ILFORD GALERIE PRESTIGE PROFESSIONAL INKJET PHOTO RANGE
REVIEWED BY ERNESTO SANTOS
Since 1879 Switzerland based Ilford has been at the forefront of photographic media development. Unlike some other pioneering photographic companies who have struggled to maintain a solid foothold in an industry that has been transformed in the last twenty years, Ilford continues to steadfastly produce fine quality photographic film and print paper. Today as the industry continues to change at hyper-speed the Ilford brand has achieved almost legendary status. More importantly, as we have witnessed the almost total shift to digital photography and inkjet print making, Ilford professional print media is still a leader in this market particularly their Galerie line of print paper products. Now, Ilford is repackaging their Galerie inkjet papers into a more cohesive marketing design under the new Ilford Galerie Prestige range. Ilford recently sent me a sampling of papers under this new line for testing. Below you will find my impressions under a wide range of testing.
ILFORD GALERIE PRESTIGE
I have a long history with Ilford Galerie papers going back to my days with my old Epson 1280 inkjet printer using dye inks. In those days, when my enthusiasm far outweighed my printing experience, I would go through as many types of paper as I could get my hands on. While still learning the craft I soon found out that aside from a couple of Epson papers that worked well with dye inks it was a good idea to always kept a stash of Ilford Galerie Classic Pearl in 8.5x11 and 13x19 sizes. Naive as I was about fine art printing, I never the less thought I was in heaven. I could always rely on Classic Pearl to give me rich color and sharpness and the finish on the paper’s surface was just right for a luster paper.
Soon afterward I got an Epson 2200 and with it came the revolutionary change to pigment inks. That there was now a truly archival alternative for inkjet printing for the burgeoning digital photographers out there was a game changer. The immediate response of the print paper industry to the advent of pigment inks with an acceptable color gamut was to ramp up research and development. Not only did the variety of papers compatible with archival pigment inks explode but a few new companies came along to get their share of the market.
Ilford kept pace with this revolution with the release of Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl and Smooth Gloss papers. While similar to the Galerie Pearl series these papers have a different resin coating which restrict the spread of the ink dot to increase perceived color saturation and contrast. This is necessary since pigment particles do not have the same richness of color and the black inks have less density than those of dye inks.
As inkjet technology developed many people were dissatisfied with the choices in inkjet papers. They reminisced over the days of F-type fiber and fine art matte rag papers. While you could produce very good prints using the luster and glossy papers there was nothing available for making fine art prints like those from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. To meet that need Ilford, still under the Galerie line, introduced a fine art matte paper and their very popular Gold Fibre Silk. GFS is what is referred to as a baryta type paper using a cellulose fiber base with a layer of barium-sulphate under a top layer ink receptor. This paper was designed to match the old fine black and white papers used in the golden age of B&W printing. When Ilford was one of the first to release a baryta fiber paper it was met with open arms. Even today many prefer GFS over all the other baryta papers now available from several manufacturers. So it seems logical that Ilford has now repackaged their most successful papers into a new upgraded package distributed under the new Ilford Galerie Prestige brand. Based on the promotional materials I was provided the papers are for the most part the same great product but they are all now grouped together as a professional media range under a new brand. Without taking the spotlight away from Ilford I would just briefly mentioned that this is very similar to what Epson has done with their Signature Worthy brand. Anyway, back to Ilford. The papers that are officially part of the Galerie Prestige line are: GOLD FIBRE SILK, SMOOTH PEARL, SMOOTH GLOSS, SMOOTH LUSTRE DUO, SMOOTH HIGH GLOSS, SMOOTH FINE ART, and SMOOTH FINE ART CANVAS.
I spent the better part of two weeks testing these papers with the exception of Smooth Fine Art Canvas of which I was not provided samples. All images were printed using ICC paper profiles provided by Ilford on their website. If you download any of these profiles pay close attention to the nomenclature since it is cryptic and requires that you read through the provided README file. You must also make sure you read the online directions as some profiles are for the older versions of these papers. The key is to pay attention to the graphics on the box. I know, not the best way to distinguish them but that’s what you’ll have to do to get it right.
I used these papers on a wide variety of images from highly saturated color images and for black and white, to those with a lot of texture, and those with a soft look. I paid special attention to how well the papers translated accurate color to the page, retained a reasonable amount of detail and acuity, and whether there was noticeable artifacting such as metamerism, gloss differential, and bronzing. Concerning these three types of artifacts I’m happy to report that today’s modern inks, printers, and papers have virtually eliminated these problems. In all the test prints I made I did not find a single instance of any of these issues, except with one example when using Smooth Luster Duo, and that I will get into in more detail under the section for this paper in this review. Finally, I used four different Epson printers to perform my tests. I used a 9900, a 4900, a 3880, and an R1900. I decided to try all the printers at my disposal not for the sake of making things more complicated than they needed to be but so that I could 1) try three different inksets, and 2) to get a good feel for how these papers would perform under different feeding situations.
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