Aperture - Something Nice To Say

DSC0009.jpgOkay - so I have been like a whining baby that last few days. Let me say a couple of positive things about Apple Aperture as we are winding the week down. The first thing that I want to say is that in my opinion it is still the best photographic tool in it's class by a large margin. This doesn't mean that it cannot stand some room for improvement. It can but…

Aperture blows the living crap out of anything else out there in terms of an organizational tool combined with a lot of really really nice RAW processing and adjustment tools. People that complain about it usually have no idea what they are doing. So I will address some of what I complain about with a little context of expecting perfection.

I don't think you have ever heard me complain about Aperture's speed - that is because I haven't. I run Aperture and have since the beginning with the appropriate hardware and appropriate expectations for the files that I am dealing with and the amount of work that I am asking it to do all at once. I am serious here - try Capture One Pro, or Nikon NX2 and then let me know what you think. Aperture blows the crap out of them in terms of RAW performance. Yeah yeah yeah a bunch of people will chime in about how wonderfully "fast" Lightroom is - bullshit.

Here is why it is bullshit. When I first started hearing this from some people and dug into it guess what I found. They were trying to run Aperture on like a first gen white MacBook with intel integrated graphics and a gig of RAM. Yeah right - brilliant. The second thing that I found is that most of this is perception - Aperture lets you do way more - way faster than LR from a workflow perspective. It is easier to ask Aperture to do a lot of work than it is to ask LR to do a lot of work. The third thing that I found is that humans are easily distracted by gee-gaws and shiny objects. When LR is doing a couple of common things ti is actually SLOWER but… It moves stuff while it is doing it. Aperture doesn't. Not faster just no look at me I am doing something while the work is going on.

I know that there are a lot of you that will argue me on this point - I have settled this debate many times in person by challenging various LR users whose primary reason for using LR was "speed". Out of more than a dozen or so such challenges that I went end to end on a real world work-flow (their work-flow) I won. Yes there are a lot of variables in this but who cares - Aperture gets to the end faster. Oh - you don't know how to use Aperture, then you are right a much much dumber software will make you faster, maybe.

Let's move on to RAW processing. I am a Nikon shooter (and a Leaf and a Phase One….) I complained about Aperture handling of NEF files. My complaint was exactly the same complaint that I had with ALL other software and I did not start complaining until ACR 5. My complaint was - 1) Handling of WB and 2) No profiles. This was because up until ACR 5 nobody handled it better except Nikon. In reality Aperture's RAW processing is about as good as it gets. It is really really good. There is just one extra step that I have to do in a lot of cases. Now that ACR can do it - Apple and everyone else should figure it out. I do have to say that the newer NEF's are even better in Aperture than the older NEF files.

Capture One - widely regarded as one of the "BEST" RAW converters out there in terms of quality. Compare it to Aperture sometime - Aperture is better in quality in a lot of ways. Apple's RAW conversions are actually very very good quality.

On to adjustment tools - Apertures tool set is one of the best out there in terms of usability and capability of very very fine control. Yes the noise reduction is not capable of dealing with horrendous noise. To be blunt this is getting to be more and more moot but if you need really really "good' noise reduction you will need a 3rd party no matter what. The rest of the built in tools are fantastic - forget the lame dodge and burn - I do not consider that to be built in. If you end up in PS for a lot of your images then who cares. If you don't retouch your images or do effects to them then again who cares. I find LR's local adjustments to be a giant pain in the ass to be honest. I end up shooting things to Photoshop in either LR or Aperture.

The most gigantic mistake that Apple made with it's built in adjustments are the UI with the levels control - functionally it is pretty much the same as the "curves" in Lightroom but nobody in the universe is used to dealing with curves that way. Apple should change that - really, the entire click at the top and play and then click at the bottom and play is not what you want to be doing - it is counter productive because there is no visual feedback to tell you where you want to be when you adjust one of the top and bottom "quarter tone" sliders - it takes too much messing with comparde with manipulation of a single point. Okay that was negative but over all it is positive.

The other thing that I noticed was that "newbies" didn't think that the adjustment controls did "much" - I guess that is because they are so used to the exaggerated effects of having sliders that move a tiny little bit in the range and produce HUGE effects. That's fantastic - all of the useful range of motion is only 13 pixels wide out of 300. Reminds me of camera dudesDSC0009CapOnePro.jpggrabbing a lens in a camera store and looking through it and immediately concluding it was "sharper" because the focus throw was only about an inch verses a lens with 4 times the focus throw. Yea right.


Ps. That "crappy" Aperture NEF RAW conversion is at the top. The one at the bottom is from Capture One Pro V5. Both are "good" if not fantastic conversions.

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