Caffeine Priority: German-made Sihl Masterclass stock shines in this paper review


posted Saturday, June 11, 2016 at 4:59 AM EST


Wake up with IR! Here's today's cup of Caffeine Prioirity...

This past January, Hilltop Paper became the exclusive supplier in the United States and Canada of the German-made Sihl Masterclass paper. I have been sent sample packs of this new inkjet media to try out and I've come away impressed. The sample packs come with three A4-sized sheets of four media types. (Note: All paper was tested on the Epson P800 printer)

Sihl Masterclass Photo Sample Pack

Aimed specifically at photographic printing, the Photo Sample Pack includes three sheets of Lustre Photo Paper 300, Lustre Photo Paper Duo 330, High Gloss Photo Paper 330 and Metallic Pearl High Gloss Paper 290.

Sihl refers to their Lustre Photo Paper as "an all-rounder with subtle charm" and I couldn't have said it better myself. This paper is well-suited for any kind of photo printing with its satin finish. Its resistant to scratches, so it's good if your prints will be handled. It produces well-saturated prints throughout the spectrum and offers great fine detail, so it is a very capable paper for framing and showing off your work. Contrast levels are high and blacks are very deep. This is a great paper overall.

A print made on Sihl's Lustre Photo Paper 300. In my opinion, this paper compares very well to competing lustre papers.

If you like lustre paper and want something for a portfolio or album, the Lustre Photo Paper Duo is an excellent option. You can print on both sides and it offers the same nice qualities as the Lustre 300, including "perfect grey balance" and "exceedingly good long-term stability." This media dries quickly, can be safely wiped clean and is even splash-resistant, perfect for an album or project.

I personally am not a fan of glossy paper, but Sihl's High Gloss Photo Paper is a nice option for those who like a glossy finish for their prints. Tonal reproduction and range is very impressive and prints look good from every angle. Particularly bright or dark areas of the print will change slightly as you view the print from different angles, but it is mostly consistent and looks as good or better than other glossy papers I've used.

The Sihl High Gloss Photo Paper 330 is a good high-gloss photo paper. It produces vibrant colors, such as the orange seen in this print.

Metallic paper has become increasingly popular over the last few years with more and more companies offering their own version, and Sihl is no different. Their Metallic Pearl High Gloss Photo Paper is impressive and works very well with certain images.

The paper uses pigments in the coating to create a distinct shimmer that shows itself best with light and medium color shades, such as orange and medium blue. On the other hand, dark areas of a print don't show the effect nearly as much which I consider a positive. If black areas in a print had the same "pearl" sheen, they wouldn't appear as black.

Metallic photo paper is not for everyone or for every photo, but Sih's Metallic Pear High Gloss Paper 290 is a solid choice.

It's difficult to show the effect in a photo of the paper, but I assure you that it's easily visible when viewing the print in person. I've tried a handful of different metallic papers, but this is definitely one of the best. The metallic effect is fairly subtle and that's why I like it.

Sihl Masterclass Art Sample Pack

The Art Sample Pack comes with Satin Baryta Photo Paper 290, Matte Photo Canvas 400, Textured Matte Cotton Paper 320 and Smooth Matte Cotton Paper 320.

I'm a big fan of baryta paper, and the Sihl Satin Baryta paper is a good example of the type.

The Satin Baryta paper stands out for two reasons. It's the only non-matte paper in the pack and it's a very good photo paper. Sihl refers to this paper as designed for black and white photography and I agree that it's very good for that, but it's also well-suited for color photography. The media is coated with barium sulphate and it produces excellent tonal range and detail.

A close-up of the texture on the Textured Matte Cotton Paper 320.
Close-up image of a print on the Matte Photo Canvas 400.

I don't often print on canvas, but Sihl's Matte Photo canvas is a good canvas option. It is able to produce good detail and vibrant colors. The Textured and Smooth Matte Cotton papers are both good, although I found that the textured variant was more to my taste. The smooth paper produced slightly blotchy areas in the darks which were not present on the textured paper.

A view of the full print on Sihl's canvas.

Overall Thoughts

My first experience with Sihl Masterclass paper has been a good one. All of the papers perform as expected and a handful of them stood out, such as the Satin Baryta, Lustre and Metallic Pearl High Gloss.

Pricing across the board is very competitive with other fine art photographic papers. You can expect to pay more for the Sihl paper than you would for representative offerings from Canon and Epson, but similar to other dedicated paper manufacturers.

There are a lot of excellent photo paper options out there and people will have their own personal favorites, but I highly recommend giving Sihl Masterclass sample packs a try. (Photo Sample Pack and Art Sample Pack)

(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 sharpening settings in Adobe Camera RAW. Lens corrections were applied and white balance was adjusted to approximately match real-life prints on my calibrated monitor. Print quality is ultimately subjective, and it is difficult to match an image of a print with seeing a print in person.) 

Sihl Masterclass

Caffeine Priority is a new series of short photo-tidbits to ease you into your day, and give us a chance to share a bit more of what life’s like here at IR. We're more like a group of friends testing and talking about cameras and lenses than the buttoned-down, big-corporation world that some of our photo-friends at other companies work in; hopefully these little snippets will share some of that. So... grab another coffee and join in the conversation with us down below!