Price When Reviewed: 185
Pros: pros Groundbreaking approach to image editing. Excellent new adjustments. Versatile library management. Free upgrade.
Cons: cons Various bugs with one potentially serious. No import of XMP sidecar files. Needs more zoom options and keyboard shortcuts for adjustments. Slow on all but the fastest Macs.
Aperture 1.0 went further than any program in addressing the start-to-finish needs of advanced and professional photographers, but its strengths were offset by some design flaws, bugs, and stiff hardware demands.
April’s Aperture 1.1 update partially addressed these issues, but it was still obviously a new product in need of further refinement.
Aperture 1.5’s digital darkroom adds two new tools to Aperture’s slate of adjustments. An excellent Edge Sharpen adjustment sharpens an image based on its luminance (brightness) data. It’s ideal for sharpening the eyes in a portrait without also accentuating digital camera noise, for example. The update adds a new Color adjustment that lets you selectively adjust a photo’s colours.
The loupe is greatly improved in this new version, with a centred option like a real loupe and a pop-up menu for quickly changing its zoom level. However, it needs more zooming options for the entire image.
Previously Aperture stored all photos in a central library, a scheme many photographers found far too restrictive. Aperture 1.5 is more accommodating. New users can have the Aperture library simply reference your photos instead of copying them to a centralized location. This allows for more flexible photo storage, as you can now scatter photos across multiple hard drives if you like. Thumbnail previews of all images are kept by the application, so you can see what’s on filed DVDs, unplugged drives, and unavailable network shares.
Sidecars not allowed
Metadata tools are enhanced by quick-to-apply presets, but you can’t import XMP sidecar files – which will annoy anyone moving across from other digital photography applications. Updates for new digital SLRs are released at a slower pace than for Adobe’s Camera Raw software.
The most serious bug surfaces if you try to update an earlier Aperture library that contains folders or projects whose names start with a period. When updating the library, Aperture 1.5 will interpret these folders as hidden files and may put them in the Trash.
We tested Aperture on a wide range of Mac workstations. Performance on pre-Intel hardware was fine for asset-management work, but for image adjustment the software crawled on a dual-2GHz Power Mac G5 using a 10.2mp RAW image. Moving to a new Mac Pro though, Aperture was smooth and responsive throughout.
With version 1.5, Apple has addressed most of the design shortcomings that have kept many photographers away from Aperture. There’s still room for improvement, though.