ColorRight Pro Review

While attending PMA 2010, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a very cool product, the ColorRight Pro (also referred to as the CR Pro in this article).

One problem many photogs come up against is white balance, especially when you're not shooting in a studio where you have control over your lighting source. So, for those who are shooting outdoors, at a wedding, or a local sporting event, it can be difficult to get the camera to accurately represent colors. This usually leads to the tedious task of spending time editing photos later on a PC/Mac. I for one have a good amount of first hand experience with this, as for the past few years I've been shooting weddings, which seem to always pose some difficult lighting situations.

While most dSLRs on the market today offer pretty robust Auto white balance systems, there are still many situations in which the camera is not going to produce natural looking results. This is where the ColorRight or ColorRight Pro comes into play. This simple, yet effective little unit allows you to quickly adjust the white balance on the spot, which could save you hours of post processing time after the shoot. In four easy steps or less, you can fine tune your camera's white balance to produce much more natural looking photos.

These Steps include:
  • Tuning off Autofocus; since you'll be placing the ColorRight unit up against the lens, the camera will not be able to focus, which would prevent it from snapping a photo in most cases.
  • Hold the ColorRight unit over the lens and take a photo
  • Enter the menu and choose the photo you just captured for Custom White balance; these last two steps all depend on how your camera's Custom WB setting works
  • Turn Autofocus back on; if you are using it in the first place.
That's all it takes to use this little gem. For the average user, this may seem like a lot of fuss, but for those of us who use our cameras as a source of income, or as a serious hobby, taking 15-30 seconds at the time of capture can save countless minutes (or hours) of post processing later.

As mentioned before, ColorRight offers two models:

  • CR_500.jpg
    The ColorRight ($89US), is designed for general photography, such as landscapes, wildlife photos, parties, or sporting events. This is a rugged little unit that is "practically unbreakable" according to ColorRight. Thanks to it's high-quality glass and metal construction, the unit is much more durable and less likely to scratch, unlike most of its competition.

  • CR-Pro_top.jpg
    Then there's the ColorRight Pro ($129US, and the unit I tested), which offers the same great versatility as the regular unit, however also adds some "nicer" features, like the ability to work with built-in or hotshoe mounted flash units, gathers more light from multiple angles with it's dome design, is "guaranteed to be spectrally neutral to a very tight tolerance", etc.

They also offer "Portrait" versions of the above units, which are specifically designed for Portrait or Wedding photos where you typically like to see warmer skin tones. I also saw a "PostRight" product on their website, which is a "Super Gray Card" designed to be used in conjunction with your PC/Mac and a raw processing workflow.

On to the tests and photos:

For our tests I used my Pentax K-7 and an old EOS 300D (the original Digital Rebel) with a variety of different subjects. Since I do not yet have an external flash for the K-7, I mostly took ambient light photos while testing this unit with it, however the CR Pro will also work with my camera's built-in flash unit. On the EOS 300D, I did use a 380EX external speedlite for the indoor portrait style snapshots.

To use the CR Pro, all you do is place the unit against the front of your lens, ensuring the red dot is facing vertically.

First off we have our typical M&M man subject, which we've been using for many years. These photos were captured using Aperture priority (f/8.0), 1/8 of a second, ISO 1600, with a smc Pentax DA 50-200mm f/4.5-5.6 ED WR lens.

Auto White Balance ColorRight Pro

The first photo shows what the K-7's Auto While balance setting produced under mixed lighting from some overhead fluorescent bulbs and natural outdoor sunlight from an open window. While somewhat acceptable, the image still has a bit of a warm or yellowish look to it. The next photo is the result after using the ColorRight Pro. As you can see, the white balance is now almost perfect, with bright whites and pleasing looking colors.

Auto White Balance ColorRight Pro
Next I moved on to some ambient lit, close-up snaps of my dog Mojo using some harsh lighting coming in from our picture window. Again, the first photo shows what the Auto WB setting produced, which is a bit on the warm side with an "amber" tint to it. Using the CR Pro, I was able to produce more pleasing tones, which are also much more natural looking in my opinion. Below you will find several other before and after examples using the AWB first, then the ColorRight Pro.

Note: Top= AWB / Bottom= CR Pro

Auto White Balance ColorRight Pro

Auto White Balance ColorRight Pro

As you can see, in almost every situation that I used the CR Pro, it helped me produce more natural looking photos. While testing this unit, I found that it was much easier to use with my Canon EOS 300D compared to the Pentax K-7. This is due to the way you set the Custom White balance. With EOS cameras, you simply snap a photo, then choose that frame when you go to set custom white balance. With the K-7, it asks you to press the shutter while in the menu, and if the captured photo is not very bright, it will fail. I encountered this mostly when shooting indoors without a flash where lighting was marginal.

Overall, I truly enjoyed using the ColorRight Pro. They include a handy lanyard that allows you to easily carry the CR Pro with you. I found this neck strap allowed me to keep the product with me at all times while out shooting, and since the lanyard is a good length, I could even use the unit without taking it off. If need be, there is a quick disconnect clip located towards the end of the strap, close to where it attached to the CR Pro unit itself. So, in a bind you could disconnect the unit from the lanyard if need be.

Bottom line - The guys and gals at ColorRight have really come up with a useful accessory. The best thing about it is that the CR Pro does exactly what they claim; it helps you product more natural or true white balance (color) no matter what the lighting conditions are. I only had a few issues when using this product with my K-7, most of which was the camera's fault (or the operator's for that matter). With a street price of about $129US, the CR Pro might seem a bit expensive. However, for professional photogs or enthusiasts, the CR Pro will pay for itself rather quickly with the time saved in post processing. You can also check out the standard ColorRight model, which is about $89US.