X-Rite i1 Studio Review : All in One Color Management Kit
Is this X-Rite i1 Studio review on all in one color management for you?
Since the dawn of the digital era, color management was and still is left in the hands of few but competent developers. Expectations are always that your operating system has all the power needed to automatically control all colour applications. Yet this is only partially the responsibility of your system, the rest comes from you the user, and what you are doing with your imagery!
X-Rite has risen to the challenge of making color management affordable and easy to use. This is for both application development and device hardware.
I have read in some reviews users experiences did not have end results they wanted. My x-Rite i1 Studio review can show you the advantages, some reasoning, and with so many options that indeed you get a lot for the investment which will make your color management an easy task, towards fun, with no prior knowledge of what would be impossible with this kit!
Find the answers here in this X-Rite i1 Studio review!
Firstly devices and applications for colour management were destined to professionals in graphics arts, extending to a few courageous experimental pioneering photographers.
Over time fortunately for us end users, colour management fundamentals have become all but coded automatic best guesses removing user input from interfaces without intervention except for those like us who want to have control over our workflow.
Plug and play is a great thing, and a good starting point. Taking a few steps with an X-Rite i1 Studio lets us go way beyond, have custom control on colour management from start to finish including multi-purposing output to various destinations.
Find more information on X-Rite’s site in your language.
Just for information the approximate price is 400€ with tax or 440$ USD before tax.
To answer the question, “is the X-Rite i1 Studio for you”: the first and important determining factor is what level of user intervention do you require?
Second will be your understanding of colour management. The device is certainly capable, yet for example, if you know what M0, M1 data means you need a higher level application, and or devices to accompany you in your colour management tasks.
X-Rite’s i1 Studio is a very powerful polyvalent device combined with amazingly simple to use software to achieve professional level results without years of learning colour management.
The UI or User Interface is ultra pure, simplified for a perfect user experience. All help, recommendations should you need them on the left panel which is by the way variable in size, and contextual for each and every module and step.
If customisation is not a concern, and truth be told for most users the X-Rite i1 Studio has all the controls 98% of users will ever need it is great for individuals. More than that if you are in a school or photo club the small portable device can be lent out to your peers to calibrate their screens, or printers as well. A group purchase then becomes a paltry price to acquire this amount of potential!
There are many Youtube videos out there also help help, even a the help icon direct to X-Rite’s home page for X-Rite i1 Studio
What the X-Rite i1 Studio does well, what it cannot.
The primary function of the X-Rite i1 Studio is measuring colour both emissive (monitors, projectors, scanners, telephone and tablettes) and reflected light prints or other flat surfaces non metallic.
Software designed specifically for the X-Rite i1 Studio with ease of use as a priority based on the same colour motor that powers the high end professional i1 Profiler application. This ingenious approach makes all of its functions exceedingly simple resulting in a fabulous user experience.
To maintain efficient and simplified yet precise workflow certain options are left out. Other X-Rite packages will offer those customisations and options for users needing these options, from a little more costly to quite expensive reserved for retouching houses, printers, labs etc.
What do you need to know to achieve your colour management tasks?
Your X-Rite i1 Studio review shows you how they have jumped through hoops of crimson chromatic fire doing their very best to prevent problems. They are constantly on top of updating software to squash bugs, keep up with system and driver changes, and adding new features.
Being the industry leader also has its advantage of having by far the most information for users available in way of reviews, tutorials, as well as a very well done application resident help right inside i1 Studio.
The X-Rite i1 Studio is delivered withi1 Studio which has all the necessary features for photographers, videographers, and graphists to take charge of their workflow management in a wizard style interface. Considerations for most users needs are the default choices.
The software included as complete as it is does not offer endless customisation or the professional intervention ability of i1 Profiler.
This is the main difference between X-Rite pro level devices and applications, as well as the ability for third party application to make proprietary software using i1 devices example being RIP developers such as GMG, Fiery, etc.
The X-Rite i1 Studio has quite limited third party paring (through SDK kits for developers), although that could change. Luckily my favourite line of the best value high end monitors accepts the X-Rite i1 Studio in Palette Master Elements for all BenQ SW monitors.
That said even though X-Rite i1 Studio software has less user customisation, the results are remarkably precise and on par with i1 Profiler.
