A First: I’m Dissappointed in Apple

32 Comments

Raise your hand if you’ve ordered a book from iPhoto.
My father-in-law ordered one right after installing and opening iPhoto 5. He got it in about a week later and called me. He was not impressed (mind you, he’s a huge Apple nut). I figured he was being overly critical and that it would actually be pretty cool.

Hmmm. Well, I went over to his house soon thereafter and checked his iPhoto [medium sized] book out for myself. He was spot-on in his assessment:
The images weren’t very sharp at all (the originals came from a Canon 10D dSLR kit, and looked fantastic) and the printing was grainy at best. The images were not glossy either (yeah, I realize it’s a way to keep the cost down, but make it an option Apple!), though the paper was a nice weight.

Early last week I express ordered my own iPhoto 5 book for my wife as a Valentine’s gift (yeah, it’s a day after Valentine’s and it’s finally supposed to be arriving today…guess I could have acted on that one sooner). My hopes are that I’ll be pleasantly surprised, and that my Father-in-law’s book was an uncommon occurrence.

I’ve got a $150 Canon bubble jet that spits out 8×10 photos that look professionally printed – and it does them in barely a minute! If Apple’s going to offer these cool books are low low prices (which is awesome), at least let us know the quality ain’t gonna be there. And then give us an option to upgrade the print quality if we so desire!

And by the way, did you know if you want to order a small sized book for $3.99, you have to order them in packs of 3? So don’t be fooled that you can get a small iPhoto book shipped for like $7 – it’s more like $17 when you complete the order.

So what experiences have you had with Apple’s photo books? Have you gotten the large, small, or hard-cover versions? Does the book size, or hard/soft cover have any relation to the quality of the printing? I’d love to know if anyone else is as dismayed as my father-in-law and I are at the apparent lack of quality.

32 Comments

Jim

Anyone have trouble with iPhoto’s bleeds? I design full-size pages in Photoshop, import them into iPhoto’s book layout, and all looks fine, but in the final book form the image is cropped-in further for the bleed. Is there any way to control the bleed amount so I can accurately design my pages in Photoshop?

luis

Hi! I write from Spain. Today I’ve recieved my first book from apple: a hard-cover book with 30 photos….. a disaster!!!! I send my photos from Iphoto 5 in a high quality 5 mb from my Sony DSC-F717, it looked great at my 19″ TFT monitor, it looked great when I order few of the same photos with Ophoto… so, I expected the same quality in my apple’s book, but I feel so dissapointed now that I think that this the last book I order. All photos seemed in low quality, very grained. This book was a gift to a friends of mine that got married last month, but man, I think I’m going to throw it to the waste, and buy them something else.

Calvin Yee

I’ve just received my iPhoto book. I too am dissapointed with the results. But specifically, the large full screen photos are acceptable in quality to me. But the smaller photos are really pixellated and not sharp. Very dithered compared to the large full-page photos.

Now if I were to analyze a specific section of the large photo (that would match the size of any smaller photo), there is a huge difference in detail. Are the image size/resolution shrunk before they are printed for the smaller photos? It almost looks that way.

All my photos were from the same camera (D70) and the same resolution. I bought the 11×8.5″ large book. I’ve submitted the online support form to apple, we’ll see what happens.

Perhaps I should scan my iPhoto book pages and post them side by side with the original.

James McAnear

I’m a Designer. Been using the Mac since 1989. Apple is the only computer I’ll EVER use. That said, I’m not impressed thus far.

I tried ordering a large, hardbound book (100 pages) as a Valentine’s Day gift for my wife. The first oder was placed 2/2/05. Five days later I check online and it’s cancelled. I re-send on 2/8/05. No book on Valentine’s Day, in fact that afternoon I check its status and it too is cancelled.
Apple has no phone support for iPhoto or its book service. everything is handled via E-mail, so expect a 24-hour lag between submitting a question and receiving a reply. So, consequently, any time sensitive orders are extremely risky.
They can offer no help as to why the book can’t/won’t print. Just that some images may have been corrupted.
I printed the book to my color laser at the office with no problems. I’m using a T-1 connection to upload.
Needless to say this has been an EXTREMELY frustrating and enfuriating experience.

Roby

I agree with Ryan: Folks who are considering iPhoto books need to proceed carefully lest they spend too much money for a product that doesn’t meet their expectations.

