An Inflection Point

by James Duncan Davidson

Aerial SunriseStarting last evening, and continuing into today, word about the official upcoming release of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 has criss-crossed the Internet. Even though this is a blog for and about Aperture, I think it's important to acknowledge and discuss what Lightroom means for us as photographers and as users of Aperture. A few years ago, we were stuck with tools that weren't really appropriate for the job of dealing with tens of thousands of images. Tools that didn't really match the way we photographers think. Enormous tomes were written about Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Photoshop and we all muddled our way through. But, for the most part, the tools for digital photography sucked.

This has changed in the last few years. It's almost as if those hardy early adopters who bought into the first few generations of Digital SLRs had their dreams answered. I know that they have been for me. It's not just Apple and Adobe pushing the boundaries here, either. There is Nikon with Capture NX. There is PhaseOne with CaptureOne. And there are some other tools out there as well. In fact, there's not a single thing that I moaned about in 2000—when I first hit the problems of RAW workflow—that hasn't been addressed by the current set of tools. Any shortcomings in today's tools are only apparent because they take care of so many of the problems that we used to have. And those big old DAM books? Well, thankfully we've now got tools good enough to make them in need a rewrite.


Jan Steinman
2007-01-29 21:29:00
What would be sweet right now is if Apple announced that their next version would be free to current registered users. That might stem the stampede to Lightroom.
2007-01-29 22:28:35
I hate to say it, but Aperture stands to lose a lot of momentum to Adobe if they don't adopt a modular plug-in adjustment system (I'm talking noise ninja, panotools, sharpening algorithm, crossprocessing/split toning type plugins, not necessarily automagic-art plugins, though they will undoubtedly pop up). And preferably for Apple before Adobe releases their SDK. The update would coincide nicely with an 8 core Mac Pro, don't you think?
Fazal Majid
2007-01-30 00:31:44
It won't stop the stampede for me. Aperture can't seem to handle externally referenced masters of my 5D RAW images without crashing almost immediately after the import starts. Combined with its lack of support for my D30 and R-D1 RAW files, that's a pretty major deal-killer for me. The final version of Lightroom has stacks, which was the main reason I did not switch earlier. All I need now is to write some Python scripts to sync my Shoebox categorization metadata with Lightroom via XMP instead of Aperture via SQLite.
2007-01-30 06:05:48
This line amazing to read, I wish I knew what it meant :

"All I need now is to write some Python scripts to sync my Shoebox categorization metadata with Lightroom via XMP instead of Aperture via SQLite."

2007-01-30 06:54:30
Has anyone else compared Aperture to google's Picassa? Might sound heretical to some but I think a review might be interesting. It is far superior to iphoto in my opinion and has superior tools to Aperture 1.5.2. Picassa (free) also makes indexed thumbnails associated with masters. The reason I switched away was b/c the libary size seems limited to about 30K, though I might be wrong.

Your thought provoking post focusing on lightroom prompted me to bring this up. Chrs

Roger Bourland
2007-01-30 07:45:15
I too am battling the decision of choosing between Capture NX, Aperture and Lightroom. As a newcomer to the field, my biggest issue is basic. Storage. I want to work from external hard disk. Can I install IPhoto, Capture, Aperture and/or Lightroom plus their Libraries on the external disk, or the apps on the computer and the photo libraries on the hd? Seems simple, but is driving me nuts!
jan herrstedt
2007-01-30 14:02:21
Fell in LOVE with Aperture from the first time I saw it nov /dec 2004. Had to buy a bigger maschine to run it. Bought a 2.0 DC Power Mac installed 4.5 GB Ram. The program was very sluggish from start on. Tried to upgrade my graphic card but Was told it was not possible. The card (6600LE) was at the beginning listed under recomended, but has been on an off that list since. The program has been slower and slower. Tried all tricks by turning off previews to rebuilding Library, but all I see is a spinning Wheel that turns longer and longer times. Am I just one of few unlucky persons who bought a PowerMac in okt-dec 2004 .Do I really have to trash my 3500 dollars (app.) investment and buy a new Intel based model to run the program. Im glad Lightroom is there to compete, and Im about to give up the fight. ( I feel Apple has placed a Sign with "idiot" on my back )
I think Apple should have waited to release the program till the Hardware Was ready.
Im looking foreward to the combat. ( I still like Aperture best, but my wallet is not ready for further investment in hardware to run it. )
jan herrstedt
2007-01-30 14:07:02
Im sorry - Correct 2004 to 2005 im my post beneath
2007-01-30 18:10:01
I too expect Aperture and Lightroom to pull and tug at each other.

