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Inkjet Photo Paper Tests

Printer Manufacturers own Papers

Does paying extra for the manufacturer’s own photo paper really make a difference?

Most Epson, Canon and HP premium inkjet photo papers are fine - just very expensive and in some cases very, very expensive. I really like Canon printers and sometimes use their PR101 Photo Paper Pro paper - but in packs of 15 sheets a time? Come on Canon WAKE UP - I’m a pro and I really like your printers and paper, but I want to load the printer with 50 sheets and go to lunch. Just unpacking PR101 makes me mad at you. That’s before the cost and the huge waste of resources with packing materials makes me even angrier. With my Canon photo printers I usually use Fuji Premium or Ilford Galerie Smooth Glossy inkjet paper which comes packed in boxes of 100 sheets and is also excellent.

Inkjet photo paper testsThis really is the biggest drawback with the best OEM papers - COST - which they seem to want to justify by selling packs of a handful of sheets in lots of packing at very high prices. Most offer lower cost alternatives like Epson Photo Paper or Canon Glossy Photo Paper but they generally aren’t very good. They use a much lighter weight base so wrinkle if you print full size photos with them. To guarantee flat results rather than a crinkly mess you really need about 200 gsm or more.

 

So my advice for Epson and Canon printers is:

 Stick to original inks but go independent for inkjet photo paper.

Independent Papers

Permajet, Photo Speed, Lyson, Ilford, Kodak, Fuji and many others make inkjet photo papers that are far better than those supplied by the printer manufacturers themselves. Unlike ink cartridges - where in general it’s best to stick with your printer manufacturer’s own ink cartridges - with paper there are better cheaper alternatives out there. Most specialist photo papers are aimed at Epson photo printers - so the majority will work well with Epson. Many glossy papers, especially Fuji Premium and Ilford Smooth Glossy, work well with Canon photo printers, but the new Canon Pixma Pro A3 printers are the only Canon printers that work really well with matt photo papers.
Epson Stylus Photo R1800 printer
Only one independent paper is suitable for HP printers - partly for the usual ink compatability reasons, but also because few heavyweight glossy papers will feed through the characteristic tight U-turn in most HP printers. Many emerge scratched, or jam the printer, so it’s usually best to stick with HP’s own papers for photo prints. The one other paper that I’ve found works is Kodak, whose papers only seem to shine with HP printers.

Which photo paper is best?

Choosing the best photo paper for your inkjet photo printer isn't easy. There are so many brands to choose from and the manufacturers own products are so expensive - Are they worth the extra? The only way to find out is to make tests

I use a composite image with a variety of different subjects to make it easier to compare output from different printers on different papers. If you’re serious about your print quality, I’d suggest making a composite like this. It’s relatively easy to do in Photoshop and will be a big help when you come to setting up a new printer or type of paper. I always judge the quality of test prints after at least 24 hours as there are subtle changes in colour balance and Dmax - the deepest black - over the first few hours. These changes are in fact a problem with all printers.

You can’t really judge the colour quality immediately the print is produced, as, although some change more than others, they all change a little. Canon prints are the worst for this, often emerging looking slightly flat and with a magenta colour cast, but, after about 20 minutes, the magenta fades, the blacks deepen and you start to see the real result. Epson prints tend to lose a little saturation and end up slightly lighter than they first appear. So you have to wait. So if you’re making your own tests, or printing some really important photographs, wait at least 15 minutes, longer if possible, before making any fine adjustments to colour.

 

Test Results - Click the links below

Epson Tests  >>>>  Canon Tests >>>> hp Tests

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All text and images copyright David Gold 2006 - 2009
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