View Full Version : Cibachrome Classic Shortages and Substitutes

Frank Bagbey
15-Jan-2005, 00:10
For years I have been telling customers Cibachrome was the only color print the majority of museums would acquire for their collections and the only color print fade resistant and permanent enough to not worry about hanging. Now, my custom lab says because of the shortage of Cibachrome they only want to do Lightjet prints. I must admit the 11X14, 20X20, and 30X40 prints they have recently done look good, but then I do not have a Cibachrome classic to compare them side by side. I am also concerned about the longevity issue. Some input about museum thought would also be of help.

Andre Noble
15-Jan-2005, 00:42
shortage of Cibachrome ?

tim atherton
15-Jan-2005, 01:17
presumably they mean Ilfochrome...

unless it's related to the hitches in Ilfords production etc, it sounds like they are BSing you somewhat?

Ralph Barker
15-Jan-2005, 02:08
My understanding is that purchasing procedures were changed when Ilford resumed production after the short closure at the beginning of the receivership. That was announced in an Ilford press release at the time of resumption of production. My guess would be that the change involved related to credit terms - perhaps payment at time of order. If so, that might prompt some dealers who depended on credit to drop the line and blame production shortages.

Stan. Laurenson-Batten
15-Jan-2005, 06:42
The original Ciba prints from trans are/were made by using an entirely different process to that of other manufacurers. The Cibachrome print is different in that it has the dyes pre-coated into the emulsion at the manufacturing stage. The processing removes those dyes that are not required for the final image. Cibachrome has been found to be very stable in exposure toUV light and consequently the reason why this prosess is preferred where large prints are being displayed to strong light particularly UV.

Whereas, Kodak R14 and similar types of printing paper, the colours are introduced to the emulsion by the action of the processing chemicals; this process is not considered as stable in exposure to UV light over long periods.

When Ilford took over the Cibachrome materials and processes, they changed the name of the product/process to Ilfochrome and, although the chemical process is said now to be exactly the same to that of the origninal Cibachrome, many photographers consider it open to question.

From my personal experience, the Ilfochrome processes today are well up to the job in every respect - let's hope it will continue.

bob carnie
15-Jan-2005, 08:35
As Tim stated , they are bull.....ting you , I have a Exell 30 ciba machine , we print traditional enlarger cibas as well we are using a Lambda digital writer to expose ciba from digital files.
Ilford has had its problem lately but I have recieved new product and chemistry and we are now in full production. As a matter of fact we are now using more paper product because of the hybrid technology.
Side point, I do print cyrstal archive , endura, Ra4 with both printing methods, and they do not match up to the ciba product

chris jordan
15-Jan-2005, 09:23
As far as museums go, Ciba/Ilfochrome is the LEAST popular with museums nowadays, because it has one of the shortest archival lives of any current color printing process. Ciba/Ilfo paper has a generally accepted archival life of 29 years (as tested by the Wilhelm Institute), as opposed to about 70 years for Fuji Crystal Archive paper which is used for Lightjet and Chromira prints. Pigmented inkjet prints have about the same archival life (70-100 years depending on papers and inks used), and are also routinely collected by museums these days.

A few years back, Ciba/Ilfo was popular with many color photograhers, and with museums, because it was erroneously believed to be much longer lasting than it actually is. Now that it is known to have such a short archival life (and also to have some other fundamental defects that make it very hard to get good prints from it), few serious color photographic artists still use it. Everyone I know of who used to make their own Ciba/Ilfo printss, including me, switched to the Lightjet when it came out, and since then most of us have gone over to Epson Ultrachrome.

One other side note: Many labs will continue to say that Lightjet prints are the best (longer lasting, better color, etc.), but be careful-- they have a $250,000 investment that they are trying to protect. People who have a choice (without the burden of a quarter-million-dollar dinosaur that they are trying to milk for all its work), usually prefer either Chromira prints or Ultrachrome inkjet prints, in a side-by-side test against Lightjet prints. Unfortunately there are still few labs making Ultrachromes because the machines are far slower, and consequently less profitable. So don't listen to what labs have to say about printing methods; they are biased to what they have invested in. Instead, get prints made in all of the mediums you are interested in, and decide for yourself which looks best.



