gear review

Canvas Champ Product Review: Giving it a 2nd Chance

Last year I was offered a free 16×20 canvas print by Canvas Champ if I wrote up a critique. The print I got was built nice but the quality of the printing was a little lacking. But, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and wrote a constructive review: UPDATE!!! Product Review: Canvas Champ Prints.

A few months later I had them print one of my images 16×24 for a client and a 16×24 of my father-in-law as a gift to my sister-in-law. They were both atrocious. I was not happy with it at all. So I updated the blog posting. Again, I was fully honest with the critique.

Alpenglow on Shuksan

Alpenglow on Mount Shuksan - The last rays of the setting Sun bathe Mount Shuksan as its reflected in a pond Huntoon Point near Artist Point in Whatcom County, Wash., on Sunday evening Sept. 27, 2015. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Alpenglow on Mount Shuksan – The last rays of the setting Sun bathe Mount Shuksan as its reflected in a pond Huntoon Point near Artist Point in Whatcom County, Wash., on Sunday evening Sept. 27, 2015. (© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography)

Read More Here!!!

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Product Review of a Canvas Champ print

UPDATED!!! Product Review: Canvas Champ Prints

***UPDATE!!!

This may need a new blog post, but I’ll put the details here. If I could use one word to describe the quality it would be: Poor.

Since writing this a few months ago, I ordered a few more prints for a couple of customers. Unfortunately, I was not impressed at all with the quality. Rather, I was “underwhelmed.”

  • The quality sucked and overall I was just not happy.
  • The highlights were blown out losing subtle details. I use the same computer and have no issues at other printers.
  • They put a thin wooden backing on the canvas making it hard and ugly. Why not a nice black paper backing?
  • The canvas itself is not stretched on the frame improperly. I used a sharpie to clean it.
  • The ink flecks when you lightly scrape it on something.

On one in which I ordered a dust cover, it was a 1/8″ thick particle board backing nailed to the frame. It was the wrong size as it was 1/4″ wider than the print.  I expected the nice thick black paper but instead received this hideous looking brown particle board piece of crap.

But the old saying goes: You get what you pay for. And I paid little so I got little quality.

Partial Solar Eclipse: Lost Details

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A seagull lands on the flag pole at the intersection of Northwest and Birchwood Avenues in Bellingham, Wash., during the partial solar eclipse on Thursday afternoon Oct. 10, 2014.

I showed this image to a customer and immediately the screamed “I WANT A BIG PRINT!” So I had a 24×36 made. The print quality was mediocre and the details of the clouds were lost. © Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – A seagull lands on the flag pole at the intersection of Northwest and Birchwood Avenues in Bellingham, Wash., during the partial solar eclipse on Thursday afternoon Oct. 10, 2014.

 

ORIGINAL POST: A few weeks ago a gentleman from Canvas Champ printing company contacted me to see if I wanted a free canvas print. Jainam asked if I wanted to critique the company’s quality and if so, I’d get a free 16×20 inch canvas print. Hell, why not I thought.

A free canvas print and in exchange for a critique of the workmanship. I love stuff like this. Earlier, I had the same thing happen but with a Think Tank City Walker 20 camera bag. Beautiful bag. Love it and still use it to this day. You can read more here: Not Just for City Slickers: the Think Tank City Walker 20  Shoulder Bag.

The Image – Dad at the King Tut Exhibit:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Dad at the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – Dad at the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash.

So I sent them a file of my father-in-law Todd I shot while we were at the King Tut Exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash. My wife Heidi says it’s her favorite photo of him and since he died in December, we wanted something nice. How serendipitous since we were wanting to make a large print for our wall.

I emailed the image to Canvas Champ and within 3 days received an email stating my print was on its way with expected delivery in 7 days.  And it was coming from India. Pretty impressive.

The Print – Front:

© Paul Conrad - Dad at the King Tut Exhibit at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Wash.

© Paul Conrad/Paul Conrad Photography – “Dad at King Tut” printed by Canvas Champ. The highlights are blown out a little leaving a white splotch above him.

Upon arrival, I inspected the packaging for signs of damage. None. Happy with that, I opened it. It was packaged pretty well.  Good, clean packaging.

When I finally unwrapped the print, I was at first amazed by the construction. Strong, sturdy, and it had a foam insert to help strengthen the print and frame. The canvas is wrapped tight around the birch wood frame, the corner folds were tight, and the quality is superb.

The Print – Back:

© Paul Conrad - The foam backing on the print made by Canvas Champ.

© Paul Conrad – The foam backing on the print made by Canvas Champ, and showing the construction of the framing. The foam acts to stiffen the entire print.

At first, the image looked pretty good. However, I think the highlights were a little blown out. This could be the difference in monitors, mismatched color profiles, or an uncalibrated prints. As CC said to me they calibrate the printers daily, it leaves too reasons why: my profile didn’t translate to what they use or the printers don’t bring the image up and do some rudimentary toning.

The blacks and midtones are wonderful. Deep rich blacks with great contrast and color in the midtones. The image quality overall is acceptable.

