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Author Topic: A contrarian view on fiber/gloss papers  (Read 5506 times)
Geoff Wittig
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« on: January 14, 2008, 08:09:57 AM »
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A Monday morning rant.
I am unimpressed with the current range of (very expensive) fiber/gloss papers attempting to replicate the ęsthetic of darkroom prints. Like many others on this forum, I have eagerly tried most of the new offerings as they have become available, driven by glowing reviews from folks like Michael Reichmann and Richard Lohmann. However, I just don't see the same improvement in print quality.

For what it's worth, I know what a good print looks like. I live less than an hour from George Eastman House, and I visit there frequently to examine original prints by the masters. I started inkjet printing back in the paleolithic era, with HP's original (pigment!) Photosmart printer, followed by an Epson 1200 with Jon Cone's Piezography BW system. I got pretty good at printing on cotton rag papers with an Epson 7600, and last year moved to an HP Z3100, mostly for the ability to change blacks on the fly. I'm delighted with the quality of prints I get up to big panoramics, and I have no trouble selling them.

HP's professional satin paper is a typical synthetic semigloss/satin inkjet photo paper, and prints on this paper look wonderful, with a deep D-max, wide gamut, and very subtle surface texture. I've been very happy with it. Yet every time I read another sparkling review of one of the newer fiber gloss papers, I feel that "grass is greener" need to check it out. Last night I made two prints of the same image, one on HP Pro satin, the other on Harman FB AL gloss. And honestly, I prefer HP's paper. It lacks the annoying excess gloss and a finely textured distracting "sparkle" I see in Harman's paper, and it's significantly less fragile. And truthfully, the two papers feel identical to my hand.

I'm open-minded about the possible ęsthetic benefits of future papers, but I'm just not seeing it for the current wave of new products. I wonder if it's an "emperor's new clothes" situation where nobody wants to admit that these spiffy new products don't look any better than the old standards, especially after dropping  a chunk of change on a big roll.

Of course, maybe it's me, and I just need more coffee.
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abiggs
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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2008, 08:16:48 AM »
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Geoff, I just think you are realizing what you like and that you are now an informed consumer of papers. Quite honestly, I think that is a wonderful thing. I, too, have not been too impressed with the current offerings of fiber paper for inkjet printers. There are only a few papers on the market that I will actually use, and the rest have major major flaws. It is nice to be in a position where you have used many papers, and that you ended up using something that fits your needs, pocketbook and whatever else.
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Andy Biggs
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Satch
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« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2008, 09:57:03 AM »
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I've tried most of the new ones too, and the only one that has given better print results for some of my images is the Ilford Gold Silk.  That may just be due to it being somewhat warmer than most coated papers though, not because it's fiber/baryta.  Unlike MR though, it won't cause me to stop using matte papers.  There are just too many advantages to using matte papers when the image doesn't call for really deep blacks and lots of saturation.
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eleanorbrown
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« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2008, 10:28:26 AM »
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I, for one, am absolutely delighted with the choices former silver printers (now digital) have in the new papers these days....they get better and better.  currently my favorite is the epson Exhibition fiber.  I can make incredible prints on this paper---not only monotone but in color and the Dmax is very deep.  The touch and "feel" of a paper is as important to me as the surface and this paper has heft and stiffness needed for a true "fine art" paper.  I hear Epson is now testing this paper in rolls, thank goodness, because 24 inches wide by 30 long is not large enough for some of the printing I do.  I also am printing on the new Ilford gold Silk and the Harman.
Eleanor
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picnic
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2008, 10:59:25 AM »
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I, for one, am absolutely delighted with the choices former silver printers (now digital) have in the new papers these days....they get better and better.  currently my favorite is the epson Exhibition fiber.  I can make incredible prints on this paper---not only monotone but in color and the Dmax is very deep.  The touch and "feel" of a paper is as important to me as the surface and this paper has heft and stiffness needed for a true "fine art" paper.  I hear Epson is now testing this paper in rolls, thank goodness, because 24 inches wide by 30 long is not large enough for some of the printing I do.  I also am printing on the new Ilford gold Silk and the Harman.
Eleanor
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 Eleanor, what are your feelings about the Ilford and Harman?  I'm still waiting for my EEF to test.  I've tested the Harman, Ilford and gone back and printed with my former preferred paper of the F types--the Innova F-Semi matte.

