Aperture 2 vs Lightroom 2 Beta

The two biggest players in the photo management game for OSX are Apple’s Aperture and Adobe’s Lightroom products. Both take RAW files in and make it easy to do basic editing and processing to greatly reduce the time required to process your images. Today, we will be testing the speed of imports, as well as their respective processing outputs, with sample images and 100% crops.

Lightroom VS Aperture

We used the latest versions of Aperture 2 and Lightroom 2 private beta (available to owners of Lightroom and by invitation). To test import speed, a Sandisk Ultra 2 card was filled with 21 RAW images, taking up 144.6MB space. It was placed in a Digital Concepts USB 2.0 CompactFlash Card Reader and connected via USB to an Apple Macbook Pro laptop with a 5400RPM hard drive. We used a clean install of Mac OSX 10.5.3 Leopard and new installations of Aperture and Lightroom. The camera used for testing was a Canon 30D.

First up – the import speed test. This was fairly self explanatory: both immediately recognized the CF card when it was inserted and were ready to roll.

Aperture was by far the big winner here, clocking in at 20.5 seconds to import our 21 RAW files.

Apple Aperture Import Speed

Lightroom had a much poorer showing, though it is currently a beta version. It took 35.5 seconds to import our test files.

Adobe Lightroom Import Speed

But what do measly seconds mean when the greater issue is image quality? We did a comparison test using the automatic tools built into Aperture and Lightroom to compare the final image quality. Thought you will always get the best results out of an individually processed file in Photoshop, Canon DPP or Nikon Capture NX, a photographer trying to process thousands of RAW files on a deadline doesn’t have time to edit each file. These presets and automatic adjustments are huge timesavers if the end result is acceptable. We used factory default settings and clicked Auto Adjust for both programs.


Full size (resized for web)

Lightroom Image Sample

100% Crop (resized for web)

Lightroom Image Sample Crop


Full size (resized for web)

Aperture Image Sample

100% Crop (resized for web)

Aperture Image Sample Crop

In my opinion, Lightroom is the winner in terms of image quality using the automatic settings. Quality is completely subjective and I encourage readers to voice their opinions using the comment form as to which they feel is the better result, but the Lightroom sample is more pleasing to my eye then the Aperture sample. It may be due to more aggressive sharpening or higher contrast, but the Aperture version looks softer. Again, no sliders or settings were manually adjusted; only auto tools were used. It does appear that the Lightroom crop has more digital noise then the Aperture crop, perhaps a byproduct of the sharpening (or a lack of noise reduction, which can make an image less sharp).

Like any test, please take this with a grain of salt. Hopefully this has helped shed a bit of light on the best options for photo cataloguing and processing.

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