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X-Rite Colorchecker Passport

The Colorchecker Passport is a very easy to use, pocket sized solution, for achieving more accurate color in your photos By Robert Jensen

I've got bad news for you. Shoo the kids away from the computer first. Ready? Guys and gals, there is no Santa Claus and the sensors in digital cameras are not all created equal. I hate to break it to you but all sensors vary to some degree in their capturing of data, not only from manufacturer to manufacturer but even from model to model from the same company. Worse yet, sensor characteristics can vary even from batch to batch of the same model sensor!

Most of you have seen tests of a camera where they've compared shots of a Colorchecker taken with different cameras. You'll have noticed that they all treat reds, blues, greens, yellows, etc. a little differently. Sometimes tint and saturation may vary by quite a bit between cameras. Think of it as an electronic equivalent to color blindness.

Its not only sensors that effect color accuracy but also the supporting hardware and software. In camera digital processing varies from chip set to chip set. Lenses throw their own color biases into the mix depending on the glass or other exotic materials used in their construction. Even the various RAW processors out there will give you different results using the same RAW file.


Using the Passport will bring back the saturation of some colors to match reality. Double click for full view.

If you film shooters out there think you're immune to this problem of color accuracy I've got some news for you too. If you're a film shooter then you have to worry about the differences between batches of film, which is why many photographers buy their film in bulk, making sure they all have the same batch number. You have to take into consideration the type of film, transparency versus negative, brand, ISO, etc. Each has an effect on final output. Then you have to take into consideration the lab, the chemicals they use, the machines they use, the brand and type of paper or other media the image is printed on. Its even scarier than shooting digital!

So what's a photographer to do if they want to have the purple/blue color of a flower or dress match reality? Enter X-Rite and their new Colorchecker Passport. It can make your life easier. Whether you shoot digital or film, still or video, it can help you with correct white balance, exposure and color accuracy. It will also help achieve color consistency between your cameras and lenses.

If X-Rite is a new name to you I will tell you that it has become one of the leading specialists in color tools for photography since it started in the 1970s. X-Rite is a leader in the field of color reproduction. The Colorchecker Passport is a hardware/software combo that makes achieving accurate colors in your photos much easier than ever before.

What's in the Box

  • Colorchecker Passport --three targets, Classic, White Balance and Creative Enhancement, mounted inside tough protective case
  • Lanyard to carry the Passport around your neck
  • Software - includes stand alone desktop application as well as Adobe Lightroom plug-in. Compatible with Mac OSX and Windows.

Workflow
The Colorchecker Passport is primarily meant for those shooting RAW, but you can take advantage of some of its features even if you shoot JPEG. (More on that later)

Exposure
Get this right and it makes life, and your workflow, much easier later. If your camera is so equipped check the histogram of your test shot and be sure it hasn't run off the scale, or check that you don't see any blinking areas on your rear LCD indicating blown highlights. The bottom row of patches on the Passport's Creative Enhancement Target can help you from getting blown out highlights or blocked up shadows. I can hear someone out there saying "I use a gray card, what do I need a Colorchecker Passport for?" Believe it or not, all gray cards aren't created equal either. In fact when I managed a camera store we carried a couple different brands of gray cards and hanging side by side on the wall there were very visible differences. Even two identical looking gray cards could look quite different to your camera's sensor. Some being recorded as far from neutral. Which again brings us to the advantage of the accuracy, and consistency, of all the X-Rite Colorchecker products. That's why pros have been relying on them for decades.

White Balance
Back to our workflow - next take a customized white balance reading using the 'White Balance Target' panel of the Passport. It is spectrally neutral under various lighting conditions. The difficulty of taking a custom White Balance (WB) all depends on the make and model of your camera. Some, like Canon, make it fairly painless. To take the reading put your camera into its custom WB mode, take a shot of the all white panel in the Passport. The camera should then tell you if its captured the info correctly or not. 

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Related Keywords:color calibration, digital photography, digital imaging, Colorchecker

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