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Ilford Inkjet Paper Reviews - Brian Wadie takes a look at four A3+ Ilford papers for ePHOTOzine.
This review covers the following papers:
- A3+ Ilford Galerie Prestige Smooth High Gloss 215gsm
- A3+ Ilford Galerie Prestige Smooth Pearl 310gsm
- A3+ Ilford Galerie Prestige Gold Fibre Silk 310gsm
- A3+ Ilford Galerie Prestige Gold Mono Silk 270gsm
The packaging was strong, informative and colourful and indicated that Ilford provided ICC profiles for each paper at their website.
I downloaded the profiles for the Smooth Pearl and Gold Fibre Silk to try them during this evaluation but found that with my system they gave a slight purple cast to the blues so carried out the rest of the testing using my normal procedure, which is to select the correct setting for the paper type then allow the printer to manage colour. When printing in Black & White I use the "Highlight Point Shift" setting in the Advanced Colour Controls panel of the R3000 software.
When evaluating the quality of the test prints I finally came to the conclusion that trying to show the differences between them by scanning the images then reproducing them digitally on-screen was a bit of waste of time as it in no way reflects what is seen when looking at the print itself. I will try to compensate for this in the detail of my written description.
The test images I used were the following:
Handling: This looks and feels like a plastic laminate which although flexible is very strong. It appears to be untearable but cuts easily with rotary cutter, craft-knife or scissors. It has a very high gloss surface which is fairly easily marked if something is rubbed across the surface (the edge of a cardboard storage box for example). I would suggest that it would benefit from careful handling (as befits its quality). This is a very white paper, perhaps because it is polymer based with a fairly high pigment or optical brightener load. I had some initial difficulties in feeding this via the top feed on my R3000 because of the flexibility and thinness of the paper but with the paper rest fully extended and careful placement it finally fed OK (the feed rollers tended to skid on the surface of the paper). No such problems were reported during the Canon 9000 testing.
Black & White printing: As the A3+ Ilford Galerie Prestige Smooth High Gloss 215gsm is designed primarily for black and white, I got a fellow photographer to produce some test prints on his Canon 9000 in addition to printing from the Epson R3000.
From the Canon 9000 the quality of the prints were described as "Stunning" and on inspection I found they showed strong blacks with good tonal gradation.
From the R3000 there was low gloss differential and although there was good tonal gradation and strong black the image lacked impact.
Colour printing: Once again the results from the Canon 9000 were rated as stunning (the best the printer had ever achieved with this printer) but from the Epson R3000 they once again lacked impact. However there was a good colour match between the printed results and the test image.
A3+ Ilford Ilford Galerie Prestige Smooth High Gloss 215gsm Rating:
Excellent quality black and white reproduction with dye based ink
Cons:Difficulty feeding paper
Tendency to surface marking
Handling: This is similar in appearance and feel to the Epson Premium Lustre paper with slightly more "grain" visible. A nice feeling but rather compliant paper ("droopy") which will not feed through top sheet feeder on the R3000 but feeds OK via the front feed tray.
Black & White Printing: This paper provides strong blacks with a good tonal range and smooth gradations between tones. The paper is very slightly "off-white" with a cream tone. No signs of Gloss Differential or Bronzing were observed.
Colour Printing: Prints exhibited strong colours with good tonal range but the blues and reds were slightly more saturated than those in the Agfa colour standard. Many would appreciate the extra impact that this gives to the finished print, particularly for Landscape images but I found I needed to reduce these colours for skin tone reproduction. Some gloss differential is apparent in transitions from dark to lighter areas of the prints.
A3+ Ilford Galerie Prestige Smooth Pearl 310gsm Rating:
Pros:Good tonal range
Great Colour reproduction for landscape images
Cons:Droopy, difficult to feed into printer
|BLACK AND WHITE QUALITY|
Handling: There is something quite special about this paper (on a par with the Epson Traditional Photo paper which has become my "Gold Standard" exhibition satin paper). It is heavy weight and substantial to handle and immediately gives the impression of high quality. There is a distinct fine grain to the surface of the paper which gives a pleasing effect. Using the top feed on the R3000 is not feasible but it feeds without problem via the front feed, fine art paper path. Being a Baryta filled paper it is very prone to surface marking and needs to be handled with the care associated with paper of this type.
Black & White printing: Stunning image quality, deep, rich blacks a wide and smooth range of grey tones with excellent detail & sharpness. To my eye this is what this paper is designed for! Comparing it to my previous best print of the image of St Michael's Mount, on the Epson Professional Traditional Photo Paper the Ilford Gold Fibre Silk exhibits slight metamerism (on very close inspection), appearing to have a brown cast under artificial light and a slightly more blue to neutral cast under daylight (this is not obvious with the Epson paper). Detail and tonal gradation is better with the Ilford Gold Fibre Silk however.
Colour Printing: This paper is capable of stunning colour images but appears to do best with strong colours, dark tones and contrast when the prints are the equal of the black and white images. Images with more subtle, lighter tones & colours tend to be less impressive, but still good enough for gallery use.
This has now become my "Paper of Choice" for traditional photo presentation in gallery and competition work both because of the exceptional image quality and mechanical stability when mounted and framed. I have not yet seen any signs of "cockling" or buckling of this paper when mounted using the "Hinge" method (this is a rather common problem with lighter weight / lower stiffness papers, particularly when the prints are moved from one environment to another during storage, transport and display).
A3+ Ilford Galerie Prestige Gold Fibre Silk 310gsm Rating:
Excellent black and white results
Keeps its shape well
Cons:Surface very sensitive to marking
|BLACK AND WHITE QUALITY|
Handling: This paper has a similar feel to the High Gloss paper for dye inks (although it is heavier, stiffer and with more traditional handling quality). The surface finish has a pleasant slightly textured lustre which appears to be robust and I found no signs of surface marking with normal handling. I found it difficult to feed via the top sheet feeder of the R3000 but it fed easily through the front sheet feeder.
Black and white printing: Ilford state that when used with Dye inks it will give a higher DMAX than Gold Fibre Silk and with pigments it will give the same DMAX so this paper may be primarily designed for use with dye based inks. However, my tests were limited to the Epson R3000 where it produced excellent results.
Black and white prints exhibit excellent tonality from strong black to the lightest shades of grey (this is the best result for this characteristic I have seen from any paper I have put through the R3000) and there was no sign of gloss differential or bronzing.
Contrast was maybe not quite so intense as the same prints on the gold fibre silk but the whites are "Whiter" and there is no evidence of metamerism when shifting from artificial light to natural daylight as there was (just) apparent with the Gold Fibre.
Colour Printing: Colours are rich and intense with nice colour gradation and there is a good match with the Agfa colour standard. It does seem that with the R3000 this as with the Gold Fibre Silk this paper is shown to best effect printing images with strong saturation and contrast. But, the results with more subtle shades and a lighter colour palette work well and I would be happy to put them in front of potential customers.
A3+ Ilford Gold Mono Silk 270gsm Rating:
Line detail and sharpness excellent
Cons:Contrast not as intense
|BLACK AND WHITE QUALITY|