A personal health warning about paper reviews
Paper reviews – How much notice should you take of them?
Why you need to read them carefully and know what matters to you
Keith gets to look at a lot of paper types and brands when testing printers. What information in reviews is genuinely useful and why you should read any such reviews with care.
Why you need to take inkjet paper reviews in context
I’m just writing up the results of looking at a few different paper types in our iPF8300 printer, and as ever, find myself slightly torn between ‘the numbers’ and what the prints look/feel like.
I’m never entirely comfortable when I see comparative reviews of papers in some magazines that include a stack of spurious tables and diagrams covering various measurements about printer/paper/ink performance.
Most are pretty much meaningless (without lots of -detailed- explanations of the theory and practice behind them).
Of course, such graphics look good and can give an air of expertise in the subject… Marketing departments love them too ;-)
Similarly I generally don’t specifically measure the D-max of many papers (how black is black) – there is so much more to what makes a fine print than some spurious measurement accuracy. I may well note it when I’m building a black and white QTR correction profile, but it’s additional info, not a figure to trumpet.
Note that I don’t apply this when I’m making ICC printer profiles, that’s one time I definitely am bothered about lots of measurements and their accuracy and their consistency.
When you are reading paper reviews, remember that thousands of measurements generate data, not necessarily useful information.
The numbers don’t tell you what -your- images will look and feel like.
I used to print some particular images on our old Epson 9600. In comparison with our new iPF8300, it showed its age in so many areas of performance, but some images ‘just worked’.
Gamut and D-max are just two aspects of deciding how you want your prints to look.
Do tables of paper stiffness really tell you how a print feels when you pick it up?
With modern printers and papers, the differences between prints become increasingly subjective – if you see a paper you like, ask for a sample print or just the paper. See what it looks and feels like.
A whole stack of prints does tell you a lot about a paper – many of the differences you’ll see mentioned are almost impossible to tell apart, even when you know what you are looking for and are comparing prints under specialist lighting.
I have to make pencil notes on the back of test prints, so that I’ll know which was which the following morning.
Print choices are a personal thing – if you just choose papers by numbers then your prints will, in my mind, lack something.
It’s like picking a lens based on MTF charts (or cars on 0-60 times – something that similarly ‘unimpresses’ me)
It’s the whole process from camera to print
My suspicion is that many peoples’ prints could be considerably improved by better care in:
- Colour management
- Monitor setup (i.e. not too bright)
- More attention to correct sharpening for print (one size does NOT fit all)
- Remembering that the print is the final result, not what the image looks like on the screen.
Of course, that doesn’t stop people wanting the ‘easy fix’ of just buying a different paper (or a ‘better’ camera).
I like trying new papers that show my images in a better/different way, but I know that the best paper counts for nothing if you have not looked at all the other links in the chain from thinking about your shot, to hitting the ‘print’ button (oh and framing and print presentation is important too)
BTW It’s also worth noting that there are only a limited number of specialist paper mills and paper coaters in the world, before you get too worried that a paper you’ve seen reviewed may not be available in your location ;-)
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More print related information
For information about other printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main Articles and Reviews page, or use the search box at the top of any page. There are also specific index pages for any articles connected with the following topics:
- Digital Black and White
- Tutorials and 'How to' articles
- Colour Management
- Printer test images
- Why do your prints look wrong?
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