Diane
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Peter Frahm
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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2008, 11:05:06 AM »
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I understand exactly what you are saying, Geoff.

The Emperor's New Clothes thing applies for sure. I've been messing with these papers since the first round of fiber gloss releases. Saw some cool things, saw some things that I didn't like. Unfortunately , the things we don't like are the deal breakers, that sort of compromise is not doable for me. I was trying to convince myself that some the papers were OK. Not any different than the justifications people were using when discussing gloss differential..."once it's under glass it's fine". That stuff.

I realized pretty quickly that I was being dumb about it. I'm probably still dumb about it but I know that I prefer these prints to any of the prints I've done using rc base products and texures.

I've gone through the Cone's, and many of the other dedicated bw products on an 1160 and a few printers after that. I liked the Cone's stuff but I was still wanting the deeper black. For some stuff it's great. Plus, after a while, the clogs got to be a pain in the ass.

The various manufacturers are obviously dealing with some challenges in getting this style of paper to work.

Is it wrong to try to "emulate" what was the general standard for a quality bw art print? I don't think so, you have to have something to shoot for and that seems like a worthy goal. To say that inkjet printing is a totally different thing is kinda long for me. We are trying to make inkjets prints that look like photographs. Trying to emulate tradtional prints, as an initial goal, is an obvious thing.

It puzzles me as to why some folks get there hair burnt about using this standard as something to emulate. It's a natural starting point. There is something pleasantly organic about a good print made on Matte paper with MK ink...there is nothing pleasantly organic about a good print made on an RC base textured paper using PK ink (IMO).

I feel much more fuzzy inside when I'm holding a piece of real paper, with a reasonably smooth, gloss surface on it, than I do when I'm holding the eqivalent (smooth or not) in rc.

I've been re-approaching the Harman paper and I don't like it for the same reasons you mentioned and others. Though, the sharpness quirk is interesting, it makes my 4x5 scans jump off the page. I can't get over the plastic-ish surface though, and it get's worse as the print gets bigger.

I've given the Epson EF a wicked eyeballing for a while now and, as i've said before in other threads here, this is the one that is looking best for me.

All this with the Emperor's nudity as an allly. I've learned that suspicion/skepticism needs to be shotgun.

This is still a new endeavour for the paper engineers. I think they've come a long way since the first of these papers came out. It's no different than the printer-camera evolution we've all been riding and I think there a lot of people out there that are feeling a bit frustrated by the waiting game in general. With all this waiting there are some serious mental games going on in many of our skullbones...

Comparison can be the death of joy but, in this case, we're forced to do it.

Perfectly understandable and healthy rant.

Peter
« Last Edit: January 14, 2008, 11:58:56 AM by Peter Frahm » Logged
eleanorbrown
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2008, 02:24:10 PM »
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Diane, with the Ilford, I can't touch the unprinted surface even ever so slightly without leaving a mark or fingerprint.  Certainly the corner of another sheet of paper will scratch it.  It's very delicate (the surface).  My prints look really nice on it and I like the warm surface but it's too fragile.  I like the Harman, and use it on occasions, but it has a bit too much gloss for me.  I prefer the EEF but it's so expensive!!  Right now for client work I use rolls of Museo Silver Rag or Hahnemuhle Photo Rag pearl.  These two papers are thick, stiff, tough and print well.  Their surface could be improved to eliminate gloss differential, but right now, when i print large prints for clients these last two papers are what I  use.  eleanor

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Eleanor, what are your feelings about the Ilford and Harman?  I'm still waiting for my EEF to test.  I've tested the Harman, Ilford and gone back and printed with my former preferred paper of the F types--the Innova F-Semi matte.

