Epson Legacy Paper Review: Premium paper at a premium price
posted Wednesday, March 9, 2016 at 6:49 PM EDT
Epson recently launched their Legacy series, an all-new line of premium photographic papers, that are designed to offer the ultimate in quality. I was able to test out the four new papers, Legacy Fibre, Legacy Etching, Legacy Platine, and Legacy Baryta, and during my testing, all four papers proved to be very good and certainly lived up to their name.
The first thing that I noticed when I opened the package of Legacy Papers was the packaging. Normally I would’t think much about photo paper’s packaging, but the Legacy Paper is particularly well-packaged. The papers all come in a matte black, textured box with gold lettering. Besides a few critical pieces of information, the boxes are very simple and clean. Inside, the attention to detail continues as the paper is surrounded by foam on all sides, ensuring that your paper will arrive (and stay) in excellent condition.
All of the new Legacy papers are available in three sheet sizes and three roll sizes. Cut sheets come in boxes of 25 sheets in 8.5" x 11", 13" x 19", and 17" x 22" sizes. 50-foot rolls are available in 17", 24", and 44" widths. Prices vary and will be noted in each separate section below.
The new Legacy Baryta paper is the brighter, whiter of the two satin finish Legacy papers. With a 90 Whiteness rating and a 93 ISO Brightness rating, this 12 mil thick 100% alpha cellulose paper is fairly bright. Despite this, it uses minimal levels of optical brightener additives (OBAs) and is the only Legacy paper to do so. However, like the other Legacy papers, it is acid and lignin free.
This traditional Baryta paper uses two barium sulphate coatings and is designed to produce deep blacks and an expansive color gamut. For photographers looking for a modern paper similar to silver halide F-surface darkroom paper, the Legacy Baryta paper is engineered for you.
Personally, I really enjoyed printing on the Legacy Baryta paper. Its smooth satin surface handles colors very well, and it is capable of rendering very dark blacks and handles fine detail very well. The paper also feels substantial in your hands, much more so than standard luster papers.
Legacy Baryta paper is the least expensive of the new Legacy Papers. A package of 25 17" x 22" sheets costs $125.00 ($5/sheet). A 50-foot roll of 44" wide Legacy Baryta paper costs $349.00.
The other satin finish Legacy paper, Legacy Platine, is slightly thicker, warmer, and darker than the Legacy Baryta paper. It is also quite a bit glossier and has a slightly more pronounced texture, although both have smooth finishes. The 100% cotton fibre Platine paper has an 82 Whiteness rating and an 85 ISO Brightness.
Legacy Platine paper also tries to capture the look and feel of silver halide F-surface, but with a cotton base, it has a different look and feel when compared to the Baryta paper. I think that the Platine paper works better for images with vibrant colors because its glossier finish helps colors really pop from the print.
With this extra bit of sheen, the Legacy Platine paper has slightly less gloss uniformity, and particularly dark or bright areas can look odd when viewed from an off-angle. This is a characteristic of satin and glossy papers, but it should still be taken into consideration when making prints. Overall, though, this is a great paper.
Legacy Platine paper is one of the more expensive Legacy offerings, coming in at $189.00 for 25 sheets of 17" x 22" paper ($7.56/sheet).
With a semi-smooth surface and matte finish, Legacy Fibre paper is designed to work well for both photographic and fine art applications. It is 19 mil thick, has 98 Whiteness, and 93 ISO Brightness. Compared to the Legacy Etching paper discussed below, the Legacy Fibre paper is much smoother.
I found the Fibre paper to produce slightly deeper blacks than the Etching paper did, and also slightly more vibrant colors. With its smoother surface, it is also more prone to surface scratching than the Etching paper, so care must be taken when handling it.
When comparing the Legacy Fibre paper to Epson's popular Hot Press Bright, the Fibre paper is slightly more textured and I think that it is capable of producing richer prints. Overall, I really like the Legacy Fibre paper. I sometimes avoid matte papers for black and white prints because they often come up short for handling very deep blacks, but using the Legacy Fibre paper with the Epson P800 printer worked very well.
This quality comes at a cost, however, as the Legacy Fibre paper is Epson's most expensive Legacy paper. 25 sheets of 17" x 22" paper costs $209.00 ($8.36/sheet) and a 50-foot roll of 44" paper costs $499.00.
If you're looking for a textured Legacy paper, Legacy Etching is your best bet. It's Epson's whitest (98 Whiteness) and brightest (96 ISO Brightness) Legacy paper and also the thickest at 20 mil. It has a distinct look and feel, it appears classic and renders images with a special depth and quality.
Personally, I think that this paper is well-suited for landscape images and other images with a lot of fine detail. In areas of consistent color and tone, the texture really stands out, which I don't particularly like. I prefer having the texture sort of fade away into the paper and serve a background role, but paper selection is a very subjective and personal endeavor, of course.
While it doesn't produce the same black levels as the Fibre paper, the Etching paper does do a great job nonetheless. I did find that the Etching paper handled tonal transitions a bit smoother than the Fibre paper in some instances. In my opinion, the biggest distinguishing factors between the two papers are black level and texture.
At $179.00 for 25 sheets of 17" x 22" paper, the $7.16/sheet Etching paper is a bit more affordable than the Fibre paper, but still on the expensive side. Interestingly, a 50-foot roll of 44" wide Etching paper costs $499.00, matching the cost of a similar roll of Fibre paper.
Premium papers for premium uses
The Epson Legacy papers are all excellent papers and are all relatively expensive. Even the Baryta paper is more than twice the price of Epson's Ultra Premium Luster paper (a very good luster paper in its own right). The two matte papers are also considerably more expensive than other Epson matte paper offerings. Ultimately, the Legacy paper family occupies a different and much more premium space in Epson's paper offerings. Whether or not it is the right option for you will ultimately be determined by the print's purpose and how comfortable you are with the cost.
For me, if I want a large print matted, framed, and hung up, I'm okay with spending the extra money to achieve the best possible print with Legacy paper. However, if I'm talking about an 8" x 10" or 11" x 14" print, I would most often select a lower cost option.
If you'd like to try out the new Legacy paper without committing to a full box, a Legacy Sample pack is available for $24.95 which includes three 8.5" x 11" sheets of each of the new Legacy papers, which you can purchase here.
(Note: All images of prints were captured using a Nikon D800E and Nikon 60mm f/2.8G macro lens. RAW files were converted using default settings in Adobe Camera RAW and white balance settings were normalized. +2/3 exposure compensation was used to make the images approximately similar in brightness to how the prints look to my eyes in natural lighting. Print quailty is ultimately subjective and it is difficult to match an image of a print with seeing a print in person.)