Software RIPs allow for proofing, art and photo printing and printing workflow. Some software RIPs are said to be difficult to use and complicated to set up, but EFI ColorProof XF isn’t one of these. This is a RIP that comes with a pretty powerful workgroup capable workflow engine and all the bells and whistles to create DeviceLink ICC profiles, output colour accurate proofs and photographs.
There was a short period during which some people thought printing would disappear altogether. There wouldn’t be a need for RIPping anymore. Why proof if you’re going to output to iPads and Kindles only anyway? Recently, however, there have been some strong signals from traditional publishers saying they are not giving up on print at all.
IT Enquirer rating
Price (approx.): €?
There still is a market for print, despite all the shouting of industry ‘pundits’ who would like to see ink and paper disappear from the face of the earth. My guess is they’ll have to wait a little longer for that to happen. In the meantime, Raster Image Processors such as ColorProof XF (and of course the hardware type such as EFI’s Fiery RIPs) will be needed to proof the colour accuracy of the printed output.
Software RIPs like ColorProof XF are capable of doing this cheaply and without hassle. Furthermore, the workflow capabilities of ColorProof XF allow it to be used in workgroup environments, which in practical terms translates into print shops, copy shops, print-on-demand businesses etc. Large photo studios can use ColorProof XF to save money on ink (ink limiting features!) as well as colour proofing and art printing –even poster printing on large format UV inkjets.
EFI ColorProof XF depends on a dongle system for licensing, as so many software RIPs do. Installing the software on Mac OS X is straightforward and dumps a number of files in your system folder that are part of the ColorProof XF server. In the Applications folder, a Client and a Control Panel are installed. The Control Panel lives in the Mac OS X Dock and has no other functionality than to start and stop the server, check the dongle licensing information, etc. It also serves as a server maintenance command and software update centre.
Contrary to some other RIPs that I have tested lately, ColorProof XF’s license server model works without a glitch. Once the server has started you’re ready to go. The Client is where all the action is, and its interface is quite clean: it’s empty on first launch, with a Setup Assistant popping up to help you with the first setup of the system.
The Wizard can be used over again later, when you feel the need. It makes setting up new printers and output media a breeze, but it does only scratch the surface of what ColorProof XF is capable of. Of course, if you’ve never worked with a software RIP before, the Assistant is a real benefit. It can be ignored after the first time, but my advice is to use it at least once if this is your first encounter with ColorProof XF.
The Assistant will help you set up printers and media, but linearisation and profiling are of course up to you. It’s also where the fun part begins as ColorProof XF was one of the best and most thorough RIPs in terms of linearisation that I have ever come across. I used my trusted HP Photosmart B9180 as the printer that needed to be calibrated and set up. The advantage of the B9180 in such tests is that it is a difficult printer to calibrate. The B9180 has a tendency to spray a lot more ink onto the paper than is absolutely necessary if it isn’t driven by HP’s RGB printer drivers. This makes linearisation relatively difficult and ink limiting by visual check almost impossible (the ink literally drips off the paper.
Such has been my experience with other software RIPs. Not so with ColorProof XF. EFI’s RIP takes a larger number of steps to linearise the printer, but it enables you to measure each result using a spectrophotometer instead of your eyes — and that’s how it should be done. Every step has pre-defined parameters and variables set, which as far as I could see, do a terrific job of balancing ink output, visual results while maintaining absolute colour accuracy.
However if you think you can do better, you can click the Advanced button every step of the way and adjust curves and limits. The disadvantage of ColorProof XF’s approach is that you’ll use half a dozen pages to the calibration and profiling procedure. The benefit is a printer that consumes less ink in subsequent — real — jobs and which performs perfectly.
The linearisation output and actual printing is done from the Job Monitor, but deciding who can print using which printer is managed from the System Manager. In the System Manager the admin also decides on layout settings and other media related options. Perhaps the many choices users get to fill in here make some people say software RIPs are difficult, but most options looked familiar to me.
If you’re used to working with Scitex systems, for example, there are options that relate to Scitex files. If you want to save ink while proofing –or printing contact sheets– you can set up nesting in a Job Layout panel. The interface doesn’t exactly guide you through the process in a sense that it forces you to take a specific path, but the panel/tab based Inspector does provide enougn assistance to make the process painless.
Some options won’t apply to everybody — I also think not everybody will see all options, as ColorProof XF is a modular product; I got to see all of it as I received all full modules activated to test the whole system.
Another one of ColorProof XF’s strong features are its many verification options. I didn’t count the list, but there are over 30 verification wedges/strips to choose from, including EFI’s dynamic wedge. And actually the choice of strips itself isn’t what sets this RIP apart; it’s the simplicity with which you can set up a verification process that does. It’s simply a matter of selecting a strip, printing it and running it through the Color Verifier.
Except for Color Verifier, ColorProof XF also has a Color Manager for linearisation, DeviceLink creation, etc., a Color Editor and a Dot Manager.
Concluding this review, I was very surprised with the ease of use of EFI ColorProof XF 4.x. I imagined a RIP this powerful would be much more difficult to manage and operate. After my testing, I really can’t see what the fuss is about with respect to complexity. All I can see are the benefits and those are manifold and clear: accurate colour output both in proofing conditions and when using the RIP as an art printer driver, ink savings, the ability to quickly add and setup printer and control multiple printers simultaneously.