Product Review: Datacolor SpyderCube

By Diane Berkenfeld

The Datacolor SpyderCube. From the top note the silver sphere to check specular highlights, 18% gray, white, black and black trap areas.

Earlier this year, Datacolor introduced the SpyderCube RAW calibration device. To use it, you simply place it in the same light as your subject, and take one frame with the SpyderCube. Then continue on with your shoot. The real magic comes during post-production. Using the SpyderCube, you are able to precisely adjust all photos taken under the same lighting conditions. You can use the SpyderCube with either RAW or JPG images, however its best used with RAW image files.

According to Datacolor, the company designed the product using ABS Cycoloy, a hybrid resin that is fade proof and extremely durable, so it will last. The colors are through-pigmented for durability, and carefully formulated for optimal color values.

Capture Phase

To begin, place the SpyderCube in the frame, in the same light that your subject will be photographed in. The SpyderCube doesn’t have to be in focus—and you can either hold it, hang it from the attached loop or put it on a tripod (the base features threads that fit a tripod or monopod). I found it easier to hold the SpyderCube or if I was shooting on a level surface, placing it in the shot. You want to make sure that you can see—and photograph—the specular, white, gray, black and black trap areas.

Let the Magic Begin

No special software is needed. Any RAW conversion software will do. Basically, once you’ve got the shot open with the SpyderCube in it, you correct the white balance and exposure. You can then set a preset and batch process the rest of the images taken under like lighting conditions.

Each feature of the SpyderCube is designed to provide a unique solution to RAW adjustment needs, yet work together to produce precise white balance and overall image adjustment when shooting in RAW. For example, the silver sphere is used to record the catch-light or specular highlights; the White face of the SpyderCube helps define highlights in relation to the catch-light; the Gray face measures color temperature and mid-tones; the Black face defines shadows in relations to the Black Trap; and the Black Trap defines absolute black.

For my review, I used Adobe Lightroom 2, which I normally edit images with; as well as Photoshop’s Camera Raw for review purposes.

The image when first opened in Capture Raw. No changes have been made at this point yet. Set white balance first, then exposure, brightness and black points.

The image when first opened in Capture Raw. No changes have been made at this point yet. Set white balance first, then exposure, brightness and black levels.

To get the white balance, you use the white eyedropper (sometimes called the gray eyedropper), clicking on the lighter gray area. This lighter side represents the primary light source.

After setting the white balance, you then correct the exposure, making sure that none of the color channels are clipped in the histogram.

The next step is adjusting the brightness by checking the RGB values of the lighter gray face. This area is 18% gray, you’re now adjusting the mid-tones.

Lastly, you set the black level. If your RAW converter doesn’t have a black eyedropper, use the black slider. You want to show a clear distinction between the black trap and the surrounding black area.

This is the order that Datacolor suggests you utilize, however I’ve read a number of other reviews suggesting that you may end up with better results if you perform it in this order: white balance, then exposure, then black level, then brightness.

Once the image with the SpyderCube in the frame has been corrected, you then set a custom preset and batch process the rest of the shoot.

(l. to r.) The RAW file before any corrections have been made. The final image with the correct white balance and exposure.

The image at left is Raw, uncorrected. The image at right is the final image.

Results

The SpyderCube works really well. Like I described earlier, it’s meant to allow you to batch process your images in post-production with consistent results. And unlike some of the devices on the market that help you set the white balance before you start shooting, the SpyderCube helps you with your entire exposure, not just the white balance. Another thing I like about it is that the SpyderCube is small enough to throw into a camera bag, or even in a pocket.

Anything that can help give you consistent results from shot to shot is a good thing, and if it’s easy to use, that’s an extra bonus!

For more information or to view video tutorials on using the SpyderCube, check out the Datacolor website at www.datacolor.com.

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Comments

  1. Digital Sports Photography says:

    Great article! I am just starting out in all this and trying to learn more about it – resources like this article are incredibly helpful.

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