Lab processing to prints on Fuji Crystal archive paper

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by aplumpton, Jul 9, 2014.

  1. My question is about the quality-permanence of digital photo to wet process print via commercial labs. I have been using a local service which takes my digital files and transfers them to a processor which outputs prints via a chemical process onto the well regarded Fuji Crystal Archive paper. Little information on the process and the permanence of the prints was available from the photo store that provides this service, except the technician stated that the chemistry is well maintained (but no information about the wash cycle before drying).
    Apparently the digital image is projected onto the photosensitive paper via a laser. While I am confident that properly processed Fuji paper is quite permanent (Ref: Report of Wilhelm research lab in Washington, D.C.) I am not so sure about the machine and process chemistry used in this process. Does anyone have any idea about the permanence of prints made this way? I presume that the processor is either Fuji built or one they recommend. Processing time is quite short (less than an hour at most and probably considerably less) and I wonder how well processed and washed is the print (on easy to wash RC paper) and consequently how long the prints will last.
    Not much information to go on, I know, but maybe someone has used this type of print-making and can give an idea. The visual inspection of both color and B&W semi-gloss prints to 10 x 15 inch is very positive, but I wonder about the permanence as I want to give away some and sell a number of images and would be concerned if the longevity is significantly compromised (some prints will be displayed in bright room light).
     
  2. I have always assumed that the Crystal Archive paper is much less permanent than any "archival dye" or pigment ink print (usually quoted as c.100 years). I seem to remember 30 years was a typical value that used to be quoted for your average color print. They are much tougher with respect to handling but not as archival with respect to fading. It would be interesting to know if others have updated information.
     
  3. One respondent to DP Review (Mark McCormick?) in 2008 resumed the findings of Wilhelm's then more recent test:
    Fuji permanence is about 40 years. Thes figure is based on the WIR 3.0 criteria set and extrapolations to 450 lux for 12 hours per day. The WIR 3.0 criteria set had added a 0.60 density level to the test whereas prior to this time, testing was done only at 1.0 starting density levels. This change in the test's failure criteria dropped the original crystal archive paper score from a predicted display life of around 60 years to the current extimate of 40.​
    Robin, that figure may be satisfactory enough in my case, notwithstanding the apparent better performance of "archival dye" or pigment ink print (provided the substrate used is compatible and kong life), but my main question has to do more with the wet process used with the Fuji paper, as it, like the paper used with a pigment ink print, may be the weak link.
     
  4. Processing is always the weak link. I have prints on Fuji Crystal Archive from many different minilabs and a couple of pro labs (both pro labs are now gone, unfortunately). Same negatives, same paper, very different results. None of the prints is old enough for archival quality to be a factor. The prints from mediocre minilabs were mediocre from the beginning, a waste of good printing paper.
    During the 1990s a local minilab still used an optical printer and produced very good results - for awhile. But they lost their experienced operator, quit paying for a contractor to provide support and ensure quality control, and quality declined. The last straw came when I saw a new operator "clean" the lens by licking his thumb and smearing it around on the glass. They might as well have been printing on cardboard or construction paper.
     
  5. As you've pointed out, a good Fuji RA4 print lasts about 40 years. A good inkjet print usually lasts about 80-100 years (varies with the paper and printer used) using pigment inks.
    With RA4 the chemistry has to be changed on a regular basis based both on usage and age. If it's not then the quality of the print suffers noticeably. Ink jet prints don't have any chemistry to worry about but still the printer needs to be properly maintained to obtain the best results. Another thing to consider is overall image quality, a good inkjet has better, more accurate color and better dmax than a good RA4 print.
    The purpose of a RA4 print is that it is both fast and cheap, and in comparison to an inkjet print, you get what you pay for. Since buying my own printers I've long since switched from RA4 to inkjet. But if you're far from home, or have neither the space or time it do it yourself, then using a good RA4 lab is essential to having a good print.
     
  6. Incidentally, most of my local minilabs have switched from RA-4 printing on light sensitive Fuji Crystal Archive, Kodak or other quality paper, to Fuji, Kodak or other dry printing (usually dye sub) method. The results are generally inferior - murky, muddy, and much more expensive than the heyday of color film minilabs.
    In many ways it's a huge step backward. I'm wondering about the economic model for minilabs now. I see much less traffic at local minilabs. In part this is due to sharing photos online, which is fine. But it's likely other folks feel as I do, that local minilab prints from digital using the dry process is just a waste of money. I got better quality prints from the Kodak DIY kiosks several years ago, but the overall quality has deteriorated at the same minilabs since they've switched machines and processes.
     
