I recently received two boxes of paper sent by Fotospeed for me to try and then review. Given the vagaries of colour perception, lighting, compression and variations in monitors ( not to mention different printer outputs) , it seems pointless to waste time and space showing heavily compressed jpegs that concentrate on colour reproduction. I plan therefore to concentrate on other properties of these papers.
I bought my first Nikon in the early 80’s. At the time it had a great deal to do with the fact that not only did Don McCullin use Nikon but that his life had been saved by his Nikon F when it was hit by a bullet that was meant for him.
Our choices are often influenced by the famous and the lauded: these two papers are ‘signed’ by two of the giants of our world, Doug Chinnery and Joe Cornish. I use the term ‘signed’ to emphasise the fact that these papers are not merely ‘endorsed’ (which can mean anything or nothing) but have been designed in conjunction and are genuinely used by the named photographer. These two names are more than enough to cause serious consideration of these papers.
If I have an anxiety about Fotospeed, it is that they make a bewildering array of papers through which one has to navigate in order to reach a choice. When I started printing in the early 80’s we simply picked a brand and then chose a gloss or Matt finish, possibly a silk if feeling giddy. Knowledge and technology now require more of us.
The important factors which define these two papers are:
- Surface texture
- Base colour /use or otherwise of OBA.
- Archival stability (including base material)
Both papers are made from Cotton giving grater archival stability; this is enhanced by both being acid free. Both are 305 gsm in weight so feeling like a thin card rather than a paper. Both are matt finish though one(The Etching) is much more textured. Both papers have a less than ‘Persil White’ appearance with the OBA free Platinum Cotton being the less white of the two.
Cotton Etching 305 is a 100% cotton Acid Free Fine Art paper with a white base. The surface has an etching texture which helps accentuate detail and gives a depth to you image. Cotton Etching 305 uses the latest coating technology resulting in a wide colour gamut and pin sharp detail. Platinum Cotton 305 is a 100% cotton, Acid & OBA free Fine Art paper with a smooth natural white surface. Platinum Cotton 305 use the latest coating technology resulting in a wide colour gamut and again, pin sharp detail. Comparing the two descriptions (from Fotospeed) we see that they are both heavyweight papers, both matt (though one smooth and one textured) and both acid free for stability. the remaining stand out difference is that the Platinum Cotton is OBA free. This latter is important for two reasons. Firstly the inclusion of OBA (Optical Brightening Agent) gives the paper a ‘whiter than white’ finish. this does however gradually fade with time. Most OBA free papers seem to have to sacrifice initial whiteness in order to achieve this stability but technology moves on and this new paper makes less of a sacrifice than most. Both papers are however less than the ‘whitest white’. the image below shows a comparison between the two papers and a sheet of premium photocopy paper. However your monitor is set up, the comparison will still hold good in relative terms.
In order, the whitest is the photocopy paper, followed by the Cotton Etching and finally the Platinum. Many users prefer the softer white of the mid point here others the warmth of the OBA free and others still demand the whitest white. Tastes change; 40 years ago I loved the almost green warmth of Agfa Portriga paper, today I tend to prefer my whites as white as possible.
Part of the joy of a print is in looking at a tangible image and how the light reflects off it, another part however is to be able to hold the physical image in your hand. The weight and finish of both papers is truly superb, they both feel like premium offerings destined for large prints on gallery walls. The pronounced texture of the Cotton Etching is reminiscent of my once favourite Hahnemuhle Etching. My current choice would however be the smoother finish of the Platinum Cotton. All personal taste of course but at some point I find myself looking at the texture rather than the image and for that reason prefer a less visually obvious finish.
Personally I am delighted with the output on both papers in terms of colour and resolution of detail. I found that to my eye the smoother finish of the Platinum Cotton helped both the resolve more detail and also to better handle the subtle gradations in a monochrome print.
In the example below, I found this image, filled with closely packed mid tones, was better presented (to my eye) by the Platinum Cotton than it was by the Cotton Etching.
As stated above, by the time this has been compressed and displayed on another monitor the accuracy will be lost but the comparison again holds good. Both the subtle tones and the fine detail of the leaves are better represented to my eye.
Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder and our concepts of beauty change over time. these are both beautiful papers of exceptional quality. My current preference is for a very bright white and a smooth (or often pearl) texture. When I used to print in the darkroom, my preferred finish was always that of an unglazed gloss paper. The strength of the Fotospeed range is that whatever one seeks in terms of a printer paper, they almost certainly provide it and of very high quality.
Are these papers for you?
If you are seeking acid free papers of high quality, yes.
If you are looking for a neutral OBA free paper, yes.
If you are looking for a high quality matt paper with a smooth or textured finish, yes.
These papers were supplied free by Fotospeed but there was no pressure or suggestion that a positive review was expected.