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Apple camera support catches partway up to Adobe

Apple's Leopard OS 10.5.2 update supports new Canon, Nikon, and Sony SLRs--months later than Adobe's software. Also included: a Lightroom-related bug fix.

With Apple's Mac OS X 10.5.2 update on Monday, Leopard now can handle the unprocessed "raw" images produced by several new higher-end digital cameras.

Higher-end "raw" image files from Nikon's D300 now is supported natively in Mac OS X. Nikon

Among high-profile newer cameras that Leopard now supports are Canon's top-end EOS-1Ds Mark III and its top-end compact camera, the PowerShot G9. Nikon's new SLRs, the D3 and D300, also are on the list, as is Sony's Alpha A700.

Raw images provide more flexibility and detail than JPEGs, but to use them, people must convert the unprocessed camera data. Apple's Mac OS X handles this conversion on its own. Software such as Apple's iPhoto or Aperture must wait for the update to be released before images from those cameras can be handled without other software, but one operating system update handles those applications and others that use the raw tools.

In contrast, image-editing leader Adobe Systems writes its own raw conversion software, available in Photoshop, Photoshop Lightroom, and its Digital Negative (DNG) converter utility.

Adobe, whose bread and butter is software of this sort, beat Apple to the punch with the raw support. Adobe added support for the Canon 1Ds Mark III, Canon G9, Nikon D3, and Nikon D300 in November and the Sony A700 in September; it also already supports the Olympus E-3 and Panasonic's DMC-L10, neither supported in Mac OS X.

Apple's lagging raw support has rankled some users, driving some to drop Aperture in favor of Lightroom. "I am seriously considering switching for one reason: the length of time for Apple to enable Aperture to support new cameras. It took months for support of the Nikon D200, and now the same with the D300. And yes, Lightroom already supports both cameras. This serious flaw is of great concern considering how solid the program is otherwise," wrote one commenter in the Apple Aperture forum.

In the discussion, Joe Schorr, Apple's senior product line manager for photo applications, offered assurances that Apple knows about the issue. "We at Apple are acutely aware of the pressing need to get support for the newest round of cameras into your hands as soon as possible. This is a top priority," he said. "We fully intend to give our customers what they need in this regard."

Microsoft has added raw support to Vista, and with a download users can retrofit Windows XP, too. Microsoft, though, relies on the camera makers to supply a conversion plug-in.

Also supported in Apple's update are Hasselblad's CF-22 and CF-39 and the Leaf Aptus 75s, Apple said.

Tom Hogarty, the Adobe executive in charge of Lightroom, said the Mac OS X 10.5.2 update also fixes a bug he reported in November. That problem could crash Mac OS X's Finder file management software when viewing image files accompanied by Lightroom editing data stored in XMP files. That issue now is "confirmed as fixed," Hogarty said.