Diane
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dbell
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2008, 04:10:09 PM »
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Just an anecdote:

I haven't tried the Ilford or Epson papers yet. I made a series of prints on the Harman paper and showed them to a teacher of mine (who is still exclusively a darkroom printer). I was pleased with the DMAX, sharpness and tonal rendering, but not really sold on the surface; it reminded me too much of the resin-coated papers I had long ago moved away from in the darkroom.

Without hesitation, she remarked on how much they looked like RC darkroom prints. In an instant, she confirmed exactly the doubt that had been kicking around in my head. As we continued to talk about the prints, we both felt that the variety of high-quality inkjet papers available now is nothing but a good thing, and a vast improvement in the state of the art over just a few years ago. Nobody expects to like every product on the market, and it's perfectly acceptable to say "this paper is good, but it doesn't suit my personal taste," which is pretty much how I've come to feel about the Harman paper.

At this point, I haven't found anything that really suits my work better than Silver Rag. Epson's new offering is, frankly, price-prohibitive for me. Maybe the Ilford paper will be a winner, maybe not .


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picnic
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2008, 05:09:44 PM »
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Diane, with the Ilford, I can't touch the unprinted surface even ever so slightly without leaving a mark or fingerprint.  Certainly the corner of another sheet of paper will scratch it.  It's very delicate (the surface).  My prints look really nice on it and I like the warm surface but it's too fragile.  I like the Harman, and use it on occasions, but it has a bit too much gloss for me.  I prefer the EEF but it's so expensive!!  Right now for client work I use rolls of Museo Silver Rag or Hahnemuhle Photo Rag pearl.  These two papers are thick, stiff, tough and print well.  Their surface could be improved to eliminate gloss differential, but right now, when i print large prints for clients these last two papers are what I  use.  eleanor
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Eleanor, I have my Ilfords and Harmans still 'curing'--I'll have to check the surfaces.  The Harman is too glossy for me also--I generally like the look of the Ilford--esp. for my monos.  I still don't have any EEF to try and haven't ordered the Hahnemuhle baryta.  I print primarily on FAM--but have used Innova F-semi matte for a boxed portfolio--like the paper, but others tell me that Innova has a QC issue and since this is the only time I've used it (8.5 x 11) I don't really have any experience with it--but like the surface--similar weight to HFAP and Museo Silver Rag--I've printed samples on each.

Thanks for responding.

Diane
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Michael LS
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2008, 08:27:34 PM »
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Quote from: Geoff Wittig,Jan 14 2008, 10:09 AM
"A Monday morning rant."

Yes, it does seem no paper, so far, is that magical "Holy Grail". The one I'm wishing for has incredible dmax, holds bright colors (the "high notes"), is heavyweight with a luscious artpaper/matte surface, is archival and offered in your choice of bright white or warm base color (without OB's, of course)  
AND before I stop with this madness: It costs no more than $2 per 13x19 sheet!!
Any paper maker who could achieve this, and patent it, would own the market, and have a license to print money.

So far, though, HPR 308 and PremierArt 325 rag are working, and save the shots with "high notes" for the barytas (Ilford Gold or Hahnemuhle).
« Last Edit: January 17, 2009, 05:11:02 PM by MichaelL » Logged

gkroeger
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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2008, 10:00:20 PM »
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Just an anecdote:

I haven't tried the Ilford or Epson papers yet. I made a series of prints on the Harman paper and showed them to a teacher of mine (who is still exclusively a darkroom printer). I was pleased with the DMAX, sharpness and tonal rendering, but not really sold on the surface; it reminded me too much of the resin-coated papers I had long ago moved away from in the darkroom.

