Apple Releases Aperture 3
It has been nearly two years since Apple last released a major update to its professional photo editing program Aperture, a wait so long that many were beginning to wonder if the program had been shelved. But with last week’s debut of Aperture 3, with over 200 new features, it’s clear that Apple hasn’t forgotten about its powerful photo management and editing software.
Many of Aperture’s new features have been lifted from iPhoto ’09 and enhanced, improving the program’s ease of use for amateur photographers looking to take their photos to the next level. Of these features, support for Faces and Places are the most recognizable transplants. As in iPhoto ’09, Faces in Aperture enables users to identify and tag friends or family members in photos based on facial features. Faces also receives some fine tuning in Aperture 3, including the capability to limit the events Aperture searches within for face matches (to avoid scanning your entire library). Also, a new Unnamed Faces view displays all your unmatched faces in one place (this is possible in
iPhoto ’09 via a smart album).
Places in Aperture, as in iPhoto ’09, enables users to sort and tag photos by the location in which they were taken. Cameras with geotagging capabilities automatically assign location information to photos, but if your camera, like most, doesn’t support geotagging, you can instead manually tag photos or groups of photos in several ways: by searching iPhoto’s location database, by dragging and dropping thumbnails onto an interactive map, or by separately importing GPX files from a GPS logging tool and matching your photos to the GPS data.
Aperture’s third major feature addition is Brushes, which is aimed at providing a higher level of photo-editing sophistication. The Brushes feature enables users to apply filters and effects only to specific areas of a photograph instead of the entire image. Fifteen Quick Brushes cover the most basic editing tasks users are likely to need, including burning, dodging, smoothing areas, sharpening details, or reducing color saturation. A Detect Edges option makes it easier to make adjustments in tight spots by preventing your brush strokes from bleeding over to other undesired areas. Finally, brush strokes can be turned on or off individually, making changes non-destructive and worry-free.
In addition to these major feature additions, Aperture 3 also includes the capability to save adjustment presets (sequences of changes or brush strokes that can be applied as unified blocks to subsequent images), improved library management capabilities, and support for 64-bit mode in Snow Leopard. Also improved are the slideshow options (including HD support), the full-screen editing and viewing modes, and options for exporting to MobileMe, Facebook, and Twitter. The Aperture library is also now capable of storing and letting you work with video files as well as still images.
(Shortly after putting out Aperture 3, Apple released the Aperture SlideShow Support Update 1.0 which fixes an issue with playing back video clips in Aperture 3 slideshows when working in Snow Leopard. The 62.33 MB update is free and available via Software Update or the Apple Support Downloads page.)
Aperture 3 is available now, requires that you are running at least Mac OS X 10.5.8 on an Intel-based Mac, and costs $199 new or $99 as an upgrade from a previous version. A free 30-day trial is also available on Apple’s Web site (look for the Free Trial button in the upper right hand corner of the main Aperture page).
After my experiences with earlier versions, I plan to hold off buying, at least until some reviewers have had a chance to flog it. I'm especially wary of the "transfer of no return", the one-way-only library upgrade that makes images unreadable by earlier versions.
For me, the single most important feature - bar none! - was finally the ability to work with the RAW images produced by my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 camera. I bought it in November 2008 and had given up hope of Apple providing this support quite some time ago.
Core support comes from the "Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.0", with - as far as I can tell from a quick play with the trial version - optical lens corrections coming from Aperture 3 itself. Details of the other cameras supported by this update are here:
I can see in hindsight how they mesh together, but it's been a very frustrating year without even a hint, never mind a promise, of any sort of sensible RAW workflow.
Honestly, I hate Apple's approach to RAW support. It's at the system level, so it can only be added when they gang together enough updates to make it worthwhile. I can understand the reasoning, but it takes a looong time for them to release updates. I had to switch to Lightroom to write my Canon G11 book because Aperture couldn't handle the RAW files.
How does Aperture compare with less expensive options like Graphic Converter?
They're not very similar. Aperture excels at photo management and workflow, with a lot of photo-editing tools. Graphic Converter is like Photoshop, with lots of options for editing and converting photos but not managing them.
This is one of those cases where Apple needed to break their policy of not commenting on future releases. I suspect they've lost a lot of people to LightRoom that they're not going to get back. Allowing Aperture to be inferior in significant ways to iPhoto for a long period of time didn't help.
We've got it running here and to address the concerns of Mike and ourselves, A3 imports your A2 library and upgrades it leaving the A2 untouched. You can then toggle between versions (rename A2 before installing) and revert, if needed. It's a solid upgrade and TidBITS condensed all the updates into this article without detailing all of the new file management features. They are impressive.
We're looking forward to writing a real review once we've used it more. This was a news piece to let people know it's available.