Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3(beta)

UPDATE 04/26/2010I have written an updated feature comparison of Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3 Beta 2.

You couldn’t have gotten too far into your day without hearing the announcement that Apple released Aperture 3 for photographers. I received a number of messages today, some asking if I heard the news, and many others asking “Should I get Aperture 3 now, or Lightroom 3 later?” My immediate reply to the Aperture vs Lightroom debate has been, “I don’t use Aperture, therefore no comment.” However, since people seem eager for my opinion (you know who you are) let me give you my initial thoughts on how the latest Apple release stands up:

Aperture 3 touts over 200 new features. I can say that photographers who already enjoy this product will find it a worthwhile upgrade. Looking through the list I saw many UI enhancements, but I also noticed many features already available in Lightroom 2, or set for release in Lightroom 3. But what about those new features?

== Aperture 3 New Features ==

Aperture Brushes vs Lightroom Adjustment Brush
Aperture 3 finally adds some targeted adjustments via the Brushes tool. Lightroom users have been enjoying this capability for over a year, and at first glance the differences appear only in the execution of how to apply adjustments. Both products offer an overlay mode to see where adjustments are painted. Both products offer a form of edge detection/masking to allow for clean lines when you paint. Aperture’s Brushes have a setting to either “brush in” or “brush away” an adjustment. Based on my initial assessment there may be additional tweaks you can apply using Aperture Brushes vs Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush.

The Aperture demo includes a quick video on Edge Sharpening using the Brushes tool. As a comment, sharpening in Lightroom via the Details panel or the Adjustment Brush appears to allow more control. Both programs allow you to brush in sharpness, but Lightroom’s Detail panel can quickly setup an edge mask without brushing.

Both products come ready with adjustment presets. Lightroom may have a slight edge for being out longer with more presets in the wild. Of course, Chase Jarvis thinks highly of the presets in Aperture 3.

Faces & Places
I have to admit Faces has a hip factor given you can find/sort photos visually using face recognition technology. Everyone I talked to is amazed by the possibilities, but I don’t know any pros taking advantage of it for tracking images. However, a big plus to this feature is the ability to tag friends on Facebook AND have new Facebook tags sync back to your Aperture library.

Places is pretty cool as well. Geotagging images has become more common, and Aperture has a variety of enhancements that utilize GPS image data for tagging, sorting & organizing. Lightroom can access GPS data, but my initial thought is Aperture makes it easier to use.

Full Screen Mode
Aperture 3 has a new UI mode that allows for full screen images with image controls available via HUD (Heads Up Display). Anyone stuck with one monitor that loves using LOTS of screen real estate will enjoy this feature. Lightroom has the ability to hide panels, but they do not float as in other Adobe products.

OK. I have to say this is the single feature that definitely beats Lightroom 2 & 3. Simply put, more options for slideshow creation including the ability to add video within the slideshow. Lightroom users have to wait until version 3 is released to get music back into their slideshows, Aperture does music and much more.

== Overall Evaluation ==

As I mentioned above, if you’re already an Aperture user this is a must upgrade. The question for photographer’s on the fence is “Which product do I buy?” Lightroom 2 was a leap ahead of Aperture 2 by adding targeted adjustments among other improvements. Aperture 3 closes that gap. My initial thought is the products are evenly matched at this point. I still prefer how Lightroom handles image/database management (a subjective opinion yes), and Aperture’s new Faces & Places technology or even its Slideshows might sway public opinion. However, I have more faith in Adobe to update Lightroom on a regular basis. Aperture 2 was a long time coming.

Bottom line is you should try out both products and see which one best fits your needs. For every argument I give you that Lightroom is the best choice, an Aperture enthusiast will counter with some cool feature they like.

In the end, remember it’s not the tool you choose, but how you choose to use those tools.

Look for a more detailed breakdown of feature comparisons as I get Aperture 3 loaded on my studio workstation in the upcoming week.

UPDATE 02/17/2010 – As noted over at Ars Technica some users are experiencing hard disk issues with Aperture 3.

