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User Review

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MonacoEZcolor 2.6

By Ian Lyons

 

 

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A Computer Darkroom Review

When in May 1998 Adobe Incorporated introduced digital workers to the concept of colour management little did they realise the anguish they would put many through. From the earliest days we heard cries of : "my prints don't match my monitor" to "my scans all appear red when imported into Photoshop" - what was the cause and more importantly what was the solution?

 

The cause was pretty simple in that each device forming part of our digital workflow has its own unique way of reproducing colour. Photoshop now needed to understand how these devices saw colour and that's were the concept of profiling or characterising these devices came in. ICC profiles provide Photoshop with the description of how scanners and printers reproduce colour. Companies such as Epson, Nikon, Canon, etc all provided generic profiles with their equipment, although they rarely produced optimum results. High-end,  high cost profiling applications already existed, but it was Monaco Systems who first offered a solution within reach of the masses. The first version of MonacoEZcolor was inexpensive, reasonably effective and easy to use, albeit with some quirks when cropping the scanned target. We've moved on a lot since those early days and with each new crop of scanners and inkjet printers our expectations have continued to grow.

MonacoEZcolor has undergone another update; we're at version 2.6 now and with it we get  a few more new features including the ability to utilise the new MonacoOPTIX XR colorimeter for display profiling that is reviewed elsewhere on this site. With exception of the Wizard layouts for monitor calibration and support for the new colorimeter little else appears to have changed from version 2.5. Therefore I've simply revamped the original review to include references to the changes and improvements.

The MonacoEZcolor Interface

Like its predecessors MonacoEZcolor 2.6 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 similarly priced products. The wizard-based interface (Figure 1) ensures that MonacoEZcolor 2.6 is intuitive and very easy to use. MonacoEZcolor 2.6 includes the following enhancements:

  • Ability to interface with the new MonacoOPTIX XR colorimeter (X-rite DTP94) for both LCD and CRT display profiles although it  remains compatible with the older OPTIX colorimeter and MonacoSENSOR for CRT profiling.
  • Improved quality for all your profiles: monitor, scanner and printer.
  • Uses your Monaco OPTIX XR colorimeter to determine your monitor's best level of brightness and contrast to provide the widest possible gamut.
  • Supports dual monitor setups (Mac only)
  • Usability improvements include automatic target recognition and cropping

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. Monaco also provides a wealth of information on their web site - http://www.monacosystems.com

 

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Figure 1

 

Display Calibration

Greatly improved display calibration with MonacoEZcolor is first on the list of enhancements. As with earlier versions this can be undertaken using two alternative methods: visually, using the software alone; or automatically, using the application in combination with the optional New MonacoOPTIX XR colorimeter. Using the colorimeter is much better and the new MonacoOPTIX XR is superior in every way to the older MonacoSensor or even the original OPTIX colorimeter reviewed elsewhere on this site.. The monitor white point (Figure 2) and gamma value (Figure 3) are each manually set by the user.

 

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Figure 2

 

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Figure 3

 

As already mentioned the automatic method uses the MonacoOPTIX XR colorimeter to measure a series of colour patches sent to the display by the application. These measurements (phosphor/dye data) ensure that the ICC profile created by MonacoEZcolor is a much more accurate representation of how the display actually reproduces specific colours. Applications such as Photoshop are dependent upon this additional data for accurate colour rendering.  The colorimeter (actually called the DTP94) is produced by X-rite and is probably the best colorimeter currently available. The MonacoOPTIX XR is designed for USB connection. Once the sensor is connected the application will automatically adjust the profiling workflow to suit. A separate review of Monaco OPTIX Pro will uploaded to this site shortly.

Profiling the Scanner

MonacoEZcolor is capable of profiling both reflective and transmissive type IT8 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 and verify orientation of scan. Once these steps are completed MonacoEZcolor automatically locates and crops the IT8 target scan (Figure 4). Again the whole process takes only a few moments to complete.

 

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Figure 4

 

Building Printer Profiles

MonacoEZcolor 2.6 provides support for profiling both RGB (non-PostScript) and CMYK (PostScript) type printers. When Monaco Systems  introduced version 2 much was made of the ability to profile inkjet printers such as the Epson 2000P. This involved the user specifying the media type and scanner being used to measure the target prints. This feature is now gone and so far as I can see version 2.6 still hasn't been updated to handle the newer Epson UltraChrome pigment inks. As with monitor and scanner profiling each step has its own wizard panel along with appropriate instructions.

 

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Figure 5

 

The results of my printer profiling tests were pretty much in line with those for previous versions of MonacoEZcolor in so far as the scanner plays a significant role in the quality of the final profiles. Again, I found Epson's Enhanced Matte presented MonacoEZcolor with the greatest difficultly.

 

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