Comparing monitor and print profiles between i1 Studio and i1 Profiler is often hard to discern any significant differences.
Why would you opt for the more expensive devices?
Even The X-Rite i1 Display line has features and software that has more range in user customisation. The devices are more specific and can be integrated into third party applications.
The most recent i1 Display Plus is not only blazingly fast but also can profile the insanely bright OLED/QLED monitors up to 2000 nits with precision. Even extremely bright source up to 5000 nits can be calibrated with the X-rite i1 Pro 3 devices! Multiple seat installations are allowed, trending over time, verification, all home to the i1 Pro family with i1 Profiler. Yet the display devices have no integrated calibrated light so only emissive light sources can be measured.
That is where the i1 Studio has its place: one device an easy to use User Interface to do both emissive and reflective measurements and colour management. In this X-Rite i1 Studio Review I hope you find it really does cover all bases.
From capture and acquisition to monitor profiling, and on to printing, or other devices the X-Rite i1 Studio is there for you in a small powerful package at a reasonable price.
The X-Rite i1 Studio is a truly polyvalent device and proprietary application conceived to meet your expectations in color management in almost every use photographers graphic artists and or videographers will need.
The most important is Display profiling. Most types of monitors from basic to high end editing monitors. Projectors as well are covered in the same easy methodology as monitors. With a simple turn of the lens you’ll be profiling monitors and all your screens. You can have 4 monitors on the same computer to profile in the application!
You can by installing a free application iOS or Android* on the App Store, ColorTrue display color corrected images in a calibrated view. The app launches on your device iPhone or iPad, also with the latest update Android devices, and asks you to connect (if it isn’t by default) to your host computer with an i1 instrument attached. Follow through the screens, similar to a normal display calibration.
When finished your ColorTrue profile is uploaded to the cloud and can be used on this or any ColorTrue Aware apps. Amazing if you want your iPhone to look exactly like your calibrated monitor. It is there if you need it, however I do feel not many will use it.
It is a graphic achievement, I am amazed by the UI, they should receive an award sole for this! The results are very precise, if you have need for ultra precise display on a portable device nothing can beat it!
Display and Projector Profiling
Nothing is more important for digital photography than a well calibrated monitor, especially one that has a wide gamut. This is the reason why in first place is the line up of i1 Devices for monitor calibration.
In this X-Rite i1 Studio review you will learn about options in the application. You have two choices for devices, 1 being the X-Rite i1 Display Studio which is similar to the Display Pro, yet comes with the easy to use i1 Studio software. If your workflow is monitor centric and you don’t need to profile prints then you’ll get great results with that package. A little tip: your older devices both ColorMunki Display, and ColorMunki work with X-Rite i1 Studio.
You can simply download the X-Rite i1 Studio software and your older ColorMunki devices will work. I discovered my i1 Display Pro work with this application at the same speed (2X) as usual if i1 Profiler application is running! Probably the device capture is coming from i1 Profiler, yet works in Display and Projector modules in i1 Studio. I haven’t tried an i1 Pro spectrophotometer yet in the print module.
The big advantage of the X-Rite i1 Studio is polyvalence as an all in one device.
Monitor types are most anything you throw at it, yet expect the best results with a recent high quality monitor or display (if built-in).
As with all profiling modules, Display profiling is as easy as it gets, almost automatic.
Your choices and recommendations; (you can have up to 4 monitors on the host computer)
if you have multiple monitors they will be display as named icons. Click on your target display and the application window will move there. X-Rite i1 Studio assumes a default panel type, but you can change this in the drop down if it is incorrect. Strange, I sometimes have no drop downs show under the monitor icons.
You have 3 choices for workflow, Photo, Video, or custom. For most photographers the default which lists D65 at 120cd/m2 and 2.2 gamma is my preferred settings. If you check Custom you can choose from various white points, gamma, and luminosity.
The reason for D65 is this is the defacto standard of web viewing, display, sRGB, Adobe RGB and more. The only other color temperatures for stills images may be D50 or 5500K which is indeed better IF YOUR VIEWING BOOTH has 5000K lights. This is quite specific and the i1 Studio app is there for those who do indeed want to use a different CT. Yet most will stay with D65.