Steve Lewis
15-Jan-2005, 10:13
Hi Guys

As Ilfachrome and its chemistry is produced in Switzerland there should be no problem with supplies. My local Ilfachrome lab says that the only minor problem they had was that a new line of credit needed sorting out direct with the producers, but they've had no problems keeping customers, including me, happy.



Kirk Gittings
15-Jan-2005, 11:45
"For years I have been telling customers Cibachrome was the only color print the majority of museums would acquire for their collections"

Actuallythis is no longer true. For instance, the Art Institute of Chicago is specifically building a collection of inkjet photography.

Andre Noble
15-Jan-2005, 12:39
"Epson Ultrachrome"

Now is that a bull*^it name to describe a 'photograph' made from ink spray or what?

tim atherton
15-Jan-2005, 12:50
""Epson Ultrachrome"
Now is that a bull*^it name to describe a 'photograph' made from ink spray or what?"

Simple answer? No

Longer answer - as opposed to one made from what? Chromogenic dyes, azo dyes, carbon pigment, pigment, silver gelatin.. and so on - there are 101 different processes.

Jeff Moore
15-Jan-2005, 14:02
I agree with Chris on this one. As an ongoing, non-scientific experiment, about a year ago I had six of my 4x5 chromes drum-scanned and printed to 16x20 on Fuji Crystal Archive with a Lightjet, then printed the same digital files myself to 16x20 at home with my Epson 7600 on Premium Lustre paper with UltraChrome inks. All twelve of these prints are dry-mounted and matted in an identical manner. At every opportunity I show these prints side-by-side (without commentary) to friends, including serious photograhpers and "laymen" alike. Every time, every single time, they pick the Epson UltraChrome prints as their favorites. I have never, not once, had anyone I have shown these prints to choose the Lightjet as their preference.

bob carnie
15-Jan-2005, 15:53
Chris Jordan

Unless Wilhelm has changed "The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs" whereas he gave ciba chromes a good recommondation, as well as amazing dark shelf storage expectancy.
Also in Switzerland you can in fact go to the head office and see cibachromes on display from the early 60"s or late 50". I do think this qualifys as over 45 years in display. I would not think that could be said of a Epson Ultrachrome.

Yes I do own a ciba processor, but as well I have a RA4 processor, I do print from Lambda and I purchased a Epson 9600 using ultrachrome inks.
I think that one should choose the media they like and go from there , end of conversation, artist are making great sales using RA4 cyrstal archive or endura prints. Do you think they last??? Hang around for twenty years and see the results.

Here is my order of permance for colour with my limited scope---- Colour Carbon Prints on paper - Cibachrome - Some pigmented Ink Jet - RA4..

As a photographer and printer , I work in all of the above (except carbon Prints) took a workshop on Ultra Stable 7 years ago and did not find it viable for me to work with. The only way to tell , is time and we have seen fading RA4 colour, we have seen fading rc black and white, as yet I have not seen fading cibachrome and ink jet is in its infancy stages and time will tell.

Rambling a bit here , but I think the proof will be over time, let inkjets sit on walls for a period and we will all have a chance to experience their longevity , by watching their progress over 20-50 years.

Keith Laban
15-Jan-2005, 16:06
I have to say I agree with the contributors to this thread who have indicated a preference for Ultrachrome prints. I used to have Ciba prints made for me and at the time they were as good as you could get, but time has moved on.

The quality of a colour Ultrachrome on matte rag art papers is unique, completely different to the high gloss Cibachromes and unmatched by any other process. However I'd probably choose LightJet or Chromira rather than Ultrachrome if I were producing prints on glossy papers and I might even still be in the darkroom if I were working in B&W.

The over-riding advantage of Ultrachrome over Cibachrome is the total personal control over the print the process offers.


bob carnie
15-Jan-2005, 16:28

What would that personal control advantage be.???????