But the non-destructive editing paradigm in both of these applications are application lock-in. Let's say you've got your entire library of adjustments in Aperture. What happens if Lightroom 2.0 comes out and they revamp the organizational abilities so that it completely blows away Aperture? Or what if you're in Lightroom for the superior RAW conversion but then Aperture 2.0 comes out with even better RAW conversion? You can't import or export your adjustments between either of these apps. Yes, I guess you could export your project as TIFFs, but then you're back at destructively edited pics.

Roger, Aperture works just swell with storing your pics on external drives.

Allan W.
2007-01-30 20:26:52
Jan, if you have a G5 you can should be able to upgrade the video card - not sure what the issue is. Check out the ATI X800XT AGP, for example. Try asking someone else. You need more VRAM!

This is the cost of living on the bleeding edge (c. 2005), I'm afraid.

Apple has a history of releasing software that just baaarely runs on current hardware (OS X for example), in anticipation of faster hardware and a better experience.

Wayne: great points. If both used XMP for storing metadata (a de facto standard, even if Adobe originated), that might be possible. It would also require (a guess) keeping masters externally (fine by me).

James Duncan Davidson
2007-01-30 21:39:42
Brian: Indeed, a plug-in set for image adjustments would be nice. But, at this point, I'd prefer the Apple engineers put the bulk of their effort into performance and RAW conversion improvements. But, that's just me. :)

superf88: I personally haven't worked at all with Picassa since the bulk of my computing is on Macs. It would be interesting to see somebody's take on it.

jan: There are a few options for video card upgrades. My PCI-X based G5 PowerMac has an updated AGP card in it (the x800). And there was just news of a a PCI-Express based x1800 card for that generation of G5 PowerMac.

wayne: I agree that being able to transport adjustments into the future and between applications would be nice, but it's not going to be likely. I'm not sure that there's any better way to preserve a "perfect" rendition of a picture other than making a TIFF of it as there's always the chance that the RAW converters will change going into the future. That said, I don't currently lock in any of my changes this way... most of my image edits are actually pretty minor. Black point/white point/white balance/etc.

What I worry about more is preserving the metadata. The metadata is the key for me to find stuff in the future. That's the bit of lockin that's going to be very real, and which is a long term bugaboo. And it's not just between Aperture and Lightroom. It's between external catalogues such as PhotoShelter.

jan herrstedt
2007-01-30 23:42:43
james and allan : At this point there are no official videocardupgrades for my configuration available in Europe. It does not use AGP-cards, but only PCI-e cards. I was not aware of that when I bought my computer, which was my first Tower like Mac ( had iMacs and eMacs before )One of the reasons I bought the PowerMac was the abillity to upgrade the inside configuration. I admit I had not much knowledge of this stuff at the time, but one of the advantages by PowerMacs I knew was the upgradabillity. Unfurtunately I was wrong about the upgrade possibillity of the v-ram. When I bought the PMac I could (and would have ) bought it with a faster card, but unfurtunately this card was never sold as an upgrade. I hope the ATI x1800 reaches the shelves in Europe soon.
Jacques Cornell
2007-01-31 15:23:22
No, you don't have to trash your G5 investment or buy a MacPro. Just get an X800 vid card if you have AGP or an X1900 if you have PCI-e (x?). I have a 2GHz dual G5 with 4GB RAM and an X800 vid card, and it runs Aperture quite smoothly. It probably helps that my Aperture library is on a fast 500GB internal HD. FYI, if you do buy a MacPro, go for the GT7600 vid card upgrade - the stock GT7300 is a dog.
jan herrstedt
2007-02-01 00:16:43
I dont have a AGP slot, and the x1900 is only for the MacPro according to Apple-store. The x1800 is available in USA, but the companies that sells them dont ship overseas, and perhaps there is a different configuration for the Macs in the US than in Europe. I tell You I have done my homework and read all forums about the topic. There are NO alternatives at the moment For me ( exept for a VERY expensive Quad-card that cost as much as a new MacPro.