Recently, X-Rite (XRIT) popped up on my radar, because they released a new a product, Colormunki Photo. Before we see how the Colormunki Photo fits into the company product line, we must first know what the company does. They sell color management solutions.
Why is color management important? Let’s say I ask two people to give me a blue piece of fabric. Most likely, they’ll come back with fabrics that are different. Different shades of blue. If I want them to give me exactly the same shade of blue, I have to tell them more than just blue. There has to be some way of measuring and quantifying the color. The exact way to measure the color is to give the amount of light reflected from a given incident direction of light for each different viewing angle as a function of wavelength. If that sounds complex to you, it is. Fortunately humans aren’t that sensitive. We have 3 different types of cones in our eyes, which roughly correspond to red, green and blue. So any color we see is different amounts of red, green and blue (RGB). Computer screens generate images with red, green and blue dots. RGB is one way to represent color, but there are many more like systems CMYK, HSV, sRGB, L*ab, L*uv, etc. These are called colorspaces. So, we now we have a way to represent color.
Digital Wedding Photographer Case Study
Colormunki Photo represents a solution to the following problem. Say you’re a digital photographer and you want to make sure you have accurate color. You’re a professional wedding photographer, so orange and blue men are out. The first thing you do is setup your scene and take a test image with a color chart. The color chart is made up patches that you know the values of, because you measured them before hand with your Colormunki. When you take your picture, you know if you get values from subsequent shots, they will correspond to the same color as what you had measured earlier. Now you want to enhance the photos since these are wedding photos afterall. Your monitor needs to be calibrated, so the color that the program thinks it’s outputting is actually correct. After you’ve calibrated your monitor, you want to print out some proofs. The printer can be calibrated by printing out colors that the computer thinks its printing, so you can measure what it is actually printing with your Colormunki. Next, the bride and groom ask you to put a romantic slide show together, so you scan a few of their high school prom photos. The scanner can be calibrated by using the same colorchart you created for your photos. Finally, the wedding photographer calibrates the projector that will be used to display, so that the guest will see the same colors they are intended to see. The digital wedding photographer has used the Colormunki to calibrate a digital camera, monitor, printer, scanner and projector.
Red lipstick effect
Color calibration also needs to be repeated if ambient lighting changes, because it affects what colors you seen. Have you ever noticed that things look different under incandescent, fluorescent, and the sun? I have heard this coined as the red lipstick effect. When you buy lipstick under cheap drugstore fluorescent lights, it looks different than when you put it on to go outside, because ambient light changes. If this has ever happened to you, I hope you are convinced that color calibration is important. Color calibration is not something you do once and forget about.
Why did I focus on the Colormunki? Not because it is a new product, but because the rest of their products are mostly more expensive versions of the Colormunki that provide more features. Note, I have not used or reviewed the Colormunki. It may not have all the features I mentioned here, but this is what the needs of photographers are and the Colormunki Photo was designed to fulfill them. Color is important to many fields, such as manufacturing, paint, digital photography, printing, movie projectors, HDTVs, office projectors and displays.
Their products are relevant and they bought out most of their competitors, such as GretagMacBeth, Patone and others who have been bought out by companies that they bought. The only question that remains is the size of their market and their potential for growth into new markets like amateur digital photography. $500 for Colormunki is a good start, because some of those amateurs spend that much for a lens. There is no point in spending so much for a lens if you’re not even sure what colors you’re capturing, seeing and printing. Their marketing needs to convince people that they need their color solutions.
Disclosure: Currently, I own zero shares of XRIT.