Thanks to Nikonians and Ilford for asking/allowing me to review/test some very nice photo paper. I hope my review and data will be helpful to potential customers looking for great printing paper for their photos, both pros and home printing photographers.
I am an American living in Germany with an Event & Studio Photography business. Primarily, I shoot Equestrian sports, but I do not limit my self to a single sport or subject. Auto Races, HS Sports of all kinds, Communions, Weddings and Company Events are to name a few of the types of events I shoot. To present and print my work at these events, I use my self made Event Photo Truck. With this truck, I can service between 8 to 12 customers, depending on configuration, all at the same time with different viewing stations. I am able to produce photo prints for my customers from 4x6” all the way to 44x66” on location using any of the five photo printers in the truck. You can learn a bit about me and my Event & Studio business, as well as see some photos of my self-made event photo truck at www.dennisowens.com. Each time you refresh the page on my website (by pressing F5) or show a new page, you should see a different random photo of my truck on the top right of the page. Enough about me, lets get on with this review.
Here is how I intend to do this review…
- First The Paper Details (the boring stuff)
- Then the Test Methodology used (more interesting)
- Subjective - My Impressions (what we are all interested in)
- Objective - A chance to See for yourself
- Internet Web Link URL References
My first step was to realize what paper I have and find a way to objectively compare this new paper to my very trusted Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper 260gm which I use primarily in my Event Photo Truck.
1. The Paper Details
The five rolls of Ilford paper I was provided for this testing/review are…
- 1154504 Gold Fibre Silk 43,2 cm x 12,0 m 310 g Ilford Galerie Gold
- 1161764 Smooth Gloss 43,2 cm x 30.5 m 290 g Ilford Galerie Smooth
- 1161720 Smooth Pearl 43,2 cm x 30.5 m 290 g Ilford Galerie Smooth
- 1151534 Smooth Fine Art Canvas 43,2 cm x 12,0 m 375 g Ilford Galerie Smooth
- 1129131 Smooth Fine Art Matt 61,0 cm x 12,0 m 310 g Ilford Galerie Smooth
All were in rolls of 17” except the Fine Art Matt was a roll of 24”.
Next step was to get the Printer ICC Profiles from www.ilford.com for the Epson Stylus Pro 9880 for the five types of photo paper.
Printer ICC profiles were loaded into my Print Computer which uses the German Operating System Windows 7 Home version.
Breaking the code to the Ilford ICC Profiles was a bit confusing at first, but it is done like this…
On page 3 of the Read Me PDF file that comes with each Ilford ICC profile an explanation is given per Ilford Paper type, which printer you will be using it with, what selection of printer driver “Media Type” to use in your printer as well as which application, if any should perform color management. See Figure 1.
For instance, the paper I was provided with to test using the Epson Stylus Pro 9880 brakes down like this per paper type…
1154504 Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk 43,2 cm x 12,0 m 310 g
ICC Profile – IGGFS13Roll_EPP9880_PSPPN250n
IGGFS13 is Gold Fibre Silk Roll, EPP9880 is for my printer, PSPPN250n is for the Media Type that I should select in my printer to use = Premium Semigloss Photo Paper 250gm, and the small ‘n’ at the end of this ICC profile indicates that I should use no color management from my Epson printer driver. The “n” indicates that the color management should be done from within the application being used and not by the printer driver. You are still using color management, in fact.
1161764 Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss 43,2 cm x 30.5 m 290 g
ICC Profile – IGSGP11Roll_EPP9880_PGPPn
IGSGP11Roll is Ilford Galerie Smooth Roll, EPP9880 is for my printer, PGPP is for the Epson Media Type that I should select in my printer Driver to use = Premium Gloss Photo Paper, and the small ‘n’ at the end of this ICC profile indicates that I should use no color management for my Epson printer.
Same comment as above.
1161720 Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl 43,2 cm x 30.5 m 290 g
ICC Profile – IGSPP11Roll_EPP9880_PSPPn
IGSPP11Roll is Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl Roll, EPP9880 is for my printer, PSPP is for the Epson Media Type that I should select in my printer Driver to use = Premium Semigloss Photo Paper, and the small ‘n’ at the end of this ICC profile indicates that I should use no color management for my Epson printer.
