Harman Gloss FB AL/Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. UPS delivered my most recent order of paper. To my delight, the delivery did, indeed, include my 17″x50′ roll of Harman Gloss FB AL and my 17″x40′ roll of Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk.
So I set myself down, and I popped those rolls into the Z3100, and I cranked out profiles for both of them. Since I know that all of you have been waiting for my report on these two papers with bated breath, I will get right down to the brass tacks, the nitty gritty, and the bottom line. (pet peeve alert: note that you are all waiting with ‘bated’ breath, indicating that you have been holding your breath and not breathing, as opposed to ‘baited’ breath, a concept which is too disgusting to be discussed here. ‘Nuff said.)
First up: Harman Gloss FB AL. I ordered this paper both because of and in spite of Kjell Harald’s comments on it (see this post, this post, and this post). My first impression, which matches that of Kjell, was that the smell really triggered a tidal wave of emotions and memories. I’m serious. It smells exactly like Ilford Galerie fiber based gelatin silver paper when it comes out of the box. Weird.
Ok, so anyway, somehow I expected the paper to be a little thicker than it is. That is, my initial assessment was that this paper is not as thick as, say, Crane Museo Portfolio, on which I’ve been printing. But when I actually measured, they’re almost exactly the same. The Harman seems to be about the same weight as the Crane Museo Portfolio, but the Harman paper is far more flexible. That’s too bad, because I rather like the stiffness of the Crane paper, which feels very substantial in your hand and gives off a vibe of being a Very Permanent Object. I’m guessing (but don’t have enough experience to know for sure) that kinking of big prints on Harman Gloss FB AL is going to be a bit of an issue, although I don’t expect it to be as bad as the problems I had with Epson Premium Luster and Premium Semimatte.
The surface texture of the Harman Gloss FB AL paper is just a little glossy for my tastes. It’s not glossy like the old Ilfochrome glossy stuff that was based on voided polyester, or the Fuji Supergloss stuff (similarly on voided polyester), or ferrotyped glossy Kodabromide F surface. Those papers were Glossy with a capital G. This is more a matter of glossy with a lower case g, and a slight stippling of the surface. It’s very much like the surface of air dried glossy gelatin silver papers of yesteryear, just as advertised. I was hoping for a gloss surface that was more like the old Agfa Portriga Rapid – sort of a smooth surface, not quite so matte as to be semi-matte but also not quite so glossy as to be really glossy. And it’s just a smidgen more glossy than that target of mine.
On to the good news. I fired up the colorsync tool immediately I had the profile for Harman Gloss FB AL done, and compared the gamut to that of Crane Museo Portfolio. What I saw nearly made me fall out of my chair. Harman Gloss FB AL is the wireframe, Crane Museo Portfolio is the solid. (the Harman profile was generated with gloss optimizer ON, which makes a pretty significant difference).
The win that CMP is making in the ligheter yellows and greens is very small, perhaps not even visible. But the big addition of volume for Harman Gloss FB AL at the bottom of the luminance axis (the vertical one) is monumentally huge. I looked at the difference, and the alarm bells in my head started ringing. Comparing the low tone gamut of this stuff to the previous ‘looks like glossy’ paper I used, which was HP Professional Satin Photo Paper, the Harman blows the doors off the HP paper. And I liked the Hp paper, and wished that it was offered in widths other than 24″ and 44″. Let me tell you, if you’re using the HP Professional Satin Photo paper, both the Harman Gloss and the Ilford Gold Fiber Silk papers are going to change that pretty darn quick. In fact, the gamut of this stuff is larger than every HP paper I have a profile for. Every. Single. One.
This stuff is just magic in roll form. I’m stunned.
On to the Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. For reasons I’m not quite sure of, I had relatively modest expectations for this paper, and bought a roll because, well, the stuff is damn inexpensive. So I was stunned when I profiled it and compared it to the Harman:
When I looked at these two charts, I thought “Well, now, isn’t THAT interesting?” because for all intents and purposes, the gamut of the two papers is the same. Oh, the Ilford paper wins by a scootch in the reds, there, and the Harman paper wins in the rest of the gamut, but for all intents and purposes, both of these papers do about the same as the other (and whip the stuffing out of all the other papers I’ve tried).
On to an assessment of the physical properties of the Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.
On weight, the Harman and Ilford papers are identical as far as I can tell. I mean, I didn’t weigh them to the gram, but they have the same heft. And they’re the same thickness, as well. Stiffness, they’re the same. In the hand, the Ilford paper feels just a little nicer – more papery, and less plasticky. Both feel pretty nice, actually, but my preference is the Ilford. The Ilford has the same smell as the Harman paper, but not quite as intensely.
The Ilford paper is a little less glossy than the Harman paper, but has a more pronounced luster texture to the surface. Half the time I think I like the Ilford paper better, and half the time I think I like the Harman better. If I could get the reduced gloss of the Ilford paper with the smoother surface texture of the Harman paper, I’d be happier than the Stellar’s Jay that just won the territorial battle for the stump outside my workroom window, and let me tell you, judging from the racket he’s making (“I won, I won! This stump is MINE! Attention Lady Birds – I am now taking applicants! I am very SEXY!) that’s one happy Stellar’s Jay.
Both papers scuff easily. One of the two (Ilford? I can’t remember) actually included cotton gloves in the box with the paper, which is amusing because shipping print handling gloves to my work space is like shipping coals to Newcastle. (I got tired of hunting around to find gloves when I wanted them and at one point just ordered up a truckload, so they’re laying about with the approximate density of drunken university students on Fraternity Row on Saturday night.) Drying overnight seemed to help but they still scuff pretty easily.
Finally, the base color – the Ilford paper is a warmer, creamier white. It’s not overtly yellow, it’s just not the OBA whiter than white that other papers have. The Harman paper, on the other hand, is exceedingly bright white – perhaps even a bit cool. I’ve read that the Ilford paper is OBA free but can’t find that reference any longer. If the Harman paper is OBA free, I’ll eat my mechanical pencil. It’s pretty bright.
And now, the final difference – price. I bought the paper from http://www.shadesofpaper.com (my first order with them, by the way, and I was pleased with the service). The Harman cost $143 for a 17″ x 50′ roll. The Ilford cost $88 for a 17″x40′ roll. For comparison, the Crane Museo Portfolio cost $136 for a 17″x50′ roll.
That difference is cost is substantial, especially when the two products are so similar. If I needed that bright white base, or wanted exactly the surface texture of the Harman paper, I’d pay the extra price. But for now I’m guessing there’s going to be a fair bit of the Ilford paper going through my HP Z3100.