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Revenge of the Munki (another look at the X-Rite ColorMunki, a year later)
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by Ted Dillard, posted Jan 24, 2010 at 3:47PM

I first got hold of the ColorMunki at ver.1, brand new, and ran it through some tests for my blog and for my book, Color Pipeline
 

Let’s just say I was less than impressed. 
 

The ColorMunki was a great effort.  It is a product that tries to break through the Color Management mystique, save the photographer a bit of money, and give us a unit that does it all.  Most photographers desperately need to calibrate their monitors.  Some of them need to build printer profiles, and none of them really want to spend the over-$1000 for a professional system like the X-Rite i1Pro. 
 

We ran a whole array of display calibrators and the story will post here soon, but the one thing I was really interested in doing was to get my hands on the new version of the Munki.  I’d heard it was much better, even in the very first version update, than the one I’d worked with, and it was a product that I wanted to like.  The bottom line?  It builds a great printer profile.  Take a look. 
 

The system uses a little different idea in generating targets and building profiles from them.  Normally you simply print out a standard test target, usually 2 pages, and then go to the “read the target” phase.  Sit down with a cup of coffee and read the strips.  It builds a profile. 
 

The Munki starts with one page of very limited colors, making it a really fast read, and then builds a second page based on what the first page looks like.  This is page one. 
 


 

Then it thinks… 
 


 

And prints page two. 
 


 

Supposedly, the reason it does this is to save time measuring out patches.  I didn’t time it out, but I doubt it saves time.  It does save effort, but honestly, reading patches is somewhat akin to agitating film, back in the day.  It’s almost soothing…  repetitive, mindless, hard to mess up. 
 

I suspect that this is a system that was developed for the HP Z series printers, with their on-board X-Rite profiling systems.  Naturally, that’s built to be automated (the printer is doing the reading) and pretty effective.  The targets look the same.  The results were, at the time that I tested both the Munki and the HP Z3100, equally unimpressive. 
 

I’m here to tell you, though, that these profiles I built today are very, very good.  I ran the Munki, then profiled the same paper/printer with the big X-Rite i1 Pro system we use for our benchmark testing.  Here’s what they look like, compared in ColorThink.  The i1Pro profile is shown in true colors, the Munki in white.  They’re almost identical. 
 


 

Just for reference, here’s the comparison of the i1Pro and the supplied Epson profile for the same paper.  The Epson profile shows a shift lighter, typical of a more “pretty” oriented profile than a more accurate profile, and the prints show that.  The Epson prints are a little brighter and more saturated, but not true.
 


 

All that said, the Munki remains with some fairly obnoxious installation and operation obstacles.  It needs a restart, and installs some automatic controls automatically.  You can, in OSX at least, disable and uninstall them, but it would be real nice if X-Rite gave me the choice to opt out of some of the installation and operation options.  This is just annoying, and vaguely insulting to an experienced (and cantankerous) user.  It’s a clear “you must do it the MUNKI way!” that I can live without, thank you very much. 
 

Then, when you start the package, it automatically does an update check.  It tells you there’s an update without giving you details on the size or specifics, and then takes you to a site.  The update I needed was 192mb.  Sorry guys, but there are some people in the world who do not have FIOS or Broadband, and a 190+ download is just impossible.  It’s just, well, rude.
 

An hour later, I had the install complete. Then, of course, if I didn’t want the Munki to take over my Color Management, I needed to uninstall everything.  What with the restart needed, that was another 15 minutes or so. 
 

This kind of thing just makes me cranky. 
 

Ultimately, it has certainly been improved.  At around $400, I’d give it a thumbs-up for someone who thinks they may want to run some printer profiles on occasion, and wants to toy around with learning more about Color Management.  I think, though, for most photographers, I’d rather see you just picking up a nice display calibrator for $150 and maybe putting the extra money towards saving up for a better display…  That seems to me to be a Color Management budget well spent. 
 

Still, let’s not forget about the projector calibrator feature and the Digital Pouch add-on.  Useful stuff, stuff we could live without, but in general a thumbs-up, and a much improved product.