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February 16, 2008

Aperture 2.0 and Lightroom

Contentfooter_trial20080206 Face it, I'm a mac guy. Always have been, always will be. I'm also an Adobe guy, they make great software. When both companies came out with their professional image management and RAW processing packages, I was beside myself. I dove straight into both products and in the end, my choice was Aperture.

Aperture and Lightroom both have their pros and cons, but Aperture just seemed to fit into my work flow better. It just felt so good to work in. Lightroom on the other hand had amazing image controls, but for some reason it all just didn't seem natural to work in. When working with 100K+ image, things have to feel natural, and Aperture was awesome.

Now, I'm not saying Aperture is perfect. Far from it. Apple is ungodly slow at updating the software to support new camera RAW formats. This is just unacceptable for a professional software package. I had to wait over a year for them to add support for the Leica D-Lux 2. Then comes Nikon's newest most incredible professional cameras ever (Nov 07) and it took Apple nearly 3 months to add support (Feb 08). On top of that slap in the face, support for the Nikon D3 and D300 is only available if you purchase their $99 upgrade to Aperture 2.0. Granted I would have updated my software anyway, it just felt a bit sleazy to wait 3 months and then be told it would cost $99. Many other RAW converters (including Lightroom) had support for the cameras the day they were released.

During those 3 months of waiting for Apple to update Aperture, I got much more comfortable with Lightroom. So much so that I almost ditched Aperture all together and went 100% LR. I would have made the switch if not for 1 feature that Apple added to Aperture 2.0. Third party plug-in support. This is huge. Now, the application can be extended to do virtually anything to an image. Think selective dodge and burn, split toning, lighting effects, noise reduction, better sharpening and film simulators. If Apple did it right, anything should be possible. The downside is they have yet to release the SDK so no one really knows how great the plug-in architecture is going to be.

Besides the plug-in support, Apple has made some amazing changes to Aperture 2.0. I have always experienced great performance from Aperture. I run it on a 4 processor Intel Mac with 8 gigs of RAM, a kick ass video card, 30" cinema display and all my images are stored on a 6 terabyte Apple RAID array connected via fiber optic cable. Needless to say, most things are blazing fast on my machine. Then comes 2.0 and performance is just stunning. Everything I do in Aperture is instant. Way to go Apple!

The new image controls like Recovery, Vibrancy, Definition and the ability to choose specific colors to modify in the color pane are excellent additions. While they made Aperture come closer to Lightroom's controls, LR is still the champ when it comes to the image editing controls. Hopefully this will change soon as developers start to release plug-ins to add features that Aperture is missing and Lightroom already has. Can someone please make a split toning plug-in?

In the end, while both products are great, Aperture is my choice (for now). If I run into another few months of not being able to use it because of lack of support for a new camera, I will probably jump ship. It is just unacceptable. I also look forward to the next major release of Lightroom. Add plug-in support and the ability to use masks to edit only specific areas of an image, and I might be swayed to leave Aperture.


Do you not have issues with a library that size? I had a 160,000 image library running on Mac Pro Quad core with 6GB RAM and striped SATA RAID, and Aperture would freeze all the time, often for a minute or more. I have now split my photos up with one Library per year, but it's a shame to have to do that.

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