Spyder 3 Express Review

4.0
January 14, 2010 | Jon Canfield | Accessory Reviews |

Introduction

Tired of your prints not matching what's shown on your monitor? Want to ensure that your online images are accurate too? Spyder 3 Express is a new entry-level monitor calibration device from Datacolor, costing just $89 / £85, designed specifically to calibrate your LCD screen or laptop. Jon Canfield finds out if the Spyder 3 Express deserves a place in your photography workflow.

Some of us are controls freaks - we want total control over what adjustments are made to our systems, and to have the ability to tweak each setting until we have what we feel is the perfect solution. Others are more practical, and just want good results with a minimum amount of time or effort. Which approach is right? Both of course, and that's why it's nice to have options.

If you're the “get it done quickly” type, the Spyder 3 Express is the way to go. Inexpensive and reliable, you don't need to know any of the how or why involved with color calibration. The Spyder 3 Express is the latest incarnation of Datacolor's monitor calibration hardware. It does one thing - calibrate your display, and does it well.

Ease of Use

The Spyder 3 Express is the most basic of the monitor calibration choices offered by Datacolor. Also available is the Spyder 3 Pro, and Spyder 3 Elite (the Elite is included with the Studio SR package). A significant upgrade from the previous Spyder 2, the new model is both faster at calibrating and more accurate. At only $89 it's a cost effective way to improve your imaging quality, particularly if you print or share images online - you know in advance what the image will look like.

Using the Spyder 3 Express really couldn't be easier. Install the software on your Windows or Mac system, and connect the Spyder 3 by plugging in the device to an available USB port. I used Windows 7 64-bit for this review, but the process is the same on both operating systems. The installer will place a shortcut onto the task bar (Windows) or menu bar (Mac), making it easy to launch and use the software.

The first screen (Figure 1) asks you to verify a few options, including monitor warm-up time (ideally, you should have your monitor on for at least 1/2 hour to stabilize prior to calibrating the display), the lighting conditions (try to calibrate in the lighting conditions you normally work in), and whether the monitor settings have been set appropriately.

Spyder3 Express Figure 1

The only other decision you need to make is selecting the appropriate monitor type - LCD/Laptop or CRT (Figure 2). Once you click next, the software will show you where to place the Spyder 3 on the screen (Figure 3), and then begin the measuring process (Figure 4). Measuring the color patches takes about five minutes - faster than the previous version by about 30%.

Spyder3 Express Figure 2

Spyder3 Express Figure 3

Spyder3 Express Figure 4

Although you don't have options for different settings during the calibration, the Spyder 3 Express uses the standard settings for photography work - a Gamma of 2.2 with a white point of 6500K. These will give you the best results when editing digital photos.

Once completed, the software shows you a screen with the adjusted settings. By clicking on the Switch button, you can quickly compare the before and after settings. I calibrated my display initially with a Spyder 2 to see how much difference there was between the two devices. As you can see in Figures 5 and 6, the Spyder 3 rendered a warmer tone with better shadow detail than the older device.

Spyder3 Express Figure 5

Spyder3 Express Figure 6

Because monitors change over time, just calibrating and forgetting isn't the best way to ensure consistent results. Spyder 3 Express helps here with a automatic recalibration. Selecting Preferences from the software (Figure 7) will let you set how often you should be reminded to recalibrate your display.

Spyder3 Express Figure 7

Conclusion

So, you might be wondering, if the Spyder 3 Express does such a good job, why would I want to spend more for the Pro or Elite models. Along with those tweaking comments made earlier, the more advanced models add the ability to calibrate multiple displays and perform ambient light measurements that will automatically adjust your display when changes in lighting are detected. For many people, the extra features in the more expensive packages will be unused. And, since cost is almost always a factor, especially these days, why pay for it if you don't need it?

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3
Ease-of-use 5
Value for money 5

Entry Tags

review, monitor, calibration, colour, color, display, express, Datacolor, spyder3, spyder 3, Spyder 3 Express Review

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Your Comments

23 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Mark

Ponder this…“If you share your images online,” how does the other person viewing the images on their computer know if the color is correct if his monitor isn’t calibrated. Just a thought.

12:14 am - Friday, January 15, 2010

#2 Doyle

That has always been an evident problem. Mostly the colour calibration is really just for yourself, like the article said those with the need to “control”. People don’t really question whether or not a picture is colour corrected.  Only in the sense that once you start contacting clients, you might want to make sure the display is also calibrated on their side. Y’know where colour is regarded a more important factor?

Most avid and enthusiasts photographers/computer are more then happy with the colours on their display. Honestly displays come with a fairly good pre-set calibration obviously. Colours show up as the appropriate colours (although not exact it’s good enough for most). That said, you don’t necessarily have to fork out $80+ for the greatest in colours.

There’s a program called Calibrize (http://www.calibrize.com/) that will guide users to “correctly” calibrate their monitors. Of course this is all subjective to the persons’ judgment it is a fairly accurate and reliable means of calibration.

By no means it is not a complete replacement, but those limited in the budget department might want to consider it of some use.

1:23 am - Friday, January 15, 2010

#3 Fernando

Very exiting.
Great post.

Please visit our new studio blog and stock library websites

Distil Ennui Photography Studio Blog http://www.blog.DistilEnnui.com

Stock Images & Canvas Prints http://www.AlexanderJamesStockPhotography.com

11:49 am - Friday, January 15, 2010

#4 memory cards

The Spyder3Express is quick and easy to use and you’ll be surprised by the results you get, what you though was good colors probably isn’t and until you calibrate the monitor you’ll never know.

