A funny thing happened on the way to RAW photo editing: I met Gentlemen Coders. Well, not exactly and not in person, Gentlemen Coders is a company started by, and currently solely run by Nik Bhatt, a former Chief of many hats at Apple who worked on Aperture. I got to meet Nik and his wonderful RAW processing app RAW Power via PhotoJoseph on YouTube. Now those who know me or have read my many posts here on Aperture know it would take prying the app from my cold dead hands before I would give it up. I've written about my plans to use Aperture well into the future. I’m beginning to think those plans will change. When I first heard about RAW Power it was mentioned as an Aperture alternative in my Aperture Users Group. I will always take a look at viable alternatives, but most so far for me, including some well established ones like Capture One Pro and OnOne Raw 2024 among others have come up lacking when I compare them directly to Aperture. But RAW Power has me intrigued.
Initial RAW Power render of a RAW file before Adjustments
Now to be fair, to-date I have only been able to purchase the iOS version of RAW Power which is compatible with iPhone and iPad alike. I have done the bulk of my testing on the iPad, but also enjoy using the app to sometimes process my iPhone images as well. I do plan to purchase the desktop version after I upgrade my computer and OS beyond my current Aperture loving (and compatible) Mac Mini running High Sierra (RAW Power needs a more robust system to purr.) So what I show here is the iPad version of the app. First off, I love the early on integration Nik built between the desktop version and the mobile versions.
The image above may be recognized from a post I made about those of us still using Aperture and what to do when you try to open a RAW image file the program doesn’t support. I had what I thought was a pretty good solution for keeping Aperture running in that scenario. Suffice to say, there’s a better way, and it involves putting Aperture out to pasture (but still available on a legacy machine 😉.) I’m giving RAW Power a serious look and hoping it will bring the features needed for me to replace Aperture.
After a number of adjustments using the built-in tools in RAW Power, I arrived at a really pleasing result.
Tools marked in blue indicate ones that have been used, and everything is completely non-destructive and re-editable!
Much better than how I had left it in Aperture. Could I have achieved the same results with Aperture? Perhaps likely with more work, and I will do a sort of side-by-side comparison of the two programs once I upgrade and get the desktop version. Remember I could only work on a .TIFF version of this image in Aperture as the RAW file was not compatible with it and had to be rendered in the native Apple’s Photo app before importing into Aperture. But so far I like what I’m seeing with RAW Power.
The RAW Processing tools which take maximum advantage of Apple’s RAW engine (no other program does this) as Nik describes in his video with Joseph, is what makes this program so brilliant and why a former Apple Imaging Chief engineer is who you want building your program. There are tools and features here that even Aperture didn’t let you have access to in order to fine-tune your RAW render. You will notice the GUI has changed a bit since Nik demo’d both the iPad and iPhone versions in his video. It looks to have a more “Lightroom-esque” look to it. I’ve pretty much given up on anyone giving us the beautifully sculpted GUI that Aperture had, those times are behind us, but that’s why I will always have a love for Aperture. I’m actually learning to love this interface of RAW Power now.
Is it a perfect Aperture replacement? Well… that’s where the “Almost” in this blog title comes from.The first issue for me on the iPad (and iPhone) is a GUI flaw, bug, or design glitch:
if you work on the iPad (or iPhone) in the horizontal position and you try to access the Split Tone tool, you get a difficult to use interface.
You have to go into a vertical orientation on your mobile device to be able to use the tool as intended. I’m hoping this will be fixed in the near future. Also, while I brought this to Nick’s attention, I also mentioned that an “Overall” color sphere was not as useful as the way Aperture had implemented the feature by having a gray or “midtones” color sphere available. Adding more to his already full whiteboard, I’m sure!
The other, and to me the MOST needed feature for RAW Power to acquire is a Brush Tool for local as opposed to global edits. But not any Brush Tool will do.
The way that Aperture implemented its Brush Tool was brilliant. With version 3 of Aperture, Brushes was first introduced in February 2010 (5 years after Aperture came out). I like how Nik mentioned how important a feature Brushes is for RAW Power and that he had a hand in how it was implemented while working on Aperture. I hope he will keep at least the same functionality as Aperture has, and make it available across all the tools (save the RAW Developer, that cannot be brushed in… or out 😉.)
For now, aside from those two issues, as I’ve said, I’m very pleased with the app. I love how applying many of the tools doesn’t go too far or “overcook” the image, and already the feature set is rich and robust, including the very cool LUT tool.
I find this rendering in many ways superior to Aperture via the Apple’s Photo app which could process this RAW file (mind you this here was all done on the iPad) and the sharpening algorithm is excellent. Now I patiently wait for an update/upgrade with local adjustment Brushes.
RAW Power is, for me, almost ready to be the new sheriff in town! 🤠