First, I was suppose to receive this yesterday but for some reason UPS screwed up my 1-day shipping option [using my girlfriend's Amazon Prime account]. I ended up getting it on the 2nd day but still paid $3.99 for the expedited shipping. Sigh.
Anyways, this thing could have been handy today since I had a quick photoshoot with a classmate [more on that in the next post]. Basically, X-Rite, known for its color calibration software and hardware released their ColorChecker color swatch but in a more portable solution.
Once open, the heavy duty "Passport" is ready to be taken out and used. There's a brief explanation on the left side on what kind of sides the Passport contains: Creative Enhancement Target, Color Target, and a White Balance Target.
Detailed shot of the descriptive panels of the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport.
The Passport itself is constructed very well as it as if its expected to be tossed in a camera bag and face heavy weather. But I am glad it is since I feel this product will be integrated in my shooting process and will definitely have it tossed it around in the bag to an assistant and back. It's the size of a Nintendo DS gaming console/Moleskine Pocket Journal [whichever you can relate to]. When open, it is a bit tough but that's the point: The hinges move in increments so that you can stand it on its own [as pictured] if you don't have an assistant on hand to hold it up.
Pictured above is the Creative Enhancement and Color Target.
On the very back is a whole thing on quality guaranteed and has you date it so that you can replace it when it gets worn out [I forget but I think they say in a couple of years? I forget and too lazy to take it out from my equipment case. Sorry.]
Here is the White Balance Target and it is confirmed: in 2 years you're suppose to replace it from initial use.
X-Rite packaged the Passport with its own lanyard and it isn't too heavy to wear around your neck. Although I would have preferred a black lanyard to not only match the Passport but so that it doesn't get or look dirty from use.
It also comes with the software disc containing the ColorChecker Passport software as both a stand alone desktop application and Lightroom Plug in for Mac/PC.
It is pretty straight forward as the instructions go: make sure you shoot with your X-Rite ColorChecker Passport in every situation you change lighting [in RAW]. Import that to Lightroom [or convert the reference shot into DNG file, Adobe's standard RAW file] to ColorChecker Passport and it will ideally recognize the swatches and make a custom profile for that point of time in the photoshoot. From there, you just have to apply that custom profile to all images with that lighting situation. Repeat when the lighting situation changes.
Below are samples with and without it. If you haven't noticed already, the first picture in this entry has already used the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. Although it is meant for RAW files, I actually used it with the JPEGs from my point and shoot Sony Cybershot W120 digital camera. Although it's not intended for JPEGs, I'm glad that is works as good!
If I didn't calibrate my pictures post production, this is what it would look like: yellow cast due to the table and the fluorescent lamp. Yuck!
I used the White Balance correction tool in Adobe Lightroom and choose the first calibration swatch on the top part of the Passport for Portraits [neutral swatch].
Again, picture without calibrating the white balance.
And again, using the White Balance tool in Lightroom selecting the White Balance Target to get a corrected shot fixed in an instant!
SO: Is it worth it?
If you understand the importance of color corrected images, YES. If you have other means of getting your corrected white balance--that white lens cap, ExpoDisc, a piece of white paper, WhiBal [which I actually own and had to use today for my shoot]--then see first if you have a reason to upgrade and use an actual color swatch.
For me, I've used the WhiBal although not extensively, but will admit it works [as I used it today]. I do have a yearning to achieve more accurate color and really present images accurately. In some situations, it might change since I'll do some post production on some but in general, I'd like to keep this type of workflow.
Even just using this for a bit with my pocket camera you can already see a drastic improvement in image quality. If these images gained something from using it, imagine an important shoot! Truly you'll want to put forth the best looking pictures and files to that client.
Why not just set White Balance in camera?
Ideally yes you should! But when you're shooting RAW, you'll have to do that all over again because you get full control of your images and set your White Balance again (at least with my Sony RAW files). So if you don't have a reference point, you'll be guessing on your images and will have inconsistent colors in your images. And yes, that has happen to me in some occasions where I just had to guesstimate a "right" white color balance.
Why not just use anything white?
You actually could but I personally wouldn't [for a corrected white balance]. For example, when I really had to, I used a white piece of paper but that piece of paper isn't neutral. I got an OK white balance but if I were to use that across a series of images it would look horrible! Having something that is neutral is important for consistent white balance corrected images.
So you said you have the WhiBal, so why get this?
Because I'm always into the latest and greatest.
Ok that's partly true but for me, the WhiBal isn't as flexible as the ColorChecker Passport. The WhiBal is really meant for well, white balance. I have the credit card sized version and it's lightweight, extremely portable and useful.
The Passport allows me to white balance images in addition to warm and cool portraits, landscapes, and color correct images correctly--not just white balance basically. For me, it provides a complete color evaluation tool to get the most out of your digital sensor.
In Conclusion I personally will be going to like using this tool in my shoots as it gives me a sense of greater control of my images. Besides looking cool using one of course. For its price (a cool $99), any tool is far worth its MSRP value if you need it, utilize it, and ultimately gain from it.
For me, it's all of the above.