DataColor SpyderCube Review
There are new and innovative photography tools being released recently. One of them is this Cube from DataColor Spyder the three dimensional cube tool for white balance and exposure. DataColor has been busy lately producing different kinds of tools for calibration and measurement both for post-production and pre-production.
The SpyderCube is uniquely shaped like a dice. One side is gray, two sides are a split of gray and white and at the bottom is black face. All the corners are trimmed a bit to prevent you from hurting yourself or your assistant. Those corners are somewhat useful in resting the cube on a surface.
Obviously its made out of plastic, all the surfaces are semi-glossy same texture and finish that we used to see in fast food tables (laminates a.k.a. Formica) that provides a balance of contrast and shade. It is very light and almost the size of an iPad charger or a delicious hopia dice.
SpyderCube can be mounted on a tripod and can also be held or hung with the attached string. The string can’t be removed and you can use it to tie it with your light meter or attach it with the lanyard that came with the package.
This multi-faceted tool is so easy to use; you just need position the hole (Black Trap) towards the camera but make sure that you can view the split gray and white from your shooting angle. It is important that you capture those three sides in order to get the essential measurements later in post.
SpyderCube’s listed features from DataColor’s site:
Chrome Ball to measure catchlight to analyse overexposed areas.
White Faces to define highlights in relation to catchlight.
Spectrally neutral 18% Grey Faces to measure color temperature and midtones in all lighting conditions.
Black Trap to define absolute black.
Black Face to define shadows in relation to black trap.
Let us examine one by one
The Chrome Ball attached on top of the Cube is for overexposure measurement. It is the brightest and shiniest of them all. This can be used for highlight clipping but not for all types of subject.
Highlight is one of the critical things to consider in a photograph. The White Faces makes it easy to see if you have overblown highlights. Having this face on an angle makes it very effective. The three dimensional shape gives you a wide tonal range.
18% Grey Faces, these are the split gray and white I mentioned earlier. It provides a base reference for good exposure and at the same time a correct white balance. Just like the White Face its three dimensional space makes it effective giving a wide tonal range for eyeballing while shooting and eyedropping in post-processing.
The black hole called the Black Trap is at the bottom of one of the Black Faces of the Cube. The hole eliminates any light falling onto the Cube giving you a full black reference. Since it is the darkest, its primary used is for checking shadows.
Black Face is just like the Black Trap. I never got to use this side honestly, its on the opposite side of the Black Trap when I took my reference shots.
This is one of the most important parts of the workflow. First, you need to have the proper angle of the cube in order to get proper clipping measurements. As I mentioned above, the split gray and white should be visible from your shooting angle.
You need to make a measurement from the brightest side of the split gray and white faces because that is where your main light is from.
Second step is to edit in software that has a white balance eyedropper tool, exposure, brightness and black adjustments. Photoshop and even your camera companion software like Canon DPP and Nikon Capture have most of these adjustment tools. But for this review I used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.4 on Mac which is my primary workhorse post-processing software.
Here are the step by step (mini tutorial) on how to properly correct your RAW images using the SpyderCube.
1. Show your Shadow and Highlights clipping
Toggle your shadows and highlights clipping seen with the red circle
2. White Balance correction
Make sure that you measure from the brighter side of the split gray and white face. Take note of the R: G: B: numbers, eyedrop where all of the three are near in values
Adjust the Exposure slider until your highlight (red) clipping is gone. Usually this is going to the negative side.
This step is more of eyeballing the general brightness of the gray sides of the cube.
5. Black Slider
Only an advance software like LR have this black slider, if not try your shadow slider in your curves. Adjust the Black Slider until the Shadow (blue) clipping is gone.
Before and After Comparisons
Taken with studio lighting
ShotWith natural light
Copied the RAW adjustments from the reference photo with the SpyderCube in the shot.
I’m a RAW shooter since I went seriously into photography; I agree that RAW shooting requires extra time finishing your best shot. Since we’ll be putting an effort in processing, it is normal that we need to achieve “perfection”.
The SpyderCube solves a lot of problems when doing accurate adjustments. Its cube shape appearance makes it a one-shot reference tool. I have used a digital gray card before but it is not as versatile as the SpyderCube.
One thing I didn’t find very useful with this product is the Chrome Ball. I think this is highly dependent on the subject you are shooting.
Price maybe one of the deciding factors for some, but for serious photographers the SpyderCube is all worth it especially if you rely on perfecting your RAW processing.
SpyderCube is now available at Aperture Trading and Shutter Master the exclusive distributor of Spyder products for P2,900.00.
PICTURE QUALITY N/A
Package that comes with the SpyderCube