  7. Lex and Mike, comments pertinent and appreciated. The visual quality of the prints I am having made at a local lab is very high, there I have no qualms. The colors seem as real and vibrant as on my monitor which is a fairly good one. Further, my B&W prints come out with no hint of color and with a quality not far from the best I can do in my darkroom, where I have 20 years of practice.
    However, I am concerned that the RA-4 part of the processing may not be made using fresh chemicals (although one might expect that to impact on the visual quality as well?) and the best procedure for permanency. It is hard to tell, and maybe further inquiry at the lab may not be revealing, but I will certainly talk further with their lab technician to see if she does the usual checks for aging of the chemicals and if she replaces them frequently.
    I tried inkjet printing myself, but whether it was the lack of support from experienced printers or my own inability to follow that not so rapid chain of learning to get top quality, I did not succeed to my satisfaction. Another factor is the frequency of printing, necessary to keep the printer in good shape and the considerable testing (different paper ICCs, matching of monitor and printer, etc.) necessary, which if you print large only a few dozen times every month is hard to maintain.
    Incidentally, the Wilhelm Research 40 year result on a Crystal Archive paper and the 22 year for an equivalent Kodak RA-4 paper is not the time to an unuseable print (considerable degradation), but rather that where the first evidence of some small change (very slight fading) is first observed.
     
  8. I only use Walmart for small 4x6 prints destined for Christmas cards and the like and hesitate to use them for 10 x 15 or 11 x 14 prints. I noted, as I am sure many do, that the machines allow you to have a fast print (in-built inkjet print?) with minimal wait time, or have the photos processed in their lab, which takes an hour. I presume, but am not sure, that the process lab is wet process and not dry, but maybe someone here knows. I take Lex's point about the newer dry process and will try to discern between the two.
     
  9. My question is about the quality-permanence of digital photo to wet process print via commercial labs.​
    Arthur, I'm not sure what you're asking. The majority of printing onto silver halide paper nowdays is via laser/LED exposure of a digital image. Versus the older method of use a lens to expose directly from a negative. In both cases, a light-sensitive paper has been exposed. After the exposure, the process is essentially the same - the chemical process doesn't know which method was used for exposure.
    The actual machines used shouldn't really matter with respect to permanence. The important thing is that the process conforms to Fuji's specs, which are essentially the same as Kodak's RA-4 process. As long as they are using a mainstream chemical supplier, such as Kodak or Fuji-Hunt, and using the appropriate controls, then image stability should be pretty much equal (that is, equal between the two exposing methods).
    Here is a way you tell the difference between a conventional RA-4 process and "dry-process" prints. Looking through a strong loupe, use a razor blade or sharp knife to gently scrape the surface of the print. If you can see evidence of separate cyan/magenta/yellow layers, then it is RA-4 process. Otherwise, it's inkjet or dyesub, etc., where the three dyes are intermingled in the same layer.
    BTW, if you get dry-process prints that are noticably inferior to the conventional silver halide prints, it's almost certainly due to the particular implementation, not an inherent quality of the process.
     
  10. I've had excellent results from my local Costco, both from their RA4 for smaller prints and their larger inkjet prints. They seem most professional in their machine maintenance and in their desire to maintain high quality standards. They also offer a downloadable profile enabling you to match their process to your monitor, something WalMart, Walgreens or the local grocery store usually doesn't offer.
    But as far as your local RA4 lab is concerned you might consider just holding off on your printing until right after they've changed chemistry, which should be changed at least once a week. Just ask them when this occurs and then place your order. This way at least you can be assured of having fresh chemistry.
    As to why your own inkjet prints don't come out, there should be no real problem as long as your monitor is properly color calibrated. But if it's not you may never get a good print except by accident. But if you ever do wish to print your own then just ask. There are plenty of us on this forum willing to help.
     
  11. But as far as your local RA4 lab is concerned you might consider just holding off on your printing until right after they've changed chemistry, which should be changed at least once a week. Just ask them when this occurs and then place your order. This way at least you can be assured of having fresh chemistry.​
    No, no decent-sized lab should be replacing their chemicals routinely. RA-4 chemicals are designed to be replenished, and this allows them to run continuously in a steady-state condition. Mini-lab machines normally have automatic replenishment systems, along with circulation pumps and filters in all the chemical tanks. Only hobbyists at home, and possibly very small labs should be dumping chemicals routinely.
     
  12. Bill, you are right in understanding that my question of permanence relates to the wet side. Being a darkroom (black and white) photographer, I am aware that one of the main concerns regarding permanence, other than suitable (fresh) chemicals, is the completeness of the water wash step (toning can be an additional permanence enhancement). Thanks for the tip regarding the manner of distinguishing the dry process from wet process.
    Mike, your suggestion of requesting that prints be made when the chemicals are changed (or refreshed by dosage or replenishment as Bill says) is good and I will do that, although I may still have some question about the completeness of washing. Perhaps I will read up on the commercial practice for the machine in question before requesting this information from the technician, a question which would probably relate to control of the replenishment if not automatic. It may not be easy to discern whether the machine is operating under best conditions and I may only be able to rely on the nature of the response by the technician, if indeed she provides one that can be related to long term permanence. I recently acquired a monitor calibration device and intend to pursue that aspect whether I make my own inkjet prints or have them done by a lab.
     
