Testing Canson Infinity’s Baryta Prestige

Canson Infinity's New Baryta Prestige 340 gsm.Manufacturers of inkjet printing paper often tout they have succeeded in the creation of a true darkroom surface, one which produces prints that have the same immense, deep blacks reminiscent of the papers and developing processes made famous by Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.

Canson Infinity, one of the oldest fine art paper manufacturers on Earth, argues their Baryta Prestige 340gsm does just that: deep blacks, smooth surface, darkroom feel and archival quality. When a paper manufacturer tells me they have a product that “evokes the look and aesthetic feel of traditional darkroom papers”—a claim often made and seldom delivered—I head off to the testing lab.

What did I find? Keep reading.

Introduction

Ansel Adams often printed his most famous image, “Moonrise, Hernandez,” on Oriental New Seagull G paper, a stock which allowed exceptional subtlety at the same time as providing powerful blacks. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to see “Moonrise, Hernandez” in person, like I have on a number of occasions, you become very aware of the power of the chemical and paper selections Adams made.

Similarly, both Edward and Brett Weston’s prints exhibit these same strengths. The photograph is elevated by the process and paper, highlights and shadows made stunning. Even today, Oriental calls New Seagull G the “Cadillac” of their line of traditional photo papers.

Canson Infinity describes their Baryta Prestige 340gsm in much the same way:

  • Durable
  • Outstanding density
  • Superb sharpness
  • Excellent smoothness with a homogeneous (uniform) surface
  • Low bronzing tendencies (the difference in glossiness between parts of the image, as well between printed and non-printed surfaces)

This combination of characteristics is difficult to achieve, and so I felt testing the Baryta Prestige 340gsm with my new, more rigorous techniques was a fitting task.

Before I continue any further, I’ll say this up front: When you choose to purchase printing papers, printing materials, photo supplies, framing materials, or device protection, please do so using the links on this blog. And as a point of assurance, I only allow advertising from companies I use for purchases of my own materials:

Most important is that whenever you purchase by clicking through from this blog to these sites, it helps pay for all the materials, ink, time and technology I need in order to provide you with these reviews. If you value what you read here, return the favor and purchase your supplies from Griffin, Western Digital, Blick or Red River. Thanks, in advance.

So, now on to the meat of the test. In this article, first I’ll look at the data Canson Infinity provides for its Baryta Prestige 340gsm, and the paper’s characteristics. Then, using my improved zone testing system method, I’ll show how the paper performs in black and white tonality on both the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and the Canon imagePROGRAF-1000; next, I’ll show the results from printing one of my standard testing images, “Young Cowboys.” To conclude, I’ll provide some parting thoughts, as well as my Zone Ranking for the Baryta Prestige.

Paper Data and Characteristics

As I have noted above, the Baryta Prestige has a weight of 340 grams per square meter. It boasts a thickness of .37 millimeter (see Table 1), and I note this because it is important to remember that just because a paper weight is heavy, it may not correlate to a thicker paper. However, in the case of the Baryta Prestige, its weight and thickness are substantial.

As a comparison, the Epson Legacy Baryta is 314gsm and .3 millimeter. That means the Baryta Prestige is 8 percent heavier, and 23 percent thicker than the Epson, and it shows in the feel of the paper in hand: the Canson feels substantial, much more so than the Epson. I found the paper to be heavy in hand, imparting a sense of permanence and importance; it feels like it means business. This also requires it should be fed through the manual feed slots on both Epson and Canon printers.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I refer to Wilhelm Research for my longevity ratings, and to the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology for my archival techniques. The issue here is that Baryta Prestige is so new, I have found no available permanence testing data, meaning that I’ll be making some general judgments about the paper’s permanence based on its buffering (pH neutrality), composition (alpha-cellulose, cotton, or a blend of both), and its optical brighteners level.

The paper is buffered for permanence and uses an alpha-cellulose and cotton blend. This doesn’t mean it is any less archival, however. It is 99 percent opaque with a “very low” optical brightener content, and its baryta coating is archival-friendly (and allows the use of photo black pigment inks). With these facts in mind, I see no reason the Canson to present any concerns for archival applications.

