X-Rite ColorChecker Passport

This week it's a review of X-Rite's ColorChecker Passport!

Sometimes mixed lighting can be a bit of a mixed bag.  It can be hit and miss, but one thing's for certain, if you're professional you want the best color representation both on screen and in print.  Sure, grey cards do a great job, and most post-processing programs are fantastic at adapting to almost anything you can throw at them, especially in RAW.  So does a product like this have a purpose for how you shoot?  Let's talk about how it works for me.

 
 

Single Sentence Summary

If I had only learned about this thing years ago.

Why I Bought It

Because my time is valuable.  I have a full-time job, I run this side business, I'm working on a degree, I volunteer every week, I have an amazing wife, and two incredible kids, I... you get the picture.  I have better things to do than spend 2-3 minutes every time I start editing a new group of photos trying to get a perfect white balance baseline.  Time adds up quickly. Cutting a corner while simultaneously increasing quality, is a no-brainer.

What I Like

I like not having to click the eyedropper tool onto ties, white shirts, and anything that looks mildly gray(ish) then trusting my gut.  The thing about your eyes is, they adapt pretty dang quickly.  Think about walking out of your house and how you don't even pause to realize how much the colors have changed; the same thing happens with your eyes and photos.  Granted it's not to the same extent because things like the app border tend to act like a consistent baseline.  This thing takes all of the guess out of the equation.  I take a single shot at the beginning of the shoot and I'm good to go.

I also love how it has a grey card so I can start in the right neighbourhood.  I know you're thinking, "but you're just going to use the Lightroom Plugin, why even set a custom balance?"  Simple, I sometimes have to edit at other workstations that aren't mine.  If I'm pressed to rush out a shot of a VIP then at least I'm way ahead of the editing curve.  Don't get me wrong, I've had great success with both the auto white balance in the D810's and D4s' but, for my money, nothing beats setting a custom white balance.

I like how it has a hard shell and it fits comfortably into my pocket without much thought.  It may not be waterproof, but it's solid enough that I'm not likely to damage it, and it's heavy enough that I'm not going to forget it in a pocket and find it in a dryer.

Also, when I hand it to couples to take a shot at the beginning of a shoot they usually tend to laugh and smile about the weird object I've handed them.  Not sure why, but I'm sure there's a pie-chart somewhere proving that this happens the vast majority of the time.  See below:

 
It's honestly some crazy smile magnet.

It's honestly some crazy smile magnet.

 

What I Don't

Here's where I would say that a grey card would do, because it would be the 95% solution.  But I can't even hold that as an argument, because of how much less convenient it has made my grey card by comparison. My smallest grey card is actually MUCH bigger than this, even when it's folded down and packed in it's tiny case.  Plus it's not a big blue pouch that you have to awkwardly bend and zip at the end.

I'll admit, though it's not hard to get the hang of, I don't much like the plugin.  I didn't like how it wasn't bundled with a quick and easy video to watch to show you how to work it for the average Lightroom/Photoshop users.  Sure there are videos online, but some of them are approaching an hour long.  I don't want to wade through a site, or YouTube to find a quick walkthrough.  They bundle a disc, it should be right there for you to watch titled all caps: WATCH THIS.  Y'know?  Anyways, rant over.

For those of you who are looking for such a video, they do package it, and it's on their site.  Click HERE.

That's pretty much it.  It's a pretty perfect product otherwise. 

Bottom Line

Are you going to shoot in many situations where you can't predict the color temperature?  Do you need to have perfect color in prints and display?  Can you think of something better to do than spend 2-3+ minutes adjusting your white balance in post?  Get one.  Time is finite, don't waste any.

Score

9.0/10

I like this one.  I'm not sponsored, and I'm sure there are many other equally efficient similar systems out there, but this one is sleek, small, sturdy, and it's the one I bought.  If it sucked, I'd tell you.  But it doesn't.

 -Wes.