Some of the things I noticed  how you needed to hang the picture. It has two hangers that don’t allow you any error when mounting it on the wall. If you’re off a tad, you have to pull on of the nails or hooks out and redo it. A pain if you ask me. Not everyone has a laser level to make sure a level mount. You need to have room for error. There needs to be a better way to mount it. Perhaps a sawtooth hanger such as what Bay Photo or White House Custom Colour provide for their canvas prints.

Another is that the back is open which exposes the foam and a lack of felt tabs. Canvas prints I had made at either Bay and WHCC have a black lining covering the back. A combination of that plus the foam insert would be great. It was also missing felt tabs which keep it from scratching the wall if the artwork is moved.

The Print – Corner Close-up:

© Paul Conrad - Close up of my Canvas Champ print showing the exposed canvas edge.

© Paul Conrad – Close up of my Canvas Champ print showing the exposed canvas edge. and somewhat sloppy technique.

One of the things that I find slightly annoying is how the corners are folded. The edge of the canvas shows and is white against the black printing. This is alleviated by simply using a different folding technique. I could easily do it with a sharpie, but if I’m going to spend money on a print, I’d like to be able to hang it without filling in exposed white canvas with a sharpie.

Canvas Champ says they use archival inks on giclée Epson printers. In an email about ink types and whether they tone the images to match the profile of the printers, they only said they calibrate the printers daily. I know through personal experience both Bay Photo and WHCC convert the embedded color profile and then tone, if needed, to match the output of the printer to make sure the best quality print.

Canvas Champ added that the styrofoam insert is NOT archival but they have not had any issues of outgassing ruining the image. Of course, one must take into account that canvas printing is a relatively new technology. The did reiterate their 99 year “No Questions Asked” warranty

Close-up of Staples and Mount:

© Paul Conrad - The back of the Canvas Champ print showing the exposed foam insert, staples, and mounting hardware.

© Paul Conrad – The back of the Canvas Champ print showing the exposed foam insert, staples, and mounting hardware.

The frame is constructed out of birch wood which uses stainless steel nails in the frame construction and  stainless steel staples to mount the canvas to the frame. The styrofoam insert is glued to the back of the canvas and the frame to add overall strength.

Comparing the cost of getting a 16×20 canvas print:

Printer Cost
Canvas Champ $28.00
White House Custom Color $41.50 and up
Bay Photo Lab $95 and up

CC does have a cost edge over Bay and WHCC. Their lower price makes getting some of my landscape images printed even more enticing.

The Back of a Bay Photo Lab Canvas print:

© Paul Conrad - The back of a Bay Photo canvas prints showing the tight corners, black cover, and felt tabs.

© Paul Conrad – The back of a Bay Photo canvas prints showing the tight corners, black cover, and felt tabs.

Notice on the back of the Bay Photo Lab print how nice it looks compared to the Canvas Champ. If CC were to implement this backing in addition to the foam insert, they will have one great product.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give this particular print a 8. Mainly it loses points on the exposed corner, exposed backing, and difficult mounts. Overall I believe this to be a fairly decent product. In fact, Canvas Champ has an “99 year guarantee on all products , so at any time you feel the canvas is sagging , you can just return it for a new canvas with same image . No questions asked.” as said to me in an email.

But, to better judge their quality, I’m going to buy a few more canvas prints using a different name. You can’t really judge by one photo, especially one that is given to you for a product review.

So to sum up:

What I liked:

      – Rich blacks

      – Good midtones

      – Overall construction

      – Reasonable cost.

What I didn’t like and can be fixed:

      – Bad corners due to poor construction technique.

      – Exposed foam back and staples (cover it with a black backing to clean it up). More of trim issue, but still needed.

      – No felt tabs to prevent scratching your wall. Yes, you can buy these at a hardware store, but it should be covered in the manufacturing.

      – The blown out highlights. Color correct before printing.

      – Mounting option as shipped. Using a wire or the sawtooth hangers would work best as opposed the current option.

Below is a little company info I was emailed:
“Owned by Design print banners LLC , Canvas Champ is an US owned company with headquarters based in Atlanta. CC also owns a couple of other websites  (bannerbuzz.com bannerbuzz.com.au , bannerbuzz.co.uk , bestofsigns.com )  which serve Australia , United kingdom and Canada . The company has 45 employees and we have a joint printing capacity of more than 20,000 sq ft per day.”

Also according the email, they print 20,000 sq. ft. of photos per day. That’s an astonishing 18,702 11x14s!!! That’s a lot!

For a better understanding of their product, visit their site at Canvas Champ Printing.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

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Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Paul Conrad is a talented and skilled award-winning photographer living in Bellingham north of Seattle, WA, in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and in Europe. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. Although his specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, AirBnB, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography Think Tank Photo City Walker 20. Not Just for City Slickers.

Not Just for City Slickers: the Think Tank City Walker 20 shoulder bag

As one of the perks of being a Seattle SMUG (SmugMug Users Group) co-leader, we on occasion get some new gear to check out. A month or so ago, Think Tank Photo gave the SMUGs a camera bag to test drive.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The Think Tank City Walker 20 camera/iPad bag.

