MonacoEZcolor 2.2 


Mac OS X


By: - Ian Lyons

A Computer Darkroom Review

Monaco Systems latest colour management solution is MonacoEZcolor 2.2 and it's fully compatible with Mac OS X.  Launched at MacWorld New York in July 2002 this upgrade contains a few enhancements over version 2.0 along with some bug fixes.


The Face of MonacoEZcolor

The aim of  MonacoEZcolor has been and continues to be to provide a low cost solution for accurate, consistent colour between devices and paper types so that the time and expense of trial and error corrections are kept to a minimum.

Like its predecessors MonacoEZcolor 2.2 creates custom ICC profiles for monitors, scanners, digital cameras and desktop colour printers. The feature set is comprehensive and remains a lot more integrated than competitive products. The Wizard-based interface (Figure 1) makes it very intuitive and easy to use. As a result, the steps involved in creating a profile for the monitor, scanner or printer are very straightforward.

Integrated on-line help is always available and easy to follow, and unusually for a relatively low cost software application a comprehensive paper User Guide is provided (an Adobe Acrobat version is also available on the install CD).  The guide even includes a chapter covering frequently asked questions. 


Figure 1

Building the monitor profile is the best place to start and with MonacoEZcolor this can be undertaken using two alternative methods: visually, using the software alone; or automatically, using the application in combination with the optional MonacoSENSOR colorimeter. Both methods work well, but as with version 1.6 and 2.0 I found that the automatic method produced a more accurate profile.

Profiling using the visual method comprise a simple six step process with the user entering details regarding the monitor colour temperature, adjusting the monitor's brightness/contrast controls and then using the application to measure/adjust the video card gamma ramps for red, green and blue by means of three slider controls. Figure 2 shows an important step in the process, namely setting the correct black level for the monitor.


Figure 2

The monitor gamma value is automatically set by the application to 1.8 for Mac's and 2.2 for PC's. The absence of a user option for monitor gamma is slightly unusual especially now that many Mac users find gamma 2.2 more accurate when viewing web images. The final step requires that the user inputs a name for the monitor profile and then saves it for use. The profile will be placed in the appropriate location on the hard drive and also made available to the Operating System for immediate use.

As mentioned above the automatic method uses the MonacoSENSOR colorimeter to measure a series of colour patches sent to the display by the application (Figure 3). These measurements (phosphor data) ensure that the ICC profile created by MonacoEZcolor is a much more accurate representation of how the monitor actually displays specific colours. Applications such as Photoshop are dependent upon this additional data for accurate colour rendering.  The sensor is the Sequel Chroma IV colorimeter as used by many other vendors, and is designed for USB connection. If the sensor is connected the application will automatically adjust the profiling workflow to suit. Unfortunately the MonacoSENSOR is not suitable for profiling LCD type displays.


Figure 3

Building a scanner profile requires that we scan an IT8 target. MonacoEZcolor is capable of profiling both reflective and transmissive type targets, although only the 7 by 5 inch reflective IT8 version is supplied with the package. Monaco Systems supplies 35mm and 5 by 4 inch transmissive versions at extra cost.

The process involves a short series of fairly straightforward steps: select the target reference file, position target on/in scanner, scan target, verify scan, locate and crop the IT8 target scan (Figure 4), and finally, save the profile. Again the whole process takes only a few moments to complete. With version 2.2 I've noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the ICC profiles for my film scanners. The previous tendency to be over bright seems to have been tamed and shadow noise is well controlled.


Figure 4

MonacoEZcolor 2.2 provides support for profiling both RGB (non-PostScript) and CMYK (PostScript) type printers. When Monaco first introduced version 2 much was made of the ability to profile printers such as the Epson 2000P. This involves the user specifying the media type and scanner (Figure 5) being used to measure the target prints. Once these choices have been made MonacoEZcolor automatically utilises built-in correction tables.  As with monitor and scanner profiling each step has its own wizard panel along with appropriate instructions.


Figure 5

The results of my printer profiling tests were pretty much in line with those for version 2. However, on this occasion it wasn't possible to test the 2000P, as I no longer have access to the printer. As with all the other competitive products I found Epson Premium Glossy presented MonacoEZcolor with the most difficultly, although a few tweaks in the profile editor fix the slight yellow bias that I observed. This is a common problem with this media when using scanner based profiling applications and is due to optical brighteners in the media.

The application also includes a Printer Profile editor (Figure 6) that allows the user to make global edits to brightness, contrast, saturation and colour. It's fairly easy to use and does appear to work quite well.


Figure 6


With MonacoEZcolor 2.2 Monaco Systems have certainly succeeded in bringing affordable colour management tools and ICC profile creation to the Mac OSX platform. Compared to similarly priced products MonacoEZcolor delivers a much more elegant, easy to follow interface. When needed comprehensive Help is always only a mouse click away.

As with version 2 I found visual profiling of the monitor to be acceptable, but for even better results the MonacoSENSOR is definitely more accurate. It's a pity that the application doesn't support the calibration of LCD displays, especially since MonacoEZcolor 2.2 is primarily aimed at Mac users and we all know that Apple are pushing LCD displays with all the marketing hype they can muster.

The profile editor is intuitive to use, and during my testing I found even most edits could be undertaken without any significant detrimental impact on the overall quality of the resulting profile. The ease with which the user can edit the soft-proof preview component of the profile makes simple an aspect that is normally very complex.

MonacoEZcolor 2.2 has many unique features; all of which make the process of creating and editing ICC profiles easy. Nevertheless, whilst it remains a "class leader" there is still some room for improvement. As with all  budget-end products its biggest limitation is the dependence upon the flatbed scanner for scanning the printed targets. Such devices were never designed to be used as spectrophotometers and so there will always be some areas of the profile that don't quite meet expectations. This means that professional workers requiring ultimate control over print quality may find that MonacoEZcolor doesn't quite meet their needs. That said  Monaco Systems do offer both mid and high-end spectrophotometer based applications which  should deliver most if not all that the professional requires.

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