ExpoDisc Review

ExpoDisc is a professional digital white balance tool from ExpoImaging. ExpoDisc aids in setting an accurate custom white balance on digital cameras.  Photography Bay recently reviewed the ColorRight white balance tool (read review).   A few readers mentioned ExpoDisc and other white balance tools and asked how they stack up against ColorRight.  While this is a review of ExpoDisc, I will make several comparisons to ColorRight throughout the review to address some of the prior questions and requests.

ExpoDisc Description

ExpoDisc comes in a very nice package that is reminiscent of Apple’s packaging presentation.  Just opening the box, you feel like you are getting a professional too.

Along with the ExpoDisc itself, you get a lanyard, which attaches to the ExpoDisc.  Also included is a very nice nylon case with a belt loop for toting or storing the ExpoDisc.  A quick start guide and a CD-ROM containing multi-language reference manuals and videos round out the package contents.

The ExpoDisc itself feels very well built.  The outer ring is thick and solid, which makes the ergonomics better than the ColorRight.  Additionally, the “lens side” of the ExpoDisc ring is stepped down to the appropriate filter size (my review copy was 77mm).  This portion of the ring features three spring-loaded balls that snap into the filter threads of your lens.

The filter portion of the ExpoDisc also feels very solid.  Its more of a plastic material, whereas ColorRight uses glass.  Performance considerations aside, I like the build quality of the ExpoDisc over Coloright.

How ExpoDisc Works

The Expodisc is an incident light tool.  That is, it is designed to take a white balance reading the light source rather than the subject (i.e., you point your camera toward the light that is shining on your subject from your subject’s position when taking your white balance reading).

This method makes the ExpoDisc a bit more complicated to use than ColorRight, which takes a reflective white balance measurement (i.e., you point your camera toward the subject for your white balance reading).  However, ExpoImaging claims that the incident reading with the ExpoDisc is a more accurate white balance reading.

The first step for using the ExpoDisc is to install it on the end of the lens by snapping it into place as noted above.  If you are using a lens with a smaller filter size than the ExpoDisc, then you simply hold it over the end of the lens.  Next, you set the your camera’s focus to manual and adjust your exposure for the shot.

Then, aim the camera at the light source to measure the incident light.  Snap the image to get your custom white balance reading.  Then, apply that image as your custom white balance profile in the camera.  Now, you are ready to shoot.

Caveats

Incident light readings with the ExpoDisc can sometimes get a little complicated.  For example, it is impossible to get an incendent reading directly from camera-mounted flashes.  However, you can get an incent reading from a flash bounced off the ceiling by pointing the camera toward that surface for the incident reading.

If you cannot remove the camera-mounted flash for an incident reading, then you will not be able to use the ExpoDisc for custom white balance.  In such a case, you will be left with in-camera presets or post-processing adjustments to work with.

ExpoDisc Performance

Simply put, the ExpoDisc does what it claims.  You get spot-on white balance from incident readings.

As expected, using the ExpoDisc saves lots of post-processing time by allowing you to practically ignore the white balance settings.  I shot a few dozen images today using a combination of studio flashes and wireless speed lights.  I did not touch the white balance on a single image in Lightroom 2 when processing the images.

The use of the ExpoDisc is just as straightforward as the instructions tell you.  I held the ExpoDisc over the front of the lens and pointed at my strobe.  After firing off a frame, I had my reading and set the file as my custom white balance reference in camera.  Then, it was set for the duration of the shoot.

It’s so easy that anyone shooting under studio lights or another off-camera light source on a regular basis should have an ExpoDisc or other custom white balance device.

ExpoDisc vs. ColorRight

I’ve been comparing these two devices through this review.  I simply could not have ignored ColorRight while shooting with the ExpoDisc because I’ve been accustomed to using ColorRight over the last few weeks.

For casual shooters, I think ColorRight is the better choice.  I give a big edge to ColorRight setting custom white balance when using flash (especially, on-camera flash).  Additionally, the use of reflective light with ColorRight is simply easier than taking incident readings with the ExpoDisc – particularly if you are in an environment where your light source is changing frequently (e.g., wedding photographers).

The ExpoDisc build quality is solid and I haven’t presented it with a lighting situation where the ExpoDisc didn’t offer similar results to ColorRight – except for direct, on-camera flash.  In many cases, the decision between ExpoDisc and ColorRight is going to be the photographer’s personal choice.  However, I will carry ColorRight in my camera bag more often than not.

