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Review | Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite Monitor Calibrator

Get Accurate Colors Easily with Spyder 3 Elite

Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite 4.0We’ll be looking at the Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite (Version 4.0) this time, a sponsored post by Cathay Photo Singapore, Singapore’s sole distributor of Datacolor products and my recommended camera store to shop in Singapore.

The Spyder 3 Elite is Datacolor’s current top-of-the-line monitor calibrator and I’ll be taking it for a spin this week. Note that this is the latest Version 4.0 software.

Colors in Digital Photography

One of the major nuances of digital photography is color. We no longer have the excuse or reasoning that a we prefer a certain film’s color or looks.

Everyone, particularly in professional industries, expect accurate colors that are based on a pre-defined numerical parameters of what red, blue, or whatever color should be.

We’ve always been somewhat haphazard when it comes to color accuracy in photography before digital came along.

We choose Velvia film for its saturation, Kodakchrome for its dramatic punch, and so forth. Color accuracy seems to be an afterthought for most but the strictest of clients.

When digital photography came around, we now have cameras that we can alter the white balance/color temperature on-the-fly. We said goodbye to color correction filters and relied on in-camera presets and custom white balance settings.

The problem is, we no longer share print images as often as we used to and the computer monitor as well as the online photo gallery became our primary viewing mechanism. We can be as careful as we can be in measuring white balance during capture using tools such as the Datacolor SpyderCheckr, but our computer monitor and printer will still be the primary viewing tools.

Monitor Color Changes

Our computer monitors are rarely calibrated from the factory. In most cases, apart from high-end, made-for-graphic-professionals type of monitors, regular monitors are cranked up to show you high-contrast and high-color saturation images.

You’ll notice that skin tones can differ dramatically when you walk into a computer shop displaying the same image on screen.

Editing and correcting images on an uncalibrated screen is next to useless. That’s why you need a good monitor color calibrator to make sure the colors you see on your screen are 100% accurate.

Spyder 3 Elite to the Rescue

Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite 4.0The Datacolor Spyder 3 Elite is the top-of-the-line monitor calibrator. The main difference between the three models, the Express, the Pro, and the Elite lies in the software package. The hardware calibrator are identical but the adjustments and options available in the Spyder 3 Elite sets it apart and makes it a great value compared to the other two.

All Spyder 3 systems boasts the largest light aperture with 7 color detector engine. With over 16-calibration presets or your own color references, you can adjust all you want to suit your needs!

View Difference Between the Spyder 3 Variants


Spyder 3 Elite Contents

  • Spyder3™ colorimeter
  • Desktop Cradle/Tripod mount
  • Spyder3Elite™ Software CD
  • Screen Cleaning Cloth
  • Quick Start Guide

Spyder 3 Elite Tech Specs

Measurement Device: Datacolor Spyder3™
Ambient Light Sensor (Built In): Yes
Number of Filter/Detector Combination: 7 Filter/Detector Technology
Accuracy (x,y typical): 0.0025
Aperture Size: 27 mm Diameter
Initial Calibration Time: 5 Minutes
Recalibration Time: 2.5 Minutes
Ambient Light Shield: 2 Inches
Mounting Methods: Universal Suction Cup, Universal
Counterweight and Tripod Mount
Desktop Docking Base w/Tripod Mount: Yes
Physical Dimensions: 1.5 in.(D) x 3.5 in.(W) x 4 in.(L)
Computer Connection: USB
Hardware Warranty: One Year

Some of the really, really neat features of the Spyder 3 Elite include:

New Monitor Quality Analyzer 

You can map your monitor into sections to see how consistent your display is from edge-to-edge. As expected, most lower-priced monitors exhibit brighter center spots than the edges, you’ll know EXACTLY by how much your monitor’s performance deteriorates from one corner to another. It’ll also be a good indicator of when you should replace your monitor as well. demanding work

New Display Graph 

You can compare your monitors’ (yes, more than one) against each other in relation to industry standard sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces so you’ll know the limits of your color adjustments in post-production.

New Iterative Gray Balance Option 

Not all gray swatches are the same. The Spyder 3 Elite software gives your the most accurate gray balance available in the market right now.

New Software Brightness Control 

Software-based brightness control is beneficial when working in dimmer environments, particularly iMac users where there are very limited hardware adjustment available on the monitors.

New Automated Brightness Adjustment 

Another ‘made for Apple’ feature, you can make front-panel brightness controls from the Spyder software directly.

Front Projector Calibration Option 

The Spyder 3 Elite allows front projector calibration ensuring your projector-based slideshow presentations are color accurate as well.

Intelligent Ambient light Control 

Automatically adjusts your monitor calibration based on ambient light intensity. Very useful for those who aren’t working in controlled lighting environment.

StudioMatch Assistant 

This features guarantees that all your monitors in the studio (or if you’re simply using multi-screen setup) are properly calibrated and that all the monitors will provide identical output.

Software Installation and Initial Calibration

Instead of long screen caps, I’ve created a video to show you how easy it is to install and use the Spyder 3 Elite system. Note that the actual calibration process takes about 2-3 minutes and the video is accelerated for brevity.

The screen options at the 1:55 – 2:15 mark are not available for the Spyder 3 Express, where the Express defaults to the 6500K, Gamma 2.2 settings.

If you chose the advanced options, you can do all the advanced features mentioned in the previous section such as brightness adjustment, studio match, there are so many options that the video hasn’t shown such as:

  • Unlimited gamma choices, user defined
  • Custom targets (NTSC, PAL/SECAM, Cineon, L-Star)
  • Expert console
  • Custom B/W luminance control
  • Display History Utility
  • Studio Match function
  • Front projector calibration
  • Gamma curve editing
  • L-Star workflow option
  • Custom curves
  • PreciseLight Functions
  • Hi-Bit profiling option

Spyder 3 Elite Results


If you’ve never calibrated your monitor in the past, you’ll find the ‘correct’ color settings to be very different from your usual colors. The most obvious would be the skin tones as well as saturation of the primary colors.

If you print images, you’ll find out how invaluable the Spyder 3 Elite is when you save so much money paper and ink because you don’t need to print as much proofs to check colors.

Accurate colors in less than 5 minutes – what more can you ask for?

How about accurate colors on multiple screens, or even projectors? How about a monitor performance reading tool as well? That makes the Spyder 3 Elite a great value.

It’s important that you calibrate your screens often, I suggest at least once a week or if you’re a professional, every time you work on color-critical photos as ambient light, monitor warm-up, and other factors can shift the perceived colors to a significant degree.

With automatic scheduled calibration, you can just leave the unit plugged in and the software will inform you when it’s time to calibrate your screen. You can set it to daily, weekly, monthly or whatever time frame that fits your requirement.

While the Spyder 3 Express is a good value option for beginners and casual photographers, it is quite limited and the Spyder 3 Elite‘s extensive software package strongly justifies the price difference.

The ability to calibrate multiple monitors as well as projectors are HUGE pluses for the professional, particularly if you’re a wedding or events photographer where you need to display your photos on-the-spot in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy A Spyder 3 Elite Now on Amazon

How many times have you used a projector unit and the photos you KNOW are properly processed end up looking like garbage? With the Spyder 3 Elite’s ability to calibrate projector units, not only will you be certain that your images will be intact, you’ll also reinforce your image as a professional who takes color accuracy seriously.

If you’re out in the market for your first monitor calibration unit, I strongly recommend the Spyder 3 Elite system (particularly the new Version 4.0 software) as the investment will pay for itself over and over again. You’ll be able to calibrate even your home LCD TV and other peripherals with ease.

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