Photo books are becoming an increasingly popular way of getting your images printed. It’s no longer as cost prohibitive or complicated to do as printing outfits seek to bring more products and services to the consumer market. I’m in the midst of doing some testing of various online printing services, and one of the first books I got was from Mpix. So, today, I’ll be showing you some of the pros and cons of this service. I decided to approach the photo book reviews from five perspectives: image quality, binding quality, durability, value, and turn around time.
Mpix, like many labs, requests that you send them photos in the sRGB color space. While this is not necessarily a check against them, it does limit the capability for image quality during print because you are limited in the color range that can be printed. Having said that caveat about the print process, I must say that the quality of the prints has not disappointed me at all. The photos look identical to what I sent them both in color and tonal range. So, they definitely get props here for a job well done!
For this project, I wanted to limit expenses as hard cover books are significantly more expensive. So, going with a soft cover route, the quality of the binding becomes more relevant because the last thing you want is to have the pages of your book fall out over time. In the print world, I understand that the options with soft covers are limited to stapled and glued routes.
In general, glued bindings probably give a more professional appearance, as staples can be unsightly. On the flip side, glue can soften and pages can fall out over time, whereas with stapled books, they are more likely to stay held together. The folks at Mpix went with the stapled route, and I gotta say, the staples were not off-putting to me at all. This may be different if I chose another cover image, but with a darker print as the cover, the staples worked out nicely.
You can kind of see a little wear and tear already along the edge of the fold, but I guess (in hindsight), with a soft cover, that’s to be expected. Given the wear I am seeing though, the next time I may select a canvas cover or a lay-flat cover to provide a little more protection. The pages on the inside of the book seem fine, and as long as I am not throwing it around like a frisbee, they are a good weight, and thickness. Barring abuse and such, this should hold up well.
Judging the value of a product is hard to do because while as a general rule, you tend to get what you pay for, other factors go into the equation. Elements such as image quality, turn around time, and packaging all factor into the value. Given the retail cost of this product of $39 through Mpix Pro (I put together an 8.5″ square book with 40 pages), I’d say it was pretty good. When you factor in the cover and the back, and the insides of each, it’s actually 44 pages of printed images for $39. Shipping, of course, is extra, so let’s say for easy math that it’s $50 for a 40 page book. I’d say it’s very competitive at $1.25 per page.
For delivery I looked at two things – how was the product packaged, and what was the time frame for said delivery. With Mpix, I’ve always been impressed with their shrink-wrapping and air gaps to protect products from getting dinged and damaged during shipment, so kudos there. They also get high marks for the fastest response time. Within 5 days of submitting my order, I was in possession of the book. Now granted, they are in Kansas, and I am in Colorado, so shipment here was probably easier than average, but since I also have gotten similar delivery in the past when I lived elsewhere (South Carolina and products sent to NY and PA), I’d say they get high marks for a good turnaround time.
Here’s the rest of the sample shots of the photo book:
In the five categories, Mpix gets high marks in 4 of the five. The one category that wasn’t really scored was binding – and this is a tough one to judge too, as the longevity over time is really what defines the durability of a binding. Since I have only had the photo book now for a couple weeks, it’s kind of difficult to judge that category, but outside the cover deterioration from a lot of handling, can approximate that the interior pages will hold up well.
There’s more photo books to come from other vendors too, like Nations Photo Lab, and a few other online printers, so stay tuned for future reviews as well. If you have your own favorite printer, by all means, sound off in the comments! What do you like? What criteria do you look for? What don’t you like? As always, I love to hear feedback, so feel free to chime in! Until tomorrow – happy shooting!