Some time ago I got in contact with Saal Digital and got the opportunity to review one of their products. A custom photo book with my own work. Naturally I am happy to do this and after giving the book some time to soak up UV-light and giving myself some time to get a good look at it, compare it with my own prints and showing it around a little, here is my review.
First of all I feel obligated to say that I do not like it when I have to use software other than my own to create a photo book but I also understand why it is easier for the company.
The software used by Saal Digital is easy to install and use. You are presented with some click-and-choose options on the size, paper type and amount of pages you want. After that you can import your photo’s and simply drag and drop them in to place and even perform some minor adjustments like cropping your photo to fit. When you are happy with your product you can place your order from the software. It’s all very easy and straight-forward but I don’t know if any processing is done to my images and that bugs me. I only control what is going in and from that point on I have to put my trust in Saal Digital. Again, I understand why this kind of software is used but I wish there were other options. Lightroom for example has the option to create a book and save it and it would be great if I could create my book here.
I’ll give the software a pass, but only because there really is no alternative.
Look and Feel
The book arrived nicely wrapped in sturdy packaging. No complaints at all. After the unboxing I was presented with a nicely sized (28*19 cm) book with a huge panorama of the Yorkshire Dales stretched over the front and back. I chose glossy print for the cover and matte extra thick pages, twelve of them, for the inner pages. I chose to print a selection of black & white, color, high and low contrast images to see if there are any obvious strong or weak points. The pages are high quality extra thick photopaper/cardboard
On the inside pages colours look, to my eye, the same as on my screen and my own prints (to-my-eye-calibrated printer and screen). Saturation is good and does not seem to noticeably differ from my screen and prints. One or two of the prints might be a few percent off if I lay them side-by-side with my own print, but on their own this is not something you will see. I am especially happy about the black & white images. They are very clear without any kind of haze or green or magenta cast, which can be a problem when printing black & white. I can see no banding or loss of colour of any kind. Great!
The cover, unfortunately, is a bit of a different story. This, in my mind, should be at least as good as the inside pages as it is the first thing you see when picking up the book. Unfortunately the colours on the cover seem a little off. The grassy slopes are definitely not as nice and luscious green as on my own print and screen. The sky also seems a bit lacking.
The inside pages are, again, excellent. Dynamic range is good and fine detail in shadows and highlights are clearly visible and no detail is lost in the print. Contrast and exposure are spot on.
There seems to be zero difference between the book and my own prints and it seems like no processing is done to the image.
The cover has a definite haziness and drop in contrast. This results in loss of fine detail and a little banding in grassy areas.
As all the photo’s are delivered at a resolution which allows printing at 300DPI or more I expected lots of detail and sharpness and, on the inside pages, I was not disappointed. Details and edges are clear and even with my nose right up to the print I can detect no loss of detail or sign of print-dots or any other printing artifacts. The cover again shows some problems. Fine detail in the grassy slopes are lost but from a reasonable distance this isn’t as big as a problem.
Overall I am very impressed with the quality of this photo book. Especially the extra thick inside pages are excellent and even exceed my expectations a little. The cover is not as good but I have to admit that I selected quite a difficult image for the cover. I will give the it a pass, but I would choose a simpler image next time.
Speaking of next time, would I buy this book? No, probably not. I am impressed with the overall quality but I like to be in control of every step of the process and I don’t often make books. I would definitely use this service for larger prints that I can not do myself and I would absolutely recommend Saal Digital (especially the extra thick paging options) to anyone looking for a high-quality photo book.
Disclaimer: The photo book was provided by Saal Digital at no cost. Opinions are entirely my own and I did not receive any payment for this review.