Some time ago I was contacted by a Jonathan B., a marketing manager from the print service provider Zor who offers aluminum dibond and forex prints at a killer price. He said that he was interested in working with me and asked me for a true and honest product review based on my experience with Zor. I was eager to accept.
Here’s the deal. I would get a coupon code which would let me order 60x40cm forex or dibond print of one of my photographs and I return I would write a review and post it on my website. There is no further affiliation between Zor and me beyond the collaboration as it is outlined above. In fact, while I got the print for free, I still had to pay the shipping fees. With this being said, I will do as requested. My review will be honest and not be sugarcoated in any way. There are some really good things to be said about the Zor print I received but not all is perfect, and I will not shy away from pointing it out.
Aluminum dibond prints
For the review, I chose a 60×40 aluminum dibond print which is 3mm strong. As with almost all aluminum dibond prints, a polyethylene core is sandwiched by two thin aluminum plates one of which the photo is printed on directly. This method results in an elegant matte finish with no reflections whatsoever. However, this particular look comes at the price of slightly reduced contrast. This is the kind of dibond print Zor has to offer.
Depending on the image you want to print, this can be considered a liability which is why many vendors offer another type of dibond print, an original photo print on an aluminum backing which means that your photo is printed on traditional photo paper which is then mounted on an aluminum disband plate. Those dibond prints offer all the vibrancy and contrast of conventional photo prints, but they are more pricey.
Ordering and delivery
The Zor website is clean and easy to navigate. It offers good information on the characteristics of the product you choose, often illustrated with helpful images and sometimes short video clips. The fact that the number of options in the Zor store is rather limited helps, too. In short, ordering was a breeze.
The speed of delivery was a little longer than a week which I find acceptable. The print was shipped in a package consisting two thick layers of cardboard. Apart from those protective measures, no other padding material was used. The print arrived undamaged, so it is safe to assume that the packaging was sufficient to ensure safe transport. But I was surprised nonetheless.
At first glance, the quality of the print was good and solid. The surface was clean and undamaged. There were no stains or dents. On close inspection, however, some small bits of an unknown material, possibly the glue that was used to mount the aluminum plates on the polyethylene core, were sticking out from the edges. It then turned out that it was part of a protective transparent plastic foil which for some reason was applied to the back of the image. Once removed, the print looked pristine.
To review this print, I chose my photograph Three Street Lamps which I have taken at the Wittdün ferry harbor on the German North Sea island Amrum in May 2018. You might have already seen it elsewhere as I have posted it in various sites and place on the web.
I chose this image for several reasons:
- I wanted to check the color accuracy.
- I wanted to see how Zor prints handled the gradient from dark to light which happens in the background in the top half of the image.
Wait a second… color accuracy? This image is monochrome! Well, technically it is not. I applied a very fine sepia toning to the photo, so technically (as in seen from the perspective of the printing device), this image is a color image. In the past, I have seen strange things going on with such toning and gradients. Sometimes, I could see a peculiar greenish or magenta-ish hue in the image. Now I wanted to see how Zor fared with this challenge.
The very faint sepia toning I mentioned above comes across nicely in print. There are no strange color hues whatsoever. While I am entirely aware that this is far from a scientific test and doesn’t give any reliable indication as to how accurate the colors are in a true color photograph, I am happy to report that the Zor Dibond print handled this challenge nicely which is good news for black&white photographers like me.
The print is sharp. In fact, it is tack sharp. While this may be a strange finding in a photograph 90% of which consists of a soft gradient, but it really is not. In fact, when only very few elements are sharp and in focus, those elements matter even more. And for those, I can report that they are tack sharp. The print is even so sharp that it emphasizes the grain that I added to the image in Lightroom to the degree that it now is a little too dominant in print. While this is not exactly Zor’s fault, it surely is something to keep in mind when ordering the print.
As I said above, a slightly reduced contrast is in the nature of an aluminum disband print which is printed directly onto the metal. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that the very dark area of the gradient in the background doesn’t appear as black in the print as it does on screen. Fortunately though, even with this slightly reduced contrast, the print is still in line with the nature of the image as I had envisioned it during post-processing. The dark areas may not be black in print, but they are still quite dark. And the street lamps themselves remain very punchy and not washed out.
All in all, the aluminum dibond print from Zor.com is a good print for an extraordinarily low price. On their website, Zor state that they are about 75% cheaper than the competition. I have done some research, and I have found that the savings you get with Zor range from 55-75%. It can’t be argued that Zor offers a heck of a deal here which given the quality of the product many customers will find very attractive. If you don’t need true blacks in your print and can live with the slightly reduced contrast of a direct aluminum dibond print, then I can see no reason why you should not get your print from Zor. If you do, then your only option is to buy a far more pricey direct photo print on an aluminum backing from another printing service.