My first photo prints since high school, an Mpix review
I received my Mpix.com print and framing order yesterday. For those playing at home, I ordered at 2:10pm Thursday April 28th, and received the delivery in full at 2:20pm on May 3rd. All in all, a total of 3 business days from order to delivery. Not too shabby for a standard order of 9 prints and 2 frames.
Ordering was a breeze: I uploaded my final copies, selected the images and chose print size, paper type, cropping, and for two of them the framing options. All told (including upload time and pondering framing choices) it took me 30 minutes from account creation to checkout for 9 prints. I was honestly shocked at how quickly I was able to nail down all the options, sizes, and finalize the order. It was so easy, in fact, that I was a bit suspicious that the final quality might be as simple as the ordering was. After all, you get what you pay for… and I have no qualms telling you that for $130 (including next-day FedEx shipping) I got the following:
- One 6×9 on E-Surface paper
- Two 10×15 on Metallic paper
- One 10×15 on True Black & White paper
- One 10×15 on E-Surface
- One 8.5×11 on E-Surface
- One 8×12 on E-Surface
- One 8.5×11 on True Black & White
Black Rounded Frame with white mat and non-glare glass
- One 10×10 on E-Surface
Black Flat Frame with single weight matboard and non-glare glass
The box my order was delivered in was well protected, and the two frames placed next to each other rather than on top of each other to ensure neither would crush the other or suffer any damage during transport. Liberal application of bubble wrap also helped ensure the safety of the contents.
Digging into the wrapping I started to pull out the frames and prints and study the quality of each. The first one I opened also happened to be the one I was most concerned about when ordering. You see, it was a print made from a highly adjusted image taken with my Canon PowerShot SD1000, not my new 60D. As I tore off the bubble wrap, I could see my concerns were unnecessary, as the print and frame around it were far better than I’d expected. In fact, I can only see ever-so-slight pixelation in certain parts of the print, and only during very close inspection. Framed and on my wall, I doubt anyone but the most particular would even notice.
The remaining 8 prints were all generated from my Canon 60D, and had varying levels of adjustments made. Most were small light level tweaks, while a few were more heavily adjusted with colour saturation to bring out more drama and vibrance to the images. In each case the final products I hold in my hand match the image I had in my head an on my monitors when I was tweaking them. While I wholly admit to not being a colour expert, even the Black and White prints match what I’d expect a proper B&W print to look like; and I have far more experience with making my own B&W prints.
From a paper perspective, all three papers I tested performed beautifully. As you note above, of the 9 prints, two were on True B&W, two on Metallic, and the remaining five on the standard E-Surface. More info on the paper types can be found here: http://www.mpix.com/Papers.aspx
The E-Surface paper is a typical matte finish photo paper with a thickness I’ve come to expect from good 8×10 sheets of Ilford in my darkroom days. Nothing of this paper makes me think “digital print”, and that is how it should be, From my early days of seeing home printed photos, even those on “photo” quality papers, well, I was left feeling as though I’d never see the quality in a digital print to rival that of an analog SLR/35mm negative printed to proper photo paper. I am here to say I no longer fear that. All the prints I received on the E-Surface have satisfied my demand for higher quality prints.
Likewise the True B&W didn’t disappoint either; with its more glossy finish, and light card-stock thickness, I felt as though I’d processed it myself. And I LIKE that feeling. After all, when it comes down to it, I want to feel that connection to any photos I hang on my walls. The two black and white images both fall right in line with the other B&W prints I have hanging in my home, printed more than 20 years ago… the only difference is these two new ones don’t yet have that slight yellowing of time as it takes its toll on darkroom processed paper which I may or may not have processed perfectly 😉 (Side note on the image below, it looks a bit off due to reflection from afternoon sun through my office window, it really is much more crisp and without any tint of colour.)
The Metallic paper was the odd-man out for me, as I had no experience with this type of paper. It has a slight pearlescense which lends to a more vibrant colour image. I was particular about the images I chose for this paper, and I am glad I was. The paper has the potential to detract from the image if not used correctly. Happily I think the two images I chose were well suited for this paper and have made good use of the qualities to enhance the images and make the ‘pop’ just a little more, rather than detract.
Framing… I said above, you get what you pay for… but this may be the case that stands as an exception. These are not the high quality, high cost custom frame jobs you’d get if you walked in to your local shop, but that in no way implies the framing is shoddy either. While the two frames I received don’t have the weight of a high quality frame, they also don’t carry the sticker price either. For about $40 per frame, I really can’t do any better myself, and hanging on the wall, no one would likely see them as anything less than professionally framed. Really, I’m just being a tad nit-picky here because I have to find something to couch my otherwise glowing review. I’ve seen better framing jobs, but those always came with a price upwards of five times what I paid for these. You can rest assured I’ll be using Mpix for framing again.
Final conclusion: I am -very- happy with Mpix as a vendor for both printing and framing of digital photographs to a professional quality and standard that I would expect from such a shop. Of course, the fact that I am finally getting my own photography printed and hung on my walls may be playing a small part in how pleased I am with the quality and service Mpix.com has provided. But, casting my own giddiness aside, I still have high standards for quality and Mpix has delivered that for me.