At last week's Photokina photographic conference in Cologne, Germany, Apple unveiled Aperture 1.5, a significant update to its professional photo-management tool. The software itself was released late in the week as a free update for existing Aperture owners (a 125 MB download); it costs $300 for new users.
Aperture 1.5 addresses several issues that professional photographers have asked for since Aperture 1.0 arrived almost a year ago. At the top of the list is the capability to access images anywhere, rather than allowing Aperture to copy everything to its own library location on disk. The program can now also store previews of photos that reside on offline volumes to help you track your entire photo library better; these previews can be rated, reviewed, and organized while the originals are offline as well. Also improved are Aperture's color adjustment controls, RAW image support, the loupe's viewing settings, and metadata import and export. Aperture photos can now also be accessed from within iLife '06 and iWork '06 applications, and can be synchronized to an iPod using iTunes.
In an unusual (but welcome) move, Apple also reduced the minimum hardware requirements with Aperture 1.5, enabling it to work on all current Macs; earlier versions did not recommend the Mac mini and MacBook due to those machines' integrated graphics processors.
Apple has aggressively pushed Aperture to establish a foothold in the professional photography market, no doubt due to increasing competition from Adobe's pro photo tool Lightroom. Now re-branded Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, the beta 4 version was also released at Photokina as a free 14 MB download for Mac or Windows.
Lightroom is still a work in progress, but it demonstrates how Apple and Adobe are actively courting photographers and apparently responding directly to feedback. It's always fun to watch two heavyweights duke it out, knowing that the people using the products will end up winning as the programs improve.