Apple’s Aperture 1.5.2 Update; Is Apple’s Aperture Getting Better With Age?

It has been about a year since I first tried Apple's Aperture, reported on in the May 2006 issue of Shutterbug (available at www.shutterbug.com; type Aperture into the Search box). Since, Aperture has been updated via automatic upgrades from Apple. The Apple Aperture application for professional photographers as I described in my report was the first of its kind devoted entirely to digital camera users shooting raw format. It was quite effective in its first iteration but was both expensively priced, then at $499, and very much a resource hog, running quickly on only the most powerful Mac G5 computers.

Apple dropped the price $200, and today the software still retails for $299. Even at the first price tag it was an impressive application and set of tools for photographers that provided nondestructive editing, sorting and rating, a slick and powerful adjustment tool set, and a flexibly creative interface for producing output in different kinds of media, including self-published books.

One of my reasons for liking Aperture is that its preferences support a lighter, neutral gray desktop environment to work in rather than the darker background and white text in Lightroom. Or maybe I've just become averse to thumbnails and photos on black backgrounds that are so ubiquitous in photographic websites. And, I find the Aperture digital Loupe is comfortable and effective for sorting and evaluating images.

The latest version of Apple's Aperture, Version 1.5.2, seems to run much more efficiently, but that may be a result of improvements in the software and in the performance of newer Apple Macs with Intel Core Duo processors. I suspect a pro shooter who daily uploads prodigious numbers of raw files will still need to have a powerfully endowed Mac with a fast processor and copious installed RAM to enjoy continued quick processing. But an enthusiast who is not shooting large volumes of exposures might as well get along as I do, with just a Mac mini with a 1.83Hz Intel Core Duo processor and 2GB of RAM.

Apple has also responded to user feedback and made alterations and improvements in Aperture aside from giving it a performance boost. Some of these advantages include more flexible support for storage and individual organizational schemes as well as data storage locations and media types. These options for storage and organization are supported by easy backup directly with Aperture's Vault facility.

One of the performance attributes of Aperture I find particularly valuable is that its conversion/interpretation processing reproduces images from raw files with exceptionally clean color. In the past this image of flowers taken in a fiberglass greenhouse with a Canon EOS D60 took hours to color correct because the sunlight source was skewed by the fiberglass of the greenhouse. Now, processing the same original raw files with the current version of Aperture, the troublesome color cast was detected by the software and removed during upload processing to provide a perfectly clean color image, which then took just a couple of minutes to refine ideally.
© 2007, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

A new feature provides seamless integration with Apple's iLife and iWork in addition to coordination with iPhoto and should be attractive to enthusiasts who want to migrate to a more sophisticated photographic application by adopting Aperture. In the Adjustment color correction part of Aperture, Apple has now included a fully comprehensive yet easy to use utility to make selective color changes to an image, like making the reds warmer without affecting any other colors in the spectrum of values in an image. And one of my favorite tools in Aperture, the Loupe, which is a digital replacement for the magnifier that's always been on my desk, has been improved by providing easy, on-screen mouse controls to customize and adjust its function. And finally, there are improved presets to make metadata entry easier. You can also apply saved Adjustment presets. All of this makes Aperture a more complete and efficient tool for getting an image from the camera to finished file easily and quickly.

Evaluation And Recommendation

It may seem Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom are pretty much a toss-up, and if you add and subtract the strong and weak points of each, which are not all that obvious, it may seem like an even match. But on an individual user level there is enough difference to make a choice based on experience. That's where your testing has to come into play. If you are an Apple Mac user, try both and choose the one that works best for you. I personally favor Aperture, while a close friend who has years more experience as an Apple Mac user finds that Aperture is not as intuitive as Lightroom, and he really does need the kind of professional support both applications are designed to provide. Choosing one or the other based on experience is not hard to do as both Apple and Adobe provide a trial user download option on their websites.

For more information, contact Apple Inc., 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014; (408) 996-1010; www.apple.com.

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