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Innova vs Hahnemuehle vs Canson - Inkjet Paper Musings

Summary: A brief look at the new Innova Fine Art Photo inkjet papers, and how they rate compared to the Hahnemuehle and Canson/Arches papers.

Article By Jeremy Daalder of Image Science, Australia, and reproduced by kind permission

Jeremy can be reached at www.imagescience.com.au

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 OPUSalbums observation: Jeremy's comany sells three products and is able to be objective on all three.  We sell only one, but we believe commercially and technically Innova has the edge on the balance of product range, product quality, customer service and value for money.  However we are quite happy to show his ratings of each so that you may make a more informed judgment.

Innova Papers

We've tested the new Innova paper range more extensively over the past few months and come up with some interesting results. 

All these tests are based off an Epson 2100, using Gretag Macbeth spectrophotometry equipment and software.  Results may very well vary with different printers, but we expect these results are representative for all Epson's Pigment ink based printers (R800, R1800, 2100/2200, 4000, 7600, 9600). We have not yet extensively tested the papers with dye based printers, however long experience with these sorts of papers has lead us to believe our results will also follow through to dye based printers.

Firstly, we've only looked in detail so far at Innova's 'Photo' range - their 'Fine Art' range is equally interesting, perhaps more so. We've found the Photo range to be technically excellent, but perhaps (and this is of course a very subjective opinion), a little lifeless.

Random ImageFunnily enough, of the papers in the Photo range, we've found the Smooth Cotton Natural White (SCNW) to have measurably superior image reproduction to the Smooth Cotton High White and the Fiba Print. All the papers and coatings are excellent, but we've found SCNW to be the very best. Oddly, we have been able to achieve more saturated blues and reds in particular with SCNW, as well as better shadow detail. This is perhaps counter to expectations, but we believe the optical brighteners in FibaPrint an SCHW are impairng their image reproduction a fraction for the sake of really bright whites. Given the Natural White is visibly only a fraction less white than the High White, there really seems little point to the High White paper.

FibaPrint Ultrasmooth deserves a special mention though - it's the closest thing we've found to Epson Archival Matte in many ways (although it is more expensive - but we think worth it). It has a very bright white, extremely smooth surface. It's a much better weight than EAM (280 versus 180), so if you're after a really smooth surfaced fine art paper, it's a great choice. EAM is still a better proofing paper though, given its very low cost, but its reputation for yellowing (Epson can't even sell this paper branded as 'archival' in many other countries), means it isn't a great choice for selling your work.


Hahnemuelhe Papers

Hahnemuehle Photo Rag 308   remains the best inkjet paper in the world for our money (literally, we use tonnes of the stuff!).  However, Innova Smooth Cotton Natural White  is the closest a paper has ever come to knocking HMPR off its perch.  In many ways, the results on these two papers are uncannily similar - not a surprise as apparently Innova is run by some people who used to be with Hahnemuehle.



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  • The Innova Paper has a smoother surface, less prone to flaking.  It really is very, very smooth.  This means it will be particularly interesting to roll paper users, a few of whom have reported minor problems with surface coating flaking with Photo Rag. 
  • Photo Rag is a cleaner, brighter white - placed side by side the SCNW is a little warmer and murky looking in comparison. Viewed on its own though it is still quite a bright white.
  • Gamut of the two papers is remarkably similar - I'd say Photo Rag is a fraction better still with very saturated colours, but this may well be down to the brightness of the surface just giving the paper that much more 'pop'
  • Shadow detail is also very similar, I can't see or measure any perceptible difference
  • Sharpness is a hair better with the Innova, due to the smoother surface.
  • The Innova Paper is a little lifeless in comparison - image reproduction is excellent, faultless really, but the paper itself doesn't really bring anything to the final product.  Photo Rag just exudes that little extra bit of quality in its texture, weight, and feel.  It's definitely more 'Fine Art' than the Innova paper, which is more traditionally photographic in its smooth, slick look.  But to my mind, that is what make Photo Rag so special - it's perfect balance between fine art paper qualities and fantastic image reproduction with both dye and pigment inks. Of course some would disagree and actually prefer the more clinical look of the Innova Papers.

Canson/Arches Papers

The Canson Papers offer interesting alternatives to both Hahnemuehle and Innova. Firstly, their canvas is just top notch, easily the best inkjet canvas we've found and a really great product - thoroughly recommended. When it comes to their papers, both PhotoGloss and PhotoSatin are excellent, traditional photographic (i.e. gloss or semi-gloss = pearl = 'matte') papers that we feel are as good as, in fact better, than anything we've tried from Illford, Kodak, and certainly Epson. They're both very classy photographic style papers, perfect for the wedding and portrait markets for example.

Where Canson really shine are there true fine art papers for reproductions of painting, watercolours and the like. In most cases, they offer the same actual papers as in their watercolour paper ranges, just with an inkjet coating of excellent coatings. This has allowed us, and many of our clients, to reproduce artworks with an almost frightening level of accuracy. When done well, with good colour management, the results can be so similar that from more than a few centimetres away, it is quite simply impossible to pick the original from the reproduction!

Hahnemuehle of course also have numerous papers suitable for fine art reproduction, or simply to add more texture to your Photographic work. William Turner and Torchon are lovely papers, in particular, but the whole range is excellent. Well worth a sample pack if you haven't tried it yet.

Unfortunately, the Canson approach to paper availability is a bit hit and miss. You'll have to check this page to see if your required paper is available in a size to suit you...there are some big and odd gaps in the collection, but the range is relatively new and we hope to see it expand in time.

Full Disclosure

I run Image Science - so I sell all of these papers. I don't make much money from them really, but I do make a little. I started selling these papers because I use them and other photographers expressed interest. This has grown to Image Science becoming one of the leading and more progressive suppliers of interesting fine art papers in Australia. So feel free to consider these musings biased, if that makes you happy. We would always encourage you to do your own tests. Having said that, I'm a member of the AIPP - through that, and Image Science, I see lots of top quality work all the time - work printed to the highest levels, by Australia's best photographers. I spend a LOT of time making sure my own print quality is right up there with the best. So when it comes to print quality, I do think I'm a good judge. It's totally up to you to decide whether you agree.


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Professionals' choice - gloss satin matte and archival matte

muhle Fine Art Papers

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