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Inkjet vs c-type prints in 2024

Duff photographer

Active member
Howdo,

Inkjet prints have come along way. Their quality is regarded as better than a c-type dye-based print in virtually all aspects except price, certain areas of colour gamut, and possibly tonality (due to dye being used rather than tiny splotches of pigment), not that I'm sure you'd notice in a well executed print. I'm also informed that they give a different, less flat, look than an inkjet, although I presume that this will vary depending on the (inkjet) paper used. However, most of what I have read is now quite old, i.e., 6 years at youngest.

My questions are,

1. do the advantages and disadvantages still apply in 2024?
2. is anyone here in a position to compare or to have compared good examples of a modern inkjet print with a modern c-type print and relay their thoughts?
3. presumably c-type has also advanced. Do they really have greater longevity of dyes and greater colour gamut as now currently marketed? These aspects are the most interesting to me.

All three questions seem to be the same question, but you get my drift.

I'm interested in using Fujicolor's Crystal Archive Professional Deep Matte (Velvet Paper in particular) as an alternative to inkjet papers. As an aside, I don't have my own inkjet printer as I found it more cost effective to get them done by a pro' printer (although he has since retired and I will now have to outsource to another country!), and my print run is low.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sold on the virtues of an inkjet print, but I like to have a look at alternatives, particularly if they help with marketing an image.


Cheers,
Duff.
 
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Paul Spinnler

Well-known member
You seem to be well informed about the differences. Ask the gallery owners you are targeting whether "c-print" makes a difference for the sale ... in the past, a key reason to opt for a C-Print was a specific look + the marketing aspect of saying that it was printed in a high end lab via a "photochemical" process while inkjet was deemed "consumer" which is why gallery owners would sometimes call inkjet prints "giclee" prints.

I think you are alluding to the marketing aspect above. The best to answer are the ones distributing the work, ie, galleries.

It still has a different look I feel, but many high end artists also have moved to inkjet as it allows you to proof in-house and hit a 99% match for the large print with your lab if you have a colour management workflow in place. C-print requires a bit different approach I'd say as you will typically be present at the lab and print many iterations (or strips) to get the colour right except if you use a Lamba which is a digital C-print which affords more controlm but still requires iteration.

Another reason for inkjet is of course stability over time. C-prints sold in the 1990s have faded now and need to be re-printed sometimes if the owner wants a new print. I think this is also a key reason to move to inkjet to avoid issues in 10+ years if a print hangs in a light exposed corner of a house.

Are you talking digital or analog c print?

Also, c-print paper has its own colour and combined with the colour gamut of c-prints and lower saturation we got accustomed to these prints hanging in museums as "fine art prints"; you can emulate that to an extent via profiles in injket prints, but this requires a very good lab, some advanced post processing and even then it'll look still different.

It all depends whether you're after the "fine art" more muted c-print look of large format photography stuff that is hanging in some museums or whether you are ok to have a modern look (wider colour gamut + many different papers). Whether purchasers care nowadays is a different question. A lot of quality in printing was lost by more consumer type print galleries like Whitewall or Yellow Corner where you'll find a lot of inkjet under frame-less acrylic.

A Lambda print under thick museum glass and a heavy wooden frame is very expensive ... but looks stunning.
 
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Duff photographer

Active member
Thanks Paul for your lengthy and considered thoughts - very much appreciated.

Are you talking digital or analog c print?
Yes, a digital c print is what I'm looking for (applied by laser - Polielettronica, Lambda, etc.).

I think you are alluding to the marketing aspect above. The best to answer are the ones distributing the work, ie, galleries.
Yes, and yes I agree, but galleries are not the easiest to access, at least where I am. I also wonder how much they will know about quality control.

Another reason for inkjet is of course stability over time.
Absolutely. However, I gather from the marketing that there are new dyes in the Fujicolor paper mention in my opening post, for example, that have improved longevity, apparently up to 100 years, but perhaps more realistically 60 years, but I've yet to see anything firm. Indeed the Fuji Crystal Archive data sheet (dated 2018) says 10-20 years for a print stored below 25c, which seems remarkably short for something that is not actually displayed. Maybe it's a typo' and they forgot add a '0', as Cibachromes lasted longer than this. If the datasheet is correct then that would be a deal-breaker. I shall need some feedback on this aspect for sure. Either way, 'fine art' galleries seem to sell them so...

Also, c-print paper has its own colour and combined with the colour gamut of c-prints and lower saturation we've come to get accustomed to these prints hanging in museums as "fine art prints"; you can emulate that to an extent via profiles in injket prints, but this requires a very good lab, some advanced post processing and even then it'll look still different.

It all depends whether you're after the "fine art" look of stuff hanging in some museums or whether you are ok to have a modern look. Whether purchasers care nowadays is a different question. A lot of quality in printing was lost by more consumer type print galleries like Whitewall or Yellow Corner where you'll find a lot of inkjet under frame-less acrylic.
I'll be pursuing the 'fine art' look. I used to do platinum prints many years ago for a short period (and I'll have to get back into it), so pursuing the realistic, 'modern' look is not on my list. Indeed, I try and attain a look to better convey the feeling/emotion of the image in many of my inkjet prints, although that's more the product of the equipment I use and the environmental conditons, which is intentional. The prints don't necessarily have accurate colour (what print truly does considering the human eye has a much greater gamut than a camera sensor/film?!) but I try to ensure they look natural as opposed to realistic or hyper-realistic, if that makes sense. Sorry, probably too much information there.

