I spent some time the last few days playing around with an Aperture Plug-in. My idea was to create a plug-in that could address a big problem for those of us still using Aperture — lack of camera support. The macOS blocks new camera support from Aperture, so the two new cameras I bought recently get the dreaded black “unsupported image” square when I import their images.

I figured that if I could write a plug-in that could decode images (using the RAW Power engine), I could output TIFFs back to Aperture, and all would be well. Once that worked, I could make something more sophisticated that could allow editing of images by invoking the RAW Power app. Sounds good.

After some rummaging, I was able to find a download link to the Aperture SDK, and was actually able to build and install a sample plug-in. Kind of amazing, really. I started getting excited about the prospects and then a bucket of cold water got dumped on my head: if an image is unsupported, Aperture refuses to send it to a plugin. A bunch of work down the drain.

Then I tried the other kind of Aperture plug-in: the export plugin. A bucket of iced tea this time. Aperture sends the unsupported file (yay!), but shortly after that, Aperture throws an exception and crashes (no!). The crash only happens with unsupported images and I can’t catch or block the exception. Close, but another dead end.

This brings up a question: is there any reason to write a RAW Power plug-in for Aperture that works for supported images? I can’t think of one, though I have gotten requests for it many times. Maybe those requests are for camera support, which won’t work.

If not Aperture, would plug-ins be truly useful for Lightroom, or maybe Luminar / Photoshop / Affinity? If you have an opinion, please comment below.

Happy New Year!

27 Comments

  1. John Newman

    I currently use Lightroom CC but have RAW Power and have recently purchased the latest version of Luminar. I’m aware that I can use RAW Power as an extension to Apple Photos but I’m waiting to see what Luminar offers in terms of a DAM. In any case, I will ditch Lightroom in about 10 months but am not sure whether I will opt to (mainly) use Luminar or go for Photos with other software as extensions or stand-clones with final edits being imported into Photos (probably Photos with extensions).

    I don’t even know whether Lightroom CC accepts plug-ins (it probably will eventually?) but in fairness it’s pretty good at developing Raw files anyway so personally I wouldn’t use RAW Power as a plug-in for LR or Photoshop but certainly would for other software such as Luminar and Photos.

    Just my views,

    Regards,

    John.

    • Nik Bhatt

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I haven’t looked into LR CC for plug-ins. I was thinking more about the classic LR. A number of customers don’t want to pay Adobe a monthly fee, but then they lose camera support over time. I don’t know if LR will have the same issue as Aperture when it comes to unsupported images though.

  2. Trophy92

    I have always used Aperture and always will while it still works. However my big worry is upgrading my camera. I already know several people who have upgraded to Canon 6D MkII and 5D MkIVs and are annoyed that they are not supported even though High Sierra supports these cameras. An Aperture plugin to support new cameras would be grately appreciated by everyone who uses Aperture and still see it as a superior raw converter to Lightroom. I have purchased Raw Power for Mac OS and iOS and plan on testing it out in the near future but would really like an Aperture plugin version.

    Regards, John

    • Nik Bhatt

      Hi John,

      As I wrote in the blog post, it turns out that it’s not possible to write a plugin to add camera support to Aperture. When Aperture sees an unsupported image, it refuses to send the image to a plugin. I have two unsupported cameras that I recently bought (a Panasonic G85 and a TG-5 (waterproof)), which is what spurred me to try making a plugin.

      Since a plugin won’t work, I’m using DNG Converter to create DNGs and then import them into Aperture. That works, so it’s something you could consider trying. You get camera support, and are able to use Apple’s RAW converter.

  3. Trophy92

    The issue a number of us have is that Aperture has a better Raw engine than Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop. If we convert our Raw Files to DNG files will they be the same as the original Raw file or the same as if you open them in Lightroom and then not be able to recover the highlights. Aperture recovers more detail in the Highlights than Adobe ARC.