Video, the default is DCI P3 in the drop down, yet you’ll likely want to change that to REC709. You’ll note that each preset has a different luminosity. If it is too dark, choose another or a custom photo setting. Here too Rec 709 is the most common destination video space, which is quite similar to sRGB. Yet you are able to select from the most used video spaces in the drop down. Again the X-Rite i1 Studio has you covered for almost every user out there.
Flare Correct, you can measure the color of reflections off your screen. I am not sure who would find this useful, so just leave it off. Yet that is what X-Rite i1 Studio Review is for; discovery. While you do not have continuous ambient light monitoring or contrast controls as in i1 Profiler, these are frills that few people ever use.
Hit next, you can look at the color chart, but for most users it doesn’t mean anything.
A chart with 118 patches is shown, the Calibration Matrix, if your device is ready or needs to be calibrated first. Follow the diagrams to rotate the i1 sensor direction as shown. Tip: Turn the sensor with your thumb on the flashing light which avoids pressing the measure button.
in X-Rite i1 Studio, you do not have the choice of small medium or large patch sets, not the choice of LUT profiles.
I am a firm believer in matrix profiles which are efficient and fast without problems, and from the constant testing I have done (device prototype testing since 2000) it has been exceptionally rare to find any notable differences. The choice for the 118 sample points with matrix profiles is a valid choice.
Display Hardware set up has choices for ADC which allows the app to adjust contrast, luminosity, and color channels automatically. If checked the other check box for manual controls becomes unchecked. I always recommend whenever possible choose ADC just note your brightness levels on the monitor (user keyboard level) so that you don’t change brightness inadvertently
While here, make sure you turn off auto brightness etc. All of this is explained on the left panel as guidance.
Next page is a full screen color patch displayed to measure contrast, luminosity then progressive color patches all 118 of them. Measurements take around 5 minutes.
The save profile 3rd page has a few options, yet again it could not be simpler. Option, change the name to something simple, like “myiMaci1Studio.
Choose your profile format, usually I think V2 is perfectly fine and has less risk of incompatibility than V4.
If you want the reminder set it to the time delay you like or None. Be aware if you set it to a reminder you will have the X-Rite Tray running in the background, and there is a bug on Mac that launches the Tray every day at 9:30 very annoying.
Click save and you’ll receive a validation, then a before and after window will appear.
There are a lot of choices here none of which influence your color management: the choices here are purely informational.
You can toggle between Icons image/portrait, TRC Curves, or the CIE color model. Curves is useful showing any weird faults, and the image just visual confirmation.
The image panel has lots of choices, even allowing you to enter your own, as shown in the images below.
The process is quite similar to Display profiling.
As before choose your display projector, leave the white point to native. This is because the type of lights in projectors run best uncorrected for white point. Only set your white point to other if you have a very good projector that works with adjustment, typically LED.
Calibrate your i1 Studio as shown.
Pay attention to the rapport distance vs height for placement and correct readings. It is just the same very easy to do and automated.
I don’t have a projector so I just hand held my i1 Studio pointing it at my display.
It will measure the same 118 color patches, at the same speed more or less ( depends on projector luminosity) than a display.
On the 3rd and last page. You rename your profile something useful like MyBenQ-projector and choose a reminder delay or none.
Here is where the X-Rite i1 Studio shines. There is nothing else like it on the market, efficient, pro quality, yet simplified in operation.
Print profiling, offers photographers what they need for print profiling in various forms, by far the most needed traditional rgb, innovative B&W with toning variations, and the possibility of CMYK profiles through RIPs. Completed profiles made with i1 Studio also can be optimised for specific colours and or image derived color preferences.
Color Print Profiling
Coming from a long history in profiling printers, including offset presses, this module is a technical triumph. It is incredibly easy, and fast.
On the left panel you’ll find modules on the home page. Under Printer Calibration somewhat misnamed you have 3 choices Color Print, B/W Print and Optimize Profile.
The most often used will be Color Profiling.
Like in all X-Rite i1 Studio modules, this panel is semi-automated and very easy to configure. If there is a difference is you need to remember the print driver settings used in combination with media, settings, and print driver.
Select your printer in the drop down list. This can also be used as a generic printer for printing from an application like Photoshop. Bring the prints into X-Rite i1 Studio to measure and profile.
