EFI Colorproof XF 3.0

Simon Eccles
Sunday, April 22, 2007

At last week's MacExpo in London, EFI demonstrated the first Mac OS X version of its Colorproof XF server, running on the latest Intel Macs. This will be released early next year, so it was too early for us to give it a hands-on test, but now is a good point at which to revisit the Windows version, which was upgraded to version 3.0 in June. The Mac server will work the same way and will be fairly invisible in use, as the operator mainly works through the client application, which is already available on Mac OS X as well as Windows.

EFI’s proof range has now been streamlined down to Colorproof XF for professional pre-press and print work, which shipped in June, plus the EFI Designer Edition, which is aimed at RGB creative applications such as design and photographic studios.

Colorproof XF was announced early in 2005 as the first major upgrade since EFI bought the German Best proofing company. The major new feature was that Colorproof XF adopted a “real” Adobe CPSI PostScript 3 RIP in place of the Best version’s GhostScript RIP, neutralising rivals’ jibes about a “non-standard” RIP.

Heavy competition
Colorproof XF is a player in a very competitive and somewhat crowded market, where rivals include CGS Oris ColorTuner, Colorbus Cyclone, Compose StarProof, Fujifilm Color Manager, GMG Colorproof, Kodak Matchprint and Kodak Integris (formerly part of Creo’s range).

Choosing between them on technical grounds is difficult – there have been independently judged “shootouts” over the past few years, but results are now very close and confused by the tendency for most participants to claim they’ve won.

All the key players have achieved Fogra certification too. Colorproof XF apparently doesn’t appear on Fogra’s list, but that’s because its policy is for its European dealers to apply for certification in their own rights. EFI and Fogra have set up a dealer training centre in Germany, with plans to offer something similar in the UK and Scandinavia next year.

In terms of new sales, GMG is EFI’s strongest competitor. EFI says it has sold 50,000 proofing licences worldwide, while GMG claims about 6,000, but with a big slice of those in Europe.

Colorproof XF can drive either inkjets or colour laser printers, colour managing their output to match the target printing process. It is modular with a long list of “option” modules. The full set is installed from the beginning, but the fee you pay and the licence number given determine what you can access. This means that you can quickly add new capabilities by simply calling EFI and buying a new code.

The standard version provides the Colorproof XF Server with the Client Option and Printer Option M, which costs £850. This can take RGB or CMYK composite colour files and RIP and print them using device simulation profiles. EFI general manager of proofing for Europe, Stefan Siegel, says that nearly all sales include the £200 spot colour option.

There are three printer size configurations. Option M is for 2-up printers up to the 17in A2 (not B2) size, XL is for 4-up printers such as the HP Designjet 130 and Epson 7800 and XXL is for 8-up printers and above. EFI has also recently introduced Colorproof XF drivers for Vutek’s super-wide inkjet range, which it bought last year.

The Colorproof XF server runs in background on the Windows host, with the client software providing an administrator’s control panel. The forthcoming Mac server may be an additional attraction for an all-Mac studio, though using Windows isn’t a problem – a relatively low-cost PC could be used while you perform all the important control functions from the networked Mac client software.

In Colorproof XF 3.0, a new simplified user interface offers two views; the Job Explorer and System Manager. Job Explorer is the part where you load files, prepare them for print and monitor progress. It has new tools and selection criteria. Input files can be any popular graphic arts format, including PostScript, PDF, JPEG, JPEG 2000, TIFF, TIFF/IT, PSD, Scitex CT/LW, Delta List and DCS.

New features
System Manager is where you create and name workflows – a new copy and paste function makes it easier to take elements of existing workflows and incorporate them into new ones. Other new features include a “virtual printer” that outputs directly into a hot folder, which can be the watched folder for a networked printer. There’s now support for six- or seven-colour input and simulation profiles.
Colour management is based on ICC profiles, with their 3D colour model. GMG and CGS/Oris talk about the superiority of their 4D colour model but, in reality, 3D doesn’t seem to hold back any of their rivals when hitting targets.

Flexo proofing
All Colorproof XF packages incorporate the 3D Optimizer tool, which can set up the proof to match another printer, whether a press or another digital proofing system. This can be used with the GretagMacbeth Eye-One iO motorised table to automate the reading of the target patches. Optimizer works with Colorproof XF’s standard linearization tool, as well as the optional £800 Colour Manager utility. For £1,200, Colour Manager can be bundled with EFI’s own-label version of the GretagMacbeth Eye-One colourimeter for target reading and profile creation.

Inkjet proofers tend to be aimed at offset litho work, but EFI is also targeting flexo. Its £2,400 one-bit TIFF module can reproduce actual litho or flexo dots (the £2,100 Dot Creator simulates them from contone input). Colorproof XF 3.0 can define the first printable dot and also simulate the “noise” intensity from particular ink/paper/press combinations, all useful for simulating flexo presses. Compose also has a special flexo edition of its Star Proof.

There’s also a gravure option for Colorproof that creates separated greyscale TIFF files that can be output directly to cylinder engravers.

The Fiery Option integrates Colorproof with EFI’s Fiery colour servers for colour copier-printers. It’s mainly intended for studios that use laser printers for concept proofs because of their lower running costs, but want to switch to high-quality inkjet proofs to show to clients and for contract proofs. Colorproof XF’s superior colour management is used for both proof engines, and can make the laser proofs more accurate, says EFI’s Siegel.

Colorproof can link to EFI’s Digital Storefront for web-to-print ordering and can also link to the EFI-owned management information systems via EFI’s JDF Connector software.

EFI has also recently announced collaborations with Agfa, Artwork Systems, Presstek, Rampage and Screen to support hybrid offset/digital printing operations. For instance, Artwork Systems Nexus and Odystar workflows can output via the EFI JDF Connector software to both Colorproof XF and printers driven by Fiery servers.


SPECIFICATIONS
Front end
• Windows
• Mac OS X (client only)
Printers supported
• Epson
• HP
• Vutek
Price
• £850 (for server, unlimited clients, output up to 17in printers)
• larger formats cost from £275 to £850
Contact
• EFI 01753 283676 www.efi.com

THE ALTERNATIVES
CGS ORIS Color Tuner
The current version has 4D colour tables and iterated calibration methods. The Windows version uses elements of its Works pre-press workflow.
Front end
• Windows
• Mac OS X (Personal Edition only)
Printers supported
• Canon
• Epson
Price
• £1,250 (up to 17in/A3++)
• £2,395 (up to A1), £2,995 (larger formats)
Contact
• Colourbyte 01442 262626 www.colourbyte.co.uk

Colorbus Cyclone Digital Proofer VP
The current model includes a “free” Visual Proofer soft-proofing system. A Group 4 TIFF option takes output from many native platesetter RIPs and outputs screened TIFFs.
Front end
• Mac OS X
Printers supported
• Epson
• Encad
• HP
• Mutoh
• Seiko
Price
• £1,837 (up to 17in)
• £2,122 (24-36in)
• £2,480 (above 36in)
Contact
• Colorbus Europe 01923 690890 www.colorbus.com

Compose StarProof
StarProof is now much faster than before. There’s a new version dedicated to flexo proofing, where previewing the precise location of dots is more important than for litho.
Front end
• Mac OS X
Printers supported
Epson
• Encad
• HP
• Mutoh
• Seiko
Price
• £2,750 (up to 17in)
• £3,995 (unlimited)
Contact
• Compose UK 01474 700500 www.compose.co.uk

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