Check the camera roll on any designer’s smartphone and you’ll find hundreds of random images they snapped for inspiration or because they simply liked a color. But it’s not the best tool for the job. A dedicated color detector is far more accurate, and with Datacolor’s new ColorReader EZ, it’s no longer an obscenely expensive tool accessible to only professional designers.
Take a photo of a red object with your smartphone, like a ripe apple, and when you look at the image on your phone it will definitely look red. But many factors, including the lighting, the time of day, image compression, and even the type of device you’re using and how they process data coming from their image sensor, can slightly alter the color being captured and stored in an image file versus what you saw with your eyes in real life.
For photography it’s not a big issue, particularly if you plan to artistically process the image in Photoshop afterwards, or slap a color-altering filter on it before sharing it on social media. If you’re trying to do accurate color-matching, however, like mixing up a can of paint that’s the exact shade of that red apple, a smartphone just isn’t going to cut it.
A purpose-built device like Datacolor’s new ColorReader EZ is a better solution. Using a built-in neutral white LED and a pop-up guide, ensuring it’s always positioned at the ideal distance, the ColorReader EZ evenly illuminates a surface allowing its color sensor to take an accurate reading. It wirelessly connects to an Android or Apple smartphone, where the snapped color swatch is stored, analyzed, and available as precise RGB, Hex, or CIELAB color values. The app also does its best to match the color samples to shades offered by paint makers like Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore, and it can even suggest matching or coordinating color schemes.
At $59, the ColorReader EZ is now the cheapest color detector that Datacolor sells, but its performance will lag behind the company’s $249 ColorReader Pro, which uses six white LEDs to illuminate a sample and promises “over 92% first-match accuracy” compared to 85% with the new budget option. Still, it will definitely outperform a smartphone if color accuracy is important to what you do, and won’t break the bank if you’re not a famous reality show interior designer.