Subject matter is a key, for choice of material one uses. I will admit that I prefer images of flowers or portraits of sunsets on the rag paper inkjet .
But harder images with metal or off colour scenes I would choose ciba.
cibas do need to be light to have a glow ,which you may not have to do with a rag print.

I disagree with its "time to move on",, I think on should match the process to the imagery you are producing

Keith Laban
15-Jan-2005, 17:19
What would that personal control advantage be.???????

Simple, the virtually unlimited degree of control offered by Photoshop and the ability to personally control each stage of the process through to the final print.

Of course having scanned my transparency and created my master file I would then have the option to have the file copied to film by a third party and printed by a third party to Cibachrome, but this would be one step too far and two people too many for my liking and the print would not be printed on my preferred paper.


tim atherton
15-Jan-2005, 18:14
Somewhere, from my days as a photographic archives technician, I having the Ilfochrome/Cibachrome testing data from the IPI (who tested the materials, I don't think Wilhelm did? - he used their numbers)

The basic graphs are in the Ilford doc below, but it misses out an awful lot of data

http://www.ilford.com/html/us_english/pdf/302e.pdf (http://www.ilford.com/html/us_english/pdf/302e.pdf)

It still has very good dark storage numbers, but as a result of the IPI testign, Ilford (and Wilhelm I think) revised the dispay numbers, especially for unprotected pritns. If I remember correctly, Ilfochrome is especially susceptable to atmospheric agents acting on the materials - hence the poor ratings for unprotected materials.

Last I saw, for various display scenarios RA4 C-Type prints - Fuji Crystal Archive or Kodak Ultima generally have the edge. (I think that may also be the case for combined display and later dark storage as well, but I'm not 100% on my memory on that)

For dark storage if it's stored that way from the get go it's still something like 400 or 500 years for Ilfochrome I think (as opposed to 100 or 200 for various RA4 type materials). Though if you go into sub zero storage of colour materials, that changes upwards for both as well.

Pete Caluori
15-Jan-2005, 19:37

The original question was regarding the availability of Cibachrome, now Ilfochrome. My memory may be failing, but I am pretty confident that I read an E-press release that said Ilford would be phasing out Ilfochrome materials in 2005... Perhaps this is one the reasons supplies are becoming unvailable???

The entire discussion of inkjet, RA, dye transfer and color carbon is really a different topic. Each process produces a unique looking print that has its own set of qualities - archivability being only one of them. I personally like print made by all of these processes, but I don't think any one process is the be all and end all - I.E. no process is "perfect."

As for archival issues, I'd be very careful about what anyone (even Wilhelm, RIT and the IPI) says especially if there is no history. AFAIK, Ciba/Ilfochrome has a track record, so does RA, dye transfer and color carbon. The only one lacking a track record is inkjet, but time will tell. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying, inkjet has a place and I use it, but so does Ilfochrome: the two are not the same and will never produce similar results. When Ilfochrome goes away it will be a sad day.

Regards, Pete

Pete Caluori
15-Jan-2005, 19:40
I forgot to address substitutes...

The closest thing I've seen to Ilfochrome is Fuji Crystal Archive printed on Fujiflex substrate, not the conventional RC material. Kodak is making a RA paper called metallic and though I have yet to see a sample it too may be a viable substitute.

Regards, Pete

David A. Goldfarb
15-Jan-2005, 19:45
I've seen prints on the Kodak metallic paper, and it looks nothing like Ilfochrome, but it could be interesting for certain types of subjects (particularly if they involve metallic surfaces).

bob carnie
16-Jan-2005, 10:16
Hi Keith

I think I was setting you up on that personal control thing! sorry

Using photoshop and a lambda, chromira, lightjet, deveere digital enlarger, one can have all the personal control you speak of. This technology is relatively new ,in Canada I think that our lab is the only digital/traditional lab exposing cibachrome/ fibre paper using a traditional enlarger and as well using photoshop to manipulate files and exposing directly onto these materials. There is no intermediate step that you mention. I believe there are a few shops in NA doing this as well in Europe. I have been waiting 15 years for the technology to advance to a point that I can start experimenting this way. As I stated I have an ink jet machine here and have the great luxuray to do direct comparisons immediately , material to material.