  13. Arthur, the most general "bible" for processing color paper is Kodak's Z-130 manuals, found here: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/business/retailPhoto/techInfo/zManuals/z130.jhtml?pq-path=12337
    If you dredge through these a bit, you'll find that recommended wash rates depend on the processing machine configuration, specifically the number of tanks used. A single tank requires a very high wash water flow rate, whereas several tanks plumbed for counter-current flow can use a much lower wash water rate.
    Most likely the in-store techs will not have any idea what these are. The typical way these things are handled in US chain outfits is that there is a maintenance technician covering a group of stores. That tech can be called in for emergencies or will otherwise just do routine maintenance. Part of this is to check replenishment rates. That tech, or his home office contacts, may be the only one(s) who know the details.
     
  14. If space is not a major consideration in these systems, counter flow washing with three or more tanks in series would make sense in these times of limited water resources and increased conservation. Time will be related to that for the diffusion out of chemicals from within the paper surface layers (possibly rate-conbtrolling) and away from its surface. Bill, thanks for the references. I will see what machine the lab is using and go from there. My aim is not to complicate the path to an answer, but failing sufficient information from the lab it may be the only way.
     
  15. Frankly I don't quite understand this over concern for print longevity in the digital age when today if those prints get damaged can easily be reprinted off of any $50 "All In One" inkjet with far more color fidelity and color matching over chemical processing, not to mention the advances in image reproduction that will be available 50 years from now when and if the original digital file is backed up and archived.
    I think what we all should be concerned about is the color gamut reproduction capabilities that's currently available with inkjets even with the cheapest like my $50 Epson "All In One" over what chemical processes provide.
    Below is an example of a print test in sRGB on a Walgreens Fuji chemical process minilab and below is another test printing in sRGB on another Walgreens across town using their Fuji Frontier drylab inket both on glossy paper. Note the differences in the green leaf, fuchsia flower and the grayramp and PDI skin test subjects. Not only is the drylab more color accurate to screen but the gamut of this printer is even larger than AdobeRGB in some colors especially in the cyans and turquoise.
    If these inkjet minilabs are this good now I can't imagine how advanced they'll be 50 years from now and much easier it will be to do reprints when the old prints fade or are lost.
    00chJl-549657684.jpg
     
  16. Tim has produced a very good example of the superiority of inkjet prints over RA4. This is the same comparison I made many years ago and why I completely switched to printing the smaller sizes myself. Your wet prints may look good to you in isolation, but if you ever compare them to ones made on an inkjet you'll never want to use RA4 again.
     
  17. Frankly I don't quite understand this over concern for print longevity in the digital age when today if those prints get damaged can easily be reprinted....​
    Tim, I won't question the rest of your comment as a 50$ all in one four ink printer would certainly have a tough time equalling an 8 ink dedicated photo printer. Punchy colors are not the only consideration, the tonal variation has to show subtleties that the simpler (50$!) inkjet printers are want to provide.
    Your above cited comment, however, fully ignores the working photographer or fine art photographer who sells his image to a client who should expect the print to last at least a generation.
     
  18. Your wet prints may look good to you in isolation, but if you ever compare them to ones made on an inkjet you'll never want to use RA4 again.​
    I've been there, and I'm still fine with RA-4, specifically the pro papers from Kodak and Fuji.
    Tim says that his examples are both in sRGB. So although many inkjets can exceed RA-4 papers in color gamut, staying locked in to sRGB mostly negates that advantage. If, under these conditions, you find inkjets to give superior color, this just tells me that you're using sub-par RA-4 systems. I don't question the results you've seen, only where you're placing the blame.
    I've been in the position where I could run all the testing I wanted, with RA-4 on Durst Thetas or Noritsu turbo-whatever machines, with my own ICC profiles if I want, or on a dozen different inkjet or dyesub machines. So I know that, with properly set up systems, these can all be made to give nearly identical color responses in an sRGB color space.
    By the way, one area where these pro RA-4 papers stand out is in their ability to continue looking good under a variety of light sources, from daylight to the flaky eco-friendly fluorescents. Inkjet prints seem to vary in this respect - some stay fairly consistent, some take significant hue shifts - but are never superior to RA-4 pro papers. When you have a material with larger color gamut, this implies narrower spectral dye peaks, which implies more sensitivity to the viewing light.
    Sorry for the continued sidetracking of the thread.
     
