Review (July 2003) - Sencore
Display calibration has become an important part of today's serious home theater enthusiast. Accurate colors and properly adjusted black and white levels are the only way a display can produce the best image possible. Unfortunately, virtually all displays produced by today's manufacturers are not adjusted properly for reasons that might surprise you. Selling a product is more than just displaying an accurate image. These displays must compete with other units on the showroom floors and studies have shown that a brighter and cooler picture sells more than an accurate one. The downside is that not only is the picture adjusted incorrectly, but the overdriven guns will most likely result in a shorter tube life and non-linear operation over the necessary brightness levels. While many of these displays look acceptable to the untrained eye, many consumers are beginning to realize the importance of a properly adjusted display once they see the increased shadow detail and color accuracy of a calibrated picture. Flesh tones come alive and movies have a film-like quality not seen with most out-of-the-box products. Having calibrated dozens of displays from many different manufacturers, I can safely say that today's videophiles demand an accurate picture and are willing to pay calibrators for it. This focus on display accuracy is primarily due to an organization called the Imaging Science Foundation, better known as ISF.
The ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) was formed to educate manufacturers, sales staff, installers and end-users about the importance of properly calibrated displays. Their mission has been very successful as they have worked their way into all of the major home theater publications. They conduct periodic courses in conjunction with Sencore, certifying the attendees upon successful completion of an exit exam. Information covered in this 2-day course is a must for anyone serious about home theater.
While many of the adjustments can be made manually using the calibrator's eyes, there are those adjustments that require special test instruments to accurately read the displays color characteristics. This is where Sencore's color analyzers have been so useful to us over the past couple of years. Sencore Electronics has been around for decades making affordable test equipment for the service industry and has recently started producing equipment for those working in the audio and home theater calibration market. We reviewed their CP288 ColorPro Color Analyzer a while back and were very impressed with the performance and ease of use. The problem with the CP288 is that while it accurately measures CRT displays, it cannot accurately read many of the new display technologies such as Plasma, LCD, D-ILA and DLP. Sencore's new CP5000 is the latest ColorPro Color Analyzer that is capable of reading any of the display technologies currently on the market. As with the CP288 ColorPro, the latest CP5000 ColorPro All-Display Color Analyzer is also an ISF certified product. The new CP5000 includes two separate pods for measuring light output, each optimized for particular technologies. Both pods interface to the PC via USB connections (RS-232 serial interfaces are also available). The CP5000 ColorPro III pod is used for measuring CRT, Plasma, D-ILA and DLP technologies, while the ColorPro IV is specially designed with four light tubes to accurately read both luminance and chromaticity of LCD displays. The CP5000 ColorPro software automatically detects the type of pod connected and displays this information at the bottom of the screen.
The CP5000 comes in a very nice compact metal case with padded cutouts for all the included hardware. The lid also has pockets to hold CDs, papers and pens, all of which come in handy during a service call. As an owner of the CP288, this case immediately made me envy the owners of the new CP5000. The earlier CP288 didn't have such a case, so Sencore must be listening to their customers when they designed this new color analyzer system. Besides the two color sensor pods, Sencore includes the CH51a ColorPro pod holder used in conjunction with a tripod to hold the pod against a display or projected image. A 10 foot USB extension cable is also provided and was useful for us when we took measurements.
The CP5000 pods have a different physical design than the earlier CP288 pods. Instead of one large suction cup, the CP5000 pods have 30 small suction cups similar to octopus tentacles. This newer design works much better than the previous design and is easier to remove from the screen surface. The software has also been improved from the version provided with the CP288. The main ColorPro Window has all of the information needed to calibrate a display. The user can select the luminance (Y) readings in foot-lamberts or nits. Measurement Update/Averaging is adjustable using a slider control. CIE coordinates (xy) are also displayed along with luminance (Y) and color temperature. Another apparent improvement made to this latest software is the main window now contains both Delta RGB and CIE Chromaticity data without having to launch separate windows for each of them. The user still has the option to display separate windows, but it's no longer required. The User Calibration screen allows the operator to calibrate a CP5000 sensor to a reference device.
The CIE Chromaticity Diagram is a very useful chart while doing real-time adjustments to the display's color temperature controls. The calibrator can visually see the affects of each of the red, green and blue controls on the target temperature. The Delta RGB chart displays the red, green and blue levels real-time. This chart allows the calibrator to set a reference and use the remaining two colors to adjust the correct color temperature. For example, if the manufacturer supplies adjustments for the red and blue drives, but not for green, then the calibrator can reference green and visually watch the red and blue levels until they are dialed in correctly. The concept is quite simple once you get use to it.
All of our test patterns were generated by the Sencore VP300 Video Generator. The VP300 is a full featured video pattern generator capable of a wide range of video signals including high-definition (1080i, 720p), standard definition (480p), VESA and NTSC (s-video and composite). Both RGB and component video formats are supported. Using the windowed IRE levels generated by the VP300, we measured each level and stored them into the extended Display Calibration Report window specified by ISF. The data recorded is then used to generate the report file for the customer. Each and every customer is easily accessed using this window by simply using scrolling through the "Select Customer" buttons.
The first page of the report contains both the before and after color temperatures at the sampled IRE levels. Also included are the data points on the chromaticity chart with the ideal target being shown with the outlined box. This helps the customer see the performance improvements made on their display with the calibration. The second page plots color temperature versus IRE levels and indicate the peak luminance (Y) reading at 100 IRE. The Color Error versus IRE level (delta Exy) is also shown on this page. Finally, the third page of the report plots the Luminance versus IRE level with the calculated gamma at the bottom of the page. All this information is important and this latest version of the ColorPro software documents the data well. The data collected is stored into a database that can be read using Microsoft Access and edited if needed.
The refinements made to the CP5000
All-Display Color Analyzer System are worth noting, especially if you
have used any of their earlier well designed ColorPro products like we
have. The package has certainly improved with a professional carrying
case. Priced at $4995, the CP5000 is certainly not for the general user.
However, professional calibrators will find the ease of use and performance
right on track. Sencore's reputation in the test equipment business is
excellent and their technical staff has always been responsive and experienced.
If you are an ISF calibrator, there's a reason why ISF has certified these
products. Added to this is Sencore's 10-day free trial period which helps
in deciding if the product meets your application needs. If the Sencore
CP5000 fits your budget, you can't go wrong by trying it out.
Display #1: SharpVision™
XV-Z10000U High-Definition DLP™ Projector (ISF calibrated)
|Review - At a glance|
Sencore CP5000 All Display Color Analyzer
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