Same comment as above.
1151534 Ilford Galerie Smooth Fine Art Canvas 43,2 cm x 12,0 m 375 g
ICC Profile – IGSFAC_EPP9880_USFAPn
IGSFAC is Ilford Galerie Smooth Fine Art Canvas, EPP9880 is for my printer, USFAP is for the Epson Media Type that I should select in my printer Driver to use = Ultra Smooth Fine Art Paper, and the small ‘n’ at the end of this ICC profile indicates that I should use no color management for my Epson printer. Same comment as above.
1129131 Ilford Galerie Smooth Fine Art Matt 61,0 cm x 12,0 m 310 g
ICC Profile – IGSFAM_EPP9880_ USFAPn
IGSFAM is Ilford Galerie Smooth Fine Art Matt, EPP9880 is for my printer, USFAP is for the Epson Media Type that I should select in my printer Driver to use = Ultra Smooth Fine Art Paper, and the small ‘n’ at the end of this ICC profile indicates that I should use no color management for my Epson printer. Same comment as above.
For this example, I will be showing the setup I used for the Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss in the ICC selection and the Printer Media Type selection.
ICM Profile used for Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss in the Druckerprofil (Printer Profile) is shown in Figure 2. Note in this figure, the Intent is shown as Wahrnehmung which is the German word for Perception.
Intent is a matter of personal preference. In this review I tried a few different settings and received just slightly different results with each. It is advised to use Relative Colormetric for photographic images and Perceptual for graphics.
They are in German (English)…
Sättigung = (Saturation)
Wahrnehmung = (Perception)
Relativ farbmetrisch = (Relative Colormeteric)
Absolut farbmetrisch = (Absolute Colormeteric)
But, the important thing for me here was the Eingabeprofil (German for Input File Type ICC Profile) in this case; it was a sRGB JPG file. I had this setting incorrect for a couple of weeks and it was no wonder I was not particularly satisfied with my test results thus far. After I got it strait, I was very impressed with the results. Special thanks you shout out to Martin Lannon at Ilford for helping me to understand where I went wrong here.
So now to continue, the printer driver paper/media type for PGPPn, see Figures 4 and 5.
The printing software I use in my photo truck is Express Digital Darkroom Pro. So I had to also tell Express Digital Darkroom Pro what Print Media I was printing on in the Epson 9880. Figure 5.
Once I was happy that I could change the ICC profile for the different paper and which type of paper/media settings in the printer driver and Express Digital Darkroom Pro, I was then ready to start printing.
2. Test Methodology
I needed to find a test photo to print and compare the different types of paper with. I wished to use a very complicated and very intricate yet colorful test photo. I also desired to use the same photo per each type of paper to review. This would give me apples-to-apples for comparison.
I found a test photo in the www.dpreview.com website which was a recent test sample shot with a Nikon D800, dsc_8318.jpg. This test image has plenty of detail, great color and contrast characteristics as well as the Kodak Grey Scale and the Kodak Q-60 Color Input Target chart. This photo also provides the feathers and a paintbrush as well as a graphical pattern that could produce a Moiré pattern. This photo shown in Figure 6 is allowed to be used in this review with the generous permission of Mr. Simon Joinson, General Manager & Editor Digital Photography Review, www.dpreview.com.
This massive 14.0 MB Nikon D800 raw file can be down loaded here or by control clicking on the figure.
My first print was using the Epson 9880 with the Epson Premium Photo Luster Paper 260g paper. I have always been very happy with the amount of color and sharpness of detail in this A2, 16”x24” size print from this paper. Figures 8 and 9 are two ~100% Crops of a studio shot Nikon D3s RAW file of the print out from Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper. In this review, this will be my reference print for comparisons. Naturally, I was delighted with the results from the Epson Premium Photo Luster Paper of this test image. I have been using this paper now over four years and I am very accustomed to and happy with its quality and “Sell-ability”.