The type of printer is easy RGB shown in color dots or CMYK. Please note few, very few printers are made for accepting CMYK images. These are for example high end production Color Laser printers with Postscript engines built in, or if you are printing remotely through a RIP. IT is nice that they have this option yet for most photographers it is way beyond the scope of the target users of X-Rite i1 Studio.
Before selecting Paper size, select your units metric or Imperial, which influences your Paper size choices. You cannot make custom paper sizes directly in X-Rite i1 Studio.
Give the Paper Description a name usually the paper surface type.
You can choose to use a saved out loadable session by checking Data Save Workflow. I recommend always doing this as if anything happens it is easier to come back to. It is “sticky” so it will remember the save data workflow through profiling.
When you create a session the settings are saved, print TIFFs and data. These can be reloaded, remeasured, etc.
Print out the 1st basic chart, let it dry for between 10-60 minutes. The longer the drying time the more sure the colors will be stable.
Calibrate your X-Rite i1 Studio follow the onscreen instructions. Tip: rotate the direction of the sensor with your thumb on the light to avoid taking a false measurement!Another tip: save out your sessions in a folder for future profiles. X-Rite i1 Studio will remember folder directory placement thereafter.
Chart reading & measurement couldn’t be easier. With the device in read mode, the + sign in four corners or light pointing down, lens cover open you start on a paper white anywhere before the first row 1 patch.
I suggest putting one or two pages of the same media under the printed chart. Press the measure button while still on the paper white and hold the button down while smoothly pushing forward from the first to last color patch. Keep going until the light is again on paper white after the last patch.
This can be down very quickly, and should be in a straight line. The nice thing is, if there is too much deviation the application knows you’ve got it wrong and will change the color row box to red. Simply start again exactly the same way as before. Re-read the row, and if it is green, it will advance to the next row. Measure all five rows.
Next X-Rite i1 Studio will generate a second page to print based on the patches with the most deviation. Print out the chart with exactly the same print driver settings as before ( duly noted somewhere) and let it dry for the same as page 1.
Measure page 2 in exactly the same way. Once used to doing this it is extremely rapid and precise. In particular on gloss/semi-gloss photo papers as there is no friction. Save out the session.
Optionally simplify the name, usually adding i1Studio to the end after your printer and paper name is best. Choose Version 4 or 2 your choice. Good practise is V2, save the profile. This profile then will be available in the list for optimisation as it was created with X-Rite i1 Studio.
B&W Print Profiling
This innovative module is the answer to an requested solution for printing monochrome images with less color cast. It is quite unique, and simple to do. See above in color profiling for more detailed explination.
You need to go through the steps as for color profiling, give the media type a name, create a session, calibrate your device, measure the first page.
What I find an oversight is the first page is exactly the same as for color profiling. Redundant printing could have been avoided.
Anyway print he chart, let it dry.
Measure, then forward to the next page. A two page chart will be generated for the maximum deviations on the first measured page.
Again here you may have problems in generating Page 2 2 of 2. I have the page in the saved out session But could not print it, nor print to PDF. It could be a driver fault, but I wanted to say.
Another point very important: Since i1 Studio does not save out the end of the session measured data, when you are on the last page, save out all of the profile type options here. IF you do not you could read the second page onwards yet the drying time could alerted the results. I do think this is something X-Rite should change, saving out of all data sets even if it is hidden so that profiles could be generated again for the measured data sets.
Measure well dried set 2 1/2 and 2/2 after save out the session. This is important as form this data set multiple toning iterations can be made by reloading the session. Next generate the profile with any of the options listed, the most important is Standard BW, which is direct from color images to printer monochrome. You needn’t convert the image to B&W before.
For any already converted B&W images create a None option profile which is made for printing already in greyscale to your printer with this “none” profile.
The other options are Cold, High Contrast, and Sepia tone. Remember these are for printing color images directly without conversion to greyscale with tone variations. I find the Standard B&W and None useful, perhaps High Contrast, yet Cold Tone or Sepia are too coloured for my taste.
This is a conceptual module that has promise, yet will yield wild varying results. Sometimes they can be delightful yet others disastrous.
We have already covered how to print and profile so it would be redundant to duplicate that here.
There is one menu item Optimize Profile, yet there are multiple choices of what type and how you want to try to optic a previously created X-Rite i1 Studio profile.
Firstly choose a profile in the drop down. It has to be a X-Rite i1 Studio created profile, no others will appear in the drop down.
