One of the things you can always envy your reviewer friends for is, sometimes they can eat for free. Or they can try the latest gadgets for free. While the rest of us have to pay.
I had the pleasure of being a reviewer when Dominic, co-founder of Pixart.com.my invited me to review their new product, Photobook. The product looks interesting, and so I accepted the invitation.
In order to create the photobook and have it printed, you need to use the software they supply. It’s called PhotoStylist and it allows you to organize the placement of your photos and upload it to Pixart. It’s free (who would charge it anyway), and can be download here.
At first glance, the software is easy to use. You are first greeted with a “Get started” page that shows you it only takes 4 steps to get it done. Obviously you need to tell what pictures you are going to use. The “Add photo” dialog box allows you to select multiple files at one go, so place all your pictures in a single folder so that you can import them in with a single click. Sweet!
When all the images are placed in the gallery, you can start organizing your pages. Start off by selecting a theme. You can always change the theme later, or apply different themes to different pages, so don’t worry about wrong selection. More themes can also be downloaded at their theme page, but currently they only offer two.
After a theme is selected, the pages are automatically filled with slots that you must place the photos in. Remember you have imported the images just now? Just drag from the image placeholder and drop them on the allocated slots. I like the convenience of dragging and dropping images, but the idea of having predefined number of slots means you must follow the number of photos you can place on that page that has been set by the template. When the selected template says you can only have 2 pictures on that page, you must upload 2 pictures. This is inconvenient and it limits the creativity to play with the image placements. Of course, for those who know how to use Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, you can have any number of photos in a page and any placement you want. Just save your artwork in one image, and then import it in Photostylist.
Don’t like the color of the photos? Photostylist comes with some basic instant image editing functions. You can apply special effects like Sepia, color and lightning adjustment, photo smoothening and sharpening. No red-eye removal though, hopefully it will be added in coming versions as you more likely to need this function than anything else.
The standard Photobook package allows you to have up to 24 printed pages. If you find it insufficient, you can always add more. Additional double side printed page is RM 1.50 (~USD 0.40).
Once you are done with the layout, it’s time to create the book cover. You need to select 5 photos from the image library, and complete it with the optional main and sub captions. Not many fonts are available. In fact, you only have nine to choose from. This is due to copyright issue, as according to Dominic. To avoid any copyright infringement, Pixart only allows you to use fonts they can legally use. The good thing is, the fonts they have look nice on the cover.
Okay, once the cover is done, the program will attempt to upload the book and the images to their server. A very impressive feature of Photostylist is the ability to optimize the images before attempting the upload. For images to look nice on a 5.5″ by 7.7″ book, you don’t need a mammoth 12 megapixels resolution that clogs your bandwidth (and their server space).
To complete the process, you need to make the payment (of course!). Credit cards (Visa / Mastercard) are accepted. The program asks you for the shipping address, and would calculate the total cost for you on the spot, so you don’t end up paying throat cutting shipping and handling fees. Shipping to anywhere in the Peninsular Malaysia is RM6, while to Sabah & Sarawak costs RM9 per shipment. For the complete shipping rates, see here.
The printed book
The book arrived via courier a few days after I made the order, and I must say it’s lightning fast! Kudos to the Pixart team for making this efficient. I even received an email from Dominic notifying me that the shipment has in fact been delayed due to some technical issues. So, you can expect your book to arrive at your doorstep even faster.
The images fit on the pages nicely without being cropped or leaving any unwanted white spaces. In other words, they are exactly what you see on Photostylist. However, the quality is not as good as I expected. Noises are spotted on the images, and I suspect it’s due to the paper and the offset printing method.
Overall, I am quite impressed with the Pocketbook. For normal usage, the process of adding photos, creating pages and making payment are smooth. I have never had any “illegal operations” or program crash even though the number of images I import is aplenty and they are big in size. The delivery exceeds my expectation and they give you a 14-day free-from-defect guarantee, so that’s a peace of mind.
Generally the image quality is OK, but can still be improved in terms of better paper quality and printing method.
Photostylist is good enought for normal use, and can be improved to allow more freedom in manipulating the images.
The Photobook is a great idea to have your precious moments printed. Its moderate size and weight means you can bring it along to showoff anytime you want. Also great for married couples whose wedding albums end up under the bed and forgotten.