#560. The Monday Post (20 Feb 2017) – And now an anti-Apple rant

#560. The Monday Post (20 Feb 2017) – And now an anti-Apple rant

Come on … really? You thought that, just because I recently ended my long-term anti-Sony-ergonomics thread, wisdom had suddenly swept my brain free of all ranting tendencies? Nah, I’m way too immature for that.

So, having made peace with Sony, let’s take a bite out of Apple. Hopefully, comments will make me see the light in this area as well.

 

 

Before I start, let’s just note that my rants are never addressed at mediocre or bad players. Just at those that come so close to perfection that the imperfections take on a disproportionate amount of mind-space.

Sony : incredible IQ and compatibility in a tiny package marred by a jack of all trades ergonomic school of thought.

Apple : sublime look and simplicity of photo apps spoiled by the inconsistent ecosystem. The iNcosystem.

 

 

At the heart of my new Apple photographic universe lies the free app Photos. It’s simple, efficient, a joy to use and produces a look to images that’s classy and elegant. Plus, it integrates with many other apps on the market.

 

 

Among these :

  • The really great MacPhun apps, chief among which Luminar and the sublime Tonality CK
  • RAW Power, which give you access to advanced RAW processing features present in Aperture and missing from Photos
  • The hard pushing ON1 suite
  • Affinity Photo, a cheap and great substitute for Photoshop
  • Pixelator, which I haven’t tried but have been told a lot of good about

 

 

Can you imagine greater photographic serendipity?

A tiny central app with great interface that caters for 80% of your needs and dedicated apps in a hub and spoke arrangement. Short of passing files in a lossless fashion between apps, it’s hard to think of a more elegant and efficient way of dealing with large sets of photographs. And all from the comfort of an equally elegant machine with a screen to die for.

Need great shadow management, call RawPower. Panorama stitching? Welcome to the world of Afinity Photo. Mind-bogglingly fun monochrome? Hello Tonality CK … Possibly all in sequence for cheap and intuitive access to virtually unlimited post-processing goodness.

 

 

Why the long face, then?

Because it’s all a lie.

A partly distorted reality, at least.

 

 

What this uber-elegant promise really turns into is an ugly reality of partly compatible apps (some features can be called from Photos, others cannot), a file exchange largely based on jpeg rather than RAW, sending the non-destructive promise right through the window, ridiculous load times and a mismatch of interface designs.

In the polished land of Apple fandom, this blows, big time.

 

 

Who’s to blame for this? Probably me and my unrealistic expectations, again …

Do Apple restrict the file transfer formats in the Photos API ? Dunno. I’d planned to ask but don’t really care.

Do individual developers take added pride and revenue in owning a larger bit of turf than the Photos extension status alone would give? Dunno. Don’t care.

As for the broken promise … what promise? No one made such a promise. I inferred it from the concept of extension and my pathologic desire for simplicity and elegance.

Guilty as charged. Again πŸ˜‰

 

 

All I know is that the promise of a wonderfully simple, efficient and powerful workflow that would take 3 raws, make a pano out of them, convert to B&W then add finishing touches is so tantalizingly close to being fulfilled, on the surface of things,Β  that the posterising that occurs from jpeg transfer in between apps is a real disappointment.

Such a shame.

 

 

Where does this leave me?

Longing for LightRoom, that’s where …

Right now, many of my photographs exhibit keystoning that I can’t deal with from Photos or require stitching or some other form of dedicated work that can’t be handled from the comfort of Photos home.

With MacPhun, my hopes are high. The team is super nice, super responsive and they are adding new features by the day. Plus, they’ve told me the pano feature was in the schedule. I’m also evaluating ON1. Another standalone app with partial compatibility with Photos. But my cuddly hopes of recreating an integrated process with all files in one place are slowly evaporating, letting the Adobe reality make a hard comeback.

What else is a poor tog to do? Although … Paul strongly disagrees as you’ll soon be reading πŸ˜‰

In the mean time, comments, help and hints will be greatly appreciated as I know others are in the same questioning situation. So, what’s you’re approach?

 


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24 Comments

  1. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron February 20, 2017

    I don’t think it’s Apple’s fault – there are simply too many different contenders in the market place, with different systems for post processing.

    I am surprised though, Pascal. You don’t even mention Capture One Pro 10, although you shoot Sony and as a Sony user, you can download their software free.

    While there are zillions of photos taken every year, I really can’t believe that the vast majority of them are ever post processed – flung around the internet, on chat sites or emails, more likely, and then forgotten, most of them.

    Before door knocks from the Avon Lady and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we used to struggle to find excuses to miss out on Kodacolor slide evenings, remember? – and this endless stream of pictures on the internet is simply the modern substitute. Thank God for the various “delete” functions.

    PS – I’m working on a more intellectual article on post processing. Apart from that, I’m prepping for a photo walk this coming Sunday, at the Observatory, to learn more about photographing night skies. So you can all heave a sigh of relief, as I leave this one to the rest of the group.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy February 20, 2017

      Capture One is brilliant, particularly for B&W processing. I just hope to use something based on Photos, which is brilliantly simple and organises all my photographs very easily and efficiently. Given that 90% of Mac owners will use Photos, I find it staggering that none of the plugins offer popular features such as panorama stitching in a well implemented way. Even Affinity Photos is a pain to use. You have to load the RAW files (which doesn’t happen when you open the files in the Photos folder …) then you only get one heavily distorted projection. Without requiring the full feature set of Autopano Pro, something a little more elaborate would be nice. Oh well …

  2. Avatar
    Leonard February 20, 2017

    I must be missing something here, Pascal – and sure to find out with egg on my face – but why are you using the Photos app at all? Is it because it’s free or because MacPhun and Affinity cannot do the jobs you want in stand-alone mode without being PS or LR plug-ins? Or can they? My experience with iPhoto and its successor (briefly) taught me that it’s designed strictly for 72 dpi / jpg Kodak moments.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy February 20, 2017

      Well Photos is a very simple app, but it’s brilliantly executed. It gets 80% of my pics where I want them with a classy look and in a matter of seconds. It all goes South when something more elaborate is required, unfortunately. As plugins Luminar et al are really brilliant. As standalone applications, LR and C1 are still a couple of strides ahead. And, of all of these, only Lightroom has the full set of features I regularly use. Ugh …

  3. Avatar
    Kristian Wannebo February 20, 2017

    Aah…

    I started dreaming ..
    of a Mac-new
    new photo-world …

    And … Wham!
    I fell flat on the floor.
    Argh ..

    But I’m glad I read through to the end – I wanted to see all the photos.
    Just imagine what I might have done…

    Whew !

    Which do I like best?
    The “Bridge & girl” and
    the “Sand-pattern”.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy February 20, 2017

      Ha ha ha πŸ˜‰ Not really flat on the floor as 80% of my pics are OK with Photos. But one knee on the ground is a fair assessment πŸ˜‰ It certainly is a little furstrating. So the Capture One and LightRoom options are the likely outcome. At least, I still have the great screen and sleek design, it’s not too bad.

  4. Avatar
    Ronnie Thain February 20, 2017

    I spent years as a Mac operator first in print shops then design studios. Since I retired, all I need is Lightroom – or something like it. Much as I love using Photos and Raw Power etc, these don’t allow me to apply a full set of edits, keywords and cataloging to a collection of RAW files and export multiple sizes of JPEG, all with the same edits. I could have done that with Aperture, but Apple dropped it, like it does with almost all the excellent software it develops. I’d rather poke out my eyes with a pin than use a Windows machine (and I’ve had to use them in the past), but Apple can at times seem perverse to its fans.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy February 20, 2017

      Thanks Ronnie. That perspective from a long time pro user is one more step towards acceptance that Lightroom or CaptureOne are the way to go … Maybe I should never have left the stable …

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy February 21, 2017

          Thanks a lot Ronnie. That’s precious. I can’t stress enough how great this little app really is.

          Apple have really done their homework on this. They have simplifies without reducing scope or dumbing down.

          Now if the developper world will please step up and fill the voids rather than reinvent the wheel … πŸ˜‰

      • Avatar
        Ronnie Thain February 21, 2017

        Pascal, like you I would prefer to have something simple to use for post processing. I’ve learned everything I need to know about the photographic process since studying M J Langford’s Basic Photography in the 1970s, through a Diploma in Graphic Repro when my career changed direction, to working extensively in the print trade as a scanner operator and in desk-top publishing. The photographic process is not a mystery: the mystery to me is why, in 2017, are image processing applications so awkward at implementing centuries-old principles. To me it seems the developers aren’t able to tie photographic expertise into the process of writing the software. It’s as if the right people haven’t been consulted.
        In Lightroom, for instance, a histogram has been incorporated into the Curves pane, but it’s so small and indistinct that, particularly in the individual RGB channels, it’s almost impossible to set the end densities. Why is it not possible to set the end densities by keying in the values or even just with a single click? It was the first thing I did when scanning a transparency with a Crosfield scanner when I worked in the trade 20 years ago – and nothing could have been simpler.
        As far as simplifying software is concerned, Apple Photos is going in the right direction and, with the platform now open for the development of extensions, perhaps the likes of Gentlemen Coders can take it forward in ways that Apple perhaps can’t.

