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Thread: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

  1. #1
    I live in Connecticut now.
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    Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    So I'm just going to be getting into doing some printing work on my own, my normal processes to scan my Chrome images my transparency is that is, and send them off to the lab to be printed by someone else using a lambda / lightjet type of printer on RA4 paper.

    Well speaking to a few of the new professors that I have in school as well as a working photographer who I randomly met on the street while I was shooting, both of which have stated that the dynamic range of inkjet pigment prints is much higher than the dynamic range of RA4 paper and that my crown prince would look much better on the pigment print rather than the traditional chemical print, but I'm wondering just how much of a difference there is as well as how much I can really differentiate in that degree, I know that the eye it has a much higher dynamic range of its own but will you really notice the difference?

    I will obviously at some point be doing this myself and testing the theory, but that won't come for quite a little while in my schooling career, so I'm wondering if anyone can shed any light on this?

    Also just out of curiosity he, if anyone has worked with Cibichrome/Ilfochrome prints and could comment on The dynamic range of those that would be great, I know there are many other factors will all want to discuss about the pants but my main curiosity and my main question has to do with the dynamic range and color red production aspects of these different kinds of pants and not the archival quality or anything like that. At least not now. I do welcome anyone who wants to discuss those other things to open up a new thread and link to it here if you'd like to discuss that stuff that way we can all enjoy a good discussion about all aspects of this but still not lose focus on what we're discussing here in this thread.

    Thanks!

    ~Stone

  2. #2
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    You will find out that current inkjet printers can show a slightly larger colour gamut in certain regions than a RA4 Print. The difference is significant in some of the colours. My feeling is that you can capture all the colours(that RA4 print material) plus some, available using inkjet media today. I am speaking of the 12 ink set machines currently available. (I use a Cannon IPF 9400 with their new ink set. It should be pointed out that I also have a Durst Lambda 76 and use the full Fuji RA4 line of papers.

    I feel the main difference, between the two is that with RA4 prints( and if course Cibachrome)the image seems to live within the emulsion.. With Inkjet the image seems to live closer to the surface, (more pronounced with the heavy matt papers.)

    Any printer worth their salt will tell you that Cibachrome had a much better defined Red colour rendition than RA4 print product. Cibachrome also had an incredible gloss which really made all the colours shine, the closest paper right now to that look is Fuji Crystal Archive Flex. I have not seen a inkjet paper YET to come close to this final gloss.


    I have use all three of the above and am currently printing two of them( I stopped printing Cibachrome in 2006 due to manufacture issues)…. I love the look of RA4 prints, but I have to grudgingly admit( through working with both daily) that current inkjet technology has a better colour gamut and flexibility not offered with RA4.
    I am happy with both medias and continue to print both without hesitation.

    Anyone telling you one is better than the other is pretty much blinded , as both methods of printing offer great possibliitys.

  3. #3
    Youngin Daniel Stone's Avatar
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    Make the best prints you can on both technologies, squeeze each until it's about to burst and you wave the white flag... Then sit back and compare them to each other, and take some notes on what you see. Write down your observations. Highlight quality? Shadow density(like blacks), tonal transitions, etc... Leave them be for a couple of days, then come back and look at them again, with fresh eyes. Then do that a 3rd time(again, after a few more days). You'll probably notice something different. Take notes each time. After the third time, compare all of your notes(a separate page for each day's observations) and see what you come up with.

    Also: I've found that many inkjet prints/inks have a "dry down" effect similar to many b/w fiber papers, so letting the inks dry for a few days will allow you to see things once they've settled. RA-4 is a plastic-based material, so is basically dry once it leaves the processor.

    -Dan

  4. #4
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    Quote Originally Posted by bob carnie View Post
    You will find out that current inkjet printers can show a slightly larger colour gamut in certain regions than a RA4 Print. The difference is significant in some of the colours. My feeling is that you can capture all the colours(that RA4 print material) plus some, available using inkjet media today. I am speaking of the 12 ink set machines currently available. (I use a Cannon IPF 9400 with their new ink set. It should be pointed out that I also have a Durst Lambda 76 and use the full Fuji RA4 line of papers.

