A review of the Curator Clip, an elegant, lightweight picture frame.Read More
Some of you will have noticed that over the past couple of weeks there have been a series of changes to my website. The majority of these changes are fairly minor and have been put in place in order to simplify your experience with my site.
The biggest change to my website has now been made live. That is the creation of my webstore for all my Fine Art Prints. I've been sitting on this for a while now due to a number of factors. The primary reason being that offering a one stop solution for a bespoke service is a challenging feat. Now I feel that I have made it as easy as possible to order one of my prints. Previously you had to email me with an enquiry. Now all you need to do is head to the Fine Art Prints page in the main navigation at the top of the page.
On the Fine Art Prints page you will find some information that will guide you through the process, so please take the time to have a read through and feel free to ask any questions you may have, either in the comments section or via the usual social media or email channels.
There will continue to be some minor changes on the website over the next few weeks so please bear with me if you notice any strange things happening as you navigate the site.
That's all for now,
I don't really like doing gear posts, especially when it comes to reviewing a new camera or a lens. I'm not interested enough in the technical aspects of the build and features of a new piece of gear to really write an informed review. I cringe when people start talking about how sharp their lenses are or how many megapixels their camera has. I'll leave that to the DXO enthusiasts. Rest assured this is not going to be one of those type of posts. This is simply just a collection of thoughts about a camera system that I was given to play with a couple of months ago.
As many of my regular subscribers will know I'm a huge fan/user of the Fujifilm X Series cameras and lenses. The Fuji X system has been my choice of camera system since they released the X-E1 a couple of years ago. I even sold all my Full Frame Canon gear after using the Fuji system. It fits for me, it fits what I do and works without fail every single time I need it. But this is not about Fuji, or not entirely anyway. Fujifilm are my benchmark, hence the introduction and as I go through this post I will be using them as my basis for comparison.
So as I said, I was asked to have a look at a body and a couple of lenses and get some thoughts on them. I have spent roughly 3 months with the Sony A7R, the 24-70mm, 70-200mm and the more recently released 16-35mm lens.
Sony have produced the world's first full frame mirrorless camera system in the A7 series. It's an impressive feat from Sony who now have 4 camera bodies in this series; the A7, A7ii, A7r and A7s. One of the most notable and heavily promoted features of this system is that the cameras are lightweight but with very high megapixel sensors, even for full frame cameras. This is attractive to a lot of photographers, particular those who do work where large high resolution files are required. For example commercial and landscape photographers like... erm... me! The kind of people who supply large files for big posters/billboards and large format prints.
So without boring you any further, here's my thoughts about the A7 series from Sony.
First of all what did I like? Well for a full frame camera, high definition system, it's a small camera body with nice controls, beautiful RAW files and overall impressive image quality. My first couple of weeks with the system had me excited about some of the photographs that I was producing, the amazing detail and resolution in my work, but this quickly wore off as I realised that this system was changing the way I work, and not in a good way.
I started becoming one of the DXO enthusiasts, the pixel peepers, blowing up every individual photograph for hours at a time and admiring the clarity and resolution in my files instead of going out and making photographs. I was becoming everything that I hate about photographers. Let me just say there's nothing wrong with wanting your photographs to be perfect, I want that. What I was doing though was telling other photographers online and in person about how sharp my photographs were etc. In a strange kind of way this seems to be a common theme amongst the Sony A7 series photographers. The online groups dedicated to these cameras on social media and photo sharing websites seem to be flooded with these type of users. Way more than I've ever seen on any of the Fuji equivalent sites.
There were a few things with the camera that I really disliked as time went on. Terribly slow autofocus (almost impossible as the light fades) and a shutter that was so loud that I thought I was launching grenades from the end of the lens barrel. These are fairly well documented so I won't say any more on them. You can read about those elsewhere. A quick side note about the shutter, a number of users complained about shutter shock on their A7 series bodies. I never noticed it during my time with the A7R.
There were also a few niggly things in the menus that I didn't like though, for example having to navigate to an option to enable the camera to use a cable shutter release. My Fuji's just allow me to do it automatically when you plug the cable in. The menu and settings don't feel very intuitive and it can be quite tricky and time consuming to locate a specific function or setting which is no good if you're working under time pressures.