Table 1. Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige 340gsm Specs
Type Baryta
Weight(s) 340
Thickness .37 mm
Surface Extra Smooth/Luster
Black Ink Photo
Material α-Cellulose/Cotton
CIE Whiteness 112
Opacity 99
Buffered Yes
Acid Free Yes
Optical Brighteners Very low
Additional comments: Paper base permanence meets the ISO 9706 requirements; Optimized for pigmented inks, but compatible with dye inks.
Figure 01. The Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige (second paper from top) shows slightly higher relative whiteness than Hahnemühle's FineArt Baryta Satin
Figure 01. The Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige (second paper from top) shows slightly higher relative whiteness than Hahnemühle’s FineArt Baryta Satin. The bottom layer is an X-Rite Color Checker Classic 95% luminance patch for comparison, and the image is kept slightly underexposed for easier comparison.

The Baryta Prestige has a CIE brightness of 112, meaning it reflects a higher percentage of light than a light source emits, due to the presence of optical brighteners. In other words, it is a white, bright paper capable of exceptional black and white contrast. I found it to be slightly whiter in relative whiteness comparisons than another competitor, Hahnemühle’s FineArt Baryta Satin (see Figure 01).

 

 

 

 

Figure 02. Canson Infinity's Baryta Prestige has good glare performance for a luster paper.
Figure 02. Canson Infinity’s Baryta Prestige has good glare performance for a luster paper.

Glare is also fairly well-controlled (see Figure 02). Even when working hard to reproduce glare, such as in this image of my “Young Cowboys” print, I found the paper to be the nearly the equal of the Epson Legacy Baryta, which is the best-controlled glare luster paper I have tested. Both allow wide viewing angles in conjunction with a wide range of lighting, meaning this is a paper well-suited for gallery and museum applications.

 

 

Figure 03. Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige's uniform, smooth surface.
Figure 03. Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige’s uniform, smooth surface.

Canson lists the paper’s surface as “extra smooth,” a claim I found to be true upon examination (see Figure 03). In fact, I found the paper to be nearly as smooth as Epson’s Legacy Baryta, a paper I regard as a benchmark in inkjet smoothness. This means the Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige should have outstanding detail, excellent crispness and nuanced tonal gradations.

Does this mean the Baryta Prestige makes good on its claim as a successor to darkroom silver prints? The numbers would seem to be in its favor, but let’s let the tests decide.

Zone Testing the Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige 340 gsm

This is the first test in which I use my new, more rigorous Zone Testing System, so it’s important to explain my methodology before I continue. First, from time to time I have been asked why I choose not to use a spectrophotometer when testing papers. What’s a spectrophotometer, you ask? In brief, it’s a color checking tool used by the industry to match exactly colors or tones in all sorts of products, such as paint, cloth, graphic arts brochures, and yes, even photographs.

While I prefer such tests for their accuracy, the general public will never see photographs in the neutral environment these devices impart. Rather, prints will be seen close to other colors, and not just 50 percent gray. As a result, I designed the Zone Testing to moderate but still incorporate these real-world viewing characteristics. That’s why I print and then shoot the prints on a 5350 Kelvin copy stand at 1/30 second, ISO 400, and f/11 every time; it provides a consistent gallery- or museum-similar environment that reproduces some, but not much, color interaction, glare, D-max (black density) reduction, and the like.

Figure 05. A Combined View of Test Prints (Zone/OCP Color/Tone).
Figure 04. A Combined View of Test Prints (Zone/OCP Color/Tone).

For this test, I printed four zone scale test prints on my Epson Stylus Pro 3880, using the Advanced Black and White mode in neutral tonality, and in Normal, Dark, Darker and Darkest iterations (see Figure 04).  I also printed my new OCP/Zone Testing combined chart to test the paper’s capability for printing black and white tones in color mode on both the Epson and Canon’s imagePROGRAF-1000. Finally, I printed “Young Cowboys” as a real-print litmus. All were produced using both printers’ manual feed rear slots, and then taken to the studio for copy stand shots.

The first shot on the copy stand is my X-Rite Color Checker Classic, as its black and white color patches have known luminance values of 21% and 95%. This allows me to test that the lights are still properly calibrated in both brightness and color temperature, as well as then to tonally correct the test shots in Lightroom during post production. That color-corrected set of patches is then copied into each zone print to provide a consistent luminance marker. In short, by using this system, I can provide reasonably accurate real-world estimations of paper performance when viewed under proper lighting; values should be +/- 3% luminance at any point.