    I feel the main difference, between the two is that with RA4 prints( and if course Cibachrome)the image seems to live within the emulsion.. With Inkjet the image seems to live closer to the surface, (more pronounced with the heavy matt papers.)

    Any printer worth their salt will tell you that Cibachrome had a much better defined Red colour rendition than RA4 print product. Cibachrome also had an incredible gloss which really made all the colours shine, the closest paper right now to that look is Fuji Crystal Archive Flex. I have not seen a inkjet paper YET to come close to this final gloss.


    I have use all three of the above and am currently printing two of them( I stopped printing Cibachrome in 2006 due to manufacture issues). I love the look of RA4 prints, but I have to grudgingly admit( through working with both daily) that current inkjet technology has a better colour gamut and flexibility not offered with RA4.
    I am happy with both medias and continue to print both without hesitation.

    Anyone telling you one is better than the other is pretty much blinded , as both methods of printing offer great possibliitys.
    Thank you Bob,

    That was a perfect help! It's nice to hear for someone I trust about this, and a confirmation that others working in the field have this perspective. I do hope I can learn to print well enough to even make a decent comparison.

    Thanks!

  5. #5
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    From a practical standpoint, I agree with Bob. When I look at color work these days at museums and galleries I'm often blown away by the print quality. I worked in a commercial lab in the mid-90s, alongside a guy who was one of the better cibachrome printers in the Northeast. I got a pretty good sense of what good color work looked like in that era. So much of what I see today blows that stuff away. Some of it is ink, some of it lambda/lightjet. It don't matter much which.

    I prefer ink for reasons like the paper surfaces available, and because I can print it myself (or at least print proofs using the same process as the final prints). I also believe the longevity is better. But as far as results, I don't actually observe the theoretical advantages of inkjet when looking at prints. They all can look awesome.

    For that matter, when comparing one inkjet paper to another, the theoretical advantages of one over the other (in gamut, d-max, etc.) are often insignificant. I'll go with the one whose surface I like, or the one that doesn't curl or scratch or flake.

    BTW, you can directly compare theoretical color gamuts by downloading profiles from paper manufacturers or printing surfaces. Tools like Apple ColorSync utility let you compare directly. The shapes of these gamuts are so complex that you'll usually see even the smaller gamut including colors missing from the larger one.

  6. #6
    Tech Support, Chromix, Inc.
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    Here's a visual demonstration of the difference between the gamuts. The solid mulitcolored form in the middle is a typical RA-4 process gamut using glossy paper. The white wireframe shape is an Epson 9900 on high quality glossy paper. Naturally, paper types will affect the size of gamut with the inkjets - but at least this shows the kind of saturation possible. The inkjets are capable of much greater color saturation under certain conditions than the RA-4 process. Of course there are other factors involved with the quality of a print than dynamic range. The dyes in RA-4 offer a continuous tone of color throughout the print, rather than a mixture of dots on paper like you get with inkjet...
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	RA4_inkjet.png 
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    Pat Herold
    CHROMiX Tech Support
    www.chromix.com

  7. #7

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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    Quote Originally Posted by pherold View Post
    Here's a visual demonstration of the difference between the gamuts. The solid mulitcolored form in the middle is a typical RA-4 process gamut using glossy paper. The white wireframe shape is an Epson 9900 on high quality glossy paper. Naturally, paper types will affect the size of gamut with the inkjets - but at least this shows the kind of saturation possible. The inkjets are capable of much greater color saturation under certain conditions than the RA-4 process. Of course there are other factors involved with the quality of a print than dynamic range. The dyes in RA-4 offer a continuous tone of color throughout the print, rather than a mixture of dots on paper like you get with inkjet...
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	RA4_inkjet.png 
Views:	53 
Size:	230.3 KB 
ID:	120696
    Color gamut charts are nice for a technical reference, but I would really like to see the same image printed via two different processes. Of course, there would be other variables entering into the equation - adjustments made during the scanning of the neg, or adjustments made in Photoshop to optimize it for output, and etc, just as there could be adjustments made during the enlarging process. So I think of a gamut chart in much the same way as the government miles-per-gallon figures - one type of objective comparison, but not fully reflective of the real world.

