Musings on Photography

Inkjet versus ra-4

Posted in digital printing, materials by Paul Butzi on April 17, 2007

One of the things that’s been most interesting about my friend Rob getting a new HP Z3100 has been that as a result we’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at/comparing profiles, and thus we’ve started to get a grip on just what profiles tell you about what you can expect to see if you make a print on one material or another.

This got me thinking about an easy way to compare one technology (say, inkjet printing) to another technology (say, RA-4 papers).  It seemed to me that if we just had profiles describing the characteristics of an RA-4 paper (like, for instance, Fuji Crystal Archive), then we’d just load it up along with the profile for, say Crane Museo Max on the Z3100, compare the two, and learn a lot.  It turns out that virtually any lab that does custom prints on a LightJet or Lamda provides such profiles to its customers so that they can tweak out their images just so before sending them to be printed.  And those profiles are exactly what the doctor ordered.

The first order observation is that, in the low tones, Fuji Crystal Archive has a much wider gamut.  If you’re printing color, and you want lots of color separation in the shadows, Fuji Crystal Archive will give you better results than Crane Museo Max on an HP Z3100 (and Crane Museo Max was the best in the lowlights of the non-barrier papers we tested).  Conversely, Crane Museo Max on the Z3100 has a broader gamut in the highlights – so if color separation in the highlights is what your prints are about, Crane Museo Max on the Z3100 will give you better results.

3 Responses

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  1. Jeff said, on April 17, 2007 at 9:22 am

    By using a rag paper you’re putting the inkjet at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to shadow gamut and DMAX. I wonder if you would see the same difference if you compared Fuji Crystal Archive to something like Epson Premium Luster, or one of the newer fiber-gloss papers such as Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl or Innova F-Type Gloss.

  2. Joe Reifer said, on April 17, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    As a night photographer who works primarily in color, shadow separation is extremely important to getting a good print. I almost always print using RA-4 instead of inkjet.

    And while most photographers are hip to inkjet being archival these days, some consumers still have concerns about inkjet longevity. RA-4 prints can still have a marketing advantage.



  3. Rob Ferguson said, on April 17, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    In regard to Jeff’s question: I have made the comparison he mentions, between RA-4 and Hahnemuhle FAP profiles.

    In sum, FAP is better in certain ways than Museo MAX, but RA-4 still has a greater total volume at the low L-values. FAP appears better than RA-4 in the dark blue-purples, but RA-4 wins over FAP in all the other low-value colors.

    Additionally, RA-4 actually achieves a (0,0,0) on the LAB graph, where as the lowest L value point of the FAP paper is offset from the LAB origin in all the dimensions — which is to say that you can reach darker, more neutral tones on the RA-4 paper than can ever be achieved on Hahnemuhle FAP.

    Rob (the guy with the Z3100)

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