Color Sensor Devices

Most affordable spectrophotometers and best color readers 2024

Standardized spectrophotometers are quite expensive but you can find some more affordable color sensor devices on the market which can also do the job if you are right after the functionality they can offer. Those devices usually don't have a display, and require a companion (mobile) app to work.

Below are some tested or trusted ones for you to compare.

Spectrophotometers

  Nix Spectro 2 (5mm)
Nix Spectro 2 (2mm)
Variable Spectro 1 Pro
Variable Spectro 1
X-Rite i1Basic Pro 3
Konica Minolta MYIRO-1
Full price 999 USD 999 USD 299 USD 299 USD 1800 USD 1600 USD
Website Website Website Website Website Website
Our experience
Small and sturdy. The only issue one may have is that the mobile app is not customizable enough to fit an alternative workflow.
Detailed comparison
Comment Comes with a positioning jig to help you accurately scan your small samples Multi-purpose, entry level professional device. It can do emission and amblient light measurements (for example for monitor calibration), as well as reflectance measurements. Multi-purpose, also monitor calibration, light measurement. It also operates from a rechargable battery.
Connectivity Bluetooth Bluetooth Bluetooth Bluetooth USB 1.1 USB 2.0, WiFi (802.11 b/g/n)
Software The Nix Toolkit App (Android, iOS), 3rd part app support, SDK The Nix Toolkit App (Android, iOS), 3rd part app support, SDK Spectro app (Android, iOS) or Variable Color app (Android, iOS). They also offer a product called Bridge which enables controlling the device through an API Spectro app (Android, iOS) or Variable Color app (Android, iOS). They also offer a product called Bridge which enables controlling the device through an API iProfiler app (Windows, macOS) included, which could be used to measure single colors ?
Inter-Instrument Agreement 0.35 ΔE00 average / 0.7 ΔE00 max 0.5 ΔE00 average / 0.8 ΔE00 max 0.3 ΔE00 average / 0.3 ΔE00 max 0.3 ΔE00 average / 0.3 ΔE00 max 0.3 ΔE00 average, 0.8 ΔE00 max 0.3 ΔE00
Repeatability
Usually it means short time repeatability on a white tile
0.05 ΔE00 0.1 ΔE00 0.05 ΔE00 0.05 ΔE00 0.05 ΔE00 0.05 ΔE00
Measurement Modes
See: ISO 13655:2017

M0: Standard illumination condition without UV consideration. Legacy.

M1: Includes UV lighting to match CIE Illuminant D50, suitable for accurately measuring optically brightened materials.

M2: UV light is filtered out, used for measuring colors as they appear under non-UV lighting conditions.

M3: Combines polarization filters to minimize surface gloss, ideal for measuring colors of shiny or reflective materials.

M0, M1, M2 M0, M1, M2 M2 M2 M0, M1, M2 M0, M1, M2
Measurement Time 1 s 1 s 1.5 s 1.5 s 400 / s 1s
Measurement Aperture 5 mm 2 mm 8 mm 8 mm 4.5 mm 3.5 mm
Measurement Geometry

45°/0°: Light illuminates the sample at 45 degrees, with color measured perpendicularly. Ideal for flat, matte surfaces, minimizing texture and gloss effects.

Diffused illumination: Light is scattered, hitting the sample uniformly from all directions.

SPIN or SCI (Specular Component Included): Includes the sample's gloss in color measurements, reflecting appearance under diffuse lighting.

SPEX or SCE (Specular Component Excluded): Measures color excluding gloss, showing how it looks without shine.

45°/0° (ring illumination optics) 45°/0° (ring illumination optics) Diffused/0° (SPIN/SCI) Diffused/0° (SPEX/SCE) 45°/0° 45°/0°
Spectral Range
Refers to the span of wavelengths that a device can measure. The visible spectrum spans approx. from 380 to 750 nanometers (nm). Spectrophotometers often exclude the range above 700 nm, because these longer wavelengths has less impact on perceived color.
400-700 nm 400-700 nm 400-700 nm 400-700 nm 380-730 nm 380-730 nm (reflectance), 360-730 nm (irradiance)
Spectral Interval 10 nm 10 nm 10 nm 10 nm 10 nm 10 nm (reflectance), 5 nm (irradiance)
Light Source High CRI, broad spectrum LED light source (8x broad spectrum white, violet and ultraviolet) High CRI, broad spectrum LED light source (8x broad spectrum white, violet and ultraviolet) Full Spectrum LEDs Full Spectrum LEDs i1Pro3 Plus LED Illumination (including UV) LED
Illuminants

A: Simulates incandescent lighting with a color temperature of approximately 2856K, typical of indoor, artificial light.

C: Approximates average daylight with a color temperature of about 6774K, less commonly used now.

D50: Represents daylight at 5000K, commonly used in graphic arts and printing industries.