    What we would really like is someone to take Aperture from Apple and continue to update it so it supports new cameras so we can then open in Photoshop and round trip the files. Aperture is so good as a database for our images so we can compare Raw files to the psd.

    • Nik Bhatt

      When you convert the RAW file to DNG, you are not switching RAW Converters. You are repackaging the RAW, but not decoding it. If you take the DNG and import it into Aperture, then you will be using Apple’s RAW engine to decode it. In the past, the DNG conversion and the native RAW conversion were somewhat different, but that’s not the case any more — they should be identical or nearly so. I suggest trying with a single RAW for a supported camera — you can compare using Aperture natively and also after converting it to a DNG.

  4. Philip Richardson

    Hi Nik,

    I’ve moved from Aperture to Luminar, so Raw Power as a plug-in for Luminar would be much appreciated. Thanks.

    Best regards,

    Phil

    • Nik Bhatt

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for letting me know. Luminar’s Plugin system is not very complete right now (for example, you can’t use the On1 plugins with their app (I emailed Macphun and they said it’s “coming”). I’ll have to see if they can produce an adequate plugin system that can pass RAWs. I think their current system uses the Photoshop plugin and passes rendered images).

  5. Nik Bhatt

    I just shipped a plugin for Lightroom — you can download it on the Downloads page of the website. You’ll need RAW Power 1.4 as well.

  6. Patrik Wikström

    If you still have som contacts inside Apple, and you have ideas, one could think that Photos could be enhanced to make creating plugins better and smarter? It might also be a dead end but I don’t know?

    • Nik Bhatt

      I’m not sure what you mean. What are the current problems with making plugins today? (The only one I know of is the fact that you cannot chain plugins together without going through a JPEG compression step).

  7. Jessica

    I would love to see you do a plug-in for Photoshop. Is this possible? I think this would be superior to using Camera Raw as a filter.

  8. Valdo

    I dont know if this is the right area for my posting as this is a feature request for macOS RawPower.

    It possible to implement printing to RawPower via some kind of ColorSync Utility plugin?

  9. Joerg Thomas Klein

    I use RawPower because it works like Aperture, but the most I miss is the database from Aperture. I’ve seen apps that can read the Aperture library (Graphicconverter for example). Interesting for RawPower would be to read and write the Aperture library or to make plugins for other DAM systems like Photo Supreme.
    And I miss a correction of chromatic aberration.

    • Nik Bhatt

      I don’t know if reading and writing the library is something I can do soon, but it’s certainly something worth considering. Agree that chromatic aberration is important – I hope to add it to a release in the near future.

  10. Priit

    Hi Nik,

    I read the sentence “The macOS blocks new camera support from Aperture, so the two new cameras I bought recently get the dreaded black “unsupported image” square when I import their images.” back and forth several times, and still can not understand, how exactly is macOS doing this?
    As far as I can see, the Apple Camera Raw package has been updated on my mac several times after last distributed manual update of v6.21. So the assets are there.
    Also the RawCamera executable is newer, labeled v8.04.
    Going from that, I assume that Aperture 3.6 is still able to use the latest RawCamera.bundle and the RawCamera binary inside it and is able to load and use the “old” .cam files (Raw files of my Sony a7, a7II, a7RII, a7SII and a6300 are supported).
    How does it block the newer .cam files being used?? For example Raw files of a6500, a9, a7RIII and a7III are not.
    The only difference between the .cam files I can discern, is the attribute “minRawCameraVersion”.
    Can this be the deciding factor?
    If so, first thing to try would be simply to tweak it’s value.

    • Nik Bhatt

      That’s a good question. For example, as you wrote, the a6300 works fine. However, the Panasonic G85, which Preview and Photos can decode, is unsupported in Aperture, though Photos and Aperture are both using the latest RAWCamera bundle and associated resources.