Conclusion

If you consider yourself a serious amatuer or you are a pro photographer, then you should strongly consider picking up a custom white balance tool like the ExpoDisc.  If you shoot JPEG images, then you really have no excuse to be without an ExpoDisc or ColorRight in your bag.

RAW shooters have the convenience of correcting white balance in their post-processing software; however, it’s a big time saver to get white balance right on the front end.  If you’re shooting hundreds of images across a wide variety of lighting situations on a particular shoot, then you’re going to save a ton of time by starting with the right white balance before you get to post-processing.

Where to Buy ExpoDisc

ExpoDisc is available from a number of online trusted retailers like Amazon.com, B&H Photo and Adorama.  It is available in neutral and a warmer portrait version.  You can also purchase the ExpoDisc directly from ExpoImaging.

Prices range from about $70 to $170, depending on the size of the ExpoDisc that you need.  Err on the side of caution by purchasing one that’s at least the filter size of your largest lens.  You can then hold it in front on the lens for all of your smaller lenses with the same quality results.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Isnt it really a waste of money? I used a tray from Ikea which was semitransparent in a white tone. Seems to work just as good as Expodisc…

    I also heard about people using the old lid from pringles as well.

  2. Captain Fairly Obvious says

    I don’t understand why you can’t use it the same way as the other one:
    put it on the camera, focus @ infinity, maybe stop down, snap, set white balance on that.

    If that technique works with the other one it should work with this one, for flash.

  3. says

    @Captain Fairly Obvious – The ExpoDisc doesn’t allow enough light to transmit in order to take an accurate reflective light reading. I think ExpoDisc allows around 18% transmission and ColorRight is in the neighborhood of 65% transmission.

  4. George says

    Isn’t the ColorRight assuming that the scene, itself, is overall neutral? Suppose the scene has a decided color cast–e.g., a sunset-lit landscape or, worse, a red wall. How does the ColorRight know that it’s not seeing neutral light?

  5. says

    @George – You’re right. There are some situations where ColorRight won’t really benefit you. It will take the golden light out of the sunset and make things neutral.

    Most of the time and in most situations though I find that the simplicity of the device makes it a better option. As an aside, they also offer a “portrait” version, which warms up your image. Neither option are for everyone; however, I think many photographers will benefit from one or the other.

    Good point and thanks for raising it.

  6. says

    I find that the camera raw dialog box in PS works just fine and does not take more
    than a minute to fine tune your CB. For me, it’s a non-issue. I have used the custom
    WB on my 1Ds MK III and I’ve used every variation and done comparisons. It always brings me back to post processing with minimal effort. Sure, I used the gray card when I was shooting film in the dark ages and I pretty much mastered the zone system. It was good training, but none of this is a necessity in the techno age.

  7. RicD says

    The Expodisk, I have owned a few, sold them. When I shoot with my DSLR, very rare that I do, it is the Lastolite Ezybalance that I use. At times a bit cumbersome however, it returns perfect colors. My contention is when one must color balance in a computer they did not do it correct when taking the photo. To me that indicates lack of competent photography skills.

    The dark ages, hum, I do not think so. Many folks are moving back to film. Myself I came from forty years of film, then over past ten years became a digital bigot. I am pleased to say that now I am almost 99% back to film. Unlike my DSLR friends I do not concern myself with WB as the film takes care of it quite well.

    “…none of this is a necessity in the techno age,,,”, hum, well, in this techno age I find folks more in love with their PS computer skills than with their photography skills. Almost every photographer I speak with are all about PP rather than getting it correct in camera.

    Myself I do not shoot raw, it is 99% JPG. For 4×6 through 11×14 I do not see a hill of beans difference in prints from raw and JPG. I have placed raw and JPG prints, same photos, out for others to view. Nobody could tell which came from raw or JPG. With my JPG they are cropped, if needed straightened, sharpened for printing; bam I am finished. Raw was too much effort to obtain what I already acquired with JPG.

    Of course YMMV.

  8. Peter says

    RicD. What you’re saying it’s nonsense. It just tells me that you have no idea of film photography nor a digital photography.

    Film. What type of film you’re talking about? Are you talking about B&W or color. If color what you’re talking about negative or slide? I hope that you know that at slides you have two options. Daylight balanced or tungsten film. You only have two options here but with digital camera you have thousends.

    Second. Do you remember what a grain was at film times about 9 years ago when you used a 400 ISO film? Photos were useless comparing to digital photos at ISO 400. They were so grainy that you can do a better photo with a present point and shot camera. Not speaking of Fuji Sensia II ISO 800 film which had a smaller dynamic range than a Canon D60 at ISO 800 at that time.

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