Without hesitation, she remarked on how much they looked like RC darkroom prints. In an instant, she confirmed exactly the doubt that had been kicking around in my head. As we continued to talk about the prints, we both felt that the variety of high-quality inkjet papers available now is nothing but a good thing, and a vast improvement in the state of the art over just a few years ago. Nobody expects to like every product on the market, and it's perfectly acceptable to say "this paper is good, but it doesn't suit my personal taste," which is pretty much how I've come to feel about the Harman paper.

At this point, I haven't found anything that really suits my work better than Silver Rag. Epson's new offering is, frankly, price-prohibitive for me. Maybe the Ilford paper will be a winner, maybe not .
--
Daniel Bell
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Daniel et al.

I am curious about the comments on the price of Epson EF.  Obviously it is expensive but I have been extremely happy with the 17x22 prints I have been making.  That size costs me $6 a sheet, and the 24x30 will set me back $12 a sheet. And yes, when I bought the first box, it stung a bit. But I do initial proofs on Epson Premium Semi-matte rolls, so at worst I get a keeper by the second sheet.

But I have been thinking about the real cost difference and in what circumstances it might make me turn elsewhere.  I print primarily for my own collection and for a small quantity of gifts and sales. Even in the largest size, the cost difference between this exquisite paper and something more ordinary is less than $10. Given the value of a 24x30 print, the cost of the equipment needed to get the image, the cost of the printer, the cost of the computer and the cost of matting and framing a print that size, $10 is lost in the noise.  

Now if I were doing large volumes of printing, the cost difference would add up... but why would I be doing large volumes of large size prints if I were not selling them. Would a $15 (assuming markup) difference in cost impact my sales volume?  If so, my work must not be that special.  OTOH, if I were doing large volumes of large prints for my own use, I would already have a 20,000 square foot house to display them in, and the $10 per print wouldn't matter anyway? The only other situation I could imagine is large volumes of smaller prints, in which case either the cost difference would be less, or if price were critical, I wouldn't be using a premium fiber paper anyway.  

So I can't imagine a fine art scenario where the cost would be a problem and all I can come up with as a business scenario where the cost would be an issue might be something like wedding work where price per print eats heavily into profits.
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BruceHouston
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« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2008, 02:22:16 AM »
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I too am sensing an "Emperor's new clothes" sensation as I have tried both Harman and EEF.

Instead of chasing D-max with the semi-glossy papers and PK ink, why are the manufacturers not introducing cleverly-designed, high D-max matte papers for use with MK ink?  Surely there is no law of physics that says that MK/matte paper densities must be inferior to PK ink/semi-glossy combinations.

What about the new Harman Inkjet Matte FB Mp baryta paper?  Does it take MK ink?  How do its results compare to the Harman Injet Gloss FB Al with PK ink?

I agree with Michael Reichmann's excitement (expressed in his "Battle of the Barytas" article) of finding one paper and ink combination to settle on and use.  "Though I have been printing on matte fine art papers such as Hahnemuhle Photo Rag for the past few years, I think that my days with matte papers and matte black ink are now over."  I personally would rather be saying that my days with PK ink and semi-glossy papers are over.

Bruce
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RogerW
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« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2008, 04:33:17 AM »
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"I too am sensing an "Emperor's new clothes" sensation as I have tried both Harman and EEF"


Well, this only goes to show that (as in any art form)  there are as many opinions as contributors.  

Let's be thankful that the media makers are working on their products and have made such great strides already rather than just bemoaning the work they've done so far.

IMHO, for what it's worth, the harman paper is great!
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Roscolo
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« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2008, 10:04:51 AM »
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HP's professional satin paper is a typical synthetic semigloss/satin inkjet photo paper, and prints on this paper look wonderful, with a deep D-max, wide gamut, and very subtle surface texture. I've been very happy with it.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=167049\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


I completely agree. I settled on this paper for the z3100 for my B&W prints. They are indistinguishable from my former darkroom prints, thus making this the perfect paper for me. The price is much better than any of the new papers as well. And we know the archival properties of the HP ink / paper combo. Perfect.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2008, 10:07:03 AM by Roscolo » Logged
dilip
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2008, 12:49:17 PM »
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What about the new Harman Inkjet Matte FB Mp baryta paper?  Does it take MK ink?  How do its results compare to the Harman Injet Gloss FB Al with PK ink?

