Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Paper Chase

During the last week or so I've been trying out lots of different paper combinations on my new Epson R2400, trying to arrive at two or three 'core use' papers.
So far the best all round papers I've found are Ilford Smooth Pearl 290gsm, which has a very similar finish to the pearl finish of their Multigrade papers (think fine grain lustre if you've not seen them) and Fuji Multijet Supergloss 300gsm which has a high but not mirror gloss finish.

My favourite conventional paper of all time was Agfa Record Rapid which hasn't been produced for several years and since the demise of Agfa probably won't be revived.
I would dearly love to find a similar modern ink-jet paper surface to use as my fine art paper, and have been scouring blogs and forums for opinions on the subject.
This week I've been experimenting with duotones (to get that wonderful warm colour) and a paper said to have similar characteristics to fibre based darkroom material- Fotospeed Fineart DWFB Platinum Gloss.

So how successful have I been?

Below is a image of Fotospeed (left) vs Record Rapid

First impressions are quite favourable, although the Agfa paper has a slightly 'snappier look' with slightly deeper blacks and a warmer base white. The surfaces themselves are slightly different, the Fotospeed has a more grainy look when hit by sidelight where the traditional paper is much more fine grained like ripples on a pond.
The Agfa also reflects less under sub optimal lighting conditions, a comparison of paper surfaces is below the Agfa is on top:

I know that I'm not the only photographer who is trying to find a modern replacement for RR, Ed Buziak also writes about it in his blog and in future I will also try the Permajet media he refers to.
So my conclusion?
Part of me feels that I should let go and just find a media I like in the here and now, stop comparing digital to the great silver papers, but those papers were SO good and to equal them in tone and finish would signal the arrival of the digital darkroom as a real contender in the world of the fine art print.
The papers I've tried so far are good, and I'm sure once I've profiled them and honed my setup that they will be 75% there- it's just i long for the other 25%.