  8. #8
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    If I was a commercial printer like Bob, I'd probably agree with him. But I'm not, meaning that there are certain things you can do if you control the entire workflow,
    beginning to end, that stretch the qualitative options. You shoot for your output medium in such a way that you predetermine things, much like "previsualization" in
    Zone System theory. But color gets a lot more complicated. I showed someone some color prints the other day and they would never have picked out what was a
    Ciba versus an RA4 Supergloss, one printed via an interpositive versus direct optical, unless I had told them which is which. With chromes the options are getting
    limited because Ciba is damn near extinct. That leaves just dye transfer, carbon, or commercial, inkjet or chromogenic RA4. Every one of these things has gamut
    limitations - the question is, exactly what kind? A workflow and output media for one particular image might not be the best choice for a different image. And the
    look is inherently different, which often becomes a matter of taste. For my own kind of imagery, I don't think I'd like the "pasted on" surface look of inkjet color,
    or the rather discontinuous blacks. I prefer the transparency of real dyes. But Stone, anyone who goes around classifying an inkjet print as a "pigment print" to
    begin with isn't somebody I'd trust to be authoritative on any of this. Have somebody like Bob run comparison samples in the different output media and see what
    you personally like. Otherwise, the academic ancient history by now aspect of controlling Ciba gamut is pretty unrelated to all the above. And in certain respects,
    the gamut champion of all time remains dye transfer printing.

  9. #9
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    Quote Originally Posted by Drew Wiley View Post
    If I was a commercial printer like Bob, I'd probably agree with him. But I'm not, meaning that there are certain things you can do if you control the entire workflow,
    beginning to end, that stretch the qualitative options. You shoot for your output medium in such a way that you predetermine things, much like "previsualization" in
    Zone System theory. But color gets a lot more complicated. I showed someone some color prints the other day and they would never have picked out what was a
    Ciba versus an RA4 Supergloss, one printed via an interpositive versus direct optical, unless I had told them which is which. With chromes the options are getting
    limited because Ciba is damn near extinct. That leaves just dye transfer, carbon, or commercial, inkjet or chromogenic RA4. Every one of these things has gamut
    limitations - the question is, exactly what kind? A workflow and output media for one particular image might not be the best choice for a different image. And the
    look is inherently different, which often becomes a matter of taste. For my own kind of imagery, I don't think I'd like the "pasted on" surface look of inkjet color,
    or the rather discontinuous blacks. I prefer the transparency of real dyes. But Stone, anyone who goes around classifying an inkjet print as a "pigment print" to
    begin with isn't somebody I'd trust to be authoritative on any of this. Have somebody like Bob run comparison samples in the different output media and see what
    you personally like. Otherwise, the academic ancient history by now aspect of controlling Ciba gamut is pretty unrelated to all the above. And in certain respects,
    the gamut champion of all time remains dye transfer printing.
    It was my understanding normal "INK" is different than "PIGMEN" type ink. Is that incorrect?

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Dynamic range of RA4 vs digital pigment print

    There are printers which only use dyes and then there are inkjet printers, with complex inks composed of pigments, dyes, and lakes (dyed color-neutral particles).
    The inherent problem with inkjet technology is that you can just stick any kind of ink in there. The fluid has to contain very small particles capable of passing thru
    those tiny nozzles, and that's why they have to jump thru all kinds of hoops matching this characteristic to the oft conflicting demands of optimal gamma and permanence. Then it all has to be programmable. Otherwise, if every ingredient was ideal, all you'd need is three process colors to begin with. For example, a true
    pigment process like carbon or carbro uses just three pigments (CMY) plus sometimes black (K). If you study the patents, some of the colorants used in common
    inkjet systems involve dyes which are very similar to those used in older color systems and probably aren't any more permanent in this particular application. Lakes
    are a more difficult subject, because they sometimes behave differently than their primary dye. A very complicated subject overall, but at least they've made some
    serious R&D inroads into it and given us a realistic option for keeping those chromes alive. I vastly prefer the look of Ciba, but there were some pretty heavy-handed tricks to taming its gamut, and it was getting miserably expensive toward the end of its era.

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