The bag I received is a their City Walker 20 photography bag. Overall, I’ll give this bag 4 out of 5 stars. It does have some flaws I believe Think Tank should address.

With this being a shoulder bag, my immediate enthusiasm would be equated to the amount of enthusiasm I had when I had to clean up the dog poop in the yard. I just shrugged my shoulders and said “What the hell, I’ll give it a shot.”

At first, its small size made me wonder if I could fit all the gear I used most. It sat on my floor next to my desk for about a week and a half. During that time, I’d pick it up, go through the pockets, and try to figure out how I would pack it.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - The Think Tank City Walker 20 camera/iPad bag.

It’s small size was oddly intimidating. Mainly because I couldn’t figure out how to organize it. It has a 3-compartment removable insert, extra pads to create new compartments, a protective pouch for a small (11″) laptop, tablet, or iPad. I don’t plan on carrying a laptop so I figure I could use it for something else, like my filter pouch.

There are 5 outside pockets. Mesh pockets on each end, on back pocket, one in the flap, and one to help you organize your pens and such. This is good for me as I like to keep several notepads to write down notes and ideas.

So after finally deciding to test it, I pulled my gear out from my Lowe Pro Mini-Trekker and began stuffing it into the City Walker.I wrote about that bag in a earlier post: Be Critical of Equipment Tests

First thing I noticed was the inability to organize my lenses. I keep my 80-200 and 17-35 on my cameras. My other lenses I like to carry are my 24 f/2, 50mm, 55mm macro, and 85.

I used the extra pads to build vertical compartments. the most used lenses on the top to keep them within easy reach. My filter pouch (which holds 4 filters) goes in the laptop/pad/tablet pocket for easy access.

Without much finagling, I was able to get my gear transferred from my old Lowe Pro to the new City Walker.

Two big surprises:

  1. It held more than I thought. In fact, there is extra room if I decide to ditch an extra body and put the lens in.
  2. It is actually pretty easy to carry.
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Shooting from the hip. The Think Tank City Walker 20 is a small bag which fits easily onto the shoulder and form around your hips.

Without further ado, I went out and began walking around with it. My first time was during a very foggy evening. I use a shoulder bag over my head so it’s not directly on my shoulder. Makes it easier for me to carry and get into when I need something.

What I liked right away is that as a soft bag, it formed around your hips. I really do not feel it much when I’m waling around.

Also, the bag rests on by lower back and I don’t fee the weight. When I do carry it, I keep the flap towards my body for easier access. It also helps prevent pickpockets from getting to this easy access.

The flap closes and then Velcro keeps the flap against the body of the bag. Also for added protection, there is a clasp. Good for when you sit it on a rock while you’re shooting landscapes. Just in case it decides to roll over on its side.

Even with all my gear in it, it was easy to carry. The strap has a padded section with non-slip silicon and it is amazing. Fully loaded, I could barely feel the weight even after several hours.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - All the gear which fits into my City Walker 20 camera bag by Think Tank. There is plenty of room to spare.

With the exception of having to stack my lenses, this case is pretty damn good. It’s easy to keep things organized and easy to get.

But, not all is well on the Western Front. There are a few issues that Think Tank should address:

1. This is very important: First is the lack of padding on the BOTTOM of the bag. There is just a thin layer of foam. For me this is a big issue as I’ve experienced what can happen if the bag is dropped, or put down roughly upon a hard surface.
© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - My Think Tank Bag City Walker 20 camera bag at Boulevard Park resting on a rock next to the shore

Years ago I had a bag with a thin bottom. It was a fanny pack and a really good one. However, the belt broke one day as I was shooting a structure fire for the Bowling Green (Ky.) Daily News and the bag hit the ground. I was swapping lenses out when the buckle cracked. I did not notice anything at first. Everything looked good.

When I got back to the paper, I pulled my gear out looking for the film I shot so I can process it. I pulled one of the lenses and notice the front element was chipped. My 35-135 Nikkor was toast. It was the lens I had on my camera when I switched to a wide.

That being said, I think the bag could definitely use a thicker padded bottom.

2. An Avoidable Annoyance:  The next big drawback for me is that the shoulder strap tends to twist easily. This is annoying especially if you are in a hurry moving from one place to another. You pick up the bag and then have to readjust the strap each time.

A simple matter of adding swivels to the strap would be great. I know they make strong ones capable for the job as my laptop bag has them.

3. An Attached Rain Cover:  Living in the Pacific Northwest, this is a big issue. There is one that is supplied with the bag, however, for the sake of convenience, it would be nice if it was attached in some way. Many bags I know have one you can pull out and it quickly covers your bag. Then when the downpour is over, you can stuff it back into its storage pocket.

Although it comes packed in a small bag with a clip, I don’t like having a little extra bag I have to worry about. Especially if the little plastic clip breaks.

Overall, I really like the bag. It is convenient and easy to use. Think Tank makes some great products so I believe with some tweaking of the design, this could easily have gotten 5 Stars from me.

Here’s a List of the Gear I carry:

Thank you for stopping by and reading. All comments, good or bad, are appreciated.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Pablo Conrad Photography

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