Looking to print a few of the thousands of digital photos I have taken since acquiring my digital camera a couple of years ago, I recently discovered the Aldi Photo Service and, with a couple of caveats, it is really rather good. I was keen to print 12 by 8 inch enlargements suitable for framing on the wall and Photobox, my provider of choice hitherto, charged over £1 per print: not a huge amount but enough to prompt me to look for alternatives.
Aldi, however, charges just 34p per print at this size and, with the introductory offer of 20 free 6 by 4 inch prints, giving it a try was a no-brainer. The link to the site from the Aldi UK home page is somewhat buried and, once you get there, the German origin of the site is apparent from the legend on the Java applet at the top of the page that eventually reaches “100% geladen”.
You first have to install software which gives you access to four services the Aldi Photo Manager, a Photobook builder, the Online Photo Album and the Online Print Service. The Photo Manager application looks well-built and offers similar functionality to Google Picasa and Adobe Photoshop Album, including slide shows and keyword tagging,as well as the ability to upload images for printing by Aldi. As a satisfied existing user of the former, however, there seemed little point in making the switch. I have yet to order a Photobook but the Online Photo Album appears uncompetitive compared with free services such as Flickr: storing more than a derisory 128 Mb of photos costs £2-00 a month.
You browse for the images you wish to print using a Java applet. The thumbnails it displays of your images are rather small and cannot be enlarged. I also discovered after a lot of trial and error that, although the applet works in Mozilla Firefox, check-out doesn’t, so this service is best used in Internet Explorer. It is not until you have completed your order that you upload your image files. I have placed both of my orders to date late in the evening over a reliable broadband connection and over 100 Mb of image data transferred without incident. I can imagine, however, that problems might occur when networks are busier.
Both my orders arrived within 48 hours of placement; the enveloped was postmarked Swindon, rather than Germany as I anticipated. The photos were well protected for transit – delivery was a very reasonable £1.33 – and the quality of the images, printed on Kodak Royal digital paper, were good: sharp with realistic colour balance.
Whilst the service offering isn’t the best on the market in all respects, you can’t argue with the price. Overall: 7/10.