Following that, I printed out samples of Canvas, Fine Art Matt, Gloss, Pearl and finally the Silk. The Silk was printed using both color and B&W image of the sample test image dsc_8313.jpg in my photo truck, see Figure 7.
3. My Impressions
Like I said, I have always been very happy with the 260g Epson Premium Photo Luster Paper I that normally use in my photo truck, so to impress me, Ilford had some work to do.
Now to a layman, the differences between each photo printed using different paper just are not visible. I showed these prints to several people and not everyone actually saw the differences that I will mention here in this review. Interesting enough, my 11 year old son Jack who is also developing an eye for photography wanted to rate these print outs too. After a half an hour of studying them, he independently came up with the exact same rankings that I gave these printouts.
Smooth Fine Art Canvas:
The Smooth Fine Art Canvas was the first Ilford “paper” that I ran through my printer. It weighed in at 375 grams per Sq. meter! This is thick stuff. I was however very curious why the ICC printer profile called out for Fine Art Matt Paper and not “Canvas” for the Epson Paper/Media type.
To be honest, I was not that impressed with the vividness and contrst of the print. It lacked POP! The print was fairly dull sitting next to the Epson Luster Paper, but then I was looking at canvas next to luster paper. I know have seen much better canvas prints; mind you that I send out my canvas orders for printing to a local print shop as I do not do the framing myself. With that said, I must admit that I have very little experience running Canvas through my Epson. Figures 10 and 11 are two ~100% Crops of a studio shot Nikon D3s RAW file of the print out from Smooth Fine Art Canvas.
Smooth Fine Art Matt Paper:
Next I gave the Smooth Fine Art Matt Paper a go. Again, I was not impressed with it only because of the same lack of POP!
Now, the properties of the matt paper and canvas were very strong. The canvas made of cotton and polyester, seems un-rip-able at 375g, and the printed details were very sharp, just not the pop of contrast, saturation and color. The absolute benefit of printing with canvas is once mounted on the wall, there is zero reflective glare and can be stretched over frames. This canvas is also known as water and smudge resistant. It has the look and feel of real canvas.
The Matt paper made of 100% cotton is also weighing in at a very hefty 310g is some really fine art paper! The Matt paper would be great for posters, poster boards and signs and fine art prints. The detail seen in this matt was also extremely sharp as with the canvas. Figures 12 and 13 are two 100% Crops of a studio shot Nikon D3s RAW file of the print from Smooth Fine Art Matt.
(Editors note; after printing the Canvas and Matt and then all other papers, I had a very long conversation with a very nice lady at Ilford in Switzerland about my negative impressions with the Canvas and Matt results. She was quite fair and kindly reminded me to check if I had replaced the Photo Black Ink in the Epson with the Matt Black Ink to print on the Canvas and Matt papers. Duh!!!, I had not. This Dullness is my fault. At the time of publishing this review, I still have not printed the Matt and Canvas in Matt ink. Changing the Black ink from Photo to Matt and then back to photo consumes a great deal of expensive ink. I might change my mind and rewrite this part of the review in the near future. But since I only print JPG photos with photo black ink in my truck I don’t see the need to swap inks for this test yet.)
Galerie Smooth Gloss:
I continued printing with the Galerie Smooth Gloss paper. Whoa, was I in for a great surprise! What a shine, what a POP! This gloss is the cat’s meow! The colors are brilliant and spectacular! The level of detail in sharpness of the fine areas in the print jumped out at you. I love this very, very Smooth shiny Gloss paper. Photo examples of this details I talk about can be seen in the next two figures. In the technical details of this gloss paper, it is written that it weighs in at 290g, with the opacities properties of 99% and reflectiveness (gloss) of 33% (20°). When compared side by side next to the Epson print, I noticed that the Gloss print was about 1/3rd stop darker to my eyes next to the Epson Luster print. Figures 14 and 15 are two ~100% Crops of a studio shot Nikon D3s RAW file of the print from Galerie Smooth.