  19. Tim, I won't question the rest of your comment as a 50$ all in one four ink printer would certainly have a tough time equalling an 8 ink dedicated photo printer. Punchy colors are not the only consideration, the tonal variation has to show subtleties that the simpler (50$!) inkjet printers are want to provide.
    Your above cited comment, however, fully ignores the working photographer or fine art photographer who sells his image to a client who should expect the print to last at least a generation.​
    I don't disagree with you regarding print quality and longevity on the professional side of the business but my comments were directed at your post as someone who is considering chemical processing (and thus not a professional, maybe for family photos?) in this day and age of gorgeous inkjet output even from a $50 printer bought at Walmart whose paper and ink has far better longevity than the chemical process as stated by Epson.
    But I'm thinking of the future as well but from the perspective as someone who used to be a professional commercial press production artist, graphic designer, illustrator and cartoonist in that with the trillions of images online today that divide the attention of an already saturated market, I see these "professional" printing outfits dwindling or at least becoming the minority.
    From this perspective I still stand by my opinion that longevity of a print is going to be of less concern for the professional since these folks will have backups to print with far superior print technology 50 years from now.
    And if you think what I posted is punchy colors as caused by the inkjet print, you would be wrong. The above sample inkjet 4x6 print matches my screen as a test for print gamut and I haven't even scratched the surface of this printer's capabilities in this regard. And my $50 Epson prints can't match it either but I still get smooth gradations that is good enough for 8x10's I hang on my walls. I have no complaints and I'm certainly not concerned with their longevity even though they're rated to last at least 50 years.
     
  20. Tim says that his examples are both in sRGB. So although many inkjets can exceed RA-4 papers in color gamut, staying locked in to sRGB mostly negates that advantage.​
    It was just an example. You're missing the point.
    By the way, one area where these pro RA-4 papers stand out is in their ability to continue looking good under a variety of light sources, from daylight to the flaky eco-friendly fluorescents. Inkjet prints seem to vary in this respect - some stay fairly consistent, some take significant hue shifts - but are never superior to RA-4 pro papers. When you have a material with larger color gamut, this implies narrower spectral dye peaks, which implies more sensitivity to the viewing light.
    Sorry for the continued sidetracking of the thread.​
    You don't know that and you can't prove it, Bill, because you can't know all colors that can be captured by a digital camera that map well with any printer. It's all guess work on the front end unless you're trying to reproduce Pantone custom mixed inks and that's not what we're talking about. Most things in nature fit within sRGB just fine, but no one has proven that an AdobeRGB gamut display can show all of what nature can provide in the way of gamut capture.

    If you don't know if the digital camera can capture it (assuming shooting Raw) then you have to rely on your display to show you. And as I said before even the Fuji drylab reproduces colors outside of AdobeRGB for those with wide gamut monitors so if you can't see it, you're not going to reproduce it on the limited gamut of an AdobeRGB display. Also I've never had an issue with my inkjets shifting in hue viewed under a wide range of lights of various spectra.

    Aside from all the theory but from a more practical sense, do you actually think that those pro RA-4 papers and their high end calibrated printers are going to be around 50 years from now considering most folks aren't going to buy these fine art prints anyway (if they're not now) and just shoot and print their own with most likely more advanced technology than the current highest end system. IOW you've assumed there is a need and greater importance on a specialty market that is getting smaller and smaller to the extent the industry may not support down the road.
    I mean everybody is a photographer and there will be more in the future. Why would they pay big money for someone else's photographic print? I wouldn't!
     
  21. You don't know that and you can't prove it, Bill, because you can't know all colors that can be captured by a digital camera that map well with any printer.​
    This originates from my experience with a very large photofinishing outfit, doing extensive testing. It's probably best to demonstrate by an example.
    We had a series of color-correction booths, when initial color tests came off the processors, color correctors would evaluate in a color booth, mark up corrections and send the film back for either another test or the production printing. When we first began doing inkjet work, we found discrepancies, and right away noticed that inkjets in the color booth did not match the way they looked under daylight, for example. Although the silver halide prints DID keep the same appearance.
    Now, the color booths were based on specs written up some 20 years (roughly) earlier, where the model of the bulbs were specified. I measured with a spectrophotometer, and found that the CRI (color rendering index) was much lower than when the lamps were originally specified. In other words, the lamps at this time were no longer the same lamp that had been originally spec'd.
    The first thing we had to do was make sure we had a workable method to continue our print production. I said it was a large outfit; we essentially printed and shipped more paper (color balanced and dust-spotted) in a day than a typical pro photographer would do in his/her career. So we verified that the standard RA-4 materials were still ok in these booths; a trained color-corrector would make very similar corrections in either the booth or under daylight. However, with the inkjet prints, the corrections were significantly different. So they were temporarily corrected by daylight, until we had a better way.
    Since that time, I've been very aware of these issues with inkjet or dye sub printers. They nearly always are sensitive to a comparison between what I call eco-friendly fluorescent lamps vs daylight. I've done this with dozens of different inkjet configurations. The eco-friendly lamps are intended to put out a maximum amount of visible light per a given amount of electricity, and if you were to look at their spectral output, you'd find that none of them have a broad spectral output; it's all concentrated in a few peaks where the human eye has color sensitivity. So to a human, they appear very bright for their wattage. But when this odd spectral makeup is applied to a set of dyes, the visual result can be very different. You can do the comparison yourself with your own RA-4 prints vs inkjets. As I recall, you have some GE spectra 50s (?). Get an eco-bulb with the same color temperature and compare. I expect you will see that the the RA-4 prints are not that different, but the inkjet is likely to be substantially so. (If you're not sure, print a set of color ring-arounds, then run of set of paired comparisons to put them in preferred order. Have someone else randomly administer the test so that your preconceived notions won't be able to influence your choice. Perhaps you can administer the test to them to see if the result is the same; don't feel insulted, but you may have some sort of color blindness that you don't realize.)
    You say that I can't prove it. If someone understands colorimetry, it would be fairly simple to sketch a few spectral graphs, say daylight vs an eco-friendly fluorescent, then the spectral dye densities of a typical RA-4 paper. In colorimetry, these would be multiplied through into the standard CIE "color matching functions." Then it would be immediately obvious that the effect of dyes with narrower spectral peaks will be much more affected under the eco-lamp vs a full-spectrum lamp. If one doesn't understand colorimetry, it's easier to just say, "here are some examples, take a look." So that's where I'll leave you.
    ps; the camera doesn't matter; you just need some variety of colors. The effect is due to the dye absorbance peaks, not the source of the image.
    pps: My experience is as a lifelong photographer, my adult work life has been full time in photography since about 1970. During your time as a graphic artist, illustrator, press worker, etc., I have been working constantly to learn more about the craft of photography. Image stability is important to me; I don't share your optimism that the digital images will still be available in the future. I want to know that my important photos, and historic family photos, etc., will last on their own. I've seen enough in my own history of photography that I just don't trust the longevity of materials unless someone has shown test data, or I've done it myself. At least comparatively against some other known material. I've seen more of this sort of thing than you can probably imagine, and this all shapes my opinions.
     