Next you choose either an image based referred patch set from any of your images tiff and jpg will work.
X-Rite i1 Studio will generate a default of 20 patches from the dominant image colors. You can set the slider to a minimum of 8 patches or maximum 30.
Or you can hand measure Spot colors with your X-Rite i1 Studio. Note on the base of the device on the corner nearest the USB port, there are rollers and a sliding toggle tube/rod that allows the spot measure guide to come out or retract. Try not to force the guide plate, always use the little discreet black retractable guide button. Push one way or the other to open or close the guide.
Measure your patches using the guide to show where the lens will take its reading from. add as many patches as you need.
Best to use non metallic patches, something flat and large enough to make a good sample.
Print the generated chart, with the same printer driver settings noted, let it dry, measure the chart after calibrating your device.
Next make sure OPT is included in the naming or simplify as needed, ensuring you know it is the optimised profile. You can choose V4 or V2 it likely won’t be a problem.
I have tried many variations including optimising B&W profiles. My results have been disappointing. If optimising a few patches on color profiles sometimes it works out, but you have to test the OPT profile on graduations like skies where you will or will not find banding due to the optimisation.
B&W optimisation has never worked out.
This module is a super feature to have once again in the ultra complete X-Rite i1 Studio package. The results I get with the included ColorChecker are superb.
For many years it was absent from profiling apps, glad to have it returned.
This module is easy to use, yet has more intervention than all others.
Don’t let that put you off it is purely mechanical, you need only know how to operate your scanner.
After choosing the home page Scanner Profiling you need only select your target type. In the image area some recommendations are provided. You can uncheck Show this window on startup, yet I’d leave it on as you won’t use this module often and may forget!
Scan your chart with no exposure or color correction, save it as an uncompressed tif.
Click the Load button and find your scanned chart tif.
Since the X-Rite i1 Studio comes with the Color Checker Classic 24 you have what you need to not only profile your scanner for reflective scanning but also for creating DNG profiles in X-Rite ColorChecker Passport application!
Some advice however: if you are seriously wanting to have the best control over scanning, you need a scanner driver that allows no control (color correction) . Many times you have options in the driver for Photo, Home, Office, and or advanced. Photo and advanced will be best, or a better scanning application like Silverfast.
The closer the chart represents what you are scanning in way of dyes/colorants/media the better your results will be. So for scanning darkroom prints, a RA4 chart will be best with its accompanied text (txt) file. The same goes for transmissive charts, they should be on a base similar to what you are scanning.
In the help on the left side of the panel there are options where you can acquire these specific charts. I used to have Kodak IT8, Faust charts, Hutchcolor. I no longer have them. I am confident that X-Rite i1 Studio would provide excellent results with any of the charts.
Once you load your chart, an image of the chart will be in the window where you need to position the crop marks to centre the color patches. This can be one of 2 icons, Automatic, manual, the 3rd is erase crop marks.
You can rotate the image if it is easier, although the profile can work in any orientation. The size slider is there to fit to view. Not to worry about the crop mark direction they are in fact pointing to the inside of your cropped area, not tracing the chart crop marks.
Another small fault is the calibration Standard may be marked unknown. Ignore the terminology here.
Once your chart shows the patches are centered in their respective patches you are all set.
Hit next, give the profile an appropriate name Reflective or Transparent, select the ICC version level you need (V2 is usually best).
That is it, apply the profile for the type of scanning while using the same setting used to scan the chart.
Camera Profiling DNG and ICC
The X-Rite i1 Studio review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the powerful ability to profile your cameras. With the included Color Checker Classic Mini it is as easy as shooting the small chart with your subject in the lighting conditions. Bringing the image into Lightroom when the Export preset is installed it will find the corners of the chart rotate if necessary and create a profile directly from automated workflow in Adobe Lightroom.
It actually passes through X-Rite Color Checker Passport application which is a downloadable application included with this i1 Studio, making this package very good value for the price.
I highly recommend proving your cameras with Passport, as it extends your color very precisely to what your sensors are capable of rather than leaving that up to the generic defaults of Adobe, or Capture One.
Since it is only available with the i1 Studio package, yet is not in the interface, I’ll just put a link here to my review on the Passport, which functions the same as the CC mini for DNG and ICC profiles.
For more information on X-Rite’s site here: