April 08, 2007

Apple's Aperture vs Adobe Lightroom


To manage my ever expanding collection of pictures, about 4 months ago I bought Apple's Aperture 1.5. At that time I compared it with Adobe's Lightroom, which was still in beta. Aperture felt a lot more solid with respect to features, especially quick adjustments and book printing options. Lightroom seemed very promising, very fast but kind of short of editing features. In the end, I bought Aperture in the hope the speed will not be an issue on my high end MacPro 3GHz four-core system with 4GB of RAM.

Well, I soon grew disappointed. My photo gallery has about 30,000 shots in it. About 25% of these are scans of slide film, TIFF files whose sizes vary between 32MB and 132MB. About 60% are RAW files from Canon 20D and Canon 5D, with sizes between 7MB and 14Mb. The rest are JPEGs from my wife's and daughter's digital cameras. The files are sorted by year and location in hierarchical directories. The pictures occupy some 360Gb of my hard drive.

Overall Aperture is pretty good in speedy editing features. You have pretty much all the options you're going to use right there in the application. No need to start an external application to change exposure, crop and even tilt the image.

The first problem I encountered with Aperture was that there is no easy way to have it import all the pictures at once. Aperture uses the notion of projects, and each of them is limited to 10,000 pictures. So I had to make each year a project, which in itself is a pain. Then each time I'd add a new directory in my hierarchical directory structure, I would need to remember and import that directory in the right project in Aperture.

But the biggest problem I found was only after I started assigning keywords to pictures. The whole idea of this is to be able to effectively search through your pictures to find what you're interested in. However Aperture becomes increasingly slow as you keep adding keywords and pictures to your projects. At the current moment, doing any search will totally bog down my computer to the point it becomes unusable. How the heck did the Apple engineers implement this feature? Do they open each file to look at its keywords? It certainly looks like this is the case, I can't believe how stupid this solution is.

I was so disgusted by this that I went back to Adobe Lightroom, now a full 1.0 release. The application is still speedy and it seems to be doing the right thing. There are some features missing from Lightroom, that are in Aperture, most notable the picture tilt feature, and the ability to create photo albums and send them to be printed to Shutterfly or some other similar service. Apart for this, the application is much speedier and less CPU and disk intensive than Aperture. Update: I take it back, Lightroom does provide tilting, it's right there in Develop, under the crop feature. Not very well advertised.

This said, I can't wait for future updates of Lightroom and the newly announced Photoshop for MacOS X for Intel.

Posted by ovidiu at April 08, 2007 11:18 PM |

Thanks for posting your experiences on this. I had been struggling over the decision between Aperture and Lightroom for the past month. Yesterday, after a long time of holding both boxes in my hands trying to decide, I finally decided to go with Lightroom. I had been using the betas for quite a while. There are features I really like about both (I tried the Aperture trial version), but the $100 difference helped push me over the edge. I was able to apply the cost difference towards a color calibration system. Overall I'm happy with my decision, but hopefully Adobe comes out with a new version sooner than later.

Posted by: Kevin Ford on April 10, 2007 05:52 PM
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