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy February 21, 2017

          Ronnie, my thoughts exactly. Both for the post-processing process and camera ergonomics. It’s like the swtich to digital has profoundly changed the workflow. It hasn’t. So why mess with decades-old habits and practises? I’m still in my fourties and probably sound twice that age, but why break something that has been so perfectly honed?

          Still … we have to make the best of what’s given us and I must admit it’s never been more fun to be a photographer. Photos is pushing that creative streak in the right direction and I, like you, hope independant developers will add to the idea. Gentlemen Coders and MacPhun certainly seem to want to. And the ecosystem is still quite young. There’s hope πŸ˜‰

  5. Avatar
    NMc February 21, 2017

    Pascal
    How do I put this nicely?
    In this post and the previous Sony ‘anti rant’ you are complaining about things that you should have known, or at least could have found out prior to purchase. I am struggling to empathise, even though I generally agree with your unrequited preferences/wishes.

    I guess we need to be more like swans on the water, appearing to the world all calm collected and elegant, yet (digitally speaking) paddling like fury underneath. Perhaps ‘Practicing our scales’ in the digital realm is learning to cope with the complexity in a calm and systematic manner, whilst presenting a confident facade to the world; either way good luck and I hope you find some digital peace.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy February 21, 2017

      Thanks Noel. Let’s agree to disagree πŸ˜‰ Who’s “we” and why should we want to appear calm and collected in the face of something inadequate???

      It’s actually not that easy to do your homework before committing to a purchase. In the US, you can buy and send back days or weeks after purchase. Not so here. You’re lucky to get a 20 minute peak at something before you pay for it. And most reviews online are just a rehash of the press release. As for software: where on the Internet, will you find information on the hidden nasties of apparently wonderful worlds, if no one writes about them? That’s what a blog like this is all about.

      I refuse to paddle in fury. Life is too short. So I buy, review and say it like I feel it so others don’t have to go through the same cycle. There are many ways to not have to cope with complexity. In fact, coping is accepting and condoning. That’s not like me. I’d rather stick to simple apps like Photos and simple cameras like … errr, can’t find an example, that’s the problem … or buy more complex stuff, but only if it’s worth it. It’s been my point of view recently that some of the expensive stuff I’ve been paying for simply wasn’t worth the money being asked. Hence the search for alternatives and corresponding reporting.

      I’ve made my peace about the generic nature of the A7rII (which doesn’t excuse some of the ergonomic flaws, and you’ll find many others sharing that opinion, to the delight of Fuji sales reps) but can’t do the same about an amateurish mix and match of post processing apps. Hence the likely and reluctant move back to one of the market giants. I’m pretty sure many will be happy not to have to go through the same experiments and expenses because someone else did and told the world about it.

  6. Avatar
    Per Kylberg February 21, 2017

    It is not about the system – it is about you!
    I don’t do Apple, I do Windows. Affinity is in Windows as well. Very nice but has zero database. Adobe subscription has everything needed integrated in the LR-PS combo.
    1. The essential thing is: Do I want my images look Apple, or Macphun, or Affinity, or Adobe, or Fuji blabla? No, I want my images look MINE! Post processing is not an “unimportant must” that should be minimized. It is a very significant step in the image creation process. A camera is dumb and daft, it records shape, texture, form and color – nothing else. What about your intentions, artistic sense, your emotional connection to the scene captured?
    In PP you add and strengthen all that. Spend time in PP! It is well worth is. It is a prerequisite for art photography as much as it was in the old wet darkroom days.
    2. There are plenty options for PP around. Affinity is exciting but processing is sloooow and it sometimes hangs. But their version is just 1.5 so far – that will change. In the near future using the excellent ACDSee View database together with Affinity could be the perfect and cheap alternative to the big elephant in the business.
    3. A complex system (Photoshop) it may seem intimidating at first. But after getting a sense of how it works you get an understanding of which fraction of the lot you need. Learn those and forget the rest! Now PS is not complicated any more! Downstream you may identify a new need – investigate PS again and find that string of commands.
    (I have about 35 years professional experience in evaluation of systems for graphic design and virtual reality. – And adapting them to hundreds of users.)