Figure 06. Zone Results for Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige using Epson Stylus Pro 3880.
Figure 05. Zone Results for Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige using Epson Stylus Pro 3880. Note consistency across Zone 0, as well as general accuracy of most zones on “Darkest” setting.

In this first image, we can see that the Baryta Prestige has strong visual black density, registering a luminance value of 12 (+/- 3) in Zone 0.  Generally, Zone I prints a bit “hot,” or toward the top end of the target value for that zone. However, this is also typical, since no paper will likely achieve a relative visual density lower than 8 or 9. Keeping Zone I values a bit high allows for better visual differentiation between Zones 0 and I.

Moreover, on the Epson’s “Darkest” setting, it’s easy to see that the Baryta Prestige keeps very accurate tonalities, usually within 3-5 points of the target. This is very impressive, and means predictable results for black and white prints.

Contrast is also strong. Zone X registers 96 for luminance, meaning the paper allows an overall dynamic range of 84 luminance points (+/- 3 in either Zone 0 or X). This is an impressive result, especially for photographers fond of using the widest range of tones possible in their images.

Figure 06. Canon Color Results for Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige.
Figure 06. Canon Color Results for Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige. As with the Epson, accuracy across zones was impressive.

Let’s move on to the color OCP chart with the imagePROGRAF-1000. In my work with the new Canon over the last five months, I’ve found its relative visual density to be slightly better than the Epson. That impression was supported in this test, but not significantly, since the Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige registered an 11 for Zone 0 and a 97 for Zone X. Again, accuracy across all zones was impressive for the paper.

Figure 07. Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige Detail.
Figure 07. Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige Detail.

Detail was also impressive. Part of the new testing protocol here at Field&Studio involves OCP’s perspective-diagonals test, and printers with poor ability for line resolution will fail here, as will luster papers with poor smoothness. The Canson performed well (see Figure 07), with little aliasing (jagged diagonal line details).

Finally, black and white print performance was quite strong—in fact, impressively so—with the Epson marginally outperforming the Canon. I use “Young Cowboys” for a number of reasons when testing paper or printers:

  • The lead cowboy’s hat is very close in value to the sky, making it a tough test in terms of visual differentiation
  • The lead’s cowboy’s facial detail is hard to resolve
  • The third cowboy’s right pupil is very detailed in the file, and hard for printers or papers to produce accurate detail
  • The thin, wispy cloud at the left requires more value accuracy
  • The silver clasps on the lead cowboy’s chaps are hard to reproduce without bronzing
Figure 08. Young Cowboys Print Performance with Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige.
Figure 08. Young Cowboys Print Performance with Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige.

In all cases, the Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige exhibited excellent characteristics when printing “Young Cowboys.” Tonality, sharpness, tone differentiation, and bronzing were all well controlled (see Figure 08). Edges were very sharp, and there was little evidence of overspray.

 

 

Conclusion

I can only write one, brief sentence regarding the Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige 340 gsm:

It’s very, very good.

It may be the best luster paper I’ve tested, in fact, and it certainly is one that the other paper manufacturers should be prepping to beat. Perhaps the only negative is that we have no archival testing data—as of yet.

Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige RankingIt’s rare that I feel a paper is good enough to merit a Zone X rating, but this one earns it in spades. Museum curators will simply love the results this paper achieves, as it is smooth, low-glare, tonally accurate, and sharp. I love its heft as well.

Does the Baryta Prestige make good on its darkroom promises? I can say with little reservation that it comes closer than any paper I’ve seen. Good enough for Ansel? Frankly, it’s worth a very serious look if you need a luster paper. Period.

As always, I hope your next print, is your best print.

12 thoughts

  1. Very detailed and interesting analysis!
    I regret that In most aspects this study is far away from what I can understand and perhaps also from what I need as an amateur photographer?
    It is a PK paper and my question is whether this paper is also suited for high quality color printing?
    Thanks for reply!
    Harry

    1. Hi Harry,

      I’m sorry for some of the high-brow pieces in the review; I always need to balance the need of professionals and amateurs alike with paper tests.

