Interview with Henry Wilhelm in Melbourne, 4 May 2007

Wayne met up with Henry Wilhelm at the Photo Marketing Association trade show in Melbourne, Australia and talked about various, interesting topics.
Henry Wilhelm, photo by Wayne J. Cosshall

The last time I saw Henry was in June last year in Barcelona. This time he was visiting Australia for our local PMA show. Henry was in Australia, trip paid for by Epson and giving talks on the tests WIR (Wilhelm Imaging Research) had been doing comparing Epson ink and media with non-genuine (or compatible) third-party inks and paper.

WIR has been testing a range of third-party inks and papers that are commonly available in various countries and one available in Australia. The Australian one, Calidad, Henry was particularly interested because unlike all the others, this one made the claim of being fadeproof on its packaging. Henry has kindly given me permission to reproduce some of his images and a table of test results here, and they are most interesting.

WIR Display Permanence Ratings for Genuine Epson DURABrite Ultra Inks and Genuine Epson Photo Papers Compared with WIR Ratings for “Non-Genuine” Store-Brand and Other Third-Party Photo Inks and Papers
 
Displayed Prints Framed Under Glass (450 lux/12 hrs per day)
 
Genuine Epson DURABrite Ultra Ink Cartridges printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper 40 years
 
Office Depot Store-Brand Ink Cartridges (USA) printed on Office Depot Professional Photo Paper  0.8 years
Office Depot Store-Brand Ink Cartridges (USA) printed on Epson DURABrite Ink Glossy Photo Paper 0.9 years
 
OfficeMax Store-Brand Ink Cartridges (USA) printed on OfficeMax Professional Photo Paper, Glossy 1.5 years
OfficeMax Store-Brand Ink Cartridges (USA) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper  2.6 years
 
Guang Zhou Yuan se Ink (China) printed on Yang fan nai li Ink Jet Color Paper    0.2 years
Guang Zhou Yuan se Ink (China) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper    1.6 years
 
Sui-e+ Ink (China) printed on Yang fan nai li Ink Jet Color Paper      0.4 years
Sui-e+ Ink (China) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper     5.5 years
 
Calidad “Pigment” Ink Cartridges (Australia) printed on Calidad Inkjet Glossy Photo Paper   0.6 years
Calidad “Pigment” Ink Cartridges (Australia) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper  2.9 years
 
Inkrite Ink Cartridges (Europe) printed on Inkrite Glossy Photo Paper     1.9 years
Inkrite Ink Cartridges (Europe) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper    7.2 years
 
Certtone Ink Cartridges (Europe) printed on Certtone Papier Photographique    2.1 years
Certtone Ink Cartridges (Europe) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper              11.6 years
 
Comax Ink Cartridges (Thailand) printed on IJ Photolike Photo Glossy Impression Paper   3.9 years
Comax Ink Cartridges (Thailand) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper    8.1 years
 
ESYINK Ink Cartridges (Malaysia) printed on GOGI Glossy Photo Paper     0.4 years
ESYINK Ink Cartridges (Malaysia) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper   3.1 years
 
Sepoms Ink (Singapore/Taiwan) printed on Sepoms Super Glossy Photo Paper    0.8 years
Sepoms Ink (Singapore/Taiwan) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper    4.9 years
 
InkStation Ink Cartridges (Singapore) printed on Ink Station Paper     1.1 years
InkStation Ink Cartridges (Singapore) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper   6.2 years
 
G&G Ink Cartridges (Latin America) printed on Avery Zweckform Premium Glossy inkjet   3.1 years
G&G Ink Cartridges (Latin America) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper   8.1 years
 
New Jet Ink Cartridges (Latin America) printed on Husares Papel Fotografico Calidad Premium  1.5 years
New Jet Ink Cartridges (Latin America) printed on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper   5.2 years
 
 
PMA Australia 2007 Imaging Technology Expo
Melbourne, Australia
Data from Wilhelm Imaging Research, Inc.
Henry Wilhelm, President
May 3, 2007

As you can see, in the WIR tests whereas the Epson ink and media gives a 40-year life, the Calidad ink and paper only makes it for 0.6 of a year.