Frankly I do not think one process is better than the other, I have a print of a floral subject that we printed ink jet months ago, the client came back in and ordered a ciba, After viewing the prints I prefer the ink jet as the method matches the feel of the image, even thought the ciba may match the original trans more closely. But my job was to make a believable floral image and the ink jet won hands down.
Another client photographs wet rocks in Labrador , rich in colour and metallic vibe. A ciba in this case blows away the ink jet.

I have no arqument with anyone saying that inkjets are beautiful , but when the discussions starts bashing one product over the other it gets silly.

Cibas are extremely high gloss, some people absolutely hate them, others adore. You should see a scala trans printed on Ciba properly,
Ink jets are generally printed on a beautiful paper stock that is quite alluring to a lot of photographers. Any thing with natural fabrics and earth look amazing on this stock as well as portraits.

People choose their choice of materials and push their qualitys and that is ok , but to start comparing them it gets quite hard to decide which is better.
A simple thing to try is to compare the different black and white papers out there. I did last week and after printing 9 different emulsions , I was suprised to find merit in all 9.

Keith Laban
16-Jan-2005, 12:00
Hi Bob

Had a feeling you might have been when you said "we are using a Lambda digital writer to expose ciba from digital files" in your earlier post ;-)

This would certainly be an option for the occasional high gloss print but generally speaking I much prefer matte prints on cotton rag papers for most of my work. However for others and other subject matter this would undoubtedly be a worthwhile option.

Printing with the Ultrachrome process simply allows me a degree of personal control that would be virtually impossible or impracticably expensive using any other method. I will often test print a file by producing many "test strips", remember those from the good old days, altering the master file when and if necessary. I also have quite a collection of paper/ink profiles for each of the papers I use and will often experiment by varying these and the printing intent until the print is exactly as I want it. Of course all this would be possible using your Lambada option or the LightJet and Chromira options, but again would be impracticably time consuming and expensive when using a third party to produce my prints. Owning and using an Ultrachrome printer gives me the freedom and creative control that was merely a dream a few years ago

I wish you and your service all the very best and sincerely hope that Ilford keep producing and supplying the Ciba product and Chemistry to you.


bob carnie
16-Jan-2005, 13:07
Hi Keith

I hope Ilford keeps producing for years as well.

You are right , the ability to control the process is an pleasure , and I understand your reasoning.
My services are tailored made for my clients who actually are present during the printing process. We have started to branch out with our FTP site, with some of the people I have met here and on another photo discussion group.
It is a leap of faith as I cannot speak personally with the client and as well not see the expression on their face when viewing their work.
It is difficult working third party ( out of town) and it is a process that I am trying to learn. A lot of my clients come to Toronto for an initial printing session to get a bond with each other and it does help. I also encourage my clients to learn to print themselves as they get an appreciation for the process.
That is why I like proof prints with any job as something to aim for.
good luck with your printing

Frank Bagbey
22-Jan-2005, 16:36
This has been a great thread. However, I would like to see more input regarding the choices museums use to choose color photography collections, whether any museums are interested in any digitial color prints in their collections as opposed to Ilfochrome/cibachrome classic
materials. Has anyone in this forum sold either type print to a museum or high end collection?

Regarding what my lab is telling me--which started this thread--I think the only thing to do is order a print or two of what they are trying to push now and run an accelerated fading test situation of my own. Might be a little expensive. I KNOW what the longevity of Cibachrome is, I have 20X30s and other size prints that have hung under 24 hour a day flourescent exposure and indirect daylight for almost 20 years. I removed a few from their mats and checked for any fading as opposed to what was under the mats. I did not find any evidence of fading either under the mat or the remainder exposed regularly to light.

If the lab, which has been absolutely the greatest for the longest time, no longer wants to print Ilfochrome/Cibachrome, maybe it is just time to find another lab. It would be a shame.
Nothing beats unwrapping a beautiful 20X30 or 30X40 and literally being blown away by the fantastic quality!