I try to do all my printing at New York City’s Adorama for three reasons:
1) The print quality is always excellent
2) They turn work around quickly (always faster than they promise),
3) They are really freaking cheap.
But last Friday, I needed to make some last-minute prints for a class, so I hauled ass over to Duane Reade to make a few prints.
I sat down at a kiosk, and I managed to complete my order for 3 8X10’s and 3 5X7’s in less than three minutes. Duane Reade’s photo service is managed by HP/Snapfish, and the ordering process was great – the HP kiosks are dead-easy to use.
As promised, my photos were ready in an hour with no issues.
Behind the counter, there were two HP printers. There was one of those massive large-format jobs (something like this) and a medium-sized one.
However, I do have a few issues with Duane Reade’s setup:
1) There was only one choice of paper – HP Matte. Most people don’t really care about what paper their photos are printed on, but I couldn’t believe there wasn’t at least an option for glossy. I’d prefer Fuji or Kodak paper, but if they’re HP-only, there should at least be some choice for paper type.
2) It’s pricey. Duane Reade charged me $2.99 for each 8X10, and 99 cents for each 5X7.
Adorama’s 8×10’s range from $1.49 to $1.84.
Adorama’s 5X7’s range from 69 cents each to 84 cents each.
In Adorama’s case, the most expensive papers are Kodak Metallic and Ilford Black & White.
3) Print quality was mixed. Of the six photos I printed, two were throwaway shots of lighting setups, and four were portraits. Of the four portrait prints, the overall print quality was pretty good – much better than I expected considering the horror stories I’ve heard regarding drug-store printing. The color perfectly matched my monitor, and everything else was right on. (sharpness, etc.)
However, two of those images exhibited some annoying horizontal banding. Ironically, I only went to Duane Reade in the first place because my cheap home printer was suffering from horrendous horizontal banding!
4) Lousy Packaging
My prints from Adorama always come packed in a mailing envelope stuffed with cardboard to keep the prints from accidentally bending. However, my Duane Reade prints, even the 8×10’s, were simply stuffed in flimsy paper folder that won’t protect anything.
This probably isn’t a big deal for everyone, but I like to stuff my prints in my camera bag when traveling with them, and I can’t do that with what Duane Reade gives me.
Duane Reade’s HP/Snapfish photo printing service is a mixed bag. The service itself was impeccable, but the price, quality, and paper choice issues leave it strictly in the “last resort” category for me. However, I will say that I’ve been impressed with the prints and books I’ve seen directly from Snapfish.
I’ll stick with Adorama for now.