For some reason the most popular post on the site this week was one that I put up this past summer about the Adobe camera profiles for DNG and Lightroom 2. I received a ton of emails that basically asked "Why are you so enamored with the camera profiles?". Well here it is - I am primarily a Nikon shooter (Hasselblad when required) and I am lazy. One of the things that has annoyed me since day one with Apple's Aperture (even though I love it in other ways) is that they cannot seem to give a reasonable default RAW conversion that is anywhere close to anything that comes out of Capture NX or JPGs the camera puts out no matter what settings are set or not set on the camera. The situation has improved a little bit with the latest version of Apple's RAW in Aperture/OS X and is highly camera dependent. The situation has something to do with the tone curve applied and the way the WB info is handled as far as I can tell. Canon shooters are somewhat better off but still stuck with pretty much one dimensional default conversions.
Now here is the deal, given that I hate to spend time in post and have twiddled away far far too many hours in Photoshop since the mid-1990's doing things to people that I have no taste for (Is this supposed to be a photo or a cartoon?) but hey the customer is always right. I will do anyting I can to minimize spending time fiddling with images on the computer, maybe I am just old but I have way more fun doing what I can while shooting than afterwards. This is one of the reasons that I really like the Picture Control concept that Nikon has developed. I know exactly what I am going to get right out of the box - hey that gets me half way there. Heck the results are nearly identical if I apply the same Picture Control to two different cameras, say one from 5 years ago and one that I just got today. Cool. Very Cool. You can even make your own. Enter Adobe's camera profiles for DNG (they work on your NEFs and CR2s as well) - these take the whole picture control thing to a whole new level. They give you a set of tools that let you pretty much map any camera RAW to any rendering so theoretically if I wanted to do the work I could make a camera profile for say a Canon 5D that matched a Nikon D3 using a Nikon "Portrait" picture control. To prove that it works Adobe gives you the same exact renderings that Capture NX2 supports with the camera profiles for all of the supported Nikon NEF files - and they are very very close.
Ok so back to Aperture and why this is a pain in the a$$ for lazy people like me. Well I happen to like to know what the color is going to look like when I am shooting and not have to fuss with it afterwards (much). The way Aperture deals with color/WB info makes this a federal case. I wouldn't mind at all if there was a stock set of adjustments that I could just slap together and use for every shoot but that is not the case. The adjustments are way different depending on the camera you shoot with, the color temperture of the light sources, and the WB that you set on the camera (preset, fixed, auto, whatever) add to that that I like to gel my lights with CTBs and CTOs while manipulating my film (preset WB) and you have a different set of monkeying around that you need to do for every situation. Like I said I am lazy and I hate things that slow me down.
Here is an example (a simple one) of what I am talking about.The following images rendered from my trusty old D2H with the default camera settings (all flat - normal, normal, normal, you get the idea) rendered from left to right by NX2 with camera settings, NX2 with portrait picture control under the develop settings, and Aperture:
What was the camera setup? Like I said all flat and the camera WB was set to 6300K to warm it, sort of like a 85B filter back in the old days. Want to try it for yourself - Here is the NEF RAW file - [download#5]. Go ahead match the colors. It's a challenge for you. Let me know how long you spent or if you gave up. - not just one of the colors all of them. If you need a reference download Nikon View NX and use the portrait picture control under develop, it's free. I am not saying that you cannot get good results, you can it just takes a bit of fooling around, actually a lot of fooling around - get a new camera - fool around some more.
Did it take longer than 5 minutes? Was that a piece of cake, ok here is another one for you to take a crack at if you are up to the challenge, I just added a color or two to the equation. Again from left to right - NX2 camera settings (same as last time), NX2 portrait picture control, Aperture. Here is the RAW NEF - [download#4].
Hey where else and what other photographer would let you see his NEF files? Only here. If you care about this, I implore you to let apple know what you would like to see in Aperture3. How about just using Adobe's DNG spec? License the whole thing? RAW processing plug-in architecture so that maybe you could someday choose the manufacturer's engine, DNG, Adobe's, Apple's little experiment (or big one) What are your thoughts?
Ps. I did gild the lily a little bit - I took exactly 6.3 seconds and added one little tiny embellishment to the center image in NX2 besides choosing the rendering intent. Can you see it? Special prize to the first reader to get it right. <div class="zemanta-pixie" style="margin-top: 10px; height: 15px;"></div>