by Mike McNamee Published 01/06/2008
In terms of gamut volume the Vivera ink set is slightly lower than that of the Epson 3800 onto Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, even though the HP Dmax is greater
HP Hahnemuhle Watercolour Paper 210gsm
This paper has the characteristic rough texture and is similar (identical?) to Hahnemuhle Albrecht Durer. It is too light in weight for Fine Art Trade Guild limited edition print standards, but is a good-looking paper even so.
Assuming that we are correct in aligning the paper to Albrecht Durer we are able to make a direct comparison between the Epson 3800 and the HP 9180, using publicly available profiles. As with the other profiles we tested, the HP variant is lacking in saturation and it is this component that contributes to the highest error. The skin tones were 10% desaturated but on the nail in terms of hue. Conversely the Epson 3800 using Hahnemuhle profiles was on the nail on saturation but rotated about 5° too yellow. As with Smooth Fine Art, this was a good-looking print despite our reservations on the statistics. The Dmax was 1.66, the metameric index was 1.1; the shadows were differentiated down to 15RGB points and the highlights to 252 points.
The Hahnemuhle (web site) profile for the 9180 is significantly better than the HP one provided with the driver Honours between the Epson 3800 and the HP 9180 (both on the Hahnemuhle profiles) are more evenly shared out - some are up some are down.
HP Artist Matte Canvas 380gsm
This is a matt finish canvas substrate made up of a cotton polyester blend. The intrinsic ability to print to canvas is one area where the HP has an edge over its rival Epson 3800. The canvas is feed through the speciality media slot and performed flawlessly for the prints that we made. Like all canvas media it is likely that a clear giclee varnish will be applied to the finished print. We tested the HP canvas with Clearshield UV varnish applied as a single coat with a soft brush. There was no ill effect from the aqueous-based varnish.
The as-printed surface has an average error of 11.5ΔE Lab/5.2ΔE 2000. The errors were split evenly between the hue, saturation and brightness channels. Skin tones were about 11% desaturated and rotated a couple of degrees towards yellow. The greys were neutral, mapped to the base white. Dmax was good for a canvas at 1.60, the greyscale linearity was held down to 20RGB points. The whites had detail up to 252 RGB points. The metamerism was spectacularly low, at just 0.3 Lab ΔE points. As with other results from the printer/profile combination the saturation was low overall. To put some perspective on this the hat of the model in our audit test sheet should be cream, it was desaturated to a white.
The effect of the coating was to deepen the tones across the gamut by about 5%. The Dmax was deepened from 1.6 to 2.10 and the saturation was slightly increased. The error in the lightness channel was doubled due to the darkening. Despite this, we fancy that most observers would go for the extra punch of the coated sample. The correct procedure would be to make a swatch set for profiling, varnish that, and then use it to make the profile. Then the print would come out light, before varnishing, but correct afterwards.
In spite of days of profiling, measuring and testing we are left with quite a few unanswered questions about this printer. Most of our baseline data are from Epson K3 ink sets and we have only occasionally tested Vivera ink. We are not even sure if the HP 9180 should be rightly tested against the Epson 3800 or the Epson 2400, then you have to throw the Canon 9500 and the HP Design Jet 90 into the ring. There are too many variables to test everything but our overall feeling is that the HP 9180 is capable of doing a thoroughly professional job but that it is a little behind the Epson 3800 in absolute quality. This concerns the gamut volume, quality of profile, banding and audit precision. However, there is a significant cost difference. Against that the 3800 will do slightly larger prints and has much larger cartridges. Which ever way you decide the 9180 will not let you down.
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