A fantastic upgrade in their product range which I'm personally impressed by and should suit most photographers who don't need to provide the best of the best for expensive client projects. To any eye that isn't critical of photographic printing, this photobook would make a fantastic quality album, however if you're providing a top of the line service (with a price tag to match) then there are higher quality book printing services. For the cost of £100 I received a 'leather' bound 30x30cm photobook with 30 pages, from previous orders with Saal this is exactly as I would imagine it to be priced so it's nice to see that they're not inflating their prices for the 'professional line' products.
So, lets talk quality...
Unfortunately this is the one aspect of the book that I think could bother clients. I left this book on a bookcase sandwiched by other books for around a week and already the covers are starting to bend. Below you can see an image of the covers. I don't imagine that they would bend too much more than this, but if the folks at Saal are reading this, then placing a thin and stiff material below the cover material should keep this from happening.
As soon as up open the book this kind of thing become unimportant, however it's part of the reason that I mentioned 'top of the line clients' maybe wanting something slightly better quality.
As you can see I ordered the black leatherette material cover rather than an image cover. From other reviews I have seen these covers are as well printed as the pages inside which would be a great option for wedding or portrait albums. The leather finish is largely unchanged from a previous book that I have had and feels as though it should stand up to a lot of handling.
This is a shorter section as there isn't too much to say. The paper is thick and stiff enough to allow the pages to lay flat when needed for panoramas or more interesting image layouts that simply one on each page. The gloss doesn't pick up a massive amount of fingerprints, although it's always necessary to be careful with gloss coatings in this sense. There is only one problem to mention here and I don't think it's fair to say that it's a problem with Saal, rather it's a problem with lay flat pages and images extending over the break at the spine. Below you'll see an example of how the ink wears away at the centre crease and how in this case it doesn't have an extremely detrimental affect on the image as a whole. I think the Saal photobook holds up as expected if not better than expected.
This is where we progress beyond what most clients will notice and on to what you will notice as the photographer and whether you want your work displayed in this format and quality level. Here are two close ups to show the great level of detail in the printing.
It's definitely an upgrade! The previous smaller and cheaper book that I bought from Saal was a let down, the only real use for it that I see is people wanting to print their personal phone pictures or maybe an amateur building a small portfolio with their early work. I gave the small book a 7/10 for this purpose but if I were to compare it to this book as a professional product it would fall to a 4 or 5 because of paper quality and there was some strange artifacting on heavy contrast lines. A great example can be seen below, the small photobook had splotches of black along the edges of the tree, whilst the new photobook transitions exactly as the original file does on my PC monitor. I'm hoping that this shows in these small image (which can be enlarged by clicking on them).
Unfortunately though, there is a negative to talk about before rounding this up and that is colour rendition. There are two images in the book which have colour gradients, nothing too intense but when the printing process can't deal with all the colour across the gradient you can see a stepping between the colours. Hopefully the examples below can show this, but it was hard to take an image that accurately showed what I could see with my eyes.
Without repeating what I said at the start too much, I'm really impressed by the print quality of the images which has got to be the main point of a photobook. I think Saal could work on small details like the book cover bending and whilst they have made improvements with this line of professional photobooks, I think there's slightly further to go for this to become fully useable by all professionals.
For my personal use as a portfolio piece of my favourite landscapes and wildlife images, it works perfectly. If I were providing a wedding package for a couple sub-£2000 and wanted to include an album, this would be a really good option. However, as a single purchase product for high end clients I may look for a more expensive book specialising printing service. Below is a gallery of the images that were used in the review.
Thank you for reading and please get in touch or comment below with any questions about the product!