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 Camera vendors do not publish this information.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.