— Dane Creek

Metallic Inkjet Paper Review: Three Contenders to Replace Kodak Endura Metallic

Update: July 9, 2010

Two more metallic papers are on the market and I’ve published a second blog entry reviewing them. Read the below content, then follow the link at the end to read the updated conclusions.

Metallic Inkjet Review

In the wet print world many photographers have a fondness for Kodak Endura Metallic paper. Its distinctive shine and metallic appearance appeals to some, and for certain images produces an amazing “pop” that can’t be reproduced by other wet print glossy options. I personally have a special place in my heart for some of my winter landscape images that, when printed on Kodak Endura Metallic, make me smile.

Like many photographers I’ve moved to an inkjet-based printing process and that meant leaving Endura Metallic behind. Even though there’s a huge range of paper options for inkjet printers, until recently there was nothing available to reproduce the look of metallic available from a wet printing process.

So it was with great excitement that I read the announcements over the last two months of three different papers that claim to replicate the look of Kodak’s paper on an inkjet printer: LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic, Red River Polar Pearl Metallic, and Mitsubishi Grace Pearlescent Metallic.

Now that samples of all three papers have arrived and I’ve had a chance to do side-by-side comparisons I thought I’d share my thoughts with everyone.

Mitsubishi Grace Pearlescent Metallic

Let’s get this paper out of the way first. It doesn’t look like Kodak Endura Metallic at all. Nobody looking at this paper would ever even think to compare it to the Endura Metallic. Why? Because it glitters. Every time I look at it I hear Katy Perry singing “Shake your glitter!” The base looks like it was made from silver glitter particles used for a kid’s craft project.

If the glitter wasn’t enough, there are a few other things that set it apart from Kodak’s paper. The base colour is far whiter, and is completely lacking in texture. Kodak’s paper has a noticeable grain pattern in the base layer, while the Mitsubishi paper is completely smooth in its base.

The funky glitter in the base of this paper may be appealing to some, but to me it just distracts from the printed image.

Cost: $39.99 for 50 8.5×11” sheets

LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic

This is the first of the three papers I tried, and I was very excited when I opened the box. The paper clearly has a metallic look, even prior to printing, and once the prints rolled out I was pretty impressed. The paper is extremely glossy and definitely had depth like you see on the Kodak paper. The weight isn’t very hefty at 255gsm, but is on par with other high-gloss options.

The base colour for this paper is noticeably different than Kodak’s. Lexjet’s paper is quite a bit brighter, just like the Mitsubishi. It also has a slight amount of texture in the base layer, although not nearly as much as the original Kodak version.

LexJet has claimed at various times that this paper cannot be profiled, or that a profile is available on their site. As far as I can tell neither are true. You can profile it (several folks have), and no profile is on their website. Several people have tried using the Red River metallic paper profile and had reasonable success. Whatever you do don’t follow LexJet’s recommendation to use the Sunset eSatin profile. Using that profile on my Canon iPF5100 resulted in some noticeable issues with the green test patches on my standard test image.

Cost: $57.00 for 50 8.5×11” sheets

Red River Polar Pearl Metallic

The day after I placed the order for the LexJet paper there was a lengthy discussion over at the Luminous Landscape printing forum about the difference between LexJet’s paper and Red River Polar Pearl Metallic. They have the same weight (255gsm), and I wanted to see if I could spot a difference in person so I ordered a sample box of the Red River.

Out of the box the Red River paper looked identical to the LexJet paper. After doing the same test prints and putting the paper side-by-side with the LexJet there doesn’t appear to be any difference in the metallic or “wet” look of the two papers. There are some very subtle differences in the base material (the LexJet is ever so slightly more blue, and the Red River has a slight increase in texture), but those differences would not be noticeable under normal viewing conditions. The dMax I measured on the Red River is slightly higher than on the LexJet, but visually there’s no discernable difference.

Cost: $42.00 for 50 8.5×11” sheets

Conclusion

So after all the above, where do things stand? None of the three papers have the same look as Kodak Endura Metallic, but both the LexJet and Red River papers are close enough. My metallic paper of choice, however, is none of these. It’s actually Proofline Photo Chrome due to price. See the second metallic paper review for details.

While I won’t use these metallic papers for every image it’s nice to have one the mix as a fun alternative from time to time!