Panstoria Photo Book Review


Panstoria, the maker of Creative Memories StoryBook Creator, is launching their own line of photo books and other products through panstoria print shop. They also offer Artisan software. I received my first photo book yesterday and here is what I like, and what I don’t like. I directly compared Panstoria’s photo book to the same photos printed in a Creative Memories photo book. The photo book is a sample so it is possible some of the details may change prior to their official launch. I did not evaluate other photo products from Panstoria.

Packaging and resulting damage to photo book

Packaging and resulting damage to photo book

Packaging – Packaging is important, and the current packaging is inadequate. I received my photo book with what looked like a normal amount of wear from shipping. Unfortunately, the box was insufficient to protect the corners of the book from shipping damage. When I opened the package, the corners of the photo book were clearly damaged. Panstoria will need to improve packaging, or they will face significant returns and reprinting costs from shipping damage.

magenta defect

Magenta printing defect

Print Quality – Panstoria’s photo books are clearly high quality with minimal  flaws. When compared to Creative Memories, sometimes I preferred the Pansoria’s printing, and other times I preferred Creative Memories printing. Panstoria’s photo book had no noticeable banding, and black and white photos were neutral. One photo did show some magenta printing defects. When viewed up close, Panstoria’s prints appear slightly more grainy, possibly due to the vertical screen angle that is used. At normal viewing distance this graininess was not as noticeable. Some photos appear slightly darker in Panstoria’s photo books and this may be objectionable with some images. Overall, I would give the edge in print quality to Creative Memories. I expect improvements in print quality to take place over time, as Panstoria optimizes their color profiles and their Xerox iGen4 printing process.

Creative Memories photo book binding (top); Panstoria photo book binding (bottom)

Creative Memories photo book binding (top); Panstoria photo book binding (bottom)

Binding – Panstoria uses 25 gauge stainless steel wire stitching for hardcover binding, and PUR adhesive for softcover books. I contacted Werner Rebsamen with the Hardcover Binders International, and he specifically cautioned against the use of stainless steel wire for this purpose, indicating that similar bindings had failed prematurely when tested with the Universal Book Tester. In addition, ISO standards for hardcover books do not recommend metal stitching.

While Panstoria’s vendor has not done official burst testing, they did state, “What we found was that wire stitching doesn’t hold up to the fiber stitching when you try to pull the whole book block away from the cover (for example take the cover bend it all the way back and then pull the cover from the book block).  It does however stand up better when trying to tear out an individual page.  The wire stitching perforates the pages less so they are harder to tear our than a standard sewn book that may perforate each page 3 to 4 times more.”

Lay-flat pages significantly reduce the stress on hardcover bindings, and I recommend this option for hardcover photo books from Panstoria. PUR is the recommended approach to softcover books, so there should be no problem there.

Cover – Panstoria offers matte and glossy options. Glossy works well for all covers and I suggest this option for photo books with darker covers, since matte laminates make these covers look muddy. Unlike Creative Memories, Panstoria does not texture their covers. Panstoria offers a choice of black or white end papers, compared to Creative Memories spargo.

Warranty – Panstoria does not offer the same warranty that Creative Memories has typically provided, stating “We do 30 days for all workmanship defects free of charge (doesn’t include subjective determinations of print quality like my photo is too dark, or “that red isn’t the same as on my monitor” type issues). We just ask that they be reported within 30 days of the order.”

What this means is that you must inspect all books carefully when you get them, and if you don’t like the print quality, you may be out of luck.

Summary – I will use Panstora’s 12×12 softcover book for my photo books. The convenience of being able to create and order photo books in a single product is compelling. For special occasions, I will order the hardcover book with lay-flat pages.

For more information, see What Is a Good Photo Book, Photo Books to Avoid, and More Photo Books to Avoid.

Note added 9/24/2013: Cover texture is a matter of preference. Panstoria offers matte and glossy, instead of the textured glossy that CM uses. I like the textured glossy and selected it for CM; however, I am perfectly comfortable with the options Panstoria has available, just like I am comfortable with their end sheet options. I simply want to highlight some of the differences between photo books.


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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28 Responses to Panstoria Photo Book Review

  1. Shirley Hamblen says:

    Very interesting, Dr. Mark. It just makes us miss the CM quality all the more! Thank you for sharing your research with us.

  2. Louanna says:

    Thank you SO much Dr. Mark. God bless!!!

  3. Tara Kellam says:

    This is so helpful, Thank you Mark!

  4. Amy white says:

    What a brilliant review Mark! Thank you so much for taking the time to contrast and compare. I always love enjoy reading your blog.

  5. Mindy says:

    Once again, Dr. Mark, an educational and well-written review. Thanks for doing our homework and leading the way!

  6. Shirley says:

    Thanks for the review…it is most helpful. I’m sad to see CM’s digital albums go…

  7. Annette says:

    Thank you very much for this review. I notice from Panstoria Print Shop’s site that they can only print lay flat binding on hard cover books up to 59 pages. I’m hoping this changes in the future.