      I’m glad you asked about the paper! I think this paper is certainly a strong stock for extreme high-quality color prints. Its only real competitors, I think, are the Epson Legacy Baryta and Hahnemühle FineArt Baryta Satin, but the Canson has a magical combination of traits that are slightly better than both: forgiving, hefty, white, and smooth. I don’t think you can go wrong with it!

      All best, and glad I could help,

      B

  2. Brett I am very happy to have stumbled onto this article and as a old darkroom affinado I am pleased to see the zone system being applied to digital black and white printing. I think Mr Adams and Mr. Picker would be happy to see this and a methodical test of these printers and paper. Personally I’m excited to see my 3880 has the chops and appears to do very well in the data in Figure 6! These reviews and tests are truly a service and save people like me, non Pro photographers a lot of time and money. Back in the day I was taught to pick a couple of films and papers and learn there chararatics well, I try to apply that to digital printing and you have done some of the heavy lifting. This Canson paper was on my list to try and it looks like a good one. I will buy my supplies using your links in the future. Thank you.

    1. Ralph,

      I’m honored I could help! I miss the heady darkroom days, to be honest; I taught darkroom photography for years, and I’m still spellbound by that moment when a print emerges in the developer under a safelight…

      Your 3880 certainly has the chops, and I’m flattered the reviews are useful. I’m sure some folks may draw issue with my methodology (it’s inevitable), but I’ve tried to structure the tests to help real-world printing photographers make a bit more informed decisions without confusion. I’m also glad to hear you, too, see the value in understanding a paper and process as a tool for visualization! I’m always happy to help, so keep in touch.

      Thanks again,

      B

  3. Hello Brett, I finally stay on Canson without a doubt, from what I read in your article definitely this paper is pure art. With the safety of my clients I will deliver everything that means quality, the article is very good. But I would like to know if you know or you can recommend the 340 grams of Barita Prestige, for the kindergarten and portrait photography, weddings and civilian marriage. And if he sees perfect on both white and color. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I can certainly recommend the Canson 340; I think weddings and portraits are intended to last lifetimes, and better paper often means better longevity. However, cost is also a factor, so I’d recommend examining how the cost of the Canson will impact your customer prices. Other than that, it’s a very good paper for your needs.

      All best,

      Brett

  4. Thanks for the excellent detailed review. Just starting on the path of Amatuer Fine Art printing so the last sentence is reassuring and says it all. Just ordered A3 stock to test against canson baryta 310 on canon 10s.

    1. Michael,

      Thank you for your kind words! I hope the printing is going well, and please keep me updated on your progress.

      All best,

      Brett

      1. Hi Brett, Super article!I rarely join in these discussions but feel this paper deserves some attention as it is truly magnificent. I have just got to the stage of opening my own small gallery, on the Isle of Skye so I print a lot of my own very large photographs in sizes to 60 x 40 inch and above. I use Canson papers, mainly until now the Rag Photographique. However, for very large photographs, framing becomes a major expense, a massive framed picture is extremely heavy, liable to break and needs to have bracing behind the wall. My clients expect high end finish and the rag paper although beautiful, is difficult to mount. I tried Baryta after seeing it used in an Epson printing workshop and the colour intensity was amazing. However, it has a strong curl which makes it difficult to handle. I waited patiently for Prestige to arrive and just got my first roll this week – I am thrilled with it. It prints very large pieces and is absolutely flat on the table. It is heavy weight and dry mounted easily (and that is coming from someone who has never done that before). I am sure this is going to become my new favourite paper and it may mean I no longer need mount boards so can switch to dry mounting which suits my work better. I have no affiliation with Canson, hope this helps to add to your discussion. Lynne

        1. Hi Lynne,

          Thank you for the kind words! I’m quite jealous of your location: Beautiful landscape (and really good Scotch, too!). I’m so glad the information helped. That’s the goal of this blog, and please don’t hesitate to keep contributing!

          Keep in touch,

          B

    1. Becky,

      I apologize for my long absence from the blog; I completed my PhD in December and have slowly been digging out of the pile of work left unattended during my time completing my dissertation.

      I have not tested the platine. I will place that paper on my list for testing in the future!

      Best,

      B

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