That’s me, above, in 2013. I made a trip to Japan for some meetings with Fuji. I was there with three other photogs and a room of Fuji engineers for two solid days of “How can we make our cameras better?” discussions. Because that’s how they do.
One of the highlights of the trip was seeing my work displayed at Corporate HQ at Fujifilm Square in Tokyo. (Pic, above, by Zack Arias.) One of the lowlights was realizing how much better these prints were than anything I could get done in the US.
I just assumed it was some sort of Fuji in-house magic file tweaking or something. Or more likely, Fuji’s continuous custody of the whole vertical process, right back to the film SIM.
Then it happened again in the 5th Anniversary event in Tokyo earlier this year: Gorgeous print, followed by the instant pang of sadness that I cannot get it done to this quality in the US.
An Import You’ll Wanna Drive
Well, it turns out that you can. I found it while auditioning several labs for printing of an image of mine that is to be sold at a local gallery. Short version: I have found the paper I am gonna marry, and it is Fujicolor Crystal Archive Deep Matte.
The prints are hard to describe. They are beautiful and painterly; somehow muted and saturated at the same time. If you want a mental picture, it feels like a Gregory Crewdson image. As for the paper itself, the substrate is quite substantial and the surface is beautifully non-reflective.
Here’s the file/framed mock-up. The thing is, the print looks significantly better than the file. And I can’t remember ever thinking that before — other than those two times in Japan.
I have not tried it with anything subtle yet as far as the files go. But on my color-drenched citiscapes, it looks phenomenal. So much so that I am getting several of my existing prints reprinted on this paper.
They tell me at the lab that it is great for B&W, too. You’d better believe I am gonna be trying that.
The paper is silver halide based, and designed for large format and Frontier laser printers, according to Fuji’s poop sheet.
It uses CP-RA (or RA-4) process, and is said to be archivally stable for 100 years on display, 200 in storage. (Okay, I’ll be dead by then. But this print will still be beautiful.)
Do yourself a favor and try this stuff. You just need two things: A really competent lab, and Fuji Deep Matte paper. I’m using AdoramaPix and letting them drive on the color correction. (New paper, new printer, what do I know, right?) And I was super happy with the result.
Pick your favorite file and go big, as in 16×20 or larger. Because the beauty of this paper is that it somehow seems to both accentuate detail and mask noise. I don’t know how it does that. But holy crap.
$ 5 to Try It
And here’s something cool: if you want to try it as a one-off, AdoramaPix has a refer-a-friend special that’ll get you $ 5 off on $ 15 or more if you are a new member. And since a 16×20 print there is $ 16.99, it qualifies and drops this little experiment to $ 11.99. Not bad.
If you give it a try at this link, the referral code should auto-populate. And a quick heads-up, some folks are saying they can’t find the “deep matte” option. Here’s how to do it:
Sign up using the code. Go to ->Photo Prints, ->Upload Photos Now (upload your image) ->#3 Paper Finish and ->”Deep Matte Finish”.
It’s only available for 16×20 and up. And these guys being a pro lab, I suggest you let them color correct for you. (If you want to marry them later, you can easily download their ICC profiles and drive the car yourself then.)
So that’s my Epiphany of The Day, if you will. Suffice to say I am done auditioning prints.