One thing that bothered me the most was the lack of support or interest from Sony in terms of listening to their customers. Let me compare with Fuji again for a moment. Any flaws in a camera or new feature requests to Fuji are corrected and added regularly through firmware updates. For example, the X-Pro1 camera is now over 2 years old but has just recently been updated with new features (The ability to finely tune your autofocus with the manual focus ring), making it feel like a new camera again. Sony doesn't appear to be listening, or really attempting to fix things and add new updates in a way that Fuji does. The Sony user base are screaming at a brick wall as far as I can tell. The firmware updates do come with Sony however they are incredibly difficult and temperamental to install and never really seem to address the issues fully (see any Sony forum for scores of complaints). The process involves downloading an installer on your computer and connecting the camera via a usb cable. The process is laborious and finicky and many Mac users have been unable to run the installer or ended up bricking their camera. I had the pleasure of updating the firmware twice via someone else's windows machine and the only slight improvement in the camera was a slightly faster boot up time, that's all. Fuji in contrast make it very easy to update via a file that you simply upload onto an SD card and install directly onto the camera body.
Other things that I didn't like included the Sony FE lens collection being very limited too. There's only a limited selection of lenses, admittedly for a fairly new system. There are now however almost as many camera bodies available as lenses. Sony needs to focus on getting more lenses out there instead of a new body every 5 minutes. The few lenses they have are very well built but are a bit on the large and heavy side for a compact system. One of the arguments that I've heard against the limited lens selection is that you can get adapters which allow you to use lenses from Canon, Nikon and also legacy glass via the M-mount adaptors. But really you're adding to the bulk again, thus defeating one of the major benefits of the smaller mirrorless systems, not to mention it looks really weird and bulky. In some cases the autofocus doesn't work with these lenses either leaving you to focus manually. Fuji by comparison have an ever growing lens selection and they listen to what lenses their users want too. This is how to please your customers! Fuji do have a head start on Sony in this sphere so it's only fair to cut them a little slack.
As I spent more time with the Sony, the little things started frustrating me even more. I loved the photographs that I could produce on the A7r but the other things that I described above were weighing heavily on my mind. I missed my X system. I have more fun with my Fuji's in a way that's difficult to explain. I guess it's like people and cars. They find their brand and then stick to them. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that there's much more to your camera gear than image quality and optics. You have to feel comfortable with it, it has to fit your needs.
Looking back I can get everything I need and more from my Fuji files. In terms of latitude with the RAW files I felt that I could get just as good an end product with my Fuji camera. The dynamic range of the Sony files was impressive but I like to get it right in camera anyway so it's not something that really bothers me. To be honest there's really so little difference between the image quality on the A7R and my Fuji X-T1 when you look at large format prints like a normal person, side by side at a sensible viewing distance. Sure if you want to look at them with a magnifying glass you might find something but who does that? My clients don't.
I never felt comfortable with the Sony, not like I do with Fujifilm. Sony have a habit of dropping support for camera systems and creating a new system. Have a look at their range of camera systems and mounts. It gets confusing and not to mention disconcerting if you were to fully buy into one of their systems and have that thought hanging over you.
When I'm photographing with my X system cameras, they don't get in the way, they're fun to work with, they let me get on with making photographs. I don't notice the camera stopping me when I use my Fuji setup. Too many times the I found myself cursing the Sony due to the menu layout or trying to activate a certain function. I never felt completely comfortable with the Sony A7 system due to the factors described above. You could say that may be due to inexperience with the system but it certainly wasn't for the lack of trying, it just kept stopping both me both physically to change a setting and mentally with my train of thought. The A7r is a beast of a camera and many people absolutely love it but the feel and experience of the Alpha system just doesn't work for my style of shooting and for that reason alone I'll be sticking with my Fujifilm X System.
I'd just like to point you in the direction of Light and Landscape magazine where an article of mine has just been published in the latest issue (issue 6). Light and landscape magazine is a free to download, iPad only magazine for all things related to landscape photography and more.
I was recently invited to submit an article by Matt (the editor). The article is called 'Slow Down' and it discusses the topic of slowing down and shooting less frames. The idea being that you consider your subject or scene and produce more higher quality frames by taking the time to get it right first time.