  22. I mean everybody is a photographer and there will be more in the future. Why would they pay big money for someone else's photographic print? I wouldn't!​
    Tim, good point, of course, and one which is often stated in these forums.
    On the other hand, anyone can also design or paint an image (most of us learned that in grade school and have the means to do it, even if we don't pursue it as a hobby) or write an article, essay or book (again, it is a natural activity, albeit an exhausting one if a book is the objective), which is learned and practiced during our education and afterwards. What often appeals to a purchaser of a photographic print, painting, or text, is what that specific art communicates to the viewer, not simply that the viewer can also make photos if he or she so wishes. I have sold prints to those who are good amateur photographers because my treatment of the subject appealed to them. A couple hundred dollars is not a lot if what the photographer is offering is a unique perception of a subject that somehow strikes a cord with the viewer. Not with everyone, but that is not necessarily his objective.
    The multitude of photographs now in circulation is one thing. Formerly, let's say 30 years ago, much less diffusion of images by everyone existed. Then, like now, what constituted an infinite variety of choice was not the number of images in circulation but the infinite possibilities (you can read "infinite number" if you wish) of treating a subject photographically and the way it is interpreted. Digital photography facilitates the ease of making an image of some sort, as it does through virtually instant assessment of the result, but not the ease of interpreting a subject in a unique way and achieving an image that often the acquirer or viewer cannot do in the same way, however many photos he makes.
     
  23. You can do the comparison yourself with your own RA-4 prints vs inkjets. As I recall, you have some GE spectra 50s (?). Get an eco-bulb with the same color temperature and compare. I expect you will see that the the RA-4 prints are not that different, but the inkjet is likely to be substantially so.​
    Just did it with the above RA-4 Walgreens Fuji Crystal Archive print posted above which turns out was really from the Noritsu at the 3rd Walgreens. My mistake. See the results below lit under my GE Chroma 50/Philips Natural Sunshine combo t8 tubes both rated CRI 90 vs Walmart 5000K 900 Lumen LED which has far worse spiky spectra than I thought over my Alzo 5500K CFL's.
    And to address your concerns about my eyesight I reshot the two prints and noticed I forgot to compensate for adaption editing the image on my slightly pinkish 6500K display (I always have to keep that in mind) which corrects for the green spike of its LED backlights that caused me to see Noritsu print skin tones as too yellowish beige. It turns out they look pretty close to the inkjet rendering.
    Was wondering, Bill, whether you had to deal with those issues in the editing booth color tests and could distinguish how much the color cast was influencing adaptive perception over what the spiky spectra did to the color tables of the print. From my experience doing a lot of these online print demos everyone of these lights exhibit some type of dual influence over adaptation. It took a while for me to figure out how to know when to separate the two.
    Update: Just checked these prints under the Alzo 5500K CFL's. They look identical to the GE/Philips CRI 90 T8's. Looks like Walmart LED is a wash. DARN! I like that bulb. Some bulbs work good for prints, some good for lighting scenes to shoot under. Weird.
    00chRi-549681584.jpg
     
  24. I've been in the position where I could run all the testing I wanted, with RA-4 on Durst Thetas or Noritsu turbo-whatever machines, with my own ICC profiles if I want, or on a dozen different inkjet or dyesub machines. So I know that, with properly set up systems, these can all be made to give nearly identical color responses in an sRGB color space.​
    Bill, few people have this level of access to an RA4 printer. And as far as sRGB goes you may be correct. But that's one of the advantages of printing it yourself, you're not limited to the very small color space of sRGB. I usually use ProPhoto RGB and print from 16 bit tiff files, and these definitely look better than anything I can get from a RA4 machine.
     
