Points in Focus Photography

LED and Wide Gamut Displays and the Spyder 3

If you’re still using an old Spyder 3 LT or Pro, or really any colorimeter of that age or older, and are looking at upgrading to new wide gamut or LED backlit displays, the odds are good your trusty old colorimeter won’t do so good.

The simple reality is that the Spyder3 was designed at a time when wide gamut cold-cathode fluorescent (CCFL) and LED backlights simply weren’t considerations. Today those two technologies are becoming increasingly prevalent in displays us as photographers are likely to encounter in looking at new dispalys

My Spyder 3 met the end of its utility almost a year ago when I replaced my aging and dying Dell 2408WPF—a fairly standard gamut PVA display—with an NED PA241W-BK—a SpectraView series wide gamut IPS displays. The Spyder3 simply couldn’t calibrate and profile the display properly.

The limitations were reconfirmed to me again just recently, when I went to help a friend setup a new LED backlit standard gamut PVA panel as a secondary display on his machine. He’s also a Spyder 3 user, as he’s had good success with Spyder products for years with his older CCFL displays. However, getting a good profile out of this LED backlit display has been next to impossible.

So what’s the deal?

Well a big part of this comes down to how the color calibration hardware is built. The relatively inexpensive colorimeters use multiple color filters over more or less standard photo detectors to determine what color they’re actually looking at. Since the hardware/software knows the pass-bands for the various color filters, it can compute what the actual color it’s being shown is based on the response of the various detectors.

For that to work right, the hardware and software have to be designed with the perspective light sources and gamuts in mind. Meaning they had to plan on the spectral output of a wide-gamut CCFL or LED backlight when they were building the hardware.

This is where the Spyder 3 falls down. Back in the 2007 when the Spyder 3 was coming to market, wide gamut CCFLs were the preview of only the most expensive professional displays, and LED backlights weren’t all that common. Of course, in the intervening years, LED backlights have become much more prevalent, and wide gamut CCFLs are in more and more mid-tier photographer displays.

The moral of the story here is simple, if you’re looking to replace or upgrade your displays in the current market (2013), and are considering any of the wide gamut IPS or LED backlit LCD displays, and are still using a Spyder 3 LT or Spyder 3 Pro, you should probably plan on upgrading that as well.

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