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy February 21, 2017

      Hi Per,

      to a point, I agree with you. It’s not about the system, it is about the photographer. However, as human beings, we react differently to different stimuli. Some like it simple, some like it elaborate. And we tend to build the systems that allow us to produce our best work.

      Photos is an app that really gets me going in a way that more analytical tools don’t. It produces a look that I like (as you say, a look that is mine) where as LR doesn’t (C1 come a lot closer).

      I have no need for complex database systems. I use my photos as I produce them and almost never look back. If I lose them, I’ll just make more.

      I’ve been using Photoshop since version 3, a long long time ago. Complexity isn’t the issue. Enjoyment is. There is no fun in PS for me. LR was a lot better, at least initially, feeling much closer to the traditional darkroom workflow. But the customer policy, final look and life-long dependency aren’t for me.

      It’s actually great that so many choices still exist. My only point in this article is that, given what an extraordinary base Photos is (probably the most underrated piece of photo software on the planet) I find it surprising that the abundant Mac developer world hasn’t come up with stuff completing it. Most focus on creating competition to it, which seems counterintuitive.

      Photos does a lot (tagging, geo localisation, nimble and beautiful post processing, glorious Black and White … it isn’t iPhoto). It does it brilliantly. It’s free. It comes as standard. No paid-for third-party app is ever going to beat it at its own game unless it provides a whole new level of features and user experience. But Photos doesn’t handle local retouching, panos … That’s why Luminar and other MacPhun apps are so interesting. They complete Photos. The experience is slow at the moment but my hopes are really high for these guys, who are constantly evolving and pushing hard.

      • Avatar
        Per Kylberg February 21, 2017

        So Pascaljappy, you like the default import preset of Photo. Don’t have any Apple, would be nice to look at! I like the LR default import preset as little as you do. So created my own import preset and set it up to automatically applied at import. Can’t say I like PS either, it is a dinosaur! I agree that the Adobe business model has a lock-in effect. Thus taking a look at ACDSee Viewer and find out its slightly better than LR database, performance and excellent viewer was a relief, there is a way out from Adobe! An ACDSee + Affinity combo is less than 100$, one time solution.
        The nice thing with a database is you can go back and often create better versions of old images.
        A simple system can be tempting, but only as long as it fits to your workflow – and the latter will change over time. Using several system for different steps in your workflow means inter-operatibility problems that are not fun at all. Fewer systems mean simplicity!

        • Avatar
          pascaljappy February 21, 2017

          Thanks Per. I’ll take a look at ACDSee. Affinity is actually really good if you don’t use it from Photos. For the price, it’s an absolute gem.

  7. Avatar
    Jan February 21, 2017

    The idea of a real simple editing system does sound appealing. But after just a short while of consideration, the arguments against it start piling up (at least to me):
    – as mentioned, lossy transfers
    – confusing network of apps and plugins kinda kills the simplicity
    – the absolute no-no: Photos stores everything in a container file and I found no way to switch that off (though someone else might love that)
    All this is enough to leave me running scared.

    Also, to me, my combo of C1 and PS does not really feel so complicated. Once set up, I can comfortably import with the click of a button, organise the photos in a simple-enough-but-powerful UI, do all my colour grading and dodging/burning in the same app and only send stuff to PS as a last resort. Even then I have near lossless options (psd and tif) and since you can set the export to open the file upon completion, this feels even slicker than a plugin (CMD+D is about as short as a shortcut gets).

    Yes, the interfaces look a bit scarier, but since digital editing is a fairly complicated process by nature and because it is as much part of making the image as the camera and the lens, I’d rather have it that way than a “scaled down” version just for the sake of simplicity.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy February 21, 2017

      Hi Jan,

      the container file is indeed a problem. A big one. I’ll be digging more into that and will report if something comes along. My hopes aren’t high, though.