  25. I usually use ProPhoto RGB and print from 16 bit tiff files, and these definitely look better than anything I can get from a RA4 machine.​
    Look better than what, Mike? What colors are you seeing in the better looking print that isn't in any other type of print and/or sourced color space?
    You're suppose to be seeing a match to your screen so seeing "better" confuses the issue without any evidence to show what "better" means. Can you describe what you're seeing? Colors? Saturation? Hues?
    I don't get to see what you're seeing in real world printing sourcing from sRGB, so it would be helpful if you could elaborate.
     
  26. [Tim] Was wondering, Bill, whether you had to deal with those issues in the editing booth color tests and could distinguish how much the color cast was influencing adaptive perception over what the spiky spectra did to the color tables of the print.​
    No, the rule is that you just go by what you see; it is what it is. The neutral background and white borders, etc., help you adapt, and our color booths were wide enough to be immersive. As a warning, it doesn't take long to corrupt your judgement, you want to look around the room periodically to re-normalize. So the "color temperature" of the surrounding room is ideally not too different.
    The human eye can't see whether the light spectrum is continous or not, or even what the spectral makeup is like, so all we have to go on is simply the visual appearance of the print.
     
  27. [Mike] Bill, few people have this level of access to an RA4 printer. And as far as sRGB goes you may be correct.​
    Mike, that's what I'm trying to tell you. Earlier you said, "Tim has produced a very good example of the superiority of inkjet prints over RA4. This is the same comparison I made many years ago and why I completely switched to printing the smaller sizes myself. Your wet prints may look good to you in isolation, but if you ever compare them to ones made on an inkjet you'll never want to use RA4 again."
    Since Tim was using sRGB, this is what I answered. And as I said earler, I'm not doubting that you got poor results from an RA-4 process. All I'm saying is that this was not an inherent deficiency in professional RA-4 papers (in comparison to an ink jet print). Coulda' been a cut-rate paper in use, though, (probably is) but most likely the main problem is something wrong with the implementation.
     
  28. As I am not at the stage of producing superior quality pigment inkjet prints I have the choice of having RA-4 wet process prints made from my digital files. An equivalent 10 x15 inch exhibition or for sale print via RA-4 and Fuji paper costs me $8.98, albeit a special price the lab quoted for producing a series of prints for an exhibition, whereas a pigment ink inkjet equivalent 10 x 15 would cost me $50.00 (no differentiation in price of inkjet prints between 10 x 15 and 12 x 18, and no discount, as the lab sends this work out to another lab).
    Frankly, I have trouble understanding the apparently very great difference (from the comments here) between RA-4 and the inkjet prints. My B&W RA-4 are absolutely free of color tint and are full-toned B&W on matt paper with a very good appearance, at least as good as my RC (not FB) B&W prints from my own darkroom, and I have a lot of experience making fine B&W prints. As for color, the RA-4 from my lab is extremely good with well saturated and realistic colors and absolutely no off-white tints.
    So, while I may indeed see some small difference with some images between inkjet and RA-4, I have trouble imagining great differences. The $9 Fujicolor print versus the $50 professional lab inkjet print means something when some 15 to 20 prints must be paid for and mounted. There is no assurance that even one half will be sold in a short time frame.
    My original question concerned the longevity of the wet process print to the point of a small initial fading. If the practice at my local lab gives me confidence that this would indeed be 40 years, or two human generations, that may be enough.
    There are no doubt high quality and moderate quality inkjet prints, and the same variation no doubt also exists for RA-4.
     
  29. So, while I may indeed see some small difference with some images between inkjet and RA-4, I have trouble imagining great differences.​
    According to Bill's caveats about controlling pro RA-4 processes to get best results so there are no great differences from inkjets, I just showed you with my posted image samples what the big differences are when RA-4 is not professionally controlled for Fuji Crystal Archive paper which my sample is printed on. Apparently you've found a pro RA-4 process and I'ld advise you stick with it especially considering their cheaper price over inkjet prints which I wasn't aware.
    An 8x10 on the Walgreens Fuji Frontier inkjet drylab costs me $4 each. Online printers are much cheaper but use a different print process and paper thus I'm not able to compare apples to apples with regard to quality and consistency across a wide range of images.
    But my Walgreens DOES NOT professionally run their drylab in that, even though there are no chemical processes to maintain, their poorly trained multitasking "Photo Specialists" don't want to bother with pressing one button to turn off "Auto Enhance" and another button choosing "Printer Color Space" in the Fuji driver interface so I can convert my ProPhotoRGB files directly to the ICC drylab profile off Fuji's European website whose gamut hovers around NTSC. They leave the sRGB button color space and "Auto Enhance" selected. No chemicals to deal with but now they can't seem to push two buttons. It never ends!
    But you're original question was concerns about print longevity with RA-4 process on Fuji Crystal Archive which is anyone's guess because all we have to go on is Wilhelm Institute ratings.
     