From Ed’s comments and others, people knowledgable about offset printing who have tried books from both iPhoto4 and iPhoto5, it sounds like Apple’s print vendor is having some quality control issues with certain books. My huge book turned out great–actually better than I expected. But the quality may not be consistent. Some enterprising journalist with a budget should submit a variety of books in different configurations and sizes and determine what, if anything, is going wrong.

On the other hand, I would want people like Ryan to be aware that CMYK offset printing is not at all like getting continuous tone photographic prints. The average Joe needs to realize that the bright, brilliant smooth colors and sharp detail you see on your monitor can never be reproduced on any printing press, and that is my main point. It’s a matter of education. These iPhoto books, professionally bound with color pictures printed on both sides of every sheet, will always have a detectable line screen (dots and dot patterns), and the detail in things like smaller faces in smaller pictures will never be as sharp. Book prints should look similar to pictures in popular magazines, but don’t order these iPhoto books if you want the same quality as photographic prints. Unless you really know what you’re doing, understand prepress, and are willing to pay a much steeper price for quality, CMYK printing will always be noticeably inferior.

That said, I still can’t say whether Ryan’s book is an example of failed quality control by Apple’s print vendor or a case of misguided expectations. He should take the book to a local 4-color printer, graphic artist or photographer experienced in 4-color printing to determine if he has a valid case to demand a reprint.

Ryan

Robert (Roby),

Look, I love Apple. Since 1992 I have *personally* bought and used: a Powerbook 165, a Powermac 6500, an iBook 500, a Powermac G5 1.8Ghz, an iBook 1Ghz, a 30Gig iPod, an Airport Extreme, an Airport Express, iLife 04, iLife 05, Final Cut Express 1 & the FCE2 upgrade, over 400 tracks from the itunes music store, and several hundred dollars worth of photo prints from apple over the past few years.

Let me say it again: I love Apple. My friends and wife sometimes think I am nuts. BUT I AM NOT GOING TO BECOME AN APOLOGIST for this iPhoto-book product which is purported to be of high-quality. It just isn’t. If the quality were even *close* to what is printed in National Geographic (or heck — Better Homes and Garden!) then I would have been satisfied.

I read your post above. I assure you that my images were of sufficient resolution to look good in the book. I provided a 5×7 print in the same photo as my photo book (taken with the same digital camera), to plainly show the stark comparison between glossy prints and the photo book. All of the images in my iPhoto book (8×6 size) were taken with my 4-megapixel canon s45. I have used this camera and have had two 16 x 20 prints and one 20 x 30 print made, and they look fantastic.

Yes, the colors were blown out though that’s not my main gripe. You can talk all the “CMYK this-and-that”, but the bottom line is that the CMYK baloney should be behind-the-scenes FOR ME (“average joe” apple-user). I import pics into iphoto, perform minor cropping, etc, do some image color enhancement, etc, until it looks great on my apple 17-inch digital display, then I click the button and give apple $17 and they are supposed to ship me a nice product–it should look nice like what was on my screen!

Take another look at the pictures on my homepage. Look specifically at the size of my wife (the one in the red shirt) on page 2, then look at the closeup compared to what was provided via the digital image (last two images). Go ahead and click all the way in to get the full-rez picture in a separate window. The quality is really REALLY lacking.

So, like you say, maybe it was a fluke. So I encourage everyone to try a book. Hell, it’s only an hour or so of your life spent assembling a book, plus a few tens of dollars to buy it, so you don’t have a lot to lose. But certainly test the water before you dive in and order many books.

-Ryan

Ed

Roby;

I should add that I also understand the difficulty with color fidelity across different devices–but keep in mind I used the same source material for a book under 4 and under 5! Plus, my system (monitor, camera, printer, scanner) is all calibrated for Photoshop CS.

Ed

Ed

Nick: I wasn’t frustrated with you–you posted an article about potential difficulties with the iPhoto 5, and many people posted replied along the lines of “Well, I haven’t tried iPhoto 5 blah blah ..” I was frustrated trying to find posts about others’ experiences with iPhoto 5, not people posting just to say they didn’t have any .

Roby; I’m not nearly an expert at prepress as you are, but as a Photoshop/digital design/photography hobbyist for about a decade, I can tell you the problem with my iPhoto 5 book is not line screen. I understand the limits of CMYK color, I understand halftone printing, etc.–and this ain’t it!

1) I had the very same content printed from iPhoto 4. Light-years better.
2) There are issues with oversaturation, undersaturation, color-shifting in the shadows, excessive noise .. and on and on. These prints don’t begin to approximate continuous-tone photography (like they did in iPhoto 4). Even from a distance, where you wouldn’t be able to see any screen issues, there are very apparent problems. See my post above: in my shirt, what should be about a CMYK 100/0/0/40 is about a 100/50/0/60 with harsh edges and complete lack of texture.