      Lossy transfers and complex apps aren’t a necessity. Think of the ecosystem around some car brands. Buy an MX-5 and BBR will tune it for you. There’s no ambiguity of service or technical hiccup. Mazda is the hub (as are many other brands) and Ruf, BBR and many other specialists add a service spoke. It could / should be the same around a great free app that’s built into a system as deeply as Photos is.

      C1 is indeed my main long-term contender. I tried and enjoyed it a lot on my PC so, if the Photos-centric idea really doesn’t pan out, C1 will be the final home of my pctures. It’s a great bit of software. PS I use when all else fails πŸ˜‰ It’s become bloated and clunky and far removed from the photographic world.

      Cheers.

      • Avatar
        priitv8 February 22, 2017

        These containers are NOT files! It is another thing Apple Finder does to keep simple user’s fingers away from the things, they should not touch or care about.
        Actually, why would they? Let the computer handle the filesystem and leave the user with content creation.
        So, it is just a woodoo of Finder. They are folders. Officially called bundles : https://developer.apple.com/library/content/documentation/CoreFoundation/Conceptual/CFBundles/AboutBundles/AboutBundles.html

        Right click in Finder, select “Show Package Contents” and you will find your master files among lots of other stuff.

        • Avatar
          jean pierre (pete) guaron February 23, 2017

          Not too sure about that, priitv8 – I mentioned on a different one of Pascal’s posting last night, that I had probs with my original iMAC (NOT – I hasten to add !!! – not Apple’s fault) and had to transfer everything from there to the present iMAC – that was 6 years ago, and the way Apple originally stored all my photos collapsed during that transfer. The result was a quagmire of duplicate copies of photos and NO system for sorting it out.

          I NEVER want to go through anything like that, ever again. So I have my own system for storing photos now. It’s simple, reliable, effective and totally under my control.

          I’m way too old to appreciate anyone trying to “mother” me – even when I was a child, I had a rebellious go-it-alone streak – and I’ll be damned if I want some computer or software company trying to take control of my stuff like that.

          That said – each to their own – we all go to the devil on our own terms, after all. it’s just my point of view – the scars on my back from going through that experience are just an optional extra, and I don’t suppose it happens to too many people.

          • Avatar
            priitv8 February 23, 2017

            I totally get your point, Jean Pierre. I’ve not had to transfer my photos anywhere. All libraries are on external drives.
            I do not know, what kind of transfer did you undertake. As long as the managing system (iPhoto, Aperture, Photos) does not change, you just move your library and you are done. You only need to use AFS-formatted drives though. At least iPhoto seemed to take advantage of some sort of AFS filesystem features that were not available on shared network drive, so my attempt to migrate library to a NAS failed badly.

            It will definitely become a problem to migrate not just your original master files, but all metadata and edit decisions, unless the new app takes care of it for you (like iPhoto-to-Aperture or Aperture-to-Photos migration). And then you are on the mercy of that app to do it perfectly or even correctly.

            To be honest, I have no better plan to address this issue at the moment, than have a VM and run a last good configuration of macOS + Aperture to keep the history accessible.

            PS This approach (to masquerade large folder trees as monolithic single units – bundles) is common throughout macOS. Besides iPhoto/Aperture/Photos, that’s also how FCPX, Logic, Motion, Xcode, even macOS apps, drivers and frameworks and plugins are maintained. Some of them still keep user content outside of the bundle (Xcode) or let the user decide (FCPX). Makes it easier for the user to keep things tidy.

            Huge monolithic files are a big no-no for macOS, because they would break the TimeMachine logic of incremental backups. That’s why you normally would exclude VM images and pst/ost-style Outlook files from the backup, because updating just one byte inside a 1GB monolithic file would require TimeMachine to backup full 1GB again.

  8. Avatar
    Soso February 27, 2017

    Good that you found reality before any serious harm happened. I’m working on Macs for decades now but would never trust Apple for anything specific. Let’s face it: it’s a consumer brand and more do since Steve Job’s dead.

    Just read about iMusic, iTunes, iCloud and the new Photos how they corrupt data. Chances are, you not only loose your edits and catalog but also you original files (when not double backuped). Not to think about exit strategies, future proof workflows, customer support and a backlog of reliable business decisions. Who tells you, that Apple will not shut down or complete rework Photos with the next MacOS version? They already twice did it and left users and photographers in the rain.

    I only use tools dedicated to one job. That’s how I make sure, the company is fully dedicated to its product. No guarantee but still better than a by-product that disappears when a new Head-of overtakes.

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