The magazine is still in its infancy but the standard of work, both photography and written pieces is very good, so if you like photography and you like landscapes then I urge you to have a look at it. Here's a handy link.
Take care and enjoy the article,
One of my recent photographs (Shorncliffe Pier) has been featured in the "Reader's gallery" of InFocus Australasia magazine, issue 21. InFocus is a magazine created and distributed by the excellent Sydney based commercial photographer, Ben Hosking. The magazine is created especially for the iPad so if you are interested in having a look then you can do so by clicking this LINK and downloading the latest issue.
I recently had the pleasure of testing and reviewing some fine art printing paper from Permajet. After my last review, which had a very positive response from a number of circles, I've been sent some more samples to test out from the wonderful people at Adeal/Permajet. I was very impressed with the first batch of samples that I saw, not only with the feel and quality of the paper in my hands but the all important print quality to. Given how happy I was with the first batch, I was pretty excited to receive the second, this time with different paper types and sizes. This has now allowed me to get a good idea of how each of the papers respond to printing in the larger format that I usually offer to my customers.
If you haven't read my original review then I urge you to check it out before continuing as this review picks up where I left off before. You can find it here: http://www.theotherjamespartridge.com/new-blog/review-permajet-photographic-inkjet-paper-20140914
As you may have previously read in the last review, or remembered, you will have noted that during printing I discovered an issue with regards to matching the Permajet paper with the Epson paper types in the print dialogue. I received an email from Permajet's MD Robin Whetton (via John at Adeal) shortly after publishing the post which cleared this issue up.
I'm actually not sure how I didn't figure this out but thanks Robin for providing that info! I'm sure you'll agree that it's great that Permajet's MD took the time to read through the review and help clarify issues such as that. Little things like this make a huge difference in a companies image and perception so kudos to Permajet!
For this round of prints I used almost exactly the same setup as described in the last review. I like to print through Lightroom using my custom templates as it makes for a quick and painless workflow. This time all prints were made on A3 paper. Again I used the ICC profiles which I downloaded from the Permajet website.
For the record, I actually created my own ICC profiles for each paper type with my X-Rite calibration device to see if there would be any difference in print quality as often every individual printer is slightly different and generic profiles can sometimes not provide the best results. However when I compared these with Permajet's official profiles, there was basically no difference at all. This is why I chose to continue using their profiles for this review.
Another slight deviation from last time around was the temperature and humidity. I chose to print on the hottest day of the spring so far in Brisbane! Great idea James... It topped 39oC with 90% humidity which, for those of you who don't know, can cause havoc with fine art paper and printing. I'm happy to say that I had no issues at all and both the prints and I survived with no damage at all.
Again for my printing session I was ably assisted by Wolf, my dog!
SMOOTH PEARL - 'The Edge of Light'
Smooth Pearl is a paper that feels quite thin but a strong paper at the same time. I was impressed by the luxurious satin finish and the beautiful clear detail that could be seen on the print. The colour reproduction was stunning throughout the dynamic range of the print. I liked the nice bright, reflective surface. Sometimes reflective papers can be troublesome when mounted and framed but I put this one under some glass and it looked excellent.
ULTRA PEARL - 'Under the Bay'
Ultra Pearl is probably my least favourite of the Permajet range so far. The tone and dynamic range of the paper is great, no issues there. The photograph looks very sharp and handles the fine detail on the horizon perfectly. It’s a thin paper but feels really tough, tearing it would be difficult. I don’t like the finish though. It feels to me like vinyl and has a very slight texture that reminds me too much of vinyl floor coverings. That’s just me though, for the record my wife liked it!
The Ultra Pearl paper is actually designed with a specific coating that ensures it is scratch and scuff resistant but more importantly the coating surface is special in that it does not allow the printed image to copied by a scanner or phone , the image pixelates as you can see in the photograph below. The beauty of this paper is that it offers copyright protection to pro photographers handing their work around to customer(s) for review etc. With this in mind I think it's a very cleverly designed product from Permajet and certainly will be useful to many photographers out there. Thanks to John for the correction here!
