Professional Inkjet Photo Paper
As The Industry Turns
Ilford is one of the industry's leading manufacturers of photographic film, paper and chemicals. Products such as Ilfochrome and Delta 100 are class leaders, so when this British company turns its attention to a new field of endeavor one should take notice.
Announced at the PMA show in February, 2002, Ilford's line of Galerie inkjet photo papers has now been made available in North America. I have reproduced their press release, so I won't go into all of the gory specifications or too many details here again. Enough to say that there are four new papers, and their descriptive names are given in the illustration above.
Each paper is available in 8.5X11, 11X17 and 13X19 inch sizes. All are in 25 sheet packages and the letter-sized sheets are also available in 100 and 250 sheet boxes.
Third Party Papers
Let me start off by saying that I have not often found third party papers that work well with Epson printers. Some are, of course, better than others. The worst in my experience have been Kodak's papers. But, from time to time I become curious to see what other manufacturers are doing and I buy a few packs of whatever's new to test.
Given my usually positive experience with Ilford products I had high hopes for the Galerie papers. I was able to obtain two types for testing; Smooth Pearl and Classic Gloss. These papers are described as being compatible with a wide range of photo printers from Epson, HP, Canon and Lexmark. My comments here though are based solely on testing with an Epson 1270 printer.
Canon D30 with Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens @ ISO 100
I used the photograph above for some of my tests along with a number of standard test images. These pelicans silhouetted against a Florida sunrise provide a richly saturated subject along with subtle detail in the blacks — much more so than can be reproduced here. It's also just fun to look at.
I was pleasantly pleased with the results from Galerie Smooth Pearl. At first glance and touch it is very similar to Epson's Premium Semi-Gloss. The Ilford paper has a slightly whiter base and a slightly more textured finish. The Ilford paper is also somewhat heavier at 280gsm Vs the Epson paper at 251gsm. Epson printers should be set to their "Glossy Film" setting when using this paper.
I saw no mottling or other artifacts. Colour balance is very close to Epson standard, though I'd judge it to be about 5CC units too magenta.
Overall this is a fine paper, and one that I wouldn't hesitate to use.
I've never been a big fan of glossy papers. (Pictorico High Gloss Film was an exception). I prefer my fine-art prints on matt finish paper (currently Epson Archival Matt) and day-to-day prints — especially ones that are going to be handled a lot — on semi-gloss or pearl finish papers.
Galerie Classic Gloss hasn't done anything to change my mind. As you might expect it has a high-gloss finish. For this reason as well it shows slight traces of pizza wheel marks, something that I haven't seen in ages. Blacks seem to sit "on" the paper, rather than be part of it, and the colour balance is decidedly magenta — about 15CC. (Ilford mentions this in their information sheet).
I also wasn't taken with the "feel" of the rear surface of the paper. Maybe it's just a personal sensitivity of mine, but it has an "unfinished" rough surface which I find unpleasant.
Reader Kirk Thompson has added this observation about Ilford Classic Gloss paper...
I started using Ilford's Galerie Classic Glossy paper because it seems to be a swellable polymer paper like Epson Colorlife & Ilford Classic Pearl, & presumably long-lasting, like Colorlife. (When, when, when will test results for these papers appear from Wilhelm Research??) I disliked the Epson Colorlife & Ilford Classic Pearl surfaces (which seem identical) because of their unpleasant reflectiveness & the 'oily' darkness of shadows, even when the paper was carefully profiled with ColorVision. But Classic Glossy was, with Epson 6-color inks, the bowl of porridge that tasted just right: rich,luminous, full-range prints with - I'm hoping - much better ozone resistance than previously-available papers.
Then I hit the snag: In producing this fine paper, Ilford made the serious mistake of reducing the weight of the paper stock. Their old glossy paper was 280 weight, and the new one 240. (Classic Pearl & Epson Colorlife aren't quite as bad - the stock is a little heavier.) The result seems disastrous:
The swellable polymer paper responds to Epson inks - and I suppose others too - by becoming wavy all over, and buckling forward in the darker areas which have received more ink. For fine-art printing it becomes almost useless, because the prints cannot be mounted archivally - that is, you can't fasten them to an undermat with archival corners or mounting strips. With a 4-ply overmat, the free area of the print ripples & sometimes buckles so far forward that it touches the glass of the frame, causing a blotch and even adhering to the glass. (Yes, these are slow-drying prints, but this happens even if they have a week to dry.)
This occurs with any size over 8.5x11". I made a series of exhibition prints that had to be reprinted on another paper. Even wide margins (10x15" prints on 13x19" paper) wouldn't solve the problem. One could presumably buy an expensive mat cutter and make 8-ply overmats to prevent contact between the print and the glass, but the result would still look rippled and wavy.
I'm so sorry that Ilford is producing a superior surface on the wrong weight of paper stock. I sent a note to Ilford USA's tech support but got no reply. I wish someone could get word to Ilford GB or whoever might be able to correct what looks like a fatal error in the manufacture of so promising a paper.
Not having a chance to yet test the other two papers in the product line I really can't generalize about Ilford's Galerie. Of the two that I did test, one I liked and the other I didn't. My suggestion is that if the paper that you're currently using leaves you wanting a change, do try several of the new Galerie papers. But, if like me, you value reliability and predictability over change for change's sake, stick with what works for you.