Although I do appreciate your technical explanation-really!-I can’t imagine that’s the problem here ..

Ed

Roby

I just received the iPhoto book I ordered for my wife’s valentine’s day present, and we are very impressed–excellent quality. Most of the pictures are 3 megapixel digital photos from my Olympus 3000. I used the new iPhoto5, and the 11 x 8-1/2″ book has 160 photos on 100 pages, some photos dating back 5 years. Many of the pictures are printed full bleed–they fill the page edge to edge, and they are as clear and sharp as can be.
The problems many people are citing has do with their unfamiliary with the printing process.
I’m an old SLR camera user, and worked for many years in advertising, so I’m quite familiar with the quality issues involved in reproducing digital photography.
Ryan, above, is comparing apples to oranges to strawberries. The best quality is what you can get with inkjet, dye-sub or high res imaging direct to photographic paper–any of many services that deliver high quality prints from digital files, (including iPhoto!) These, for the most part, look almost as good as old-fashioned photo prints from film negatives–glossy prints, for example. Book printing is an entirely different method of printing. The color range is limited to what can be recreated with different tints of cyan, magenta, and yellow, with black ink added for definition and crispness. I’ve looked under glass, and I can see that the iPhoto books are high quality CMYK prints, using traditional screen patterns, not “dithering”. Newspapers and newsweekly magazines use this method of printing, but so do top end photography magazines and book publishers. Go to your local book store and examine any expensive art book that features color photos. They’re printed in the same manner as the iPhoto books. Newspapers print at 65 or 85 line screen; Time magazine might use 100 line screen, National Geographic uses 133 or 150 line screen; the iPhoto books look to be from 150 to 175 line screen, 90% of photography books and art books will also print in this range, and only very few of the best museum quality books go any higher–up to 200 line screen.

Lee

My original iPhoto 4 (2?) book came out great. I am reading the posts about dithering and I can say thqat if that is the case, then this is totally UNSATISFACTORY. I will have to make a test book to see if there is a degradation in quality.

Gordon Williams

Here in Australia, iPhoto 5 does not support ordering the books, or individual photos! We are apparently not part of the same world that Steve Jobs was referring to in the MacWorld SF keynote. We can only dream about getting the chance to complain about quality! :^(

Anyway, I always assumed that the quality was lower because the books are ‘printed’ like color magazines, brochures, textbooks and some newspapers. Perhaps the effective print resolution is the same for all book sizes, so the small paperback versions suffer more by virtue of their smaller image sizes.

nick santilli

Ryan – Great info! Thanks.

Yeah, the newspaper printing/Dithering is exactly the way to describe it.

well, maybe Apple will hear the many disgruntled users and figure out a better way…

Ryan

The lack of quality of these books has been raised in Apple’s iPhoto5 discussion boards. You are not alone in being dismayed in the quality. I also found the quality disappointing, so much so that I went on the discussion boards and posted some pics:

http://homepage.mac.com/ryanemerson/PhotoAlbum60.html

The problem is that they are not using photo glossy prints in the pages, they are using a process similar to that used to produce photos in newspapers — a bunch of dots. “Dithering” I think it is called.

jb

I ordered the wallet size books, and while I am happy overall with them (hey, they are cheap) they were much grainier than I had hoped. Note: they were not pixelated. The original pictures were crisp 5MP photos from a Sony DSC-1.

Terry MacVey

I ordered 2x, large iPhoto 5-based keepsake books (2/6) but have not yet received it, nor has its status changed from “printing”, which is a bit of a disappointment given the stated policy of shipping within 5-7 days. I’ll chime in once I’ve received them, no offense but I hope your iPhoto 5 experience is a one-off…

nick santilli

Ed – Thanks for the insight. I’m bummed to hear it seems to be the trend for the iPhoto 5 books…hopefully it’s not, or is at the very least rememdied quickly.

Sorry to frustrate you – I wasn’t referring to iPhoto 4 in any way, only iPhoto 5 of which I have had a personal experience.

Ron – that’s encouraging to hear. I wonder if for some reason, the smaller format gets printed differently (or a different printer altogether…?)

Ed

Argh. It’s frustrating to read the posts of people who “haven’t tried the service in iPhoto 5” but decided to post anyway.

I created/bought a book of my engagement in iPhoto 4 and it was fantastic. I recently ordered small photo books with the same material in iPhoto 5 and they are god-awful. These are as awful as the prior book was fantastic ..