FB GOLD SILK - 'The road to nowhere'
FB Gold Silk paper is a heavy, glossy stock with a slightly smooth texture and a beautiful shine across the page. It has excellent reproduction of detail with lovely sharp blacks in particular. FB Gold Silk also has a slightly warm white base which I feel really enhances the darker tones. Those blacks are so deep you could lose yourself in them! The smooth texture of this paper feels and looks lovely. It's exactly what you would expect in a high end paper type.
FB DISTINCTION - 'Fallen Skies'
One of my new favourite papers, FB Distinction has a very thick stock with a really nice sheen across the page. It feels like a high quality paper should. There is a slight texture, almost like a leather effect that I really love. The detail is excellent and tonal range is absolutely superb. It’s beautiful; it has a bright white base and makes a real statement when you hold the print in your hand. Simply beautiful! 'Fallen Skies' is one of my most recent photographs and one that I really love, especially with this combination of paper. I'll be framing this print and hanging it in my office for sure.
PORTRAIT WHITE - 'The last kiss of light'
Portrait White has a warm yellowish white base but provides excellent colour clarity and detail. I pushed the sharpening on this photograph purposely to see how the paper would respond and it looks really impressive. The colours are really bright without being offensive and the dynamic range displayed looks as good, if not better, than any paper that I’ve used in the past. This is exactly the type of paper that I would compare directly with "Pura Smooth" by Breathing Color and it doesn't disappoint! I've found yet another favourite to add to my growing collection of paper stock.
Again I've been truly impressed by what I've seen and experienced with Permajet paper. I'm not surprised though given the paper types that I saw in the first review. This round of printing was something I'd been looking forward to for a while. The first papers that I tested impressed me so much that I didn't think I would be feeling the same after reviewing this round of papers but yet again I've been blown away with what I've seen. So much so that I've added Permajet to my preferred paper stock and you can also see them recommended under the 'My Gear" section here on my website.
Permajet offers real quality, great customer service and feedback. If you print your own work then I urge you to give them a try. If you use external print labs then please get them to check out the Permajet range as I really don't think they will be disappointed with what they find.
It was excellent to see how my photographs looked in print on Permajet's paper, especially at sizes that I provide to my clients. In fact some of my most recent shipped prints have been made with Permajet paper so I look forward to hearing the thoughts of those of you that receive those prints in the post.
Thanks for your time and attention yet again. I hope you have enjoyed what you've read and as always, I’m very appreciative of any feedback that so many of you submit via my social media and website.
This is my review of Permajet Photographic Paper.
I’m going to try to keep this as concise as I can but as helpful as I can at the same time. I’m excited though, very excited about what I’ve seen from the samples of paper provided to me by John, a product manager for Adeal, the Melbourne based supplier of the Permajet range of products.
I touched on this in my previous blog post, that I recently met with John at the Brisbane Educational Photo Expo. He was kind enough to provide me with a selection of papers to test with my own print setup. This week I was able to take some time to study the promotional material supplied to me and get down to some test prints. So let’s get into it.
I had not heard of Permajet before I met John. They are a UK based company that have been manufacturing an ever increasing range of inkjet paper and canvas since 1999. Their website claims to have the world’s largest range of photographic inkjet papers and canvases which is impressive! They sell their products in around 20 countries around the globe and recently have started making moves in Australia to join the bigger players here. It seems that they are fairly well known in the UK for their quality products. After meeting with John I spoke with a friend of mine there who has seen Permajet’s products before and he said I’d be very pleasantly surprised with the paper.
What are we testing here?
The test papers are as follows:
Titanium Lustre 280GSM - A metallic paper with a slight textured surface providing a lovely shine to the surface.
Gloss 271GSM - A very bright white, high gloss paper.
Museum 310GSM - A slightly textured matte fine art paper with a warm white appearance.
Oyster 271GSM - This paper has a beautiful pearl/lustre finish, a nice bright white paper.
I had 2 A4 sheets of each paper type and used Permajet’s own ICC paper/printer profiles for each paper type. I created the prints and waited 24hrs before returning to them for a final verdict. This was to ensure that the papers were truly dry and I was getting even, consistent results across the board.
First thing was to download the ICC profiles for the paper types that I received. This involved registering my details with Permajet’s website and creating a login. I’m not sure why a login is needed but it’s not a difficult thing to setup so I’m not particularly troubled by it. I know some people would be put off by this though, especially as many other paper suppliers offer profiles without having to give any details over. Like I say, it’s no big deal for me though.