Smooth Gloss Pearl:
Next, after my happy satisfaction of the Smooth Gloss, I went on to the Smooth Pearl. Pearl weighing in at 290g as well did not disappoint either. The colors were superb, texture was very smooth and surprisingly, as advertised very touchable right out of the printer. The coating used in this paper tends to be resistant to fingerprints. The texture is a bit like old fashion matt versus the gloss type printer paper, very similar to the texture of the Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper. Can it be that this print was even sharper than the Galerie Smooth Gloss print not only in sharpness but contrast as well? I can see printing large Engagement photos with this paper for display during a wedding reception. This is wonderful paper. However as noticed in the Ilford Gloss print thus far, the Pearl also looked about 1/3rd stop darker next to the Epson Luster print. Figures 16 and 17 are two ~100% Crops of a studio shot Nikon D3s RAW file of the print from Galerie Smooth Pearl.
Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk:
This paper must be special because it came with white cotton gloves. The texture is like no other that I have ever had in my printer. It is really fiber. When cut by my printer, there are lots of little curly shreds of this Silk paper around the edges of the paper and my cutting blade near the print head in the printer. This is something that I do not like to see as it causes me to worry about my print head cleanliness. At 310g weight, this is very hefty paper. This paper is advertised as perfect for portraits, professional quality framed prints, photo and wedding albums. One of the strong claims about this paper is that the baryta (barium sulphate) coated layer under the ink receiving layer makes this perfect archival photo paper. It is also advertised as great for digitally toned monochrome images.
From what I see in my prints both B&W and color, the Silk is brilliantly sharp and with great sharp color. The texture of the paper is wonderful. You know you are holding a quality print just by the feel alone, great stuff here! Figures 18 and 19 are two ~100% Crops of a studio shot Nikon D3s RAW file of the print from Galerie Gold Fibre Silk.
Figures 20 and 21 are two ~100% Crops of a studio shot Nikon D3s RAW file of the print from Galerie Gold Fibre Silk print of the test image printed as an 8 bit B&W test image.
However, just like the Pearl and Gloss, this Silk also looks to be printing about 1/3rd stop darker than the Epson print. When I was on the phone with Ilford in Switzerland, she mentioned that Ilford has received some comments about various types of Ilford paper being printed darker than expected. This lays in the ICC profile. Ilford is working to change this aspect in a lot of the ICC profiles. Until then in your computer, it is an easy fix to print a touch lighter by default. For this paper review/test all I did was to change the print driver with type media and the ICC profile used. I made no adjustments in any of the prints. Just loaded the ICC and changed the print/media type in the driver, to what was indicated in the Ilford ICC profile name, changed the paper roll and hit print.
The differences in the sharpness are very clear to see in the paper clips section. The Epson paper seemed slightly duller in sharpness compared to the Gloss, and the Pearl looked better than the Gloss and yet the Silk looked so much sharper than the Pearl! In the Silk print, the paper clips actually looked like you could pick one of them up off of the stack. The chrome color seemed perfect!
I must say that I am extremely impressed with this Ilford paper. So much so, that I have already ordered a 24” roll of Smooth Gloss and Smooth Gloss Pearl for the Event Photo Truck.
4. Now here is a chance to Objectively See for yourself:
About this approach of testing, it makes no sense for me to do this review and just provide subjective results to you based on my experience, my eyes and my opinion. Therefore, I have come up with a way that you can see it for yourself on your own monitor and printer objectively. As all monitors and printers are a bit different. Yours and mine are MOST likely not set the same in color calibration.
So in addition to providing the original test file location (See Figure 6) for your personal use/test courtesy of www.dpreview.com. I also set up my studio for a very consistent way to take high quality photographs of each of the prints in this test. Figure 22 shows this studio set up. Two large fill lights were shot up to the ceiling to limit the glare and a reflector was used to provide even light from the bottom as well. I used a light meter to measure the flash to hit each corner of the paper and the center, see Figure 23.
