SilverFast DC Pro Studio vs. Aperture
Apple just released Aperture 1.5. SilverFast DC Pro Studio is continuously updated, but the application lacks the looks and the digital asset management capabilities of Apple's program. Or does it?
SilverFast DC Pro Studio is a Photoshop plug-in application. It manages photos from digital cameras, has a Virtual Light Table for photo selection, direct integration with PrinTao, and the full power of Photoshop to back it up. Aperture 1.5 is a program that has lovely looks, but it suffers from glitches, unexplained bugs and limitations.
SilverFast DC Pro Studio is not meant to manage photos, although it supports the addition of metadata to your photographs and rating them. SilverFast DC Pro Studio differs most from Aperture 1.5 in that it depends on Photoshop for powerful editing, and for saving images. Aperture 1.5 is a self-contained application that was developed to manage and edit photographs.
So, what's the difference between the two? Is Aperture 1.5 better than SilverFast DC Pro Studio? I took a good, long look at the two programs and tried to compare them.
Comparing Aperture to SilverFast DC Pro Studio
Aperture 1.5 looks like all of Apple's applications: sleek, beautiful, almost "silk" design. SilverFast DC Pro Studio has an interface that would very much benefit from an update. It looks ugly compared to Aperture's but that ugliness doesn't sit in the way of its features. By contrast, some of Aperture's pretty looks are a hindrance to the program's features. For example, the loupe is a great gimmick, but it takes some getting used to before you can use it without thinking about it. SilverFast's zoom feature is just that: a zoom feature - nice and simple.
Aperture 1.5 was going to be much faster than its predecessors, according to Apple. A quick view of the Apple forum and my own experience taught me that Aperture 1.5 is even slower than the previous versions, depending on your platform. It gets worse: Aperture has difficulties importing JPEGs and TIFF files. It will import some correctly and others with distortions that make working with it simply impossible.
SilverFast DC Pro Studio is lightning fast. You select it from Photoshop's Import menu, and it will immediately show you the folder with images you were working with the last time you opened the program. Importing is fast and accurate.
Aperture 1.5 has support for Camera RAW formats, but Apple seems to have a preference for Canon and Nikon cameras. Other professional cameras that shoot in RAW, such as Sinar cameras and Hasselblads are not supported. Of course, amateur RAW formats such as the Kodak P880 RAW format are not supported at all.
SilverFast DC Pro Studio supports most professional RAW cameras, including the Sinar cameras. It does not support the Kodak P880 or other amateur cameras. It does, however, support JPEg and TIFF without a flaw.
Editing features of Aperture versus SilverFast DC Pro Studio
The editing features of Aperture are carefully chosen not to conflict too much with a Photoshop workflow. The editing features of SilverFast DC Pro Studio are the same as those in LaserSoft Imaging's scanner software. If you know how to use the scanner software, you'll know how to use DC Pro Studio. The software comes with a digital camera target for profiling the camera (or at least setting its white balance correctly).
Its editing features blend right in with a Photoshop workflow. For example, you can apply global and local colour corrections in SilverFast DC Pro, just as you can with the scanner software. The advantage is that you can apply these corrections on the RAW file without actually touching that file. It is the equivalent of Aperture's Master and Version concept, but without its complexities.
Aperture 1.5 added some image editing capabilities, but they are not documented well. That's not terribly serious because they look as if they are easy to understand. However, to me it is unclear whether colour corrections are applied to the whole image or to only those colours that I select. The radius slider: does it apply to how broad the corrections will be in terms of hue? I couldn't find the explanation in the manual.
SilverFast DC Pro Studio has an excellent manual that explains everything in detail. Some colour correction tools will actually allow you to replace one specific colour with another in the image.
Importing and Exporting
Importing into Aperture 1.5 has its problems. Some images show up skewed, some show up as black squares, and others will turn solid black or white when applying the most minor correction. Aperture also takes a very long time to process imported files. I imported a small catalogue of one thousand files and the application took over an hour processing them.
Not so in SilverFast DC Pro Studio. Importing is simple and fast, even with large collections. That is partly because SilverFast does not move or copy the images you import. It simply shows them, ready to 'scan' and open in Photoshop. Exporting from RAW to JPEG or TIFF is also fast, but again is done so that you can further edit the image in Photoshop.
Metadata can be added to photos in both Aperture and SilverFast - even SilverFast Ai scanner software enables you to quickly enter metadata. The metadata of SilverFast has always been added to a XMP sidecar file. Aperture 1.5 has this feature now as well.
Aperture 1.5 could be a dream that has come true but it isn't. It's too slow and it's too buggy. It's not up to the job. In case you are wondering: Adobe's Lightroom is too much of a beta to really appreciate, so I've left that one out of the discussion here.
SilverFast DC Pro Studio has ugly looks, but it works. It works just as well as its sibling, SilverFast Ai. The concept of both programs is almost the same: take a RAW file, pre-edit it in the conversion application and hand it off to Photoshop. And let the user decide where to save it, and how to safeguard it. Aperture and SilverFast DC Pro Studio are different, but not by so much that you can't compare them at all. For example, in the areas of metadata and image editing, the two can be compared almost one-on-one.
And in those areas, SilverFast wins out, no matter how "passé" its interface may look.