I recently had the chance to trial a new photobook service from Saal Digital. I have made photobooks before, but only using a mainstream (cheap-ish) provider. The Saal Professional Line Photobook I created is in a different class.
First up with any such service is the design application. As always with these, the Saal app has it's idiosyncracies. I didn't find it particularly intuitive and the auto-design function was basically useless. It takes a good chunk of time to learn the software and be able to work quickly and efficiently on page designs. This learning curve can be a real barrier when considering using a new or different service. Overall I wouldn't say it was better or worse than others, just different.
Having submitted the design there seemed to be a lengthy period of upload and image 'checking'. Not sure what was happening here, but it did provide confidence that the software wouldn't let you submit anything bad. Then it was just a case of sitting back and waiting for the delivery from Germany, which took around a week or so.
The finished product is very impressive. I made a 30x30cm lay flat book, with faux-leather cover and gloss paper stock. The book is weighty and the cover looks and feels luxurious. The binding is excellent, straight and solid, and the paper thick and heavy. Reproduction of the photographs is superb and unlike other services I've used, there's nothing in the book where I would question the brightness or colour balance of the print. Overall then, an excellent product.
My only reservation is that this is a premium and therefore very expensive item. The format I chose, with 74 pages, would come in at over £160 at full price. In this case it was an album of wedding photos, so for a once-in-a-lifetime event it's definitely worth it. I don't know that you would spend this much on an album of regular holiday snaps though. Having said that, Saal have a range of other products, at different price levels, which I would be keen to try in the future.
After this experience I will certainly look forward to using their service again.