  30. because all we have to go on is Wilhelm Institute ratings​
    which is an ideal value, if all other processing conditions are optimum, but one which can vary in practice depending upon how well the wet processing is done (and for automatic machines, how well it is monitored and controlled) to give the most permanent image possible with the media and process. Unfortunately, such information on print durability in practice is hard to get. We may just have to trust whichever lab we have chosen on the basis of their visually high quality printing and good Q/P ratio.
     
  31. For those interested, I am having the two RA-4 10 x 15 images also printed by inkjet and pigment inks at a respected photo studio in my city. $25 for a 15 x 22,5 inch print on overdimensioned standard perlé paper, not Hahnemule but still attractive. Will let you know my findings as to image quality.
     
  32. The pigment ink inkjet prints are back and I am impressed by the quality, especially as the larger ones were made from only a 140 or 150 ppi file. I think the red-majenta tones of the Crystal Archive print are slightly better but other tones are very similar. I overestimated the cost of the professional lab. It was only 1/2 of the 50$ price quoted by the RA-4 lab for sending out to another lab. Longevity of each? No way to know for sure, but I feel confident that the 40 year to first perceptible fading will be right.
     
  33. I also feel that concern over longevity is overblown under ordinary display circumstances. The only reason I am concerned is that in some cases the customer will display the prints in an office or front room with a large window which accelerates fading. And I really don't wish my prints to fade fast under any circumstance.
    Besides image quality and longevity my other reasons for printing my own prints are cost and speed, as well as the ability to experiment with color variations rapidly. But if this is not something that interests you and you're happy with the results from a good lab then stick with that.
     
  34. Mike, I don't know where your confidence comes from. I've spent my adult life working in photography, and I've seen image-stability problems, and I've heard plenty of confident people talk about how stable their products are. And sometimes it turns out they don't really know anything about it.
    Here's a real example, without names. I should mention that I'm not a typical photo.net person; I've worked on behalf of a large chain, so have had extraordinary access to all sorts of technical info. Anyway, a certain media vendor wanted to sell my company inkjet media - a half dozen or so papers with their own inks. Beautiful materials, especially a canvas-finish paper.
    [technical part - feel free to skip] The paper was the big selling point. It was one of those papers where the ink is quickly wicked through a permeable surface into an absorbant layer so that fresh prints resist smudging even though the ink has not yet dried. But the mechanism required dye inks, pigments couldn't get through the surface layer. The dyes are more easily damaged by ozone (in the ambient air), so they had a novel feature - an intermediate catalyst layer converts ozone to plain oxygen. Per them, a specific competitor used a similar paper structure, but with some sort of buffering material. So the competitor's media should hold up in an ozone-rich situation UNTIL the buffering material was completely used up, then the dyes would be attacked. But with this new media, since catalysts are not used up, it should resist ozone for an indefinite length of time. So this gives an idea of the sorts of things that can be going on in inkjet prints.
    So I asked, as I generally do, can you support your claims with actual image-stability test data? We won't consider using it without hard evidence (we are not Mike Earussi). If none is available, we'll test it ourselves. They say they'll find out and get back with me. On the call-back, there's no immediate data available, but they're going to get some for me. A couple of months later, they send data. They had commissioned testing, on my behalf, by the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester N.Y.
    Anyway, the point of this is that a name brand supplier was selling advanced-technology inkjet media, and promoting the enhanced image stability, BUT THEY REALLY HAD NO IDEA ABOUT THE ACTUAL PERFORMANCE. In my experience, this is fairly typical for many suppliers. So if, as a photographer, you have much "skin in the game," it seems prudent to do as Arthur does, and seek out actual hard data with the materials you plan to use.
     
  35. Bill, my "confidence" in inkjet permanence is nonexistent because I haven't done my own tests directly. I just have access to Wilhelm's tests like everyone else, which shows that inkjet prints last over 2x as long as RA-4 prints. But how that translates into the real world no one knows because none of the material has existed for that long. But as that's all the data any of us have, it's what I work with. But if you know of actual data that shows otherwise I'd be happy to look at it.
    My personal experience has to do with overall image quality of inkjet vs RA-4. And as I can print my own inkjet but can't print RA-4 then my comparisons are naturally limited to the skill level of the RA-4 printing services I have access to, as are everyone else's, as practically no one prints their own RA-4 anymore in their own home lab. If you have the ability to print your own RA-4, that's great for you, but is not pertinent to anyone else unless you plan on opening your own printing business.
    The vast majority of us are stuck using whatever labs are available. For me that's either the local grocery one hour machines (which are highly variable) or Costco's more professional service which is good but not better than what I can turn out using my own inkjet printing system.
    Now somewhere in the U. S. there may be a RA-4 lab that is better than Costco, but given the time and cost of shipping I see no reason to use it. At present it costs me $1.03 to print my own 12x18, and I can do so in less than 10 minutes. I doubt there is any RA-4 lab that can match that price (and certainly not the time), especially if you consider my travel time and gasoline costs. So why would I ever want return to RA-4? This is why I encourage everyone to print their own: you not only save time and money, but you learn so much doing so by having direct control of your own printing.
     
