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Aperture Opens Up RAW for Photographers

At a press conference in New York last week (which coincided with PhotoPlus Expo), Apple announced Aperture, a new professional application geared toward photographers shooting and working with digital photos in RAW format. Aperture aims to concentrate all of the activities pro photographers need – capture, correction, and output – in one application. The software is available for pre-order now at $500, and is expected to ship in November.



Aperture’s focus is on the RAW format, the unprocessed digital information captured by higher-end digital cameras (most consumer-level cameras capture an image and save it to a memory card in JPEG format, which applies lossy compression); Aperture also supports other common image formats such as JPEG and TIFF. It can copy photos directly from the memory card, enabling you to preview the shots before extracting them – a feature I’ve long wanted to see in iPhoto. It also grabs the EXIF metadata tags.

Once within Aperture, the images remain in RAW format, where you can apply correction using tools such as white balance, color shifting, red-eye removal, and more. The editing is non-destructive, so you can always revert back to the original. Clever photo-friendly features such as a light table arrangement (where you can view numerous photos in a large work space) and a loupe feature (which shows you a magnified circle to view selections of an image without zooming the entire photo) should appeal to photographers. Aperture also features extensive support for grouping and collecting images in albums and smart albums using IPTC metadata tags, as well as tools to compare multiple photos against one another. Other nice features include a built-in backup system for archiving photos, Web and book publishing that offers flexibility well beyond what iPhoto includes, and Photoshop compatibility.

Speaking of Photoshop, Apple isn’t positioning Aperture as a "Photoshop killer," just as Motion isn’t an After Effects killer. Rather, its strengths appear to be offering a workflow for pro photographers in one attractive package, instead of a mashup of Photoshop plus assorted plug-ins that deal with specific image adjustments (see Charles Maurer’s article series, "Through the Digital Lens," starting in TidBITS-748 for examples of this sort of thing). The question will be whether photographers, who have probably already invested in Photoshop, will be willing to cough up another $500 for Aperture.



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