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REVIEW: Saal Digital Wall Decors and Photobooks

A look at Alu-Dibond, Alu-Dibond Butlerfinish, Hardcover and Softcover Photobooks

In the digital age, do you really need to print your photos anymore? I would argue you absolutely do.

Whilst electronic picture frames, tablets, phones and TVs are all increasing in resolution, there is still something about a physical print that is pleasing to the eye. It may be the way in which the colours can bleed together slightly, or the way it feels in the hand… who knows, but I for one appreciate a good quality print.

I had the opportunity to test out some products offered by Saal Digital and jumped at the chance to see what they could offer.

Before going into detail on each product it is worth noting that you have to download propriety software from Saal Digital to order any prints. I found this software to be, for the most part, intuitive and helpful in designing prints, however it did on one occasion crash as I just finished a 28 page photobook. This forced me to start again from scratch and was as frustrating as you can imagine.

Wall Decor: Alu-Dibond

The first product we will be looking at is what Saal-Digital refer to as their Alu-Dibond finish wall decoration. This is made up of a 3mm thick aluminium composite panel and is very pleasing to hold. The finish is slightly matte, reflecting light in a soft manner and is pleasing to the eye.

The print has an impressive saturation with high resolution and sharpness. Saal Digital use new direct UV printing ink with 6 colours instead of 4, including light inks, and includes a sixfold UV cure. As a result these prints are UV and weather resistant. This means, unlike canvas, sunlight will not cause colours to fade and you can simply wipe the prints clean. Here is an example of UV Printing in action:

 

Wall Decor: Alu-Dibond Butlerfinish

As with the standard Alu-Dibond prints, the Butlerfinish wall decorations are printing with 6 colour UV printers. The key difference when compared to the standard Alu-Dibond prints is the final finish. There is more of a brushed steel effect, with highlights reflecting light like raw aluminium. This effect is especially pleasing on metallic objects however it can cause bokeh to look a little odd and less rougher.

Photobook: Hardcover

Saal Digitals Hardcover Photobooks are well produced, with FUJIFILM Crystal Archive DPII being the paper used. This is a great paper and is thick enough to give a premium feel. I opted for the matte finish on this photobook.

The Hardcover Photobooks are robust, sturdy, and easy to design with the help of the design templates built into Saal Digital’s software. The lay flat binding is great, and allows for some wonderful 2 page seamless spreads.

 

Photobook: Softcover

The softcover Photobooks, whilst less expensive, are wonderful to hold and still provide an excellent and weighty feel to any portfolio. The paper is thick, and with the gloss finish I chose for this book, very pleasing to look at.

 

As with the Hardcover Photobooks, lay flat binding is again present and I am all the more thankful for it. Whilst not as structurally solid as the Hardcover, I have no doubt that the Softcover Photobooks will hold up fine.

 

Things to be aware of

The covers of the Hardcover Photobooks will crack the ink when laid flat on a table. This is unfortunate as it really distracts from the otherwise excellent quality.

Small barcodes are visible on the back covers of Photobooks. Whilst these would be less noticeable on white covers, and can be removed with a small fee, I feel it is worth pointing these out.

The Alu-Dibond Butlerfinish prints do scratch easilt, and these small scratches show up rather clearly. This was caused by a cat which decided to sit on the print whilst it was on a table. This is no fault or issue with the product but rather something you should be careful to avoid.

Alu-Dibond prints are susceptible to edge damage. This was caused by an overzealous courier who decided to drop the print (whilst boxed) over the rear gate as nobody was around to sign for the delivery. Again, not an issue with the product or Saal Digital, just hope your courier is better than mine was!

There are small marks visible from the printer on the black ink when on gloss paper. This is not visible on all pages and I could only find 2 cases where this has happened. You have to be really looking to find this. This could be improved upon by Saal Digital, and I suspect that this is as a result of choosing to have the paper printed black rather than left white.

It is possible to print onto the spine of the photobooks, which is a colossal win in my eyes!

 

Conclusions

Overall I wouldn’t hesitate to order prints from Saal Digital in the future. The quality is great, as are the prices, however there are some negative bits to watch for, as with any print lab. Shipping times are excellent and the vast array of products available means there is something for every project.

I would advise on opting for the Softcover photobook over the Hardcover, as the overall finish and feel is superior, along with the gloss finish instead of the matte. This provides the best value and is sure to please even the most demanding photographer. As for the wall decors, in most instances I would stick to the standard Alu-Dibond instead of the Butlerfinish as it provides a more consistent look across the entirety of the print.

In future I hope to test the Acrylic Glass wall decorations, along with the Professional Line photobooks which feature an Acrylic Glass cover.