Hahnemuehle Photo Rag Metallic. You read right – it’s a metallic paper with a rag substrate; it’s thick and robust, but still feeds through your printers. This is new, unique and very nice. The paper comes in 17”, 24”, 36”, 44” and 50” rolls and several sheet sizes: US Letter/A4, 11”x17”, A3+ and 17”x22”.
This paper is unlike any other metallic paper I’ve seen or tested. While the others are shiny and garish, this is a rather “low key” metallic – it’s just metallic enough to be “metallic” while accommodating a broader range of subject matter than we would have usually thought suitable for metallic paper. It provides for a superior rendition of colours than I’ve seen with the other gray metallic papers and is particularly well suited to either grayscale or tinted monotone/duotone photos.
The surface finish is also quite unique for a metallic paper. Rather than being glossy, it has a toned-down textured finish somewhere between “luster” and “etching”, though it is a PK paper using the Epson Premium Luster 260 Media Type in the Epson driver. I have tried to capture its appearance in Figure 1.
Seen from normal viewing distance, this texture is soft on the eyes while having “character”. It also facilitates viewing the photos from a broad range of viewing angles quite uniformly.
Hahnemuehle was creating profiles for the paper at the time I was testing it and had completed their profile for the Epson SureColor Series printers (SC-P5000/7000/9000. I also created my own custom profile using the Epson SC-P5000 printer. I no longer have a Canon printer on hand, so I could only test the paper in the Epson, but that’s OK – I wouldn’t expect it to perform much differently in the Canon Pro series printers.
Hahnemuehle recommends setting the paper thickness to level 5 in the Epson driver, and I took the added step of selecting the “Wider” platen gap for the Epson SC-P5000 (for the SC-P800, use “Standard”). This is thick, heavy paper, and I did not want to risk head strikes. These settings worked fine – no head strikes and the prints are very well defined.
As usual, my testing has both statistical and visual components. For the statistical component, I examined the profiles in ColorThink Pro’s Profile Inspector and used my 24-patch (slightly) modified colour checker chart and my three-chart linear grayscale test suite, all of which are described in some detail in previous articles.
Figure 2 is a summary of all the test results for both profiles. I’ll discuss the more important findings.
Whether for the Hahnemuehle profile or my custom profile (“Mark”), the gamut volumes resemble more those of a wide gamut matte paper rather than a PK type paper. Comparing the Mark profile with, say, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk in ColorThink Pro (Figure 3), one gets a visual impression of the gamut difference between a wide gamut luster paper and Metallic Rag. Very much like for matte paper, printing photos on Metallic Rag requires re-adjusting tone and colours to optimize tonal and colour rendition, but the results are good, partly aided by very good Maximum Black performance, as we will see below.
Very much unlike matte paper, the Metallic Rag’s black point in the profile is impressive: L*3 or 5 (Mark, Hahnemuehle) and Maximum Black in the profiles shows excellent neutrality at a*,b* 0 or 1. Maximum Black measured off the target print is L*2.8 or 2.5 (Mark. Hahn). Black point neutrality is very good in both profiles, with a*b* 0.2,-0.6 (Mark) or -0.3,-1.1 (Hahnemuehle).
In light of the paper’s gray metallic finish, the White point in the profiles is, as expected for this kind of paper, a rather low L*81 or 83 (Mark, Hahnemuehle). It is not quite neutral, with a slight warm bias of a*1 and b*4 in both profiles. Measured off the print, L* is 80.1 or 78.9 (Mark, Hahnemuehle). White point neutrality is a*,b* -1.8, 2.1 in my custom profile and -1.4, 1.4 in the Hahnemuehle profile.
Turning to the profile test results, there are substantial performance differences between the custom profile and the Hahnemuehle profile, as seen in rows 20 to 35 of Figure 2.
