Review: Canson’s Infinity Baryta Photographique II
Baryta inkjet papers took the fine-art inkjet printing world by storm more than a decade ago. When a paper is labeled a Baryta, it usually means the paper base is coated with barium sulfate, a clay-like material used in traditional silver gelatin photo papers for over 100 years. Baryta papers generally have the contrast, color saturation, and sharpness of RC (resin-coated) papers and fine art watercolor-type inkjet papers. Most Baryta papers have a paper base that feels like paper rather than plastic and a top surface that echoes the look and feel of fiber-based darkroom papers.
Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique II is the successor of and replacement for Canson’s previous Infinity Baryta. The back of the paper is smooth, with a feel similar to poster board. It’s 305 um (12 mil) thick and, as the name indicates, a 310 gsm weight. It comes in a wide range of cut sheet and roll sizes, from 8.5x11- to 17x22-inch sheets, and rolls in widths from 17 to 60 inches. That's good news for anyone who wants to use the paper to print on smaller size printers in their home or studio, and then use a company that can output larger sizes on the same paper.
I tested the paper on a Canon imagePrograf Pro-1000 and two Epson pigment ink printers (Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and Epson SureColor P400). That allowed me to test three different inksets on printers that many photographers use in their homes and studios. There are larger printers that use the same ink sets. The paper is also dye ink-compatible, but for optimum print longevity, I recommend using a printer with pigment inks.
I used two cut-sheet sizes: 8.5x11 and 17x22 inches. The heavy-duty packaging protected the sheets well, and all the sheets I handled were cut cleanly and accurately. The 50 or so sheets I inspected were pristine—no scratches or flecks of paper fibers in the coating. The sheets were perfectly flat, which is big plus, especially with heavier papers. Anyone who's experienced a head strike in which the printhead leaves ink on the paper where it’s not supposed to understands what I'm talking about.
After printing, I cut some of the 17x22 sheets with a Rotatrim rotary cutter. I didn't see evidence of paper dust coming off the edge of the paper, which can be a big issue with some fine art papers, especially if you have a printer with a built-in cutter. I also the scratch resistance of the top coating to be excellent. You should still be careful when handling the paper, but even after sliding sheets on top of each other, I saw no marks.
According to Canson’s specs, Baryta Photographique II has the same weight but is slightly thinner than the original version (305 vs 310 um). I couldn't detect that difference by feel (both have the ideal heft I look for in a Baryta paper), but I could tell a slight difference in surface texture between the two papers under side lighting. Version II has a bit more of a random-looking stippled, orange peel texture compared with the original. However, it’s almost invisible to the naked eye unless you hold the paper at an angle to the light. In fact, after carefully inspecting test prints side by side, I believe that most people wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. That means anyone who's been using the original version should be able to just start printing on Version II without any adjustments. The color reproduction and sharpness are also almost identical between both papers.
The differences are most apparent in the printed areas. The original version sometimes shows a subtle glisten, almost a wet look, under side lighting. Version II has a less reflective surface, which results in considerably less glare even in poor lighting. It’s feel is reminiscent of some of the fiber-based papers I've used in the traditional darkroom. With reduced reflection a sheet placed behind glass is less likely to have reflections showing on both the glass and paper surface.
I used the standard feed paths on all the printers (not a special single-sheet path created for heavier papers). This is a telling test because, in my experience, all of the single-sheet loading options for thicker papers add time and some level of manual intervention to the process. I recommend setting the platen gap (the distance between printhead and paper) to the setting for papers that are about 12 mils thick.
I started by using ICC profiles and the typical driver settings for each printer manufacturer’s luster paper. You may need to experiment with different luster and semi-gloss paper choices in some printer drivers to unlock the bulk/top paper feed option. I downloaded and used Canson’s ICC profiles on the Canon Pro-1000. On all three printers, bright colors reproduced vividly and accurately; sharp details were rendered beautifully and accurately. In all cases, I found there to be no bronzing (an effect in which dark areas take on a bronze-like tone at some angles to the light). The paper holds detail well in the brightest highlight areas, with only a slight bit of gloss differential in some highlight areas at extreme angles to the light. Gloss differential is an effect that makes areas of contrast (usually areas that include no or very little ink) look as though they have a different level of reflectiveness. In most lighting situations, or when I placed prints in clear plastic sleeves or behind glass, any gloss differential was greatly reduced or eliminated. Anyone who tests inkjet papers should consider how the final prints will be framed or otherwise presented.
According to Canson, the paper contains minimal optical brightening agents (OBAs). OBAs are used to brighten the paper base, which leads to greater contrast and more neutral highlights. It’s difficult to say what the short- or long-term effects on the paper will be, but assuming they are minimal, that’s encouraging. It’s difficult to find a bright white inkjet paper without OBAs, so this paper is a great option when you want whites neutral and not slightly beige. This is particularly important for people who want to make neutral or cool-toned black-and-white prints.
I used specific images for my tests. The first is a pair of Shih Tzu dogs on a red rose fabric background. I chose it for its bright colors and its many highlight areas that can be challenging to reproduce. The landscape with sunflowers and a blue sky ican be difficult to reproduce well due to the very bright colors as well as the extremely bright sun into which it was shot. I included a black-and-white portrait to test the look of the paper with monotone images. In all cases, the paper reproduced images with outstanding color, contrast, and sharpness.
Based on the paper’s overall construction, ease of feeding, and print quality, I found Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique II 310 to be an outstanding fine art inkjet paper that’s suitable for everything from color still lifes and landscapes to black-and-white portraits.
Andrew Darlow is a photographer and digital imaging consultant based in the New York City area.