Thursday, February 08, 2007

Aperture and Photoshop Lightroom

The introduction of Aperture by Apple created a new stir in the photography world. For the first time, an application effectively combined excellent RAW processing with revolutionary photo management and presentation. Of course, the industry heavyweight and graphics and image processing had to act. This act was in the form of Photoshop Lightroom (Lightroom hereafter) introduced by Adobe.

I have used both products since their introduction. That was 1.0 for Aperture and Beta 1 for Lightroom. Initially, both products had some rough edges. This was cleaned up considerably for Aperture 1.5. The final beta of Lightroom came a long way as well. At last, after over a year of beta testing, Adobe has announced that Lightroom 1.0 will be available February 19. Many comparisons will be made in the coming months. These are some of my thoughts.

I am not doing a an exhaustive review or even close to it of either product. These are simply some of my observations. Aperture seems to work better at allowing you to focus on photography. The processing tools and management tools are extremely efficient and in many ways intuitive for an experienced photographer. It seems to me that Lightroom allows you to be more flexible in some ways with your workflow but the workflow is more complex and not as efficient. Of course, it all depends on what you are used to. If you have spend many hours working with Photoshop and Adobe Camera Raw, you may find just the opposite to be true.

Ultimately, I think both products are very good but I do think that Aperture pulls ahead right now. That may change in the future. There is one huge advantage I see in Lightroom for the time being and that is greater support for RAW files from many diverse cameras. Aperture requires that every camera be specifically supported at the operating system level. Unfortunately, this has not been a quick process for more obscure cameras. For example, the Pentax K100D, K110D, and K10D cameras are not supported by Apple yet. Adobe certainly had a lead on Apple in this respect because of its pre-existing Camera Raw software.

Lightroom also supports DNG fully. Because of this, the Pentax K10D DNG files straight from the camera work well with Lightroom and Photoshop CS2. Adobe Camera Raw does not include optimized support for the K10D which of course means that the PEF RAW files would not work but because of DNG support, the DNG RAW files work fine. I understand the Adobe Camera Raw 3.7 will include full K10D support. Aperture, by contrast, only supports DNG files from cameras that are already supported by the operating system. Therefore, the K10D is not supported by Apple as of yet although this may change with the impending release of the Mac OS X 10.4.9 update.

Because of the slow addition of RAW support for cameras that are less common, Aperture is at a slight disadvantage. On the other hand, most professional photographers shoot with very mainstream equipment. This means typically Canon or Nikon gear. There are exceptions to this but not very many in the grand scheme of things. I have been looking at some of the Panasonic and Leica digicams that support RAW but only an older model from each manufacturer is supported. Support for the Leica DMR as well as the Leica M8 is noticeably absent. Of course, the argument could easily be made that Pentax or Olympus cameras are much more likely to be used by most people. You do not see a Leica in everyone's hands. Because of that, I think Apple is concentrating on the most used cameras first. Canon and Nikon cameras were almost all completely supported from day one along with some other more common cameras that support RAW. Pentax *ist D support existed as well but it took some time for *ist DL and finally *ist DS support to appear.

Well, those are just some thoughts. I think I will end up using both Aperture and Lightroom for different reasons. Ultimately, I would like to use Aperture exclusively. Hopefully Apple will surprise us with additional camera support more quickly than we had expected.

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