Aperture's Handling of Colour in 5D Mark II Files, and a Preset to Fix it

For the longest time I've been unhappy with images from my Canon 5D Mark II. On the one hand the resolution is great, and you can certainly get some great images from it, but on the other, I've found that dealing with the Raw files is always hit and miss. I've posted about this here before, but even that work around wasn't an ideal fix. The other night I was out taking some pictures in the city centre here in Dublin as the sun went down and I got some great shots that I was really happy with. Well, that is until I got them into Aperture. They just looked wrong, and I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.

I knew they had looked much better in camera, so I resisted the urge to throw it at the wall and I checked the jpegs (I always shoot Raw + Jpeg) and sure enough they looked MUCH better. But still, that just backed up my theory that the cameras raw files were lousy. For some reason though, I decided to try the files in Lightroom just to be doubly sure, and when I loaded them In, I was amazed at how much better they looked.

Building Aperture Default

Here's the default Aperture version. Now, You may think that is not too bad an image, but the building is supposed to be a red brick building (and no, it's not a white balance issue)

Building Jpeg Version

Here's the Jpeg version. The colours are the actual colours of the building, and the whites are more natural looking.

For comparison, here's the Lightroom version:

MG 6300 2

(Note the added benefit of built in lens correction)

After I got over the initial shock I decided I wasn't going to take this lying down so I started to analyse what was wrong. The problem seemed to be mostly with the colours. (Before anyone asks, this has nothing to do with the camera profiles in Lightroom - even set to the Adobe default the colours looked much better). The colour rendition of the Raw files in Aperture was way off. It seemed that the reds in particular were off and the greens were slightly wrong too. I've always found my 5D images to be yellowy in Aperture and this bore it out. I had taken some images of red brick buildings and these in particular had a very yellowish cast..

So, using command tab to flick back and forward between the two programs I used a colour adjustment in Aperture to tweak the colours until I got it to line up pretty well with the ones in Lightroom. I then saved it as a preset and tried it on a few more images. It took a good bit of trial and error but after 5 versions I finally got the preset right. I'm not saying it's perfect but it seems to get you in the ball park.

MG 6300

This is the Aperture version using the preset.

If you're a 5D Mark II owner feel free to download the preset and try it out for yourself. If you had been following my previous workflow for 5D users this doesn't really work with that, so you'll need to set your boost and hue boost back to defaults, although you can still use that control to help you out. I've included all the versions of the preset that I worked on. One of the things that I've found is that Aperture reports a different white balance setting than other pieces of software so I have versions that correct for that too. Feel free to try them for yourself and let me know how you get on.

[box type="download"]  Click here to download the presets [/box]

Just as a side point, I know that Raw files always look different than their Jpeg counterparts, but usually the colours are reasonably right. For me this problem only seems to affect the 5D Mark II images. I have two other cameras that I use regularly, A Nikon D90 and a Panasonic GF1. In both of those cases I think the colours actually look better in Aperture than they do in Lightroom, particularly the GF1. I just think Apple's engineers didn't profile the 5DII as well as they did for other cameras.

By the way, if you're interested, here's the final version of that image after a few more tweaks, and running it through PTLens to fix the distortion.