The profiles were handily grouped together in a bundle for one easy download and Permajet has an easy to understand pdf document that you can download to help install the profiles should you need it. One thing I did notice was that the Titanium Lustre (and two or three others) profile was separate from the bundle. Maybe this is due to it being a newer paper, I don’t really know? Not a problem though and again simple enough to download.
My choices for prints were photographs that I commonly print and sell, photographs that I have printed on other manufacturer’s paper so that I know how they usually perform on print media. I chose one photograph that I thought would look good on each of the paper types (Shorncliffe Pier) and then another different type of photograph on the other sheet to see how it would reproduce another different style of photograph.
I already have my own custom print templates set up in Lightroom so it was as simple as selecting the photograph, changing the ICC profile, soft proofing the photograph again and entering the print dialogue. Easy! The printing process was smooth and no problems were encountered. However, one thing that would be nice to see from Permajet in the future would be a recommendation for the media type for each type of paper.
Allow me to explain…
In the print dialogue that pops up when you are about to print a page, there is a section called “Print Settings”. Here you can select which print feeder you want to use, the media type and a few other options. Since I’m using a third party paper and not one manufactured by Epson, there is no corresponding setting for Permajet (or any other paper manufacturer) media types. Epson wants you to only use Epson papers, of course! Note that selecting the correct Media Type here is crucial, as this setting instructs the printhead how to lay down ink based on the type of inkjet receptive coating present on the paper – it has nothing to do with the paper weight or thickness, which must be set in the “Paper Configuration” menu. Most third party paper manufacturers will provide you with this information along with the generic ICC profile, since the profile was generated using specific media type settings.
Fortunately it’s relatively easy to figure out which of these Permajet papers is a good fit for each of Epson’s media type. For the less experienced photograph printer this may be a difficult choice due to the extensive range of papers that Permajet offers. It’s worth noting that on the Permajet website you can find a pdf document with printer driver settings but these apply only if you don’t use any colour profiles.
Aside from this it was plain sailing, or printing I should say, and there were no problems or hiccups along the way. I did have my young assistant (my dog - ‘Wolf’) helping me in his own special way…
So how did the prints turn out? Here we go!
I’m excited about this paper. I currently use a paper called “Vibrance Metallic” from Breathing Color which is very similar in appearance, only without the slight texture. Let me be straight up honest right now. I love Breathing Color’s paper, it’s beautiful but it’s very expensive to get hold of, particularly in Australia. There is a small outlet in Australia that delivers only roll paper from Breathing Color, which is a pain to deal with. Cut sheets are only available from the US. The price of shipping is much more than the paper itself. It’s almost prohibitively expensive for us here but it really is good. It does bring your cost/profit margins really close though.
Why am I telling you this? Well Titanium Lustre is the first paper that I’ve seen that comes close to Vibrance Metallic. Titanium Lustre is an amazing product!
It produces some beautifully deep tones and has a really wide colour gamut for a paper of this type. Colour reproduction is extremely accurate and the texture provides an extra punch to the photograph. Look at the reflections in the water under the pier, they look beautiful. Any photograph that has a large reflective surface in it like a body of water, glass, etc. NEEDS to be printed on this paper. It’s stunning! It handles everything from the dark blacks on the “Lake Samsonvale" print to the light whites on the pier handrails on “Shorncliffe Pier”. The detail is exquisite and it has a look of clarity that is hard to define in some paper types. It really sparkles in the light too and who doesn't like sparkly things? I feel this paper would be wonderfully suited to HDR photography, Black & White Photographs and Costal Landscapes to name a few. This is going to be my ‘go to’ metallic paper going forward. Permajet has one incredible product on their hands.
I have to admit, gloss is not my thing, it’s just not, BUT and it’s a big but (it’s even in capitals!) this is a good looking paper. My first impressions are it has a beautiful thick sheen. It looks as though it’s been laminated! The colour reproduction is again very accurate with a great range of tones. The deep blues in the “Shorncliffe Pier” photograph look really really nice along with the warmer colours on the pier. It almost looks three dimensional such as the feeling of the paper. Just holding the print you can tell its a really high quality product. The bright white colour of the paper provides a wonderful contrast to the deep colours that it produces. I can see this fitting into my range of papers in the future.
