This article is almost 4 years old. Please read Keith article,recently updated, which covers the EZ targets that provide self analyzing reading to reduce bad reads.
The self analyzing feature has some serious limitations. A dual measurement method and checking for consistency using a delta E spreadsheet in Excel is wise. Please read on...Here goes:
I almost fear to wade into this spyderprint 3 discussion, because both good and bad experiences with the Datacolor abound for very real reasons. There's some problems with Colormunki as well, so if anyone is truly serious about routinely building custom profiles, I'd suggest saving some more pennies and stepping up to better hardware/software than either Colormunki for Datacolor Spyderprint 3.
Let me get Colormunki out of the way first, and I base my conclusion solely on a basic understanding that Colormunki requires iterative targets (i.e, print one target, measure, then print a second target with values that are based on the acquired readings of the first target, then measure again). I have not used a Colomunki personally, so maybe there's away around this iterative issue, but here's the problem with it. IMHO, the ColorMunki is perfectly fine for pigmented ink prints that have very little short and long term drift, but ALL dye-based inkjet prints need days (and at moderate to high humidity levels) in order to settle down into sufficiently stable colors for an accurate system profile. This whole short term drift issue with dyes isn't just a Colormunki problem. It is also one of the big challenges I face when attempting light fade experiments on dye-based print samples. One has to let the samples "cure" thoroughly prior to testing in order to get something resembling a stable T=0 colorimetric baseline for the sample. You can force a dye-based print faster into reasonable color stability by incubating the print in a high humidity chamber (pretty easy to make), but an overnight incubation is still going to pose practical problems for an iterative profiling process. That said, "good is good enough" color accuracy (within average delta E of 4 or 5, worst fliers in vivid colors at 6-15) may be fine for some, but I think one could argue folks who are happy with this level of dye-based print performance may also be very happy with generic profiles and have no need for custom profiling.
The spyderprint3 profiling process relies on one print session to make the targets, not two, so it deals with that drift issue in the same way as other higher end profiling packages like Eye-one, iSis, etc. You let the target dry for those several days to improve accuracy, then make the profile. The Datacolor spectrocolorimeter or whatever you want to call it is indeed reasonably accurate for its price point. I found it to agree with my venerable Gretag Spectrolinos on average within delta E = 2, better than 1 on neutrals except for high OBA content media whitepoint (which are an agreement problem with many high end spectros as well), and off in some of the vivid green values as much as delta E= 6. But that kind of accuracy is fair enough to not be the source of any serious profiling error. Humans don't pick out vivid color delta E= 6 color errors very easily when those vivid colors are residing within complex color fields (i.e., most full color photographic prints). The real problem/challenge with Spyderprint 3 is, IMHO, almost entirely OPERATOR ERROR when trying to achieve the measuring accuracy that the unit is truly capable of. It's not trivial to measure a few hundred patches by hand without making one or two mistakes, especially in strip reader mode, but those couple of bad measurements can really screw up profile quality. The SpyderPrint strip reading mode uses a primitive timing method to take the patch readings. The unit senses the pulse from the white separation lines between patches, but then counts to 0.5 seconds (as I recall) and then reads the patch. If you are way off on your timing (look at the "correct traveling speed" in the datacolor video) you will read the wrong patch and the unit's self analysing feature will catch it. This feature seems to be based on an expectation of what the nominal color should be, red, say for example, and if it doesn't read something crudely within a red hue for a colorimetric value it then flags the patch. However, if you are close to the right speed but a little too slow, the instrument's aperture can accidentally integrate a little of the prior patch and or white separator line into the reading. Likewise, if you go too fast, the unit's aperture may read with the aperture straddling the adjacent following patch and/or separator line. Depending on how good or bad the operator's chosen travel speed is, the unit's read error will go up, but not so much as to flag the self analyzing software check all the time. If you think about it that, this self-check feature has to have wide error limits because if one knew exactly what color to expect out of the printer, one wouldn't even need to profile the printer!!!
So, I solved the data color OPERATOR ERROR problem and got consistently repeatable results with SpyderPrint3 by some operator practice and more importantly by measuring the target twice, using the Datacolor softwares import/export text file feature to output a text file readable in Excel, and then using a spreadsheet (email me at aardenburg imaging if you want a copy of it) to make a delta E comparison of the two sets of measurements. The spreadsheet flags the unwanted errors, I remeasure those patches, added the corrected values in the spreadsheet, let the spreadsheet output a corrected and averaged
text file that the datacolor software will then import to build a very good profile. On this point of dual measurements and before too many folks cry foul, especially those who think the patch measuring is wickedly time consuming, I can only say many years of using color instrumentation have taught me that good data takes time to collect and VERIFY. Even with an EyeOne or Spectrolino, I use this completely independent dual measurement technique. And in routine light fade testing at AaI&A, we make several thousand measurements each month, and we do catch the occasional error!... an error that would sometimes screw up the profiling tone curves. For these reasons, I think being somewhat anal retentive about one's target measurement is a good idea no matter what instrument you choose.
The last piece of advice I've got for SpyderPrint 3 owners or potential owners, is that compared to a true spectrophotometer, the SpyderPrint 3 unit takes single patch readings very fast, not nearly the 1.5-2 seconds I need for an EyeOne or Spectrolino measurement time. The Spyder3 is so fast in single patch mode, expecially if you move it with one hand and use the computer keyboard to "click" the measurement with your other hand, such that I finally came to the personal conclusion that the strip mode feature was a "nice in concept" but largely irrelevant. I could move faster and with more accuracy in single patch reading mode with the SP3. Once you accommodate the instrument's measuring idiosynchracies, the data color profiling software is really quite nice and reasonably full featured.
Oh yeah, and one more thing. The Datacolor profiling engine does still suffer from the classic LAB color model "blue turns purple" problem which other profiling packages have learned to overcome by fudge factors in the perceptual rendering mapping. Nonetheless, you see this blue-purple bias in the softproof, and it's not so hard to correct if you are working in a monitor calibrated viewing environment, so again, for the price paid, I was very personally satisfied with the Datacolor Kit. It does accomplish what none of us reading this forum should lose sight of, ie., it gives the end-user a much more calibrated printing environment than one is going to achieve relying solely on canned profiles from media manufacturers. Is it as good as a high end profiling hardware/software package? Well, no, so as a stated at the beginning, if you are a die-hard printmaker spending lots of money on printers, inks, and media (like me) you will want to forego both Colormunki and Datacolor and move to higher end profiling kit.