Now for some images:

WIR Display Permanence Tests with Epson DURABrite Inks and Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper Compared With Non-Genuine Calidad Inks And Calidad Inkjet Glossy Photo Paper Printed with an Epson C87 Printer
WRI permanence tests

Top row: Equivalent years of exposure to light in home display at 450 lux for 12 hours per day in an accelerated light stability test (print framed under glass, 24°C and 60% RH) with Epson DURABrite Ultra pigment inks and Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper printed with an Epson Stylus C87/ C88 inkjet printer.  The Epson inks and paper have a WIR Display Permanence Rating of 40 years.

Bottom row: Equivalent years of exposure to light in home display at 450 lux for 12 hours per day in an accelerated light stability test (print framed under glass, 24°C and 60% RH) with third-party Calidad brand “pigment” inks and Calidad Inkjet Glossy Photo Paper printed with an Epson Stylus C87/ C88 inkjet printer.  The Calidad inks have extremely poor light stability, with a WIR Display Permanence Rating of less than 1 year.

WIR Unprotected Ozone Resistance Tests with Epson DURABrite Inks and Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper Compared With Non-Genuine Calidad Inks and Calidad Inkjet Glossy Photo Paper Printed with an Epson C87 Printer

WRI permanence tests

Top row: Equivalent years of ambient ozone exposure in an accelerated unprotected ozone resistance test (5 ppm ozone, 23°C and 50% RH) with Epson DURABrite Ultra pigment inks and Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper printed with an Epson Stylus
C87/C88 inkjet printer.

Bottom row: Equivalent years of ambient ozone exposure in an accelerated unprotected ozone resistance test with third-party Calidad brand “pigment” inks and Calidad Inkjet Glossy Photo Paper printed with an Epson Stylus C87/C88 inkjet printer.  The Calidad inks and paper were purchased in Australia in February 2007.

In the discussion that followed I made the point that, it seemed to me that many people consider the printer, ink and paper as separate decisions, whereas they actually form an integrated system. Henry agreed and went on to stress that ink and media development is complex and that none of the cheaper third-party suppliers seem able to do the research necessary. Please note this part of our discussion was purely about these low-end inks and media and did not cover the high-end fine art and serious photography inks and papers.

I raised with Henry that the perception of extremely high ink costs is what drives the use of third-party media. Henry’s response was that people should compare the costs with the old costs of traditional photographic papers and chemicals, particularly color. Certain
ly when I look back at the costs involved (including wastage) in the Cibachrome printing I did in my own darkroom, I can’t really argue with Henry’s point.

We then went on to discuss developments he is working on in his test me
thods, including extensive work WIR has been doing for the last five years on using skin tone in their tests. The rationale is that people are very sensitive to color shifts in skin tones, which makes a lot of sense. We then went on to discuss the various efforts to create a standard longevity test being worked on by other groups. Perhaps naturally, Henry does not believe any of these is on the right track.

I then asked Henry about inkjet prints on lightboxes. Firstly I wanted to know if the fading behavior of a print on transparent or translucent material was the same as for prints on paper. I thought they would be but wanted this confirmed. Henry confirmed this but then went on to talk about the difference in light levels. Henry’s tests are at 450lux for 12 hours a day. Lightboxes are usually brighter than this, often much brighter. Henry is of the view that, at least for the range we are considering, permanence should decrease linearly as the brightness is raised. So an ink/media combination that is rated at 200 years by WIR might only have a rating of 10 years if the lightbox is 4500 lux rather than 450, and it is on for 24 hours a day rather than the standard 12. It is because of this that Henry believes there is still more work to do on print permanence, even though many of the ratings on paper from all the major manufacturers appear to be more than good enough.

The last topic we discussed (to do with permanence) was whether he had been doing any work with paints, such as acrylics, painted over digital prints. He has not been because of the almost infinite number of choices. Even so, I encouraged him to do at least some testing in this area, as many digital artists were doing this already. He indicated that his main concerns, if your stick to paints with good lightfastness ratings and from good manufacturers, lay with whether the paint carrier could cause paper yellowing and whether there could be any effect on the inkjet inks or delamination of the print with reactions with the paper layers. He said he certainly felt that prints should be overcoated first before applying paint to minimize any possible effects.  WIR has been doing a lot of work looking at these coatings and he noted that anyone using them needed to take suitable precautions to protect their health.