I was happy when the light meter readings fell between f/5.6(2)-f/5.6(4) which =f/6.3 on all corners and the center of the paper. So if anything, all prints photographed by me should be with the same even lighting. I took 10 shots of each of the prints waiting between 5 to 10 seconds per shot to allow the strobes to recharge fully recharge. I have chosen with the most consistent Histogram readings for your own comparisons.
Also placed on each of these prints on both sides are three small strips of masking tape with exactly 18% grey, pure black and a strip of pure white. I picked up these sample rolls of tape from “mt masking tape” from Kamoi Kakoshi Co. Ltd. www.masking-tape.jp/mt_foto/ in Photokina two years ago. These are great for studio work! You can stick a piece of this tape on your subject’s clothes until you are satisfied with your light setup then remove the tape from your subject and use the last setup shot as your white balance calibration reference photo in your post processing.
Each of the examples inserted in the figures 8-21 in this review have been optimized using the Lightroom 3.0 color sampler eyedropper on the 18% grey strip and have also been converted to JPG. This should negate any slight change of color temperature of my studio lights from photo to photo. Using these strips of color tape, you can also calibrate the white balance in these photos to see for yourself any differences between these types of paper at your home on your home monitor. All photos were taken in Manual Exposure, with a 24-70mm at 29mm, 1/125Sec, f/6.3 at ISO 400 with WB=Automatic in RAW and Fine JPG using a Nikon D3s.
5. Internet Web Link URL References
So now here is a chance for you to see for yourself which one printed out better and how rich or how fine the details are between the different types of Ilford papers. For the rawfiles just make a right click "save under".
- The Nikon D3s RAW photo of the original print from the Epson Premium Photo Luster Paper can be downloaded here for your comparison. https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennisnef/USS_7807.nef
- The Nikon D3s RAW photo of the original print from the Smooth Fine Art Canvas can be downloaded here for your comparison. https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennisnef/USS_7871.nef
- The Nikon D3s RAW photo of the original print from the Smooth Fine Art Matt can be downloaded here for your comparison. https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennisnef/USS_7879.nef
- The Nikon D3s RAW photo of the original print from the Smooth Gloss can be downloaded here for your comparison. https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennisnef/USS_7828.nef
- The Nikon D3s RAW photo of the original print from the Smooth Pearl can be downloaded at here for your comparison. https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennisnef/USS_7839.nef
- The Nikon D3s RAW photo of the original print from the Gold Fibre Silk Color can be downloaded here for your comparison. https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennisnef/USS_7853.nef
- The Nikon D3s RAW photo of the original print from the Gold Fibre Silk B&W can be downloaded here for your comparison. https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennisnef/USS_7862.nef
The Following Figures used in this review can also be downloaded here…
- Figure 6 https://www.dpreview.com/reviews_data/nikon_d800/boxshot/dsc_8318.jpg
- Figure 7 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/USS_5811.jpg
- Figure 8 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Epson1.jpg
- Figure 9 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Epson2.jpg
- Figure 10 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Canvas1.jpg
- Figure 11 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Canvas2.jpg
- Figure 12 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Matt1.jpg
- Figure 13 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Matt2.jpg
- Figure 14 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Gloss1.jpg
- Figure 15 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Gloss2.jpg
- Figure 16 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Pearl1.jpg
- Figure 17 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/Pearl2.jpg
- Figure 18 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/SilkColor1.jpg
- Figure 19 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/SilkColor2.jpg
- Figure 20 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/SilkBW1.jpg
- Figure 21 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/SilkBW2.jpg
- Figure 22 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/USQ_1754.jpg
- Figure 23 https://www.nikonians.org/resources/images/nikonians/articles/ilforddennis/USS_7790.jpg
I hope this review was informational for you in some way. I know that I enjoyed doing this testing and I learned a lot about my print process and printer as well as learned that there is other paper I should have been trying long ago. In the future, I will be providing my customers with even better quality prints. Win/Win!
All the best and Good Light,
Event & Studio Photography
If you have any questions or comments, please write them to:
User Name: DennisOwens
Nikonians Team Member
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