DigitalCameraReview.com
Perfect-Pixs Card Kit from Pixel Place
by Ben Stafford -  3/14/2006

The set of Perfect-Pixs color reference cards provides an easy way to adjust the color on your monitor, adjust your camera, and correct your photos.  Produced by a master printmaker, the cards are printed on high quality, matte finished image board with archival quality inks.  In this review, we'll take a look at the Perfect-Pixs Card Kit (from Pixel Place) that includes three cards to calibrate your display and correct your images.

The Perfect-Pixs Card Kit includes three cards.  A custom white balance card helps you set the white balance on cameras that have the ability to set custom white balance.  The Zone Card provides an 11 zone gray-scale bar, from full 100% black to 100% white in 10% increments.  The gray scale is also available on this card as a smooth gradient.  The Patches Card provides patches of white, black, 50% gray, 6 colored patches of red, green, blue, magenta, cyan and yellow; and 6 color scales at gradations of 10% from 0-100%.

Also included with the cards is a CD that contains digital images of the cards, documentation, and instructions on how to get and use some gamma adjustment tools to adjust your display settings for optimum color reproduction.

Documentation

The included documentation (HTML, Word, PDF) is very complete and easy to follow.  If you want to print it out, it makes a nice 33 page document.  The first step in the process is to adjust the brightness, contrast and color of your display to render (as accurately as possible), the colors in your images.  Using an image of the zone card, you can adjust your brightness and contrast to make sure you see all of the 11 separate gray scale zones.  Another gray scale image with 2% increments allows further adjustment.  Next, the instructions walk you through adjusting your display using a gamma program to get the most accurate color representation possible.

The next "chapter" in the instruction manual describes the "Basic Perfect-Pixs Techniques" to improve exposure, use the custom white balance card, use the zone and patches cards as gray and color references, adjust your images using the zone and patches cards, and some basic printing techniques.  Instead of getting into the details, I'm going to try to keep it simple so I can demonstrate how useful these reference cards can be.

Using the Cards

The first step in the documentation urges the photographer to use the zone or patch card to determine the correct setting for the camera's exposure compensation.  Just take a shot of one of the cards and examine the whites and blacks.  If the whites are white and blacks are black, then your exposure is set correctly.  If not, you can increase (or decrease) the exposure compensation of your camera.  Also, you can utilize a histogram or Levels function in photo editing software for a more objective measurement of the exposure.  The three images below (from the Perfect-Pixs documentation) show a Levels dialog that displays a histogram of your image.


Underexposed


Overexposed


Proper exposure (across the entire range)

If your camera is so equipped, you can set a custom white balance setting.  Digital cameras need to be told what color is white under different types of lights.  If you've ever noticed a color cast to one of your images, it's because the white balance is not set correctly.  To set custom white balance, you'll need to refer to your camera manual on the exact procedure.  It usually involves taking a shot of a white target (in this case, the custom white balance card).  Below are a couple of images taken with my Olympus E-500 which has some difficulty determining the correct setting when on auto white balance in my office.


Before setting white balance (view large image)


After setting white balance (view large image)

By including the zones or patches cards in a shot, you can have an automatic reference point for what the colors in the image should actually be.  This reference allows for easier adjustment of images during post-processing.  The documentation does a good job of explaining how to use popular image editing software with the reference cards to adjust your images.


(view large image)

Conclusion

The Perfect-Pixs Card Kit contains three color reference cards that provide an excellent, affordable solution for providing accurate color references for your digital photography.  Use them to calibrate your displays, adjust your camera, and make image editing easier.  To order a set of cards, head over to http://www.pixelplace.ca.  The card kit costs $28.98 (Canadian).