Aperture 3 And Fuji X-TRANS RAW

A reader asked me if I have given up on Apple Aperture. Short answer is absolutely not. Sure Aperture 3 has it's little quirks and being an Aperture user has it's downsides if you happen to shoot some really strange camera or medium format due to complete and utter lack of support for the RAW files as well as absolutely no communication as to Apple's intent to support the thing or not. I had no idea if Apple was ever ever going to support the weirdo X-Trans sensor from Fuji. So I started processing my Fuji X100S files in ACR/Lightroom. A little while later lo and behold Apple see's fit to provide RAW support in the OS, iPhoto, and Aperture 3 for the X100S, XPro-1, etc.

This actually surprised me. Foveon - nope, for me X-Trans fell in the same boat. Specifically to esoteric for Apple to bother with. Fuji's track record also played into my assumption. They have a long history (measured on a digital scale) of coming up with what they market as the next revolution in imaging sensors that then disappear off the face of the planet just as quickly as they came about. I give X-Trans less than a 50/50 shot at any staying power with Fuji. We could see a regular sensor replace all the X-Trans stuff in the X-Series in the next generation or two. It's kind of more trouble than it's worth.

Getting down to business on the Aperture 3 thing. I really am not the type to go through images with a fine tooth comb regarding RAW processing better-ness and split hairs between which particular RAW processor "wins". I am much more likely to evaluate them on a more macro scale. Does it look okay? Does it regularly cause me specific pain? Is it obviously screwing something up really badly I can see from across the room?

The only thing I have noticed that seems a tiny bit strange is the propensity for Aperture 3 to render a particular shade of pink with extreme saturation. I discussed this a while back and it's pretty easy to remedy, unlike some of hat smeary-ness that rears it's ugly head which I have not personally seen in Aperture 3.

Let's take a little trip back through recent history as an X-Trans RAW shooter… for a while nothing supported RAW except shitty-ass Silkypix. Then magical wonderful Adobe did. Too too bad it looked like absolute shit. Not all the time but enough that you really didn't need to look at your images under a microscope to see the digi-funky-ness. Hey, great, it's supported but looks like shit. Then pretty much everybody else supported it including real support that actually worked from Adobe. I won't split hairs here and get into which particular RAW processor finish decent support absolutely first but generally speaking all of them sorta kinda worked decently around the same era.

From my particular perspective I think Aperture 3 X-Trans RAW processing is about as good as it gets at the moment. I find it odd that Capture One seems to get all sorts of praise on its awesomeness compared to ACR in this specific contest but Aperture 3 get's no love. Heck even some of the really bit players seem to get all sorts of praise. I really don't get it.

I have followed the X-Trans RAW processing wars probably as much as any or the rest of you Fuji X shooters out there. Here's my take on it… I have seen maybe two or three people that have demonstrated the true awfulness of the version 1 ACR and X-Trans as well as some other quirks (mostly ACR version one). I have seen comparison after comparison after comparison of more recent vintages that allegedly demonstrate some sort of superiority of Capture One vs X, Y, or Z… I have even seen some comparisons that show how much more better some esoteric third world RAW processor is vs I, J, and K. All of these recent comparisons generally seem to boil down to either anecdotal nits that may be better for one single image but not another. Other times all I see is a completely different default tone curve which amounts to nothing.

At this point having ACR/Lightroom 5, Capture One, and Aperture 3 in my personal arsenal and having processed the same large groups of images through all of them at one point or another my gut reaction is that Capture One and Aperture 3 are about on par. ACR/Lightroom 5 are not bad but maybe not quite as good as the other two, and from various scientific comparisons of those esoteric RAW processors - I see no clear night and day difference for them and the big three.

Me - I feel very comfortable processing my X-Trans RAW files in Aperture 3. I do it all the time. So why do I talk about Lightroom 5 a lot when also talking about Fuji X Series cameras? To be blunt - I am lazy. It just so happens the VSCO film implementation for Lightroom along with the Fuji profiles happen to deliver results I am comfortable with when I do absolutely nothing but import and then resize on export. Do I get similar or even superior results using Aperture 3? Sure I do. I just haven't really taken the time to develop a set of standard tweaks of my own or hacked at VSCO for Aperture that do the same thing.

I probably should - every time I use Aperture it reminds me how much I abhor Lightroom's interface. It feels a lot like driving a 1974 Buick LaSabre station wagon compared to a BMW M or something there about. It's just that I haven't spent any serious time in either of them on my own images lately. Pretty much shoot, import, done.

At the top of the page you can see a screen shot (100% of all the pixels of my 27" screen in a new window if you want). This is typical of what I see in Aperture 3 for X-Trans RAW files with a few tweaks for my particular mood of the day. Here's another one…

I don't see anything particularly heinous going on in hair or fabric or anything like that. Looks good to me. Definitely not anything I am going to care about at any reasonable display sizes. As good as Capture One - for my images pretty much on par. As good or better than ACR/Lightroom… Meh who knows either will do - probably depends on the particular image if you are pixel peeping but I would have to put my money sight unseen on Aperture 3 just from the anecdotal evidence that I can actually see reported here and there.

If you happen to be a Fuji X-Series shooter that is experiencing RAW processor envy or are searching for the perfect RAW processor or somehow just don't like what you have definitely give Aperture 3 a spin before you fork over a whole lot more cash for Capture One based on what seems to be a lot of random gushing about how so superior it is for the X-Trans RAW files. I 'm not seeing it here. Heck - if you are an X-Series fan you probably value simplicity and it might be a perfect fit.

RB

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