I chose for my first test a lousy image that shows one of the main problems we encounter underwater with sunballs and did simple RAW conversions of NEFS with standard default presets in all these programs. I did nothing else, no attempt to apply noise filtering, sharpening, adjusting presets etc. These were shot with my D200 so likely to bring out the worst in all these programs.
I'm posting these images in order, the screen grabs are obviously not as easy to evaluate due to the changes with web conversion etc, but I'll give my two cents.
NX2 standard, old Aperture 2 , new Aperture 3.02 and LR3 Beta 2.
My observations are as follows.
NX2 was definitely the smoothest conversion but still with some cyan banding, and interestingly keeping information throughout the image even the brightest highlights.
Aperture 2, the worst Cyan banding, keeping info throughout the image - overall my least favorite conversion.
Aperture 3.02, the least cyan of all, more blue with some banding, but actually the easiest image to manage with color balance tools. Also appears to be the sharpest conversion when examining the underside of the manta and the least noise. I have to say the image is much more blue on my desktop monitor before web conversion.
Lightroom 3 Beta 2 more cyan banding than NX2, but much better than Aperture 2 and worse than Aperture 3.02 Outer transitions are smoother than Aperture 3, inner transitions are worse.
Conclusions: None of these programs are perfect but I was pleasantly surprised with Aperture 3.02 as it is my database / import storage program. I like the blues, the detail and noise characteristics. LR 3 is good, but not nearly as smooth in the transitions as NX2. Smmother than Aperture in some areas, worse in others. Default sharpness of LR and NX2 are less than Aperture. Noise, Aperture and NX2 the best, though none are bad.
Ultimately I still think I will use NX2 for some difficult images, particularly for it's smooth transitions. Neither LR or Aperture are ideal in this regard, and which I would choose if there is banding would probably be image dependent. One thing about Aperture is it had the least cyan, so color balancing is simpler having to correct more for blues only and not cyan as well. For most standard images I would go as far as to say I am very pleased with Aperture and I am comfortable using it as my baseline RAW convertor, maybe even preferable to NX2 and LR. Difficult images I will compare NX2 and Aperture and choose the one I prefer.
I will continue to look at my images and compare, this was just a quick down and dirty test o see if I should be dumping Aperture. Finally the huge hyperbolic gushing ovr LR3 Beta 2 hardly seems justified. Certainly better than before but hardly superior to the others out there.
Edited by loftus, 07 April 2010 - 05:35 AM.