Konica Minolta FD-7

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(a review)

The FD-7 spectrodensitometer

A spectrodensitometer measures color by scanning multiple spectral bands of light wavelengths and converting them into density or Lab values for use with printing presses or other color critical, industrial settings. These are expensive instruments ($6000 to $7000 or more), and very accurate. Considering the price, you would think they would do everything under the sun, but ironically they measure only one patch at a time. They cannot normally do scanning of multiple patches in a row in a continuous sweep. To have this "scanning" of patches, you need to get an additional, different instrument - a spectrophotometer - that will let you scan thousands of patches in a few minutes. This is what's done when measuring targets for building profiles for example.

The Konica Minolta FD-7 at first appears just another entry into the new generation of spectrodensitometers. But they keep adding features to this product that make it more and more useful in multiple ways. Besides incorporating the new industry measurement conditions and standards, the FD-7 gives you two devices in one: A press-side spectrodensitometer - and all the functions of a scanning spectrophotometer. Add to that a polarization filter to optimize the measurements of matte or canvas materials and you can do every kind of reflective measurements you would ever need, except for ambient measurements. So then they added the ability to do ambient light measurement too. And then it handles all the new ISO 13655 measurement conditions: M1, M2, M3, too.


Here's a quick look at its features:

Contents

Measurement Conditions M0, M1, M2 and M3

The FD-7 can measure according to:

I have talked about these measurement conditions in other places, so I will just comment briefly here.

The reason M1 is so useful is that many papers nowadays have optical brighteners which fluoresce under normal (D50) daylight viewing conditions (that's what makes these white papers look "brighter"). Trouble is, most measurement instruments have artificial light sources that don't correspond to D50, so their measurements don't respond to colors the same way our eyes do. M1 allows you to measure these papers using the same D50 light source for which 99% of all profiles are made, and under which people are expected to be viewing. Measurements made in this way should reflect a little more accurately the way our eyes see things.

M2 is the UV-cut setting. It will cut out any effect of ultraviolet optical brighteners from the measurement.

Lightweight and Compact

Our demo unit weighs only 15 ounces, even with the target mask attached. If you're looking for a hefty hunk of machine that weighs enough to justify the money you spent for it…. well this is not the one. It's particularly light compared to existing spectrodensitometers. Besides the benefit of just being easier to carry around and use, the lighter weight really comes in handy when you use it to do strip readings for profiling targets. When you think about it, having to scan 2000 patches holding a 2 pound brick in your hand will get old pretty quickly…. which brings us to….

Strip (Scan) measurements

Measuring a strip of colors with the ruler

Rather than just measuring a patch at a time, this unit can also slide along an entire row of patches and measure the entire strip in one pass. A scanning "ruler" is included for this purpose. This is a big deal in my book. You can:

Not only do you get the benefit of taking all your measurements with the same instrument, but note that all measurements will have the consistency from measurement-to-measurement that you get with a spectrodensitometer of this quality. In other words, it will be more accurate and more consistent than the consumer-grade, handheld spectrophotometers that are typically used to measure profiling targets. Which leads us to……

Accuracy

You get all this with an instrument that has a a spectrodensitometer level of accuracy. Published stats show an inter-instrument (comparing with other FD-7's) variation of just .3 dE2000, and a short term repeatability of just .05 dE2000. To put this in perspective we did a measurement study with IDEAlliance a few years ago where we found every handheld spectrophotometer in the study was at least 1.20 dE off from the reference in at least one color!

In real-life tests with our demo model we found a daily average variation of around .07 dE00 with a max of only .11.

The polarization filter for the FD-7

Polarization filter

Here at CHROMiX, we have been big fans of polarized measurements for many years and have decried the loss of instruments in the market that could provide this useful option. Several types of media can benefit when profiles can be built using polarized measurements of their profiling targets. The spectral highlights that bounce in several directions off the surface of glossy canvas, for example, cause havoc when trying to get a true reading of the color. Polarization cuts down on this scattering of light and can draw more shadow detail from profiles made in this way. There are very few scanning instruments made today that even offer a field-switchable polarization filter. Barbieri offers one with their table-based spectrophotometers. The FD-7 is the only other one I know of.

Software

No external software is required to use the FD-7 to read single colors. Single measurements are shown on the the built-in display. KonicaMinolta offers free software called FD-S1w which acts like "Key Wizard" to upload measurements directly into the Excel spreadsheet program. This is only available for Windows.

"Catch" software is available from basICColor, which fully supports the FD-7 as well as many other industry spectros. This is available for Windows or Mac. At less than $300, this software does the job of driving the instrument to measure & scan targets and spot colors. Catch will save out the measurements in many of the more popular output formats (such as tab-delimited CGATS .txt or .csv files.) where they can be brought into the profiling engine of your choice to build a profile, or into an analysis program like ColorThink. For getting the easiest whole-line scanning experience like a spectrophotometer, the Catch software is essential.

Ambient light reading

This instrument comes with an ambient light diffusion head, and it can be used to take spectral measurements of any light source. Then that light source can be used when calculating data, producing profiles, analyze viewing conditions.


U.S.-based repair/recertification

While KonicaMinolta is obviously a Japanese brand, they have facilities in the US, so that routine maintenance, recalibration, re-certifications can be done in this country and will not have to be shipped overseas.

Press-side instrument

There are many other features that will be useful to those needing a spectrodens for press readings:


__________________

If you are in the market for a new spectrodensitometer, one that will handle the new 'Measurement Conditions', you already know how expensive these are. The Konica Minolta FD-7 is not cheap. But a great benefit of the FD-7 is that you can get two measurements devices in one, in such a way that the advantages of both are retained in the one instrument: speed, convenience and accuracy.


Pat Herold
CHROMiX
March, 2013



  • "Scanning with an FD-7"
 
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