Example: in most of the pictures, I am kneeling on the beach in a light blue shirt. Naturally, the wind created wrinkles and shadows on the shirt. With 3.2MB photos, in iPhoto 4, the book looked great–very accurate. With the same photos, in iPhoto 5, the book is garbage. In all the pictures, it looks like my shirt has been soaked in grease–the shadow areas are hard-edged dark spots.

Another: The faces in the pictures look like grainy, mall-drawn caricatures. Very cartoonish, not photographic.

Given that there are new styles of books with better pricing, I wonder if Apple changed their vendor. I really like iPhoto 5 — but am very hesitant to spend more money on larger and more extravagant books.

tim

I was similarly disappointed in the graininess of the printing on my large format, soft cover book. These were mostly 3- and 5-megapixel shots which are sharp and deeply-saturated with color, but in print have lost a good bit of their zing.

It’s still a nice overall presentation, but I definitely get much better photo quality from my crappy little Epson printer.

chris holland

Back in 2002, I ordered a photo book for a friend’s wedding, back when I was on the old 400Mhz TiBook. I had taken most pictures on a Sony DSC P50 at an archaic 2.1 Megapixels resolution. It turned out very pretty though I don’t know whether the book has resisted the test of time. I’ll try’n’ ask’em next time I see them. And I’m not really a big photo quality buff, so i’m prolly the least qualified to comment on quality hehe :)

ron

I received my 3 pak of books (minis) last week. There were awesome. Very sharp photos, no smudges, and well packaged. The photos were taken with a Kodak Camera at 5 megapixels.

Lon

Nick,
I had the same experience as your dad. Ordered a medium photo book. In the past I’ve ordered prints through Ophoto and I was expecting the photo quality to be similar in the Apple book. But it was grainy, low-res looking.
After my initial disappointment I considered the price and I’ve come to terms with it. It’s a neat format and fun just to “look at” but not really “archival quality.” Also, after showing off to friends, family and co-workers my book has developed some smears in the printing. I guess they use some type of ink jet technology?
Overall: I’m content given the cheap price but not up to the quality I expected.

scott

I haven’t yet used iPhoto 5 to order a book but have used iPhoto 4 to order several. They all turned out great with one caveat — after repeated handling, the pages all developed slight wrinkles. Not terrible, but still a mar in what otherwise has been a great service for me. Anyone else experienced the wrinkle problem? And I’d love to know if iPhoto 5 books come with pages that don’t get wrinkled.

OS X

I have ordered a few book from Apple’s iPhoto. I was using iPhoto ’04. The original hardcover books I ordered came out fantastic! They look unbelievably professional! The images were not even photos, but artwork generated on the Mac. The images were 3300×2475 @ 300dpi. They all came out great!

I don’t know what has happened since the upgrade to iPhopto ’05 but it doesn’t sound promising. I’ll have to order a new book and see for myself.

nick santilli

That’s encouraging to hear – thanks Robert. I’m definitely hoping for the best.

Actually, those little ones are cheap enough (and since you have to buy them in ‘bulk’ anyway) they’d be really cool to use as a periodic family ‘newsletter’ to friends/relatives. I’m thinking we’ll do that this year (it’s a bit pricey, but I’ve done DVD movie/slideshows in the past which is time-consuming and a bit price anyway…might as well let Apple do the heavy lifting this year!)

nick santilli

Well I’m giving them a 2nd chance aren’t I? Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment. ;) But I doubt most people would go another round when the 1st was disappointing.

I really wanna hear everyone else’s experience’s though. I sure hope I’m off-base here though, because I love the iPhoto book concept. So we’ll see when I get home tonight and it’s there waiting for me.

I’ll post a follow-up based on my own iPhoto book purchase, probably tomorrow.

Robert

Sorry to hear of a bad experience with the book service, as a couple years back it was the primary reason I bought my iMac. I have NOT ordered a book under the new iPhoto ’05 multi-sizes setup, but I have created 2 of the original large sized hardcover books. I ordered the first in ’03 and another in ’04 and both were of excellent quality. Okay, they were big and cost over a hundred buck a piece, but they were gifts for family members. I sincerely hope the one that you receive is perfect as well.

PXLated

A little premature with this aren’t you? You probably should have waited till yours arrived to make sure there is really something wrong and it wasn’t an anomaly. :-)
Everyone I know that has used the service has been very happy. And, as I recall, every article I’ve read where the reporter ordered one, they seemed pretty happy with it.

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