This paper immediately reminds me of Canson’s Arches Aquarelle Textured Rag. Permajet’s Museum is a far superior product though. The texture is enough to give a quality feel that you’d associate with a heavier stock but at the same time provides a beautiful feel that is not as pronounced as the Canson paper but it’s definitely better for it. One of my biggest gripes about the Canson Aquarelle Rag was that the texture is so thick that the ink didn’t penetrate into the paper very well leaving some small white patches through the print. This simply doesn’t happen with Museum.
I love the detail in this paper. On the “Red Centre” print the tree stands out beautifully from the dusty background, the colour is 100% spot on displaying every tone perfectly as it is on my screen. The paper’s base colour is a slight off white, almost a slight yellow tinge too it, very similar to Breathing Color’s “Pura Smooth”.
This is a beautifully constructed fine art paper that I can see being a big hit with Permajet Customers. I’m very much inclined to use this paper for a number of my photographs that I’m due to display in a gallery early next year.
Oyster is another paper type that is relatively new to me in terms of my work. It’s a Satin Lustre type paper with a lovely smooth feel to it.
I’m a simple creature, generally speaking I stick to matte paper or metallic where I can so I was a little bit out of my comfort zone with Oyster. It has a very subtle sheen to it which becomes more obvious once a print has been created. I must admit when the first print came off my printer I was unsure. I felt the colour wasn’t quite what I was expecting. This is not unusual though for a print straight from the printer so it’s only right to let it settle and dry for 24hrs before making any kind of judgement.
I’m very much glad that I did! The colour is exceptional once the paper is dry. It has the complete range of deep dark tones through to the light bright highlights that I’ve seen on all of the Permajet papers so far. I’ve found that this paper is a nice fit to my style of photography. I shoot quite open, bright scenes with large amounts of sky or water and the pearl finish to the paper really enhances this much better than I imagined it ever would. The paper is naturally a very bright white paper which with the pearl finish is a very good combination.
What can I say? I’m impressed with the results achieved with the Permajet range, very impressed. After I sat down to make some notes about these papers I called John right away to give him the feedback that you’ve read right here. To John’s credit, he’s now arranged for some more of Permajet’s range of papers to be sent to me so I can have a deeper look at their products, create my own ICC profiles and test more of the range. This is the kind of service that I’m sure will help put Permajet on the map and help them to become an increasingly bigger player in the print media market.
There are a couple more general things that are important to note about the Permajet range.
Some of Permajet’s range of papers are not free of OBA’s (Optical Brightening Additives). Optical Brightener Additives (commonly referred to as OBA's) are widely used in paper coatings, textiles, and laundry detergents to increase the perceived "whiteness" of the treated products. While OBA's appear to be a great solution for enhancing the whiteness and overall image quality of inkjet paper, OBA's can pose a threat to the integrity and longevity of a fine art print by causing color shifts, and yellowing over time. From the documentation supplied to me the majority of Permajet’s papers do appear to contain OBA’s. The printing media industry does seem to be pushing away from using OBA's so hopefully Permajet are taking steps to move away from this process too.
The majority of Permajet’s range of paper is acid free. Papers with acid in them usually turn yellow as they age. It also can’t escape becoming brittle in the long run. This may, in turn, break the paper as it ages more and more and thereby making you lose a lot of important things written on them. To avoid this, more and more manufacturers are turning to the acid free paper to keep them from losing such important pieces of fine art. It’s good to see Permajet is on board with this too.
The Permajet range is all Archival quality paper and they work closely with the Fine Art Trade Guild to ensure that the paper meets the high standards demanded of it. Each paper type has an archival certificate available on the Permajet website which details the paper quality and specification which is useful in reassuring user confidence in their products. Each of the papers that I've seen and those that I've been able to test are of an excellent quality. They each display a wide gamut of colours and are incredibly colour accurate when used with Permajet's own ICC Profiles.
Thanks for taking the time to read this review. It’s been long but I wanted to be honest about the products and give you the best feedback possible. If you’ve made it thus far through this relatively long winded post then I salute you! If you have any questions or comments then the comments section is open as always or feel free to shoot me an email.