I can easily recommended this product to anyone looking to really see the true colors of what you’re looking at. We all take pictures so why not have them look like they should on our computers? or why not have our games and movies look like they relly should, especially since High Definition content is so widely available.

2:55 pm - Saturday, January 16, 2010

#5 Emmett

Can anyone tell me how this compares to the more expensive profilers (eye one) is there much of a difference at all?

11:23 am - Thursday, January 21, 2010

#6 Greg Scott

I recently purchased a lED monitor and need to know if this product will work to calibrate? Please let me know if you have expierence with this..

6:56 pm - Monday, February 1, 2010

#7 Neville

What I don’t understand is why the colour I have ordered the product above and eagerly waiting its arrival. What I don’t understand is why there is a difference when you see photos on (eg) Lightroom, but when you put it on windows 7 slideshow it appears substantially different.

1:57 pm - Tuesday, February 2, 2010

#8 Nancy

Thanks alot your post really helped. I just upgraded to windows 7 and spyder2 isn’t compatible with windows 7. Very helpful and informative. Thanks again.

11:40 pm - Saturday, February 27, 2010

#9 mei

i have a question regarding the single monitor calibration. i plan to upgrade my laptop soon. does this mean that i’ll have to buy another calibrator for it?

4:03 pm - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

#10 Neville

I have a laptop a year old and used the Spyder3.
I was surprised (and relieved) at how much improvement I got. The photos do look noticeably better but it has meant going through them and adjusting the white balance on them. It doesn’t take too long (using a program like Lightroom that allows bulk adjustments) The reason for my white balance being out is I adjusted them to what I saw on the monitor. Definitely worth the money. Regards using a new calibrator. I would be surprised if you had to, just contact them directly and ask re the license.

3:14 am - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

#11 Buzzby

Apart form the colour the other extremely important issue which you fail to mention is the darkness.  this I undertsand is addresses in the elite models BUT NOT THE EXOPRESS.

Is this model is useless?

3:36 pm - Monday, March 15, 2010

#12 Diane

I just installed my Spyder 3 express.  After installing I went back to my monitor and changed some settings (Directions were to put monitor settings to default and I didn’t have an option for that)
Now, should I recalibrate?  How do I recalibrate?

7:34 pm - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

#13 Apratim Saha

I just installed Spyder3 Express. Need to know one thing that as the instructions said that I must keep my monitor setup as default I kept my Samsung TFT SynsMaster 2033 in default but in default the brightness became to 100 ! Should I keep the brightness as 100 ?

10:14 am - Monday, April 25, 2011

#14 Youareretards

Saha, read the post properly. It states that you set brightness to a comfortable level.

Buzzby, learn English.

Fernando, stop spamming.

7:59 am - Saturday, May 14, 2011

#15 Sheri

I just got the Spyder 3 Express today.  I have installed and tried to run it twice.  Both times, it gets to the “measuring” portion, runs for at least an hour, and only makes a fraction of progress.  I cancelled it both times because it seems like maybe it was just locked up.  It states above that this should only take about five minutes.  What do you suppose could be my problem?  My monitor is only about six months old, so compatibility shouldn’t be an issue.

6:06 am - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#16 Sheri

It’s me again.  I’ve restarted my computer twice and tried running this again.  Out of almost 6” worth of “progress” bar, it makes it only 1/8” and never gets any further.  I am trying to calibrate an LG FLATRON E2340V.  I’m getting so frustrated!  Can anyone offer any suggestions?

11:15 pm - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#17 juan dela cruz

Reading the comments, I find one thing missing on why you want your monitor calibrated—editing photos for printing.  For sure, it will not guarantee the same color—but it will be close for most of the time.

5:14 pm - Wednesday, June 1, 2011

#18 Paul

what does it mean “multiple monitors”? Why cannot be spyder express used to calibrate multiple monitors? Do they implement a software limitation to only one computer? What about the pro/elite versions? Can they be used for as many computers/monitors as one desires?

11:10 am - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#19 Frik

The monitor on my laptop turns green.
DellXPS L502X
Can someone please help

1:22 pm - Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#20 Michael

I was able to create multiple profiles using Spyder3Express. I have an iMac set up with an external monitor. I set the iMac screen as the “main” monitor and calibrated it. I then saved that profile and renamed it. I then switched back and made my external monitor the “main” monitor and calibrated it. I now have to calibrated monitors. Just because it says you can’t calibrate 2 monitors doesn’t make it true…...just have to find a work around.

7:36 am - Friday, October 28, 2011

#21 Jon

@Frik Is it turning completely green or is it a greenish hue?

my first attempt on a laptop had a really reddish hue.  Just try it again and try not to change light sources/keep it dark/no direct light.  Worked beautifully the 2nd and everytime after

3:48 pm - Friday, October 28, 2011

#22 Brian

Paul- some people attach 2 monitors to the same PC.  If your graphics card has 2 ports, (most built-in displays don’t), you can do this.  The display can show 2 desktops, independent of each other.  You can even move the mouse from one screen to the other, as if they were connected.

I find it indispensible. It allows you to have 2 programs open and visible at the same time, or the toolbars on one side, the photo you’re working on on the other.

Obviously, it is nice to have them both with mathing colour output.

10:39 pm - Friday, November 25, 2011

#23 Sharon

How do you get the calibration from the Spyder to override the monitor’s calibration from the software that comes with it, please? I bought the Spyder 3 a while back, and don’t seem to be able to use it.

12:19 am - Friday, January 20, 2012