5D Mark III + Aperture Highlight Issue

Update 9/25/12 – Aperture 3.4 corrects the highlight issue described below.

Right on the heels of the Apple Digital Camera Raw update I processed an assignment shot on Thursday morning with the 5D Mark III in Aperture.

If anything the files look wonderful and feel very film-like.

Accountants let off steam in the height of tax season. Processed in Aperture, ISO 100 images. Somerset, NJ, April 5, 2012. Click to enlarge.

All good, that is until I looked back at the assignments I had processed in ACR (while waiting for Aperture to update Digital Camera Raw.) These are higher ISO images and at the extremes of recovering highlights. What you can see though is that Aperture is having an issue where DPP and ACR are not.

ISO 12,800. Each image clicked balanced off of the collar on the right. Mix of fluorescent, tungsten, and tinted lighting. Click to enlarge.

More subtle but here’s a similar issue:

ISO 4000. Look to highlight on back of neck and to left of subject’s eye. Click to enlarge.

Once more but with brighter highlights:

ISO 3200. DPP – click to enlarge.
ACR – click to enlarge.
Aperture – click to enlarge.

Hard to know what the cause is here. Could be a camera setting that Aperture does not like or could be a problem with the Apple Raw Compatibility Update. I’ll dig a bit further – maybe it’s a noise reduction or lens correction setting in the 5D MarkIII or limited to high ISO images? In the meantime, I have sent the samples to a contact at Apple.

Update – 04/09/12: I tried turning off the rest of the in-camera image settings (e.g. High ISO Speed NR, Lens Aberration Correction) just to make sure that they had no affect on how the image is processed. They do not.

I also ran one more test on a different 5D Mark III body and the results were consistent with the images above. The more saturated colors clip in Aperture.

Screen saver color test. Click to enlarge.

No expects the three raw convertors to match, they shouldn’t. Each program has its own color engine and for the photographer this is an advantage. You can look at raw convertors like film stocks. But the goal should be a smooth transition between colors and clipping or sharp edges between colors should not be present in the image if they are not in real life.

I took a quick glance through my 1Ds Mark III and my 1D Mark IV raw files last night just on the chance that I missed similar issues with those files. I did not – there are differences between the three programs but nothing as great as what is seen in the images above.