Additional Raw Support For Aperture

by Ben Long

Photographers who have been shooting raw for a while know that there's no standard, accepted raw format. While Adobe has offered the Digital Negative Specification in an attempt to establish a single, open-source raw format, camera vendors have not jumped on-board the DNG bandwagon, and for a number of technical and marketing reasons they probably never will. Because there's no agreed upon raw standard (as there is for JPEG files, or TIFFs, or Photoshop documents) it's not possible for Aperture's engineers to write a single piece of code that will open any raw file from any camera.

To make Aperture compatible with a specific raw format, the program needs to have a profile, or driver, for that specific camera. This profile contains, among other things, information about the color properties of the camera's sensor, gamma correction curves, and other information that Aperture needs to decode the raw image into a final, usable picture. Camera vendors do not publish this information. Instead, anyone who makes a raw converter must reverse engineer this data, a time-consuming, complicated process.

Because Aperture is built on top of Apple's Core Image - an OS-level suite of graphics routines that includes raw processing - raw profiles must be added at the OS level, not just bundled with Aperture. In the past, Apple has only issued camera updates as part of OS updates. Needless to say, this has made them a little slow to add raw support for the latest cameras.

However, Apple has finally taken a more streamlined approach and released the Digital Camera Raw Support Update 1.0, a universal binary update that adds support for the Canon Digital Rebel XTi, the Nikon D80, and the Pentax *ist DS. The readme for the update also says that the update addresses "handling of large Canon Raw files, DNG compatibility on Intel-based Macs, and lines sometimes appearing in images exported from Aperture."

Knowing that Apple can now release raw support updates without having to wait for an OS update is great news, as it means they'll be a little more nimble in keeping up with the latest raw formats. Also, because the raw converter sits in Core Image, installing this one update will add these new raw formats to Preview, iPhoto, Image Capture, and any other apps that base their raw conversion on Core Image.

Now the bad news: for some reason, this update is not bundled with the Aperture 1.5.1 updater, and it's not currently showing up in Software Update. To get it, you need to go here.

It's great that Apple's taking this approach for their raw format updates. Hopefully they'll soon make them a little easier to find.


Thomas Pindelski
2006-11-07 16:26:57
It's certainly nice that Apple appears to have streamlined addition of new RAW conversions.

The fact remains that the two most commented topics in Apple Discussions at regarding Aperture are speed (Aperture is too slow with most machine configurations - even on the Mac Pro) and the fact that some of the most popular cameras from Sony and Panasonic (and others) are not supported - many of these can claim to be semi-professional models likely to be used by pros at the weekend. A huge market opportunity is being missed here and, of course, Apple remains silent.

Whoever at O'Reilly is doing the Joe Schorr interviews (the first one was excellent - thank you) needs to push him on these points.

James Duncan Davidson
2006-11-07 19:18:27
Thanks for the tip! I'd noticed the vertical lines on a few images a few weeks back and was hoping I wasn't going to run into this problem while at Web 2.0. With the update installed, I'll be breathing a bit easier when exporting out JPGs.
Allen Rockwell
2006-11-07 23:20:01
Thanks a lot for the update Ben. I noticed the vertical line problem at export today on my MacBookPro, haven't checked on my dual G5 yet. I'll get the update straight away.
2006-11-08 00:55:15
It's great to seew that Apple is taking a quicker approach to update support for new cameras. However, I'm wondering whether or when Apple will support Leica cameras which definitely belong to the professional cameras (Aperture is ought te be e pro's tool...). There is a big hype just now because of the release of the new Leica M8 digital. We learned from Apple that they ignored the Leica DMR for the R8/R9 already a year or so. So may be they are not planning to support Leica due to its niche situation?

Does anybody know about the update policy Apple has?


2006-11-14 04:42:51
Leica's M8 raw format is DNG. Perhaps we are beginning to see a standard. In theory, this should work with Aperture on Intel based Macs with the new update.

"Digital Camera Raw Support Update 1.0, a universal binary update that adds support ... DNG compatibility on Intel-based Macs."

2006-11-17 08:31:12
The M8 dng format is not supported on Aperture 1.5.1 and neither the update on the raw format is supporting it.

2006-11-28 14:35:27
say, there. i used aperture to import my nikon d70 raw files from picture project, however, once they are imported, i get a message saying the files are an unsupported image format and cannot see the thumbnails. does anyone have any idea what's up? thanks.
Ben Long
2006-11-28 14:45:32
Hey Gigi, are you running the very latest version of Aperture?
2007-01-17 21:21:41
I'm relatively new to Aperture and have a love-hate relationship with the product. It is nice to see Apple is making progress on some crucial needs of Aperture users. The Apple engineering dilemma that you nicely described, while real, should not be users' concern.

In fact Apple's desire to streamline it's engineering efforts has led them to some wrong assumptions and costly mistakes. The best example of "bad" assumptions is that the initial release of Aperture did not support referenced files. I guess Apple assumed that photographers with large library of images can not wait to throw them into the Aperture library! Fortunately that has been fixed nicely. The second poor assumption was to attach RAW update support to Core Image processor (OS releases.) New cameras are introduced all the time and Apple needs to be as responsive as Adobe in supporting various RAW formats. I should be free to choose my next camera instead of leaving that decision to Apple. Again, Apple seems to be addressing this issue as we speak. Finally, Apple must support linear DNG (with all it's flaws.) This goes back to the first assumption. Does Apple think people with large library of DNG files will move to Aperture and leave all that work behind? Aperture development team will be well served to stop thinking what is convenient for them and focus on what is convenient for the users

2007-02-10 14:38:47
Why doesn´t Aperture support Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1 raw format? The DMC-LX1 is a magnificent camera. And it´s raw-format produce beautiful pictures!
Qs from Sweden