Starting with the 24-colour “GMCC” test, the average dE for the Hahn profile was 6.8, compared with that for the custom profile at 1.9 (Figures 4 and 5). The largest outlier for both profiles, not surprisingly, is “White”, because the GMCC patch is a near- white, not metallic gray, so it’s not a relevant test patch for this paper. If the “White” error were arbitrarily reduced to, say, dE of 1.0, the average dE values would reduce to 1.3 and 6.2 for the Mark and Hahnemuehle profiles – still a substantial difference. The second worst colour in both tests was Yellow. I remeasured it and the original findings stand. Considering this is a specialty paper, the accuracy of the custom profile, setting aside the “White” issue, is quite good.
A key reason for the poor performance of the Yellow and White patches is that they are out of the paper’s gamut (Figure 6), as is the Bluish-Green patch which also registers an above average dE value.
I should add, by the way, that the paper is also OBA-free, as indicated by the Reflectance Curve of Figure 7 (no spiked red or magenta curves in the 380~450 range).
The three-zone grayscale test for linearity and neutrality of the entire grayscale from L*1~100 in increments of L*1 also shows substantial performance differences between the two profiles. Recall, the zones are Dark Tones (L*1~35), Mid Tones (L*36~70) and Light Tones (L*71~100); the Black line represents perfect linearity, while the Red line tracks the readings from the target prints. The closer the convergence between the two lines the more accurate the printing process including the profile under test. I’ve provided a detailed explanation of these tests in previous articles published on Luminous-Landscape, so I shall not elaborate further on methodology here.
The data in rows 23 to 35 provide the results numerically (average absolute differences between reference and read values; these are not average dE differences), while Figures 8~13 provide them graphically. For the Light zone, recall that since the paper’s White Point tops-out around L*80, the curves beyond 80 are not relevant.
The data in Figure 2 indicate that grayscale neutrality is on the whole quite well preserved in both profiles.
The main conclusion to be drawn from this testing is that the paper is capable of being well-profiled and delivering quite accurate output within its gamut. In these particular tests, the custom profile generally performed consistently better than the OEM profile. This could be on account of performance differences between the printers used for generating the profiling targets, and/or differences of the profiling itself.
Perhaps more important to many readers – apart from all this technical data, what do the prints look like? In a word – gorgeous. This really is very nice paper, and I’m not usually much of a fan for metallic paper because in the past I’ve found that it has a very limited range of subject matter that works well with it. But this paper is different. While it is always necessary to match the subject matter with the character of the paper, this paper accommodates a wider range of photographic images than the others, largely because it is far less shiny, much less distorting of the original colours and has a lovely warm gray tonality. As well, its thickness and cotton rag substrate give it artistic character.
While it is a PK paper, as we saw above, its gamut volume is considerably less than that of more conventional PK papers, so for the photos to look good on it, one does need to re-edit them for this gamut and tonal range. For example, it doesn’t make sense to expect that the edits which worked well for Ilford Gold Fibre Silk would be equally suitable for this paper – that should be obvious from the evidence of Figure 3.
While it’s difficult to convey the impression of what a print looks like over the internet, I did, of course, print a number of photos on it allowing me to evaluate its visual character, so I scanned a number of these photos in my Epson V850 scanner (using SilverFast 8, profiled with the new SilverFast Advanced Target), in order to provide an approximation to the original prints. While as faithful to the originals as the scans are, they don’t convey the full metallic effect one sees at different lighting angles; nonetheless, you do get a decent impression of tone and colour rendition (Figures 14~21). Another nice quality of the paper – these prints can be viewed successfully from a wide arc of viewing positions.
You can see in these photos the richness of the Blacks, the quality of shadow detail separation, the quality of highlight retention and the natural colours. Even the lemons in Figure 21 printed very nicely notwithstanding its sub-optimal showing in the dE accuracy data. The low-key metallic finish worked nicely with all of these photographs. I’ll wrap it up by observing that once and while truly innovative and distinctive products do hit the – by now very saturated – paper market, and this is one of them.
Try and enjoy!