Are Low Cost Colorimeters and Spectroradiometers Accurate?

Are You Wasting Time Using Low Cost Colorimeters and Spectroradiometers?

April 4, 2018

Learn about the 'Calibration Conundrum'... can you use low cost colorimeters and spectroradiometers to accurately calibrate your reference display? Or not?


Part 12: Bram Desmet on the ‘Calibration Conundrum’

As a post production professional you want to present your work as accurately as possible. That means your speakers aren’t tiny and tinny and your display is accurate. But equipment doesn’t pay the bills and there’s a strong incentive to not overspend on gear if you don’t have to (Robbie Carman, notwithstanding 🙂 ). And when it comes to buying calibration gear, Mixing Light feels caught between urging you to go out and buy a low cost colorimeter and telling you, “No! Not unless you have a few thousand to help you make that colorimeter accurate.”

As I write this up I’m thinking I’m going to start calling this problem the ‘Calibration Conundrum’. It’s the colorist’s ‘chicken and the egg’ problem: Low cost colorimeters are terrific, if they’re ‘tuned’ to your specific display. But the gear for ‘tuning’ your low cost colorimeter more expensive than your reference display! Hello? Do we see the problem here?

An interview about low cost colorimeters and spectroradiometers

Earlier this year, Robbie and I spent an afternoon interviewing Flander Scientific’s CEO Bram Desmet on a variety of topics. In this interview, I asked Bram his thoughts on this problem. In the video below we discuss:

  • If a spectroradiometer is not expensive, is it any good?
  • The key important features for buying a good spectroradiometer
  • What is FSI’s definition of a measurable significant difference between spectroradiometers?
  • What about inexpensive colorimeters? Are we getting any value from them?
  • The value of having a display-specific matrix applied to your colorimeter
  • How the concept of ‘spectral power distribution of a display’ empowers your low cost colorimeter
  • The effect on display aging when using an offset matrix
  • What is the value of a more expensive colorimeter over an inexpensive colorimeter?
  • The effect of ambient room light when performing calibrations
  • Why you ‘need a plan’ when buying a low cost colorimeter

Related Insights on

We’ve covered many of these topics in various degrees of depth. If you want to dig deeper then here are some of our suggestions:

Questions? Comments?

As always, we love member feedback! Let us know the questions that come to mind as your watch this Insight – or if you want to rant, that’s fine… just keep it civil (this topic has generated some, shall we say, uncivil comments in the past that have been deleted).



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