A few weeks ago I was contacted by mcanvasprints.co.uk, who asked if I’d like a free canvas print in return for a review. I was happy to go ahead, with the obvious proviso that it would be an honest appraisal, but this meant deciding on a photo. In the end, after much agonising, I chose this:
The shot has some good memories for me, and it’s a decent review image as there’s plenty of fine detail, plus a large contrast range. I had the option of a free small-ish print or a hefty discount on something larger, so I went for 107cm x 71cm (old-speak: 42″ x 28″). I’ve been after something large and dramatic for my wall, so I figured I’d take a chance.
Ordering threw up one issue that turned out not to matter: they don’t supply printing information for the geeky amongst us. Specifically, they don’t mention the printer DPIs/recommended pixel dimensions for the different print sizes, and instead simply ask for the highest quality image available. This means they’ll resize the jpeg at their end. With lossy compression like jpeg it’s always best to resize the image as few times as possible, and in my case I knew I could skip the resize at their end by exporting a correctly sized jpeg from the original RAW file (admittedly, the average consumer would have a jpeg from the camera, so this point is moot) – but I didn’t have the necessary information. That said, canvas prints in general aren’t particularly high resolution. Canvas won’t show up the the fine details, and it’s these that suffer over multiple resamplings (as long as you’re using a competent graphics program, anyway). So I sent over a full-quality RAW conversion and hoped for the best. And it turned out very well.
I requested a wrap-around print, meaning the photo is stretched around the edges of the frame, and mcanvasprints promptly sent over a diagram showing – approximately – how this would affect the photo:
The green shows the flat primary-image area. This turned out to be about correct – certainly within the error bars for slightly rounded edges.
The red, though, is the area that gets trimmed. This is because of ratio changes when enlarging. My canvas is 42″ x 28″1, which is a ratio of 3:2 – the same as the original photo. But a wrap-around print adds approx 2″ to each side, meaning they have to enlarge the image to 46″ x 32″ – which isn’t 3:2. So the right/left edges of the photo are trimmed to meet the new ratio. They told me this would happen, and in this particular picture it’s no big deal, but it’s worth bearing in mind when dealing with wrap-around prints.
The alterations were all fine with me, so I put in an order. A few days later (fewer than their 5-7 working-day estimates) I received an enormous parcel, and eagerly opened it. And was quite impressed. The print was well wrapped – I had trouble getting into it, not wanting to put my knife anywhere near the thing – and it came with a sheet of maintenance instructions (don’t put it in direct sunlight, don’t wash it with liquids) plus two hanging kits. We used to latter to put it on the wall this weekend, and it’s cool. I like it.
Here’s an in-situ photo, but bear in mind it’s difficult to provide an accurate representation. By the time the photo has gone through camera/RAW processing, with all of the relevant contrast and colour biases and decisions, the result isn’t a fair depiction:
The detail is great: I can make out the number of the bus up and to the right of centre, as well as all the faces visible in the original (it’s quite fun, and very vain, to hunt for people looking at me). The colour is fine, and not oversaturated – it’s just right, in my view. Highlight detail is excellent – the white of the steel-band marquee isn’t too glaring, and the Waterstone’s building has kept all its detail. The shadows have been compressed a little: the facing-us panel of Nelson’s column is pretty much devoid of detail above the highlights – but it’s pretty dark in the original, too, and I suspect anything other than photographic paper is going to struggle with that kind of tonal range.
The canvas is securely attached to the wooden frame, which is itself firmly held-together and very light (the whole thing weighs surprisingly little). We were able to drill into the wood to attach the hanging-brackets without any worries.
Overall: I’m very happy with it. I try not to be too anal, but if I notice an annoyance it’ll always niggle, and I have no niggles. I can’t claim any particular expertise on canvas prints, but this print is certainly amongst the equal of anything I’ve seen, and I’m happy to recommend mcanvasprints.
The only annoying thing about it? I want some more now. I notice they do panoramic prints, too…