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=167485\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I have a pack... accidentally ended up with it when I thought I was getting the glossy.  Well, it's matte, and uses the MK ink.

I don't have a substantial number of tests done on it, but it seems to lack the same depth that the gloss offers.  I'm not really a B&W guy, so I can't comment on that aspect of it, but I can say that the blacks aren't as black and the colour don't pop in the same fashion.  If you want to see what it's like, download the profiles to the gloss and colour for your printer and soft proof an image in photoshop.  I didn't think it would be as washed out as it showed on the screen... I was right, it wasn't quite that washed out, but it was really really close.

--dilip
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Wayne Fox
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2008, 08:23:19 PM »
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I too am sensing an "Emperor's new clothes" sensation as I have tried both Harman and EEF.

Instead of chasing D-max with the semi-glossy papers and PK ink, why are the manufacturers not introducing cleverly-designed, high D-max matte papers for use with MK ink?  Surely there is no law of physics that says that MK/matte paper densities must be inferior to PK ink/semi-glossy combinations.

What about the new Harman Inkjet Matte FB Mp baryta paper?  Does it take MK ink?  How do its results compare to the Harman Injet Gloss FB Al with PK ink?

I agree with Michael Reichmann's excitement (expressed in his "Battle of the Barytas" article) of finding one paper and ink combination to settle on and use.  "Though I have been printing on matte fine art papers such as Hahnemuhle Photo Rag for the past few years, I think that my days with matte papers and matte black ink are now over."  I personally would rather be saying that my days with PK ink and semi-glossy papers are over.

Bruce
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Isn't producing anything matte make dMax more difficult?  the entire idea of  a "matte" surface is to disperse the light, whether for effect or to eliminate reflections.  It seems if you try and increase the dMax of a matte paper/ink product you would have to do so by using less matte properties.  I would suppose a "matte" surface paper could be designed to use PK inks, the result being perhaps less "matte" but greater dMax, but if it equals the dMax of a Photo Paper, I'm guessing it will not be very "matte".

To me it is easy to get wrapped up in the physical "feel" of a paper and forget that the end product is going to be matted/framed so it can't be touched, and be covered with glass or some other product that will dramatically change that look and feel.  I find myself doing that often - getting excited about a print on Museum Etching or some other "fine art" paper, until I look at the depth and detail of the same print on Kodak or Epson Lustre or Gloss paper, and realize the photograph matted and frame will look far better.  There are exceptions, where the the slightly muted look of a matte paper actually enhance the image, but for the most part they seem to be exceptions to me.  

However, like many others, I keep trying new papers and enjoy the process.  Printing my first prints on Epson Exhibition Fiber as I write this ...
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neil snape
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« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2008, 01:43:16 AM »
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I agree , when using the Z3100 the very highly optimised Pro Satin will be hard to beat in terms of IQ. In paper handling the Pro Satin holds it's own. The surface is not quite as "personailsed" as the Harmon. I do like the Innova Ulta even more tha Harmon.
I can say for  Baryta on the Z there are many possibles flaws either from the paper mill, or the combination of the HP pigments on these papers, but the 100% perfectly reliable (outside of the sometimes flawed rolls in the beginning) is Pro Satin.
As to the query of MK on other than matte media, well getting away from bronzing, Gloss uniformity is going to be challenge that won't be met in the near future. I even see quite a bit on the new Baryta papers anyway with PK!
I do feel the new papers are what direction we would like to go, but there is still a lot of room for improvement towards perfection in surfaces and the inks used on them.
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