One of the issues is finding a printer who knows what they are doing. I have found, for example, that some printers skimp on basic aspects such as custom profiling (inkjet) papers and keeping them up to date, while consumer-type firms will let quality slip as you mention, perhaps in pursuit of high volume consumerism. As alluded to above, when getting someone to produce the final print for you, you need to know that they've done the best that can be done and that quality control has been adhered to. My retired printer did that, but finding one just as good is difficult, particularly as I live in a relatively isolated location (no major towns close by). It now occurs to me that a good printer is just as important an aspect as any differences between an inkjet print and a c-print. This may overide potential advantages of a c-print, as I will have to rely on a second party to get them produced, as opposed to an inkjet where I can, at worst, bite the bullet financially and time-wise, and print them myself, although that will have its own issues as pro' inkjet printers need to be used regularly to offset ink wastage and avoid damaging clogs which I might not be able to do.

As you say though, will purchasers care, or even know it's a c-print or inkjet? Well, I guess I will, and (potential quality issues aside) knowing I might be selling a type of print not to my liking might not give me much confidence in my work. It would be nice to knowingly have a high quality c-print produced that I can say to the 'discerning' customer "yes, it's a traditional photographic print", but...

Erf!


Cheers,
Duff.
 

Paul Spinnler

Well-known member
Are you starting from film or from digital? If film, you will also need someone with an old style scanner: heidelberg, dainippon or flextight to get that "look". Repro scanning is difficult to get the look of yesteryear. Both due to the film inversion profiles and true color CCD scanners (flextight) or photodiodes in drum scanning.

The classic chain for fine look requires careful choosing of all elements in the chain incl. development, scanning (drum scan), c-printing + high end framing.

Grieger in Germany, Metro or Bayeux in London, Griffin in NYC are renown ...

The combination of the right lab with the experienced operators is key for development, scan and print. If you want the real deal you let a top place do all the steps, including development. The best fine art photographers in the world send their negs always to the same place, even if it means shipping it from location to another country. E.g. shoot in Italy, development at Grieger, etc. I know a very famous 8x10 photographer who ALWAYS ships his negs to Grieger, no matter where he is ...
 

anyone

Well-known member
+1 for Grieger. They are top notch and work with you to get the most out of your source image, film or digital. I have some prints from them and sincerely enjoyed the process until the final image.

As for C-Print: probably I'm socialized with and biased by the pictures shown in museums - C-Print can look very good. No possibility for direct comparisons though.
 

Duff photographer

Active member
Thanks Paul and Anyone. Points noted. It's the final print process that needs to be reassessed at present, all other aspects have been optimised for a while now.

I'll likely move over to Grieger, at least for E6 film processing as and when. Regards prints, it would seem a good idea to go to Grieger to get some very select samples of the same image on inkjet paper and c-type to compare. Very select to keep costs down as tinkering with various papers is not a rabbit hole I want to go down. ;)


Cheers,
Duff.
 

anyone

Well-known member
Are you located in Europe? I'd worry sending my undeveloped work around the globe. As E6 is a standardized process, the development should (at least in theory) be the same everywhere. Of course there are some variables in it (i.e. how they treat your film, condition of the chemicals, ... ) but any pro lab should handle the development OK. So far, I never sent anything to Grieger for development but started from an image file (scan). My experiences only relate to printing - more specifically I got some Diasec prints from them.

Their process usually includes a proof print for you to either greenlight or adjust. Maybe it's worth asking for two different samples with different printing techniques? It's a very bespoke process in any way. No automation anywhere, so you are talking to the operator who knows his stuff.
 

Duff photographer

Active member
Are you located in Europe? I'd worry sending my undeveloped work around the globe. As E6 is a standardized process, the development should (at least in theory) be the same everywhere. Of course there are some variables in it (i.e. how they treat your film, condition of the chemicals, ... ) but any pro lab should handle the development OK. So far, I never sent anything to Grieger for development but started from an image file (scan). My experiences only relate to printing - more specifically I got some Diasec prints from them.

Their process usually includes a proof print for you to either greenlight or adjust. Maybe it's worth asking for two different samples with different printing techniques? It's a very bespoke process in any way. No automation anywhere, so you are talking to the operator who knows his stuff.
Yup, Grieger are closest. The nearest lab to me is 100km away so sending by post is the only option.

Cheers,
Duff.
 

Paul Spinnler

Well-known member
Although dev processes are standardized, it is unfortunately a bit of a lost skill in some labs for sheets and if you are unlucky you can have over-, under-development, handling errors and even overused or stale chemistry. So the idea is to pay for the CERTAINTY that the standardized process especially for sheet film is executed in a standardized way. If the facility doesn't have professional grade sheet film processors, such as a Jobo Autolab for example ... the operator becomes more critical.

I've seen differences between how negs came back depending on the lab ... good idea would be to test your home lab that's closest by sending them one roll and Grieger the other. If its the same you are ok.

I think it is also more important with sheet film as it requires right equipment to get even processing on large sheets and then there's more room for operator error if you have some student that's not often done it handling your negs, for example.

I am talking about pro fine art photographers who spend considerable amount of money on getting the shot ... so sending to Grieger is a risk mitigating measure as such labs have still enormous volumes of sheet film that they develop weekly, so their process is flawless.

A 8x10 color sheet costs what 60 bucks these days shot and developed? Plus calculate in pro rata travel and logistics expenses for the 8x10 kit and the fine art shot you took? Wouldn't want it to be damaged already in step 1!
 
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Duff photographer

Active member
Although dev processes are standardized, .....
Absolutely.

Thankfully, I only need to fret about my last remaining stock of Provia 120 rollfilm and 4x5 sheets, if indeed I actually use it up, which I ought to. I've never had issues with dedicated photo labs, only the high street places in the early days when I was finding my feet. Of course, they no longer supply such a service. The rest of my film requires C41 or black-and-white processing, which I do myself. They will be my 'go-to' film types from hereon so there will be no need to dispatch any more into the unknown for processing once the Provia is used up.


Cheers,
Duff.
 
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