Looking for Something?

Tip Jar


If you don't want to subscribe to my $1-For-Early-Access Patreon, but still want to help me out, you can donate here!

Basic Color Processing & Retouching For Cosplay Photography

Video tutorials available now!

Instagram

Twitter

EZ Prints vs. Mpix Print Test

Author:

EDIT: I’ve just been made aware that somehow my order from SmugMug went to EZ Prints instead of Bay Photo like I’d intended. Still don’t know if this is my own error or not, but I’ve amended this post to be EZ Prints vs. Mpix until I get an order in from Bay.

Although print sales have never been an serious source of income for me, I’ve been recently encouraged to make more of my art prints available for purchase. While I’ve sold a few prints via my SmugMug Professional account, because I did not promote the sale galleries, I have had very few print sales over the last few years.  Recently, I have also heard from friends and peers that Zenfolio‘s print store system was more user-friendly, and so in an effort to decide which service I want to use for print sales, I did some light research. One friend had ordered prints from both me, who uses SmugMug, and another friend who uses Zenfolio, and said that she had observed that while she hadn’t ordered identical prints, the Zenfolio prints seemed to be better quality. While I intend to always have a SmugMug account for all my image-storage and hosting needs, I figured out that I can downgrade to Smugmug Power and register for the Zenfolio Premium account for only $10 more than I am already paying for SmugMug Professional.  After all, I just want to offer my clients and customers the best quality possible!

With that said, I turned my attention to the print companies used by each image hosting service: SmugMug primarily uses Bay Photo, and Zenfolio prints through MPix.  Because I already have a SmugMug account, ordering the Bay Photo prints was easy, but because I do not yet have a Zenfolio account, I needed to order through the Mpix site itself, which was slightly more complicated.  (Note: Ordering through a Zenfolio store is much easier!)

Disclaimers: While my photos of the prints are not consistent, I did sit down and carefully examine each set, and my judgments are based on personal observation, not the digital photographs.

Pricing & Shipping

While EZ Prints offers the options of matte, glossy, or lustre, Mpix only offers matte prints with the option of adding a lustre coating for an additional price.  However, while the Mpix shipping price was a dollar more, it did arrive a couple days faster than the EZ Prints order. Also, the Mpix order had one more print, the True Black & White print, which is not offered via EZ Prints.  As far as packaging went, EZ Prints’s SmugMug envelope shipment was smaller, producing less excess waste, but the Mpix package was a larger cardboard envelope, providing more protection. (Outer Mpix envelope not pictured because I am silly and forgot to put it in there)

EZ Prints Order via SmugMug

1        4 x 6 Print (Metallic)                             $0.66 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Metallic)                             $0.66 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

1        4 x 6 Print (Lustre)                               $0.21 USD

———————————————————————
Order Subtotal: $3.00 USD
Shipping & Handling: $4.95 USD
Total: $7.95 USD
———————————————————————

Mpix Order

Product Image Unit Price Options Qty Total
4×6 on E-Surface
rose
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on Metallic
rose
$0.59
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.59
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on E-Surface
rainbow_wave
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on E-Surface
message_bottle007
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on E-Surface
jpac4
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on True Black & White
jpac4
$0.59
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.59
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on Metallic
jpac4
$0.59
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.59
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on E-Surface
helene_040
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on E-Surface
helene_035
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on E-Surface
blueangels_080
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44
4×6 on E-Surface
blueangels_057
$0.29
Color Conversion None
Border None
1 $0.29
Lustre Coating $0.44 1 $0.44

Subtotal:$8.93

Tax:$0.00

Shipping (USPS Mail – Priority):$5.95

Total:$14.88

Paper

For this comparison, I ordered mostly lustre prints, with one color metallic and one B&W metallic (file saved as an RGB .jpg)  per company. I also ordered an additional “True B&W” print from Mpix, and there was no EZ Prints equivalent available.  Please note that I declined color correction for both orders, so the companies printed from the same files with no adjustments.