UPDATE 02/21/2010Gene McCullagh grabbed Aperture 3 before me and provides his expert insight to the product. Also, Sean McCormack & Matt Kloskowski weigh-in on the debate.

UPDATE 03/22/2010Lightroom 3 Beta 2 has support for importing DSLR video files.

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  • Neil February 9, 2010   Reply →

    I have to say this: I am a Mac user but Ap2 was unusable so I went with Lr and have used it for a year. For me, Lr is a hideous app, with a clumsy module approach, tiny light grey over dark grey buttons and hidden panes popping out whenever my mouse moved too close to an edge.
    However, Lr totally thrashed Ap so I sucked it up and went with it the best app.

    Now Apple has leveled the playing field. (-big grin-)

    I’m shooting a wedding this weekend, guess what I’m going to use to process the shoot…
    Sorry Kost.

    • A.J. Wood February 10, 2010   Reply →

      Neil – just a heads up, you can right-click the side panels to turn off the “Auto Show/Hide” feature. One of the first things I did after install.

      I’ll be running Aperture 3 through its paces shortly.

  • Erik Bernskiold February 10, 2010   Reply →

    A.J, don’t forget to note that LR 3 is coming soon too, probably adding a bit on top of the beta. Now is not a good time making switching decisions as we will probably see LR 3 soon enough.

  • Neil February 10, 2010   Reply →

    Thanks AJ!!!
    That was just the tip of the iceberg though!!
    I looked at all the info for Lr3, the videos with Kost and so on.
    I was hoping they’d improve it more substantially than they did, but it just seemed like a ho-hum update.
    We’ll see how Ap3 stacks up.

  • Travel Photography February 10, 2010   Reply →

    I’m totally with Aperture 3, it’s an awesome app and work flawlessly. I’ve never used Lr, Aperture 2 rocked even with some issues but Aperture 3 is more than i’ve ever wanted.

  • CyberGus February 12, 2010   Reply →

    I just found your blog by looking de vs challenge between this two app.

    I’m a long time LR user, it is my favorite raw application.

    Aperture has a really nice Highlights & Shadows advanced panel. It reminds me some third party plugins and HDR applications.

    When it comes to black and white editing… that H&S advanced feature is amazing.

    Greetings from Mexico City.

  • Neil February 23, 2010   Reply →

    What a difference a test drive makes!!!
    Ap3 is an improvement but it’s still a dog.
    On my iMac Lr is quite happy, Ap3 though, is a recalcitrant snail.

    VERY disappointing.
    Lr3 it is!!

  • The grasshopper April 2, 2010   Reply →

    Good, simple and honest review. you’re right it really depends on how you use your tools. that’s really the best advice you gave. Both products are very good and will be getting better to a point where most people will not use all its features, kinda like when people buy photoshop and really all what they really need is photoshop elements. thanks again!

  • Tim Bryan April 7, 2010   Reply →

    Thanks for the great tips.. Now I have a resource for my lightroom needs!

  • Denise Evans July 5, 2010   Reply →

    Great writeup, thanks. I did find it strange, however, that you used the word “faith” and “adobe” in the same sentence. ;P

  • Mathias S July 14, 2010   Reply →

    I’ve used both Lr2 and Ap2, and I really lke Lr2 for its simplicity and its file management. However, I grew to liking Ap2 and bought Ap3 and I really really like Ap3. Between the two, its a battle of preference. They are both unique and will yield pretty much the same result, given that you know how to function the APP properly. Choosing between one is difficult, the best way is to follow your gut on which one you like best.

  • Craig December 23, 2010   Reply →

    This is a great review, and some very useful feedback. As a hobbyist, photography only takes up the small amount of time that I have free, so what I get from that time is important and needs to be good. I have trialed both programs, and from an amateur point of view I think that Ap3 is packaged and pitched much better. Because it flaunts its beautiful Apple charisma, its fluid performance and with its user friendly functions like faces etc, I think for many people on a non-professional level it will win. I’m personally not a fan of the Lr layout either, and maybe an option to decrease the amount of black could be a good move in future editions.

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