These are two software packages that do exactly the same job.Typically Adobe and Apple are trying to outdo each other, so the two packages are pretty closely matched.
I tend to use Lightroom, but that’s because I a little more familiar with it. Lightroom essentially has the same image controls as Photoshop’s ACR window, so if you are used to Photoshop, picking up Lightroom is dead easy.
Here’s the breakdown of the two packages….
With Lightroom 3 and earlier versions Aperture had a slight edge here. It was possible to push an image a little further without it breaking down in Aperture. But since the new ‘process’ in Lightroom 4, I think this has evened out. I think the image quality is around the same.
Lightroom has Lens Correction controls that I find very useful, and are completely missing from Aperture. In the two shots below you can see the (R)avensbourne store. The light was great that morning, but ideally I would have been further back and using a longer lens – but that would have put me in the harbour. So I used a wide lens and the result has converging verticals. No problem, in Lightroom with the lens correction tool I’ve adjusted the perspective. Using the tool does have a kid of weird effect as if the camera is floating upwards.
Lightroom has less controls, but they do work very well. This might just be a little bit of bias in that coming from Photoshop the Lightroom controls are more familiar since they are basically identical to the ACR window, but my overall impressions that although Lightroom has fewer controls, they work better. For example the vignette control in Lightroom – with Aperture, to apply a heavy vignette you need to apply the effect fully, and perhaps even apply the effect twice. In Lightroom you cannot apply the effect twice, but there is more than enough adjustment room in the one control you have – you would never want to apply the effect to it’s fullest.
In Aperture’s favour the customiseable adjustment controls is very well implemented, and I wish Lightroom had something similar. In Aperture you can add control units, and customize the default set. You can add controls twice if the effect is not intense enough. You can bush in or out most of the effects so the effects apply only to certain parts of the image In Lightroom you just have the controls Adobe gives you, and the localised brush effects are a lot more limited. Aperture has better controls when it comes to retouching portraits.
Ease of use:
Both packages are very easy to use, but I Lightroom appears to accomplish the same tasks with less complexity. In writing courses for both Aperture and Lightroom I found that it was much simpler to describe Lightroom’s workflows than Apertures.
Lightroom is nearly twice the price of Aperture, but neither package is expensive. I think the difference in price is not enough for me to decide between them on price alone, since both packages are extremely good value for money.
Both packages are so close that there is certainly no point in changing from one to the other if you already have one.
If you are used to using Photoshop, the controls in Lightroom are so similar that it makes it very easy to learn, so I would go the Lightroom way.
Aperture wins hands down when it comes to retouching portraits, but apart form that, I think the controls n Lightroom work better than the equivalent ones in Aperture.
If you use Windows – well, Aperture is Mac only, so your choice is easy.
But the bottom line is that I think Lightroom is the more elegant package, the software that does the job with the least complexity. Lightroom is simpler to use, yet does exactly the same job, and perhaps even a better job.