EZ Prints uses Kodak Supra Endura paper for its lustre prints, and Kodak Endura Professional Metallic paper for its metallic prints.  Mpix also uses these same papers for lustre and metallic prints, as well as Ilford’s True B&W.

Note: The ‘additional’ lustre coating on the Mpix print has a slightly rougher texture than the Bay Photo print.

Print Comparison

Notes: All photos were taken on ‘P’ with my handheld Canon G11, digital macro enabled, in natural ambient light. No post processing was done to any of the images.  And no, I was not super scientific about it. There was a lot of dust on the prints because my house is dusty!

All print examples will begin with a copy of the original digital file, and then the photograph(s) of the prints themselves.

General Observations

EZ Prints Mpix Prints
  • Better shadow detail
  • Sharper image detail
  • Smoother lustre surface
  • Rougher gradation in bokeh
  • Neutral temperature
  • No printing lines
  • Better highlight detail
  • Less sharp image detail
  • More textured lustre surface
  • Smoother gradation in bokeh
  • Warmer temperature (better skin tones)
  • Occasional printing lines

Image 1: Rose

Lustre Notes: EZ Prints has sharper details, but Mpix has a better handling of the color and bokeh quality.

Metallic Notes: (Pardon my reflection!) Overall, I felt that the Mpix print looked better in metallic.

Note: Here is an example of printer lines seen in the Mpix print. The lower oval is increased in contrast to show the printer lines more clearly.

Image 2: Rainbow Wave

Lustre Notes: Mpix had a more pleasing color and better highlight detail in the waves, but the shadow detail behind the waves was almost completely washed out in darkness. EZ Prints maintained the detail and sharpness, and is closer to the original file in color.

Image 3: Message in a Bottle

Lustre Notes: EZ Prints has better contrast and sharpness, though Mpix is closer to the original file in color softness, though not temperature.

Image 4: Bugler

Notes: Both the lustre and metallic prints from Mpix were far warmer in tone, while the EZ Prints were more neutral-cool.  However, the True B&W print had the best neutral tones, though it also had the softest details. The EZ Prints were the sharpest.

Image 5: Helene I


Lustre Notes: Mpix had far better highlight detail, as seen in the handkerchief, and the skin tones/color/contrast were also better.

Image 6: Helene II

Lustre Notes: Mpix has better skintones, contrast and highlight detail, but EZ Prints’s superior sharpness makes the eyes stand out better.

Image 7: F22 Raptor

Lustre Notes: These prints had by far the most obvious difference in printing. The EZ Prints’s contrast was extreme, but much sharper detail. Mpix’s print was closer to the original, though more saturated and not as sharp.

Image 8: Kaneohe Bay

Lustre Notes: EZ Prints’s shadow detail maintained the detail quality in the rain against the mountain, while the Mpix print barely shows the rain. Mpix’s increased saturation is also more apparent in this set, and personally I prefer the more subtle colors of the EZ Prints print.

Conclusion

Overall, Mpix and EZ Prints both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both produce nice prints, but for now I think I prefer the prints from EZ Prints/SmugMug overall.  I prefer EZ Prints because none of the prints exhibited evidence of printer lines, the prints were sharper, shadow detail was far superior, the prices are better, and the color tones remained more neutral overall. I realize there is an Mpix Pro lab, but based on cost I would be unable to afford both services.  I do like the look of Mpix’s prints of Helene, being a warmer tone, but I could also warm the files themselves before getting prints from EZ Prints.

However, I feel that the average consumer might be perfectly happy with the prints from Mpix, because of colors, warm skintones, superior highlight detail, and they may not be analyzing for sharpness and shadow detail as much as I am. Other benefits to Mpix/Zenfolio is the easier shopping system on Zenfolio, and payments to the photographer via PayPal with no fees.

So, in conclusion…I am inconclusive.

What do you think?


Fatal error: Uncaught Exception: 12: REST API is deprecated for versions v2.1 and higher (12) thrown in /home4/dnagata/public_html/wp-content/plugins/seo-facebook-comments/facebook/base_facebook.php on line 1273