  8. Sher says:

    Hi Mark – is Panstoria aware of your review and looking for your technical expertise input with regard to their printing? (I’m hoping so!). You mentioned the cover was not textured. Is that a pro or a con when it comes to photo books? In the past, you have discussed the need for laminated pages to avoid humidity issues. Are the pages laminated in the Panstoria books? Did you receive and inspect a lay-flat page hard cover book? I think cm’s lay-flat binding is really awesome, so I’m hoping Panstoria’s is as well. I have been really waiting and hoping for your Panstoria review. I find it terribly hard to get fully-disclosed technical quality information about online company’s photo books. It’s frustrating not to be able to look and see if a digital album printer has the quality you want to purchase. Your work and years of technical expertise and willingness to provide us with such valuable information is greatly appreciated.

  9. Mark Mizen says:

    Panstoria follows Facebook, so I am sure they are aware of my review. I did not receive or inspect a lay-flat book. Lamination is typically used to protect the covers not the pages.

    Cover texture is a matter of preference. Panstoria offers matte and glossy, instead of the textured glossy that CM uses. I like the textured glossy and selected it for CM; however, I am perfectly comfortable with the options Panstoria has available, just like I am comfortable with their end sheet options. I simply want to highlight some of the differences between photo books.

  10. Hi Mark —
    You are a valued treasure! Thank you so much for this information and all the information you share with us. I feel like I have an angel watching out for me with your reviews. Thanks again.

  11. Thank you for the review. Looking forward to some of the new features of Panstoria.

  12. Excellent review Mark. Its wonderful to see one who cares so much and wants to help others by sharing what is found in research and attention to detail. Love the precedence you set to your work and the quality of support you have always offered. Thank you for your strong work ethic and all you have given in the line of research through the years.

  13. Pingback: Panstoria Photo Book Review | All About Images Blog | Memories Valued

  14. Pingback: Panstoria Photo Book Review Part 2 | All About Images Blog

  15. Barbara Neller says:

    Thank you! This is a very objective review. It seems like the worst problems (packaging and print quality issues) are easily fixed. It will be nice if Panstoria reads it and make the improvements you suggest. It will be a shame if we have to save jpegs of our pages and import them into other programs in order to print at another provider. We need Panstoria to be successful and profitable so we can keep using their wonderful software now and in the future. Keep up the great work.

  16. Lora says:

    Thank you Dr Mark! Have you found where to order quality 12×12 leather books like we had through CM. Know a woman who has 12 of them and can’t figure out where to tell her to get new ones now that CM is done…Thanks again for your wonderful comments and reviews!

    • Karen says:

      The companies are out there because wedding photographers use them. We never had to “look around” before to see or find them. Now to find places with the CM quality we are used to!

  17. Cheryl says:

    Reblogged this on Scrapping Precious Memories! and commented:
    Check this out!

  18. Pingback: Panstoria Photo Book Review Part 3 | All About Images Blog

  19. Connie Cooke says:

    Hi, Mark. I ordered a 5×7 book from and was pretty happy with it. The customer service was good and it was shipped faster than CM could have done it (when they were doing it!). My only complaint was that, for the soft cover books, they are not customizable on the back cover. Their price was good at $12.99. The quality was up to that of CM, at least to me. Good color and quality paper weight. I would like to order a hard cover book but, after reading the above reviews of other companies, I’m a bit loathe to try them out. Have you had any experience with them at all?

  20. Pingback: Panstoria Photo Book Review Part 5 | All About Images Blog

  21. Brenda says:

    Thank you for this information. I am getting ready to order a hard cover digital photo book with 100 pages. I am so disappointed that Panstoria does not provide the lay flat options for books with 100 pages. CM did them very well and it was my understanding that CM sent their photo books to Panstoria to print. Sooo, why can’t Panstoria product a lay flat book with 100 pages? Also, in future can we do away with the page limits?

    • Mark Mizen says:

      Panstoria determines its page limits based on the thickness of the paper and their binding process. You can probably submit a product suggestion through their web site. CM produced its own books and did not use Panstoria.

  22. Brenda says:

    When CM was up and running, they had volunteers that maned a website that allowed CM digital photo users to talk with each other, have periodical challenges and even allow users to view pages completed by others for motivational purposes. Does anyone know if this is being done yet by Panstoria or some of the CM folks that stayed on as consultants? If so, can you provide me the URL?

  23. Brenda says:

    Just received my first hard cover photobook from Panstoria. I am disappointed in the quality BECAUSE the colors on 90% of the pages is completely different from what I see on my computer and because some of my pictures are dark. When compared to the picture in the computer, I can see the person’s face. In the book, the face area is too dark to make out the face. Some people said some time ago that if the colors don’t match, you need to calibrate (or do something) to your computer. But, I did not have the dispairty with CM and I don’t know how to calibrate a computer. Any comments?

  24. onecalmmom says:

    I had problems with photos being too dark in my CM digital books. Shutterfly was even darker. Both reprinted them after I went in and lightened everything. Now I really lighten my photos. You can google how to calibrate, but I would never attempt it. Guaranteed, I’d ruin my computer!!!

  25. Cathy says:

    Mark, what type of binding were CM’s books? What was the name of the binding? There are so many: library, perfect, casebound, flushmount… ?

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