FujiDirekt Photo Book Review
I was asked by the guys from dot-friends if I'd like to review a new product by Fuji's online print service FujiDirekt. I agreed and the product I had a look at is a photo book (FujiFilm Fotobuch brilliant). While FujiDirekt is German only, I assume that they have similar offerings in other countries, but I only tested their German service and software.
Let's start at the beginning. To create the photo book you need to download a special software by Fuji – there is no way to create your book online. Probably not a bad idea considering that arranging photos and texts for a book is no simple task. Unfortunately this software is only available for Mac and Windows. Linux users are clearly out of luck when using FujiDirekt, a Java based software might have been a better solution here. For my test I downloaded the Windows version and ran it a VM. I assume the Mac version to be at least similar if not the same.
The software gives access to all products offered by FujiDirekt, but I only tried the photo book creator. The books can contain 24 to 56 pages. A 24 pages book costs about 32,- Euro including shipping.
When choosing the photo book product, the software guides you with a wizard to do the initial setup of the book in three steps:
- Selecting Photos
- Setting up an initial layout and design
- Configuring your title page
This really is just a first setup which you most probably will fine tune later in the editor. The editor is where you can modify each page of the book separately. Images and texts can be added and removed here, they can be arranged freely and page backgrounds can be assigned individually. You can assign photo “effects” like borders or duct tape decorations. The software comes with a fairly large list of photo effects and page backgrounds to choose from. It also includes a very simple tool for image editing like removing red eyes or cropping. What is nice is that you can choose to do the editing without modifying the original images. Eg. to crop an image to fit the book layout without destroying the original. It's no Photoshop but decent.
One feature that aims to help you with arranging your photos is the “Smart-page” option, which will automatically suggest several layouts based on the number and dimensions of the photos on a page. Useful to get an idea for nice arrangements at least.
The software also comes with a (optional) feature that will nag you to save your work every few minutes. This is generally a good idea because working with a lot of images is a very memory intensive task. Fuji recommends at least 512MB RAM but I exhausted the Gigabyte of my VM relatively quickly. With enough memory available the software made a very stable impression, but “save often” never hurts.
But there where a few things I didn't like at all:
- The way how image resizing is handled was utterly confusing to me first, until I worked it out:
- You are working with boundary boxes
- Images will always fill the whole boundary box (you can't downsize them below the boundary dimensions)
- Images are cropped at the boundary box edges, so aspect ratio is never changed (good!)
- The button elements have no tooltips, so in the beginning you have to guess how they work
- Smart-page produces great layouts, but there is no way to switch photos between positions
- You can rotate images in 5% steps only, but smart page can create smaller rotations
- You can only move double pages, but not just a single page
- Dragging a photo to a different page makes it lose its effect
- Photos added in the wizard will have an effect border, but later added photos don't
- Putting photos across the book center (like for panoramas) only works with Smart-page
- The software will check for updates on every start and before ordering, once a day would have been enough
Despite those shortcomings, it was relatively easy to create, upload and order a photo book.
The book was ordered on Sunday and arrived at my doorstep on Thursday. To make sure the book reached me unharmed, they wrapped it in styrofoam and packed it in two different cardboard boxes. Good Job.
So what about the quality? Fuji claims the “Fotobuch Brilliant” to be special because it's printed on “real photo paper”. I'm wondering what else should they use? But since I never ordered a photo book before I can't compare. The photos however are indistinguishable from any other professional printed photo, just as Fuji promised. The binding makes the book nearly flat in the middle - excellent for panorama shots. But the pages are not just single pages glued together in the middle, instead they are double pages, glued back to back. This makes the binding very sturdy. The whole book is very high quality and I'm happy with the outcome.
If you like to try FujiDirekt's photo book your self - I have ten vouchers á 10 EUR to give away. Just leave a comment or drop me an email if you want one.