D55: Simulates mid-morning or mid-afternoon light at 5500K, suitable for color matching in photography.

D65: Mimics average noon daylight with a color temperature of 6500K, widely used in color viewing standards.

D75: Represents north sky daylight at 7500K, often used in industrial color matching.

F2: Simulates cool white fluorescent lighting at 4230K, typical of commercial and office lighting.

F7: Broad-spectrum daylight fluorescent lighting at 6500K, used for daylight color matching.

F11: Represents narrow band white fluorescent at 4000K, used in certain industrial applications.

A, C, D50, D55, D65, D75, F2, F7, F11 A, C, D50, D55, D65, D75, F2, F7, F11 A, F2, D50, D65 A, F2, D50, D65 D50, D65, ... D50, D65, ...
Observers

2° Observer: Represents average human color perception based on a 2° field of view, approximating the central vision of the human eye. Commonly used for precise color matching in small samples.

10° Observer: Based on a 10° field of view, it accounts for peripheral vision and is used for larger samples where color appearance changes with viewing angle.

2°, 10° 2°, 10° 2°, 10° 2°, 10° 2°, 10° 2°, 10°
Most Closely Mimics Actual color Color appearance
Calibration
  • Each unit individually factory calibrated
  • Integrated/automatic temperature compensation
  • In-field normalization: manual on included external ceramic reference
  • Each unit individually factory calibrated
  • Integrated/automatic temperature compensation
  • In-field normalization: manual on included external ceramic reference
  • Manual on external ceramic white reference (included)
Datasheet Datasheet Datasheet Datasheet Datasheet

Color Readers

If you don't need spectral data, only color values to identify your colors, it gets as affordable as it can with color readers.

  NCS Colourpin II
NCS Colourpin Pro
Variable Color Muse 2
Full price 115 USD 210 USD 99 USD
Website Website Website
Our experience
Detailed comparison
Comment It's a whitelabeled Variable product It's a whitelabeled Variable product
Connectivity Bluetooth Bluetooth Bluetooth
Software NCS+ app (Android, iOS) NCS+ app (Android, iOS) Color Muse 2 app (Android, iOS)
Inter-Instrument Agreement < 0.3 ΔE00 average 0.25 ΔE00 average 0.2 ΔE00 average / 0.75 ΔE00 max
Repeatability
Usually it means short time repeatability on a white tile
0.1 ΔE00 0.05 ΔE00 0.05 ΔE00
Measurement Modes
See: ISO 13655:2017

M0: Standard illumination condition without UV consideration. Legacy.

M1: Includes UV lighting to match CIE Illuminant D50, suitable for accurately measuring optically brightened materials.

M2: UV light is filtered out, used for measuring colors as they appear under non-UV lighting conditions.

M3: Combines polarization filters to minimize surface gloss, ideal for measuring colors of shiny or reflective materials.

Measurement Time 2 s 1.5 s
Measurement Aperture 4 mm 6 mm 8 mm
Measurement Geometry

45°/0°: Light illuminates the sample at 45 degrees, with color measured perpendicularly. Ideal for flat, matte surfaces, minimizing texture and gloss effects.

Diffused illumination: Light is scattered, hitting the sample uniformly from all directions.

SPIN or SCI (Specular Component Included): Includes the sample's gloss in color measurements, reflecting appearance under diffuse lighting.

SPEX or SCE (Specular Component Excluded): Measures color excluding gloss, showing how it looks without shine.

45°/0° Diffused/0° (SCI) 45°/0°
Light Source Full Spectrum LEDs Full Spectrum LEDs
Illuminants

A: Simulates incandescent lighting with a color temperature of approximately 2856K, typical of indoor, artificial light.

C: Approximates average daylight with a color temperature of about 6774K, less commonly used now.

D50: Represents daylight at 5000K, commonly used in graphic arts and printing industries.

D55: Simulates mid-morning or mid-afternoon light at 5500K, suitable for color matching in photography.

D65: Mimics average noon daylight with a color temperature of 6500K, widely used in color viewing standards.

D75: Represents north sky daylight at 7500K, often used in industrial color matching.

F2: Simulates cool white fluorescent lighting at 4230K, typical of commercial and office lighting.

F7: Broad-spectrum daylight fluorescent lighting at 6500K, used for daylight color matching.

F11: Represents narrow band white fluorescent at 4000K, used in certain industrial applications.

D50 D50 D50
Observers

2° Observer: Represents average human color perception based on a 2° field of view, approximating the central vision of the human eye. Commonly used for precise color matching in small samples.

10° Observer: Based on a 10° field of view, it accounts for peripheral vision and is used for larger samples where color appearance changes with viewing angle.

10° 2°, 10° 2°, 10°
Most Closely Mimics Color appearance Actual Color Color appearance
Calibration
  • White calibration cap / every connnection
  • White ceramic tile / every 1000 scans
Datasheet Datasheet Datasheet