      The OS blocks new camera support for Aperture and iPhoto through versioning. The last version of RAW that the OS provides to Aperture is version 6 — Apple has shipped version 8. The a6300 has a version 6 and version 7 decode, so Aperture is able to decode the image as a version 6. The G85 has only a 7, so Aperture cannot decode it at all. So, while the a6300 is supported, improvements to the decode of a6300 images will not be made available to Aperture or iPhoto. New cameras will appear with version 8 decodes and will also be unavailable to Aperture. You can convert anything to a DNG, which will work in Aperture. If it does not for some reason, you can use DNG Converter to use a lower DNG version, which Aperture can decode.

      I have not tried modifying the RAW Camera support files, so I cannot speak to how well that would work as a general solution.

  11. Priit

    Hi Nik,

    “The OS blocks new camera support for Aperture and iPhoto through versioning. The last version of RAW that the OS provides to Aperture is version 6 — Apple has shipped version 8. The a6300 has a version 6 and version 7 decode, so Aperture is able to decode the image as a version 6.”

    I still have hard time with understanding, how exactly does the camera support become version restricted?
    I have checked on my computer – I am very sure, that I have only one instance and version of “RawCameraSupport.bundle” installed and it is the /System/Library/CoreServices/RawCameraSupport.bundle
    It says it is version 8:
    CFBundleShortVersionString
    8030
    CFBundleVersion
    1019.3.1
    Consequently, only one set of PlugIns.assets is installed and I can only see one .cam file per camera model.
    I have taken screenshots from some of them, see the linked picture:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/4iLkcAoJGX6U6MLV9
    Out of those, only a6500 and a9 are not supported in Aperture, all the rest is.
    Most notably, a7SII and a7RII require minRawCameraVersion 8 but work in Aperture. a6500 and a9 require minRawCameraVersion of 7 but are not supported in Aperture.
    How does this selective control work?
    And where gets it stuck in customs? Inside the plugin or inside Aperture?

    • Nik Bhatt

      It would appear that the minCamRAWVersion is not always accurate This value should indicate the lowest version of RAW decode supported for a given camera, but when I opened a sample RAW from the A7RII and A7SII, I got versions 5, 6, and 7. This why those cameras works in Aperture (it supports versions 6 or earlier). It’s not surprising that the A7RII (for example) works with Aperture, as the camera dates back to 2015.

      So, unfortunately, you cannot trust the minRawCameraVersion. The RAW decode version returned by the operating system is the truth, but you need a software tool to determine the versions.

  12. Priit

    Hi Nik,

    “The RAW decode version returned by the operating system is the truth, but you need a software tool to determine the versions.”

    Now it gets interesting! What kind of tool could I use for that?
    Is there anything ready-made?
    PS quick look did not reveal this decoding version in RAW Power 🙂

    • Nik Bhatt

      All I meant was that the decode version is not exposed in user interfaces anywhere. I don’t have a tool handy but if I make one I’ll let you know.

  13. william kuan

    Hi Nik, thank you for all the hard work I still use aperture for my work flow and have been using Rawpower with my canon cameras but I am having issues with my Fuji xpro 2 raw plus jpeg files on the iPad Pro hope you can help. The app states raw+jpeg but when I click the tab to edit it states raw file unsupported try and update iOS . The iOS on the iPad is the latest version.

    Thank you

    • Nik Bhatt

      Hi William,
      Is it possible that the Fuji image is using compression for the RAW? Apple doesn’t support compressed Fuji RAWs right now (I’ve discussed this issue with them — hopefully it will be supported in the future).

  14. william kuan

    Thank you for your quick response. I don’t believe so I’ll double check the camera settings but they do open up just fine in aperture 3 and in photos and Lightroom cc
    Thank you.

  15. Henrik

    Hi Nik
    now that would be nice the Aperture could live longer

    and a very cool plugin would also to get Aperture to use iCloud drive like the photo app
    but i guess that is not that easy

    • Nik Bhatt

      It’s definitely unfortunate that I could not get the plugin to work for unsupported RAWs. A syncing plugin is probably not possible — the iCloud Photo Library features are not publicly available to apps on Mac (though they are on iOS).

Comments are closed.