Friday, February 15, 2008

Aperture 2.0

Apple brought out Aperture 2.0. A wonderful update to their photo management and editing app. I have been playing with the demo quite a bit and it does address most of the major problems it had in 1.5. I'll write about it more in the future especially about where I'd hope that the Lightroom folks learn from Aperture 2.0 - and there are quite a few areas. So this is NOT a review and it only addresses a tiny point. It might not be a problem for your camera also, so I suggest you check it out for yourself first. For now, I'll focus on image quality, which for me is of paramount importance. Apple's RAW library has had major moiré problems in the past, where the RAW interpreter would create small little mazes. I am happy to say that most of the worst examples of this have been solved. They were actually already solved in 10.5 Leopard BTW. However, there are some problems remaining. I will compare the quality of the RAW converter in Aperture with that in Lightroom. Here is an image from a frozen lake in the Colorado Mountains taken using my venerable (and very light!) D50.

The ice on the lake has lots of wonderful structure that you can see in this 100% crop from the Lightroom image:

Now compare this with a 100% crop from an Aperture export of the same image:

What is going on? I see anomalously colored areas, little mazes and a generally muddy image. This is not salvageable with any moiré reduction, sharpening or edge sharpening in Aperture. It just becomes more messy. To illustrate further, here is a 300% zoom of the image in Lightroom compared with Aperture:

Lightroom conversion:

You see all the detail and bumps in the ice very well.

Aperture conversion:

Ugh! I admit you have to be a pixel peeper for this, but that is terrible. Of course on a webimage, you will never see it as illustrated by the Aperture image below (compare to the first image on top of this post):

Looks fine at this scale of course. However, you will certainly see this in larger prints (i.e. 8x12 and larger). In all this I haven't even mentioned that Nikon's software conversion of the image is even slightly better than Lightroom/ACR! Also, note that I looked at only one image. I see it in other images too though also from different cameras, but your style of photography or your specific camera might make this less of an issue.

Of course, when I edit this picture further, I would probably brighten the foreground a little and crop it differently. Here is the result starting from the Lightroom image above.:


  1. what you are seeing is a color moire effect. if you adjust moire in "RAW fine tuning" you should be able to eliminate it.

  2. I have tried every possible setting in Moiré as I note in my blogpost, but this artefacting can not be eliminated.

  3. This is pretty close to the reason that I abandoned Aperture for Lightroom. Poor RAW conversion (and more than just moire issues) is just not acceptable – at least not when both Photoshop/Bridge and Lightroom are available with Camera Raw.

    I'm hoping for Apple to blow Lightroom away, because there are several advantages to Aperture over Lightroom (c'mon, Smart Collections can't be that hard to implement!)… but, well, still waiting! :-)