Aperture And Nikon NEF

I know I drone on and on about this but I thought a few of you Aperture/Nikon shooters out there and maybe even some Leica M9 shooters may find it interesting there seems to be a strange connection in the way that Aperture renders NEF color and the way the Leica M9 renders color in it's JPG's. Well not really a connection but an interesting similarity of "issues". This is going to take some leaps of faith on your part to follow along. This is a code word for (warning long diatribe)

Ever since Aperture's introduction I have been "un-happy" with Apple's default rendering of NEF files. For older cameras to a large degree and newer cameras to a lesser degree. Let's ignore for a second the contrast default curves as those are not that important or hard to deal with. Let's ignore variations in saturation and other in-camera settings that tweak things like contrast and saturation. Let's only talk about hue. For the most part this has been my big issue. I am not a newb when it comes to color, color management, shooting color, manipulating color in the darkroom or digitally. When I shot color commercial work color was absolutely critical - heck I even have a color meter that I haven't used in years. So please don't write this observation off as someone that doesn't understand WB and color and RAW.

There are obviously two ways to evaluate color - qualitatively and quantitatively. in other words - the "rightness" of colors and the pleasingness of color renditions. For the most part my issues with Apple and Aperture on on both counts. I really do not give a hoot about the "why" they seem to insist on doing NEF color wrong - wrong in some cases as straying from accuracy in some hues, wrong as in most people that shoot Nikons tastes, and wrong from way way off the makers JPG renditions - again I am talking hue  - not saturation, not contrast curve. I am talking measurable numbers - like hue number 221.

I have tried for years out of curiosity and frustration for someone at Apple to fix this 3 faceted wrongness in all ways or at least one of the three ways it's "wrong". No, no, no - you don't have to read the in-camera settings and match the JPG in every way, for god's sake please just make the hues accurate, or pleasing, or the same as Nikon. Please - even one of the three would be okay - pick any one. Over the years I have had a grand total of ONE guy at Aperture that was actually an engineer correspond with great interest and ask me for data and and after TWO emails he was silenced never to be heard from again. With no luck at any apparent change in philosophy,I struggled to find out why, why, why - I think the answer lies both in WB interpretation which boggles my mind on how this is possible AND wrongness of color hues even if the WB was exaclty the same.

For the life of me the only thing I can imagine is some Apple guy dubbed in charge of Nikon NEF color is isolated in his little color offices with a freaking macbeth chart and one color temp of light source - "the official" one. From there he tries to get his limited HSL samples on that chart to look the most exact he can, with them all being not quite exact but off by the same amount which he considers mission accomplished. The reason I imagine this is that the Leica M9 color rendition seems to be plagued by the same general theme in both it's camera produced JPG's and it's officially included software, Lightroom. I don't know any M9/Aperture guys but I do have some test files that I can see for myself what they are like in Aperture along with the JPG's - I will bet you it's the same.

The theme goes like this..

  • Blues are too green
  • Yellows are too green
  • Reds suffer random issues - too cool too warm (too purple/too orange) depending on how planets are aligned, what day of the week you shoot, and what you had for breakfast last tuesday.

Sound familiar? Here is the funny part - every single M9 shooter that I have communicated with that has stumbled across my rants on color via google + Lieca + Lightroom + Aperture or whatever frustration keywords that lead them here have a "color preset"  that look exactly like most of my Nikon presets for Aperture with very minor variation. Go figure. I guess the Kodak/Leica color guy and the Aperture/Nikon color guy went to school together. They are on the phone with each other talking about how stupid all of us idiots are that don't appreciate how much more "accurate" they are as measured by some overall self-invented accuracy aggregated number - let's call it five. They are reveling in how good the puce patch number 3 in the lower left looks that everyone else is of by .0001234 degrees on where they nail it. Well that maybe so Mr Lieca color and Mr Apple/NEF color but I can tell you right now your freaking sky is cyan not powder puff blue.

Sorry - there has to be at least one of you that get's some satisfaction out of being in the same boat as a bunch of other people.


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