10 February, 2014

Epson ABW, Is it better? Pt2

Rockhampton, Queensland

This follows on from my experiment with ABW in January. ("ABW" is Epson's own "Advanced Black and White" printer driver. You might need to read that January post to understand what's happening in this one.)

Once again, I printed the same black and white "Wall" image; but this time on A2 Canson Baryta Photographique (with 1.5 inch borders). Printing at that larger size brought the native resolution down to 241ppi (that I "rezed up" to 360ppi). As before, there was a non-ABW print, an ABW print made with the Eric Chan profile, and a "plain" ABW.

To my eye, the differences narrowed a bit between the regular colour workflow B&W and the ABW print made with an Eric Chan profile. And the gap between plain ABW (still in third place) and the ABW with a profile seemed negligible. 

At the larger size some of the shadow areas opened up a bit, and there was neither banding nor colour casts in any of the prints. Admittedly, there's not much of a gradient in the image for making a judgement.

As before, if I had only made one print using the usual workflow, I would have been happy with it. My tentative conclusion is that I would need an image that I thought really deserved the extra attention of using ABW before leaving the familiar rails of Lightroom's printing module. So, yes, the convenience of the regular colour workflow seems to be trumping the quality of ABW.

I've only been comparing un-colour-toned images. For individual black and white prints I often add a bit of colour tone, or even a split tone. In those cases the Lightroom workflow seems the easy winner. (ABW can add a color tone, but can't do a split tone.)

I admit that I'm a bit uneasy with this, seeming, outcome; because I don't like to let any print quality simply slip through my fingers. (If I was going to do a lot of black & white work, I'd think about skipping ABW and investing in the ImagePrint RIP. And, no, I'm not going to test that.)

I'm a little weary of grinding through paper and ink, but I still have one question: Will using matte paper at A2 narrow the already small difference? 

My matte paper is Epson's Hot Press Natural. So, I'll have another shot when I have a bit of time. Unfortunately, I don't have an Eric Chan profile for HPN, so that test will only be between ABW and non-ABW. Stay tuned.

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