  36. Mike, how can you say that you don't have confidence in inkjet permanence when you say things like this, "Besides image quality and longevity my other reasons for printing my own prints..." Or this, "The only reason I am concerned is that in some cases the customer will display the prints in an office or front room with a large window which accelerates fading." These statements tell me that you feel at least somewhat comfortable with the permanence.
    I don't really want to hash over all the details, but earlier you made some blanket statements about the image life of RA-4 vs inkjet prints. I think this is ok on a very general basis, but once you get to a specific situation, I think you have to forget about that average, or whatever it is, situation. I've seen a certain cut-rate RA-4 material with a very inferior lifespan. I've seen a limited number of inkjet media, which generally fared pretty well, but these were top-tier systems from reputable companies. If you were to use aftermarket inks, or perhaps a paper that is not compatible with your inks, I wouldn't feel very confident in the long-term life of those prints. For the most part, you either have to trust in the integrity of the manufacturers, or find accelerated test results by someone reputable like Wilhelm.
    Your own experience with any of these print materials is perfectly valid, as is anyone else's experience. My problem is the the CONCLUSIONS you are making. Also, when you generalize your experience, or what you've read, to EVERYTHING, that's stretching things. This is why I make some note of my experience, to counter some of your unwarranted claims.
     
  37. Just came across an interesting Photo.net printing article by Pete Myers titled "Why Paper?"...
    http://www.photo.net/learning/fine-art/why-paper/
    Printing on white polyester film very similar to the old Cibachromes. I'm tempted to pay the $35 for 20 sheet 8 1/2x11 box of the Pictorico and see what flies on my "All In One". Mitsubishi says it's compatible with all inkjets and inks both dye and pigment. You can't get more nonperishable than polyester film as the article states.
    Don't know if this is the type of ozone converted to oxygen type technology Bill was referring to, but I find the ideas and approaches behind the development of print ink/substrate technology by all these companies very fascinating. They must see a market to go through this much trouble. I mean Mitsubishi uses a manufacturing facility the length of a football field to make rolls of this Pictorico white film and their other line of papers.
    http://www.mitsubishiimaging.com/pictorico-white-film.html
     
  38. "Just came across an interesting Photo.net printing article by Pete Myers titled "Why Paper?"...

    http://www.photo.net/learning/fine-art/why-paper/

    Printing on white polyester film very similar to the old Cibachromes. I'm tempted to pay the $35 for 20 sheet 8 1/2x11 box
    of the Pictorico and see what flies on my "All In One". Mitsubishi says it's compatible with all inkjets and inks both dye and
    pigment. You can't get more nonperishable than polyester film as the article states."

    Epson used to make a similar type paper. The surface was an amazingly smooth matte finish (I hate every other matte
    finish paper) that produced the finest detail of all of Epson's papers at the time. It had a ceramic coating, if I remember
    correctly. The bizarre, but awesome, thing about that "paper" is that it also made dye ink prints waterproof. If I used one of
    Epson's regular photo papers I could easily smudge the dried ink with water. With the Epson plastic film "paper" sheets
    you could literally run the print under a faucet with no damage.

    It was amazing stuff, and yet Epson discontinued it. Don't know why. Yeah, it was their most expensive paper, but it was
    certainly worth it. If they still made that film today I might still be using my Epson. It was an awesome material that I liked
    even better than traditional chemical glossy prints. I'd go so far as to say was, and still is, easily the best "paper" I ever
    have used for photos, whether traditional chemical process or inkjet. Really amazing stuff. It sounds like that Mitsubishi
    film "paper" is the same stuff. Will have to look into it. Thanks for sharing.
     
  39. Yeah, the polyester "paper" is really nice stuff. I used to use it a lot in the darkroom when printing on Fuji R-3 Superglossy. I've also used the Ilford version (which they may have bought from Mitsubishi for all I know) which produces beautiful rich saturated colors with very high resolution (printed a 600dpi actual resolution image on it using a Epson 1400 and using a 4x loupe could see more details). Very high gloss, perfectly smooth surface, and works best using dye inks instead of pigment due to surface reflectivity differences. It does scratch very easily though, so be very careful with it.
     
  40. One caveat about the Fuji Dry Lab Photo paper I posted print samples here is that it also has a similar polyester "coating" but on paper and will crack if severely bent like say bending a corner. An online review showed this.
    I don't know if this will happen to the Pictorico white film since I haven't found any reviews stating as such but it is something to look out for.
    T.E., I remember the Epson film you speak of. They also made clear film not just white at least the kind I tried out on my Epson 1270 back in 1999. The black ink was so dense on this film no light could be seen even on a light table so much so that I thought as a former prepress production technician it could've been used for exposing masks for commercial press use for both offset and screen printing which could've replaced their chemical processes.
     

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