From 2007-2011 I had access to a Lightjet printer at my job. The Lightjet uses a color darkroom process that exposes the paper with RGB lasers, and then runs through color chemistry. The resulting continuous tone prints are very high quality, but the equipment can be hard to calibrate consistently and the paper options are limited. During my last year of enjoying the use of an on-site lab, I was also able to print on a Canon IPF 8100 inkjet printer. I was extremely impressed with the Canon's dynamic range, consistency of color, and on-the-fly profile conversion. We tested a lot of different media, and decided on primarily using the Canson papers.
Epson R3000 vs. Canon Pro9500 Mark II
After I changed jobs I wanted to get a 13" inkjet printer for making my standard 12" x 18" prints at home. I narrowed the choices down to the Epson R3000 vs. the Canon Pro9500 Mark II. I didn't consider the Canon Pro9000 Mark II (currently $199 after rebate) because it uses dye-based inks instead of the more archival pigment inks. The Epson R3000 is currently $599 after the $200 rebate (although the rebate was $300 last year). The Canon Pro9500 Mark II is currently $399 after rebate. I ruled out the Epson R2880 because the R3000 was only $50 more at the time that I made my purchase.
Canson has ICC paper profiles available for both printers. I ended up going with the Epson R3000 because I've been using Epson printers for years, the droplet size is 2 picoliters to the Canon's 3 picoliters, the R3000 can work over wifi, and there are generally more paper profiles available for Epson. I can also make small test prints at home on my R3000, and then rent time on an Epson 11880 printer at Rayko Photo in San Francisco (although they also have a Canon IPF 8300).
Canson Rag Photographique 310
Before I discovered Canson paper, I occasionally enjoyed printing on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308. The Hahnemühle features very rich blacks, but the transition from the shadow details into the blacks can block up when printing night photos. And on some images the paper had a bit too much texture for my liking. I did a test print with Gallery Street in Atlanta on the Breathing Color Elegance paper that my friend Troy Paiva uses. The dynamic range looked better than the Hahnemühle, and the colors were superb. However, the Elegance also has a noticeable texture, and I wanted a paper with a smoother surface.
Enter the Canson Rag Photographique 310. The RP 310 has a similar weight and dynamic range as the Elegance, but with a much smoother surface. Plus saying Photographique all of the time is fun. I downloaded the RP 310 ICC profile from Canson's site, and made some test prints directly from Lightroom. The results have been amazingly close in tone and color to my profiled monitor.
Remember these words of wisdom if your prints match your monitor -- don't touch anything!
I'm currently printing for a show in April (more details on that soon). Stay tuned for a fun, affordable print offer within the next few weeks.