I then decided to grab some shots of Henry, these being the first Lensbaby photos of Henry that have been taken ☺. Naturally Henry was keen to receive a set, which he now has. We both left wondering where Henry and I would next have an opportunity to talk.

An earlier interview with Henry can be read here.

Henry Wilhelm, photo by Wayne J. Cosshall

Henry Wilhelm, photo by Wayne J. Cosshall
 
All WRI images and data were supplied courtesy of Henry Wilhelm and use here is with his permission.

www.wilhelm-research.com

Lunch with Henry Wilhelm

Recently I had the opportunity to have lunch with Henry Wilhelm, founder of Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR) and author of the classic book on image permanence.
Recently I had the opportunity to have lunch with Henry Wilhelm,
founder of Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR) and author of the classic
book “The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs: Traditional and
Digital Color Prints, Color Negatives, Slides, and Motion Pictures”.

I had spoken to Henry previously, at a Hewlett Packard event over in
Singapore (see a separate story) but this was a great opportunity to
talk to him one-on-one for some two and a half to three hours. Henry
strikes you, up front, as an on the level sort of guy. He speaks well
and can be hard to shut up when you get him going on something he is
passionate about. Clearly honest and open testing and rating of image
permanence is one of these.

Many have criticized his work because the WIR is funded from the
companies whose products he tests. In answer to this Henry is clear
that WIR develops a standard test and that companies that contract them
to do testing have NO say over the testing method. In fact WIR’s
contracts with these companies make it clear that WIR can publish the
permanence performance of any product that is in the marketplace. This
last part is important as WIR does get called in by companies to help
in the development stages. Also WIR funds some testing themselves,
either because a key manufacturer prefers to do their own less rigorous
testing or because WIR deem a particular product category to be very
important. A recent example of this is their testing of 4 x 6 inch
photo printer display permanence (both digital and photographic). See 4×6 test.

Then we got into issues of their testing procedures. I had asked Henry
in Singapore about how he calibrates accelerated tests to real time.
Here we got a chance to get into the question in more detail. All WIR
(and other people’s) permanence testing is done using an accelerated
testing procedure. It is obvious that we can’t wait 100 years to find
out how long a print will last. WIR has specified a viewing environment
in terms of light levels, etc. They test using much stronger
illumination to have any fading visible in a shorter time. The issue is
one of reciprocity failure, something all photographers should know.
Reciprocity failure touches on one of the fundamental photographic
principles. In photography an exposure is determined by two things:
light level (aperture) and shutter speed (or duration of exposure).
They are supposed to be linked, so that if you double the light level
and half the exposure time (or visa versa) you get the same exposure.
For conventional photographic film this holds true across a wide range
of light levels and shutter speeds. However it is known to break down
at both very short and very long exposures. People doing
astrophotography (how I got into photography) and high speed flash
photography see this as a need to compensate with more exposure than
you would expect.

WIR address reciprocity failure and other issues by using the lowest
possible accelerated light intensity (lower than anyone else uses).
This means their tests take longer. They have also gone to great
lengths to calibrate their tests. They have been lucky enough to find
well documented examples of photographs displayed in known
circumstances for known periods of time and then have tested the same
materials under WIR’s testing procedure. This has allowed a good degree
of confidence to be built up at WIR that their accelerated years
ratings are close to the real number of years that could be expected.
However they are continuing to work on refining this. I also asked why
they used a years figure rather than a numeric or star rating system.
Henry feels such a system is just too complex for the average consumer
and also that, as materials get better, it becomes harder to show
differences in materials that are getting closer together in terms of
performance.

There is also some controversy about the light source used in these
accelerated tests. WIR uses fluorescent tubes. Henry acknowledges that
there are some issues with fluorescents, but not because of the
emission peak quality of their light emission. Rather it is because
they have significantly different spectral characteristics at the blue
end of the spectrum. WIR still considers them best though because of
the heat issue. Alternatives, like Xenon, create a heat problem. Heat
lowers moisture  which has a major effect on image longevity. WIR
is testing Xenon but have not been able to adequately solve the heat
issue, plus Xenon has higher UV than they would like. They are also
testing other daylight simulants.

