Saal Digital Photobook Review

May 15, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

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Introduction 

Saal Digital are based in Germany but they are pushing their marketing in the UK and have been offering an incentive of a discount on their photobooks in return for an honest review.  I had been looking at the offer for a while but never quite had the time or real motivation to make use of it…until my recent trip to Iceland.  That was a trigger to apply for the program and the discount.  The process and feedback from Saal was very prompt and efficient…much more so than I was able to manage through the process at my end.  They were very patient and accommodating when I had ‘timed out’ on the initial period before producing the book.  Customer service were very prompt in responding.

I have produced several photo books with other manufacturers so it was a good opportunity to see how their quality matches up.

 

Software

The software is available in both Mac and PC as you would expect.  The process of downloading and installing was very straightforward and without problem.

The software is very easy to use with a somewhat ‘standard’ layout on the screen which makes it quick to get up and running.  The images are accessed on the left hand pane, the pages across the bottom, layouts & background options in the right pane and the current spread in the middle of the screen.  There are a number of page layout options which are all self explanatory but they are also very easy to change around, to increase/decrease the size of the image box, or to add/remove.  Once changed they can be saved as a new layout for future use too which is a nice touch.

It was not an issue for this book but there did not appear to be a layout that included a box for text on the spine although I’m sure there is a way to do it.  It may be that you just have to place a new text box in the correct marked area on the cover layout, and it is easy to rotate the text box to fit.

As the pages are ‘lay flat’ I took the opportunity to include 2 or 3 panoramas that spread across two pages.  There is an option for a ‘full bleed’ across the whole of the paper but I opted to keep the white border around mine in line with the other pages.

The preview and upload process went very smoothly so there was nothing to do then other than sit back and wait for the book to be delivered. 

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The Product Options

 

There are a number of options available to you for your book.  They are:

  • Cover - this can be finished in either gloss or matte.  I opted for gloss as there is a warning on the website that the matte option may crinkle, especially with darker images.  As you would expect there are a number of layout options but I chose a panorama type complete wrap which has worked brilliantly.  For an extra fee you can also specify a padded cover option, or a number of leather, metallic or wood effect options.  
  • Paper - it is important to note that the printing is on true Fuji photo paper, not inkjet/press printing that many others offer.  The choice of finish is either matte (lustre really) or gloss.  I am not a fan of gloss pages in books as they tend to show fingerprints too easily for my liking so I went with the matte option.
  • Size - there is a choice of 6 sizes from 15x21 (6x8.5 in) to a max of 42x28 (16.5x11 in).  I opted for the ‘standard’ size of 28x19 (11 x 7.15 in).  An extra thick version is available with a max of 36 pages on 600gsm card reinforced pages is available for that extra wow factor, but I cannot help thinking that this is a little overkill.  There is also the option of softcover books from 12x12 to 19x19 up to a max of 36 pages.  
  • Number of pages - there is a maximum of 120 pages for the standard hardback books with the largest limited to 100 pages.
  • Presentation box - these are also available for that real luxury option.
  • Barcode - Saal make a big thing on their website that they do not include a logo unlike other manufacturers.  They do however include a small QR barcode on the last page and the back cover that costs £5 to remove.  It is very small in the bottom left corner and is not something that I would pay the £5 to remove to be honest having now seen it.
  • Pricing - the starting price for the 28x19 with the minimum 26 pages is £29.95 which compare favourably with the Cewe/Bob option at £38.99 for their 28x21 book and 26 pages.
  • Shipping - shipping to the UK is £4.95.  The finished book arrived within a week and was well protected in a cardboard envelope.

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The book

The quality of the book is absolutely excellent.  The colours and the print quality are spot on, exactly as I saw them on my screen, and on ‘proper photo’ paper too.  The lay flat pages are great for the panoramas I did across the two page spread with nothing lost in the gutter - they look wonderful.  

One thing to bear in mind, especially if you have come from more of a ‘book’ layout like Blurb is that there is no opening page/end sheet - the first image is literally stuck to the inside of the front cover, and similarly the last image is on the inside of the back cover.  It does make the first page a full double spread though, which is nice.  I prefer to think of this type of book more of an ‘album’, and the Blurb type layout more a ‘book’.

The text on the front cover is printed perfectly although I opted not to include text in the layouts from personal choice for this one.  I have no doubt that if I had they would be perfect too.

The whole ‘fit and finish’ of the book is beyond question and overall it is a truly impressive product.  

A 26 page book (28x19) is £29.95, which is good value compared to the Cewe/Bob Books alternative which would be £38.99.  A similar hardback size from Blurb starts at £21.89, but that is on their standard paper and digital printing rather than true photographic paper/process.  An upgrade to their ‘proline pearl’ paper which is much more like photo paper is £32.15.  That said, Blurb do have very frequent offers, and if you time it right they might be 30-50%.

Blurb’s integration within Lightroom does make it very easy to produce, and the softcover option reduces the price even more for good quality everyday books.  For high end quality though, when only the best will do, Saal is now my first choice.  Enough said…

 

Steve Mundy

purple-cloud.com

 

March 2017

 



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