Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique Paper - REVIEW
13th Jun 2014
Nothing shows off our images better than a print and a large print made on a quality paper provides the ultimate endorsement of our skill as an artist.
As a fine art photographer and printer I'm always looking for improvements that will give me and my images an edge over the competition and the end result, 'the print' is the final and most vital stage in the image making process. If you were to ask anyone who knows me to describe me in just 3 words I am certain words such as 'perfectionist' and 'obsessive' would be in most peoples lists. Yes I do strive to produce the very best photographs I can and then print them to the very highest standards. To assist me to produce the best images I can I have bought the best equipment, sought out the best compositions and waited, sometimes years for just the right light conditions so it logically follows that I want to display them in the very best way possible for my own satisfaction and for the satisfaction of my clients.
I have always used quality paper on which to print my images and I have been happy with the results but recently I decided to try a new paper in my quest to look for ways to improve prints.
With inkjet paper it's not the substrate that is particularly important to the finished image, it's the top layer the layer, the layer that holds the ink and when considering a paper to print my images on I ask myself 5 questions:
1) How long is the image permanence rating?
2) Does it reproduce colours faithfully?
3) Is it able to reproduce a wide range of colours?
4) How much contrast is it able to handle?
5) How resistant is it to scratches?
These are the questions that are important to me!
Most manufacturers try to baffle us with long lists of laboratory produced results that claim their papers are better than those produced by other companies and while these results might seem compelling do they really translate into a visual discernible difference in image quality?
Often they show no noticeable difference in prints and may only be reproducible under strict laboratory controlled conditions, now I'm a photographer not a scientist so it's the results I can produce in my studio that concern me.
With an big exhibition coming up I needed to print 35 images a mixture of landscapes, macro and black & white images so this was the ideal opportunity for me to try a new paper and compare it to my usual brand. A suggestion from fellow photographer and fine art printer Robert Rodriguez Jnr pointed me in the direction of Canson paper.
Canson is a relatively new name to the inkjet paper market place but they have been manufacturing quality papers for over 500 years so I was interested to see if they have been able to bring their vast experience to the inkjet paper market. I ordered a pack of A3 Canson Infinty Baryta Photographique paper which is an archival quality paper giving long lasting image permanence when correctly mounted and framed. Their original Baryta paper had an image life expectancy of 99 years when printed using Epsom K3 inks and framed under UV glass, this new formulation is still being tested by the Wilheim Institute (http://www.wilhelm-research.com/Canson/WIR_Canson_2012_02_20.pdf) but when the results are published they are likely to show an improved rating.
So 99 years+ for image permanence is a great start.
What about colour reproduction?
This is a very subjective area as we all see colours differently, especially when viewing images under different light sources. When I viewed the same image, side by side one printed on my usual Baryta paper and one on Canson Infinity Baryta paper I didn't see a huge difference in the colours that were reproduced. It's worth pointing out that I used the generic paper profile for the Canson paper and a tailored profile for my usual paper - I would therefore expect my usual paper/profile combination to provide a better result.
What I did notice was that the Canson paper did appear to produce a 'richer' colour especially in the blue and yellow tones, this might be due to the Canson paper having a slightly larger gamut than my normal paper.
So to my eyes the Canson paper had a slight edge over my usual paper.
Now on to the colour gamut.
Gamut is the term given to the range or number of colours that can faithfully be reproduced.
When soft proofing my images in both Lightroom and Photoshop the gamut of both papers looked identical.
When the colour prints emerged from the printer the colours looked very close albeit with regard to the blues and yellows mentioned earlier.
It was a different story when my b&w prints were viewed, the blacks were noticeably darker and there was greater detail in the shadow areas too. It wasn't a huge difference but one that was still very noticeable.
Also it's worth commenting on the fine detail reproduction - the main reason for using a Baryta paper is often for b&w images due to it's ability to reproduce the tradition darkroom look but as the coating on the paper is very smooth it also reproduces images that contain fine detail wonderfully well. My macro insect images have lots of fine detail that would be lost if I used anything other than a paper with an exceptionally smooth coating. The Canson paper didn't disappoint me the fine detail in my images was printed with great clarity and resolution.
Finally the last question I looked at was the papers resistance to scratches.
Most papers claim to come out of the printer 'dry' but in my experience this is not wholly true. While they certainly don't come out dripping wet they certainly are prone to marks if handled incorrectly and need to be left to 'cure' for about 20 minutes before handling or storing them.
I always hold my prints by the edges of the paper to prevent fingers marks or any oils from my fingers getting on to the prints which may cause damage over time. If any prolonged handling is required then I use fine white cotton gloves to protect my prints.
This is the only test I performed that isn't subjective.
Using my usual paper I had 3 prints come out with slight marks on them, only very small but they would all have been rejected for clients or my exhibition yet no marks were evident using the Canson paper.
After curing overnight I packed my images in 2 boxes with a layer of tissue paper between each print and took them to the framers for mounting and framing. On arrival at the framers and unpacking the prints we found marks on 6 of the 35 prints, 4 were on prints made using my usual paper and just 2 slight marks on the Canson paper. Obviously this was an extreme test as I don't usually take 35 images to the framers at the same time but it does suggest the Canson paper is slightly more resilient to scratches.
In conclusion I am convinced that the Canson Baryta paper produces better prints, is slightly more resistant to damage and will provide my clients with a better product than my usual paper. I am certainly a convert to Canson Baryta paper and look forward to trying other papers in their range, especially their Rag Photographique in the near future.
Yes the Canson paper is slightly more expensive than my usual or should I now say 'old' paper but when considered against the amount of time and money I spend making the best images possible I am not going to quibble about one paper being a few pence more expensive than another if it gives me and my clients a better end product.
Please note that to get optimum results from any prints you need a properly calibrated workflow!