Versione in Italiano QUI

Introduction

I will never tire of emphasizing how having your own image printed in your hands is a unique and fulfilling experience, which, in my opinion, represents the true culmination in photography. Among the most important elements of this process is, of course, the choice of paper: just as we choose the most suitable outfit for each occasion, different papers have different characteristics that we can exploit to better highlight certain aspects of our image.

In a previous article, I had the opportunity to share with you what my favorite papers currently are (HERE), but as is normal, new paper variants are often introduced that may be more or less interesting to my tastes.

Recently, Hahnemühle has introduced several new papers to the market, including the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta, which has piqued my interest. A low-texture Rag paper with a barium sulfate coating? I absolutely have to try it!

Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta Review Test 1

The characteristics of a photographic paper

I won’t delve again into all the characteristics of a photographic paper because we’ve already discussed them extensively (again, HERE), but it’s always good to have a quick review.

When I choose a paper, the fundamental characteristics for me always remain:

  • Base Material
  • Texture
  • White Point

I won’t mention the Gamut again because it’s essentially a consequence of all the characteristics put together (extreme simplification), in addition to the printer/ink used.

In my opinion, there is no right or wrong paper, but as I mentioned, the paper that best suits your images. Since I’m a lover (enthusiast) of long exposures and therefore ethereal atmospheres, the paper I’ve always preferred is the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth: a cotton-based paper with almost no texture and a natural white point.

The Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta Photographic Paper

When Hahnemühle introduced the Photo Rag Matt Baryta, I was immediately intrigued by a baryta Rag paper.

Certainly, this isn’t Hahnemühle’s first baryta paper: in fact, in the Glossy FineArt line, there are the FineArt Baryta Satin, the Photo Rag Baryta, the FineArt Baryta, and the Baryta FB, and in the Natural line, there’s the Bamboo Gloss Baryta.

Apart from the fact that only the Photo Rag Baryta is a 100% cotton base (a characteristic I love and look for in a paper), all these papers are indeed from the Glossy family, meaning they are shiny and therefore quite reflective, which I personally don’t like much.

The Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta, on the other hand, is the first Hahnemühle baryta paper to be in the Matt family, therefore matte.

But what does baryta mean? In fact, it means that a layer of barium sulfate has been applied to the surface. Without delving into historical origins and too many technical details, in essence, thanks to it, the paper can achieve a more neutral white point.

If we were to compare it, in fact, to the white point of the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth that I normally use, we would notice that the Matt Baryta has a warmer white, but if we were to compare it to a classic Hahnemühle Photo Rag, the Matt Baryta would appear colder.

Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta Review Test 2

(The photo above WAS NOT taken under standard controlled lighting conditions (window light), but I believe it allows us to appreciate the relative difference.)

A technical advantage of using barium sulfate is that this white result is achieved without the use of Optical Brightening Agents (OBAs), making the paper more stable (durable) in its rendering over time.

Another characteristic of the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta is its composition of 100% cotton and its total absence of texture, which we will see better later in a comparison with my Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth.

Gamut of the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta

Aside from the white point, texture, and composition, it’s definitely worth checking whether this baritization gives the paper a wider gamut than a normal Rag or a higher dmax (how deep the black can be, to put it bluntly).

As we know (always HERE), cotton papers have fantastic characteristics, but among the negatives, they typically have a lower gamut compared to glossy and semi-gloss papers, which make printing more ‘challenging’.

As usual, I compare the gamut on the Canon PRO-300 with my beloved Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth.

Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta Review Test 3

As expected, the gamut is almost identical because the barium sulfate coating is not a determining factor in this aspect as much as the base composition of the paper.

More unexpected is the behavior on blacks where I expected greater depth, but in fact, it’s absolutely comparable to the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth. The same goes for the high luminance of all chromaticities.

Texture of the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta

If you love low-texture cotton papers, the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta is definitely worth considering.

This is one of my primary features, and so once again the comparison can only be made with the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth.

At a macroscopic level, the two papers are very similar. Touch confirms this impression, which I always consider a very important test, as touch is one of the senses activated when talking about prints.

However, if we take a closer look, we see that the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta has an extremely fine texture, almost completely absent and even lower than the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth, which I have always considered a reference for low textures in Rag papers.

If we look at a microscopic level, we see a structural composition of the cotton matrix and ink absorption almost identical, but the slightly more pronounced texture on the Photo Rag Ultra Smooth is confirmed.

Yes, absolutely. The Photo Rag Matt Baryta can be considered a paper with an extremely low, if not practically non-existent, texture. Its surface is almost entirely smooth, offering an ideal option for those seeking a print with a uniform finish and without any noticeable texture.

Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta Review Test 8

Final thoughts

I believe the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta is an interesting addition among the numerous cotton papers available in the Hahnemühle catalog, providing us with a truly additional choice when printing our images.

With its 100% cotton composition and baryte surface finish, it achieves that velvety effect typical of Rag papers but with a more neutral white point.

Pleasant to the touch, the total absence of texture undoubtedly allows for the enhancement of images like my long exposures, further emphasizing the ethereal effect of the scene.

In comparison with the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Ultra Smooth, the latter has a slightly more pronounced texture and a cooler white point, while they are absolutely comparable in terms of gamut and dmax.

As already mentioned, there cannot be a single verdict on papers because they should be compared with respect to the image we want to print, but I would certainly use the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta on images where I seek a more natural white point (perhaps in a warm sunset where the white point of the Photo Rag Ultra Smooth could appear too cool) and a total absence of texture.

Rest assured, the Hahnemühle Photo Rag Matt Baryta and I will have a lot of fun together!