Here it is, more than a month in the making! Many thanks to the people who helped make it possible by either supporting with donations or suggesting labs for testing.
First before I start into the results. Please do remember that the color results are based on the personal preferences of myself and independent “judges” in a blind side by side comparison. Personal preferences for color vary so some people may prefer a different set of images as being the best for color. (The variation of scores will reflect this in many cases.)
For my own points ratings in the color comparison, I am looking for a deep rich color without being over saturated, under saturated, too flat, too contrasty, loss of highlight or shadow detail, no banding or other color artifacts and overall good realistic skin tones. (See Part 3 for individual remarks on each image tested.) Points for each print were deducted for defects or other problems including poor color. My ratings system was a base 10 points were given and points were deducted for flaws in each print.
The independent judges compared each image for overall look and ranked each print from 0 to 10 with 10 being best. The judges points are taking into consideration the best overall color and no color artifacts disregarding print defects or my own personal preferences.
The skin tone reference image was printed without lab corrections to compare uncorrected images to my calibrated displays. (Not ranked by the independent judges.)
All prints were viewed on color calibrated light tables designed for critical color viewing.
Unless you print everything yourself, you either rely on a professional mail order lab, local professional lab or a local retail chain of some sort to handle your photo printing needs. But are you getting your monies worth when you send your prints off to professional labs at professional prices? With such a wide range of prices for professional and retail labs for the same size print, what are you really paying for when you go with a more expensive mail order lab over a less expensive lab or even submitting files to your local Costco for inexpensive enlargements?
In the coming weeks I plan to test a number of large mail order labs, a few local sources and a few retail chains. At this time I can’t say what labs and chains I plan on comparing but I can say the test will be comparing every aspect of the prints I receive back from each source including paper brand and type, paper weight, color accuracy / color corrections, how they handle files of different color spaces, print sharpness and overall print quality. Of course total cost, speed of delivery and overall ordering experience will be compared as well.
As many here may already be aware, the “PCB” forums (Alien Bees, White Lightning) have been permanently shut down by management.
“We regret that the Paul C. Buff, Inc. Customer Forum has been
permanently closed. We appreciate the many enthusiastic members and
posts to this forum. Unfortunately the time involved in maintaining
this forum and the increasing presence of spammers and non-
constructive, impolite and otherwise negative posts have made it no
longer practical for us to continue this service to our customers.”
It’s a real shame, this was a really great community (despite a few sour people). However, I am sure this will give them more time to focus on product development and perhaps even some time to relax. It will be highly missed in my daily rounds.
Quick Edit: One of the former members decided to go ahead and open a forum for old PCB members as well as anyone else who wishes to join. See the new forums at http://www.forum.blackeaglestudios.com/