WIR not only test inkjet printing methods but also conventional
photographic ones, though they limit themselves to four color silver
halide processes. They do not test film now as Henry observes that it
is on the way out as a mainstream capture method. Besides, he also
finds inkjet the most interesting area at present. Fuji’s Crystal
Archive paper is currently the highest rating silver halide color paper
at a 40 year display life. I asked Henry if the printing method
affected display life, as in whether there was a difference for prints
done on that paper in a Noritsu or Frontier digital photo printer. In
Henry’s tests there are no differences in longevity caused by the
printer chosen. The quality of processing can obviously have an impact.

WIR is doing some testing of third-party papers and inks. One problem
is that the third party people will typically not pay for testing as
they have no real interest in accurate longevity tests. So the testing
that they are doing they are funding themselves. The major problem with
doing any of this in a systematic way are the number of permutations
when you add third party papers, say, with even the variations in ink
from one manufacturer across their printer models. Henry has major
concerns about much of the third party product. For example, a new
brand of paper is on sale in the US under the National Geographic
brand. The packaging claims 100 year life for the prints ‘on any
printer’. Henry said that he knows that some of the printer models they
then list inside the packaging cannot achieve 100 years even on the
printer manufacturer’s best papers under WIR’s testing procedures, so
he remains concerned about such claims. The issue is that anyone can
come up with a testing criteria (and Henry is very critical of Kodak
for exactly this) but unless it is a reasonable one then the claims may
not bear much resemblance to what people will actually get.

A note here. Henry is also constantly evaluating their own test
criteria. WIR use a standardized light level that is meant to be
representative of typical display conditions. However, he notes that
light levels in houses have been steadily increasing due to the much
heavier use of glass and skylights letting more natural light in. This
may mean that at some point they will have to raise their standard
light level.

We then talked about artist’s materials and the interrelationship with
digital prints. He said that they had looked at the paint permanence
rating systems used by artist paint manufacturers to see if they could
cross-calibrate the two systems, but they found that the artist’s one
is quite loosely constrained because it is a
fairly old standard and
thus they couldn’t get them to cross relate. What he could say was that
in lots of old prints that have been retouched it is usually the
retouching material that has lasted better than the photographic color
print, suggesting that the artist’s materials are reasonabl
y ok. I
raised the issue of reactions occurring if one overworked a digital
print with artist’s material. Henry had seen nothing to suggest that
this occurred. Again he pointed out that the number of permutations
made systematic testing impossible. I also asked about framing
materials and buffered vs. non-buffered matt boards, for example. So
far he has seen nothing to suggest any issues with it and felt that
buffered matt boards were probably an advantage for long term
atmospheric exposure issues (which still happen in a framed print).

WIR is starting the testing of water-based coatings and also lamination
products, especially on canvas. They are limiting it to water-based
coatings mainly, because of a belief these are better for the
environment and the users, as long as they work well. Such coatings are
important not only from a surface protection perspective but also for
light filtering and protection from environmental gases, which can have
a major impact on unprotected prints.

Henry is involved with other people interested in true international standards covering inkjet prints and other mediums.

Henry made a particularly interesting point towards the end of our
lunch. Because there is often a difference in longevity from colour to
colour within an ink set, with the blacks often being the longest
lasting, he observed that the driver version being used, and the driver
settings, can have a major impact on print longevity. This is through
things like whether rich blacks or pure ink black is being used,
variation in the use of light ink colors, etc.

Henry was out in Australia to talk at a photo industry conference about
the new Epson 7800/9800 printers, whose prints he rates very highly for
both display and storage life. He has a lot of good things to say about
the Epson’s monochrome print life because the black inks use carbon
black pigments, about as long lasting as you can get. We’ll have more
to say about this in a separate article coming soon.

Both Henry and WIR are doing a great service to those of us who use digital prints.

That’s all we had time for over lunch but expect more in the future.

www.wilhelm-research.com