i1io
I will come back and update this review as and when I have done further testing but so far I am more than happy with the results and the value of the Spyder 3 Print SR.
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