Apple says ‘let there be lightbox’.

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Apple has done this once before, you know. Released preview details of an application that is so targeted, and does things so differently, that professionals at once are both fascinated and slightly aghast at their industry being turned on its head by a humble piece of software. 
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Back then, it was Final Cut Pro, the video-editing application that proved to be the Apple application that could. Today, it’s Aperture.
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Back when Final Cut Pro was announced, plenty of video editors had been doing things a tried-&-tested way, thanks very much, and many were sceptical that Apple could release something compelling. Back then, its software support history wasn’t exactly amazing, and I guess the likes of Avid and Adobe barely registered the newcomer. 
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How quickly that changed. Final Cut Pro delivered astonishing capabilities for a very low price. Each new release has added multiple factors of power, making it a significant force for creative video editors.
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Aperture is Final Cut Pro all over again – and it’s one of the few packages that has drawn gasps of excitement from its market of professional photographers. In short, Aperture is a sweetly tailored application that understands the creative history of photography and its attendant workflows. 
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Working with RAW image formats from a variety of digital cameras, it offers some great features. It can automatically stack together photos based on when they were taken, and it offers non-destructive editing of images in real-time. It includes a loupe tool to show very fine detail without the painfully slow hoop jumping of zooming and panning your RAW files. 
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It offers a ‘freeform’ lightbox that you can scatter photos onto, perform colour correction, output to books or Web galleries, and it does it without hiccup. And, like Final Cut Pro, it’s going to do it for just £349 including VAT.
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The real question, though, is whether Apple is manoeuvring itself to take on Photoshop. At the moment, I doubt it. You can’t really compare Aperture to Photoshop – Aperture is such a unique solution that a head-to-head is redundant. Sure, it does many of the things that Photoshop offers for photographers, and at first glance it does them an order of magnitude better. But, Photoshop offers compositing, CMYK output, and integration with the rest of Adobe’s Creative Suite.
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But Apple is, I feel, playing the long game. For Apple, as with Final Cut Pro, the first few releases aren’t the goal. Apple seems to unerringly be able to target a market space, and then move quickly to dominate it, just as with iTunes and the iPod. For the moment, Photoshop offers such a diverse, rich set of tools with a deep user base, that it’s really untouchable. 
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Interestingly, Adobe too has been wooing the professional photographer with recent releases, but Aperture has shown how to really get a snapper’s blood pumping.
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Version 2.0 will probably answer the is-it-or-isn’t-it a Photoshop contender. Much like Apple adding type tools and HD support to Final Cut Pro, I can only see further releases adding compositing and CMYK support – areas that are firmly held Photoshop territory. Adobe will be watching carefully, but photographers should really explore what Aperture has to offer. The first salvo from Apple has been fired – and it will hit home.
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