Comments on Aperture 3

Aperture 3 is a huge breath of fresh air for me, opening up photo retouching to so many new possibilities while doing it faster.

Pretty much all the requested and hoped-for features are there (first of foremost, brushes, and curves), so I won’t get into that. Handling of the metadata is way better, and the idea of showing it like on the camera’s LCD screen is a very nice touch, and makes it much easier to read it a glance (in particular, I just love the display of the auto-focus points).

At first I was surprised that the “new features” page doesn’t mention anything about performance, beyond the fact that it’s now 64 bits. I was expecting stuff about some of Snow Leopard’s new technologies (Grand Central in particular), for which Aperture would have been a prime candidate, but no. However, after using it for several hours it is much faster and more responsive – the loupe in particular is almost lag-free. Loading images in is still a bit slow, but then again I’m dealing with 20-25Mb raw files here.

There’s no improvement on b&w conversion (still the same monochrome mixer) beyond the fact that it’s now “brushable” (b&w/color mixes here I come – back), but the presets are a step toward film/paper emulation. Surprisingly there are already two “black and white” sets of presets (may be a buglet of the trial version). The first one contains two “old film 1” and “old film 2” presets, neither of which are particularly well done, but that’s a clear indication of things to come. What’s more, the Aperture 3 plugins page also mentions presets (though marked as “coming soon” for now).

The disappointment comes with the Web export features. Be it to flickr, facebook or iWeb (that is, importing Aperture images on a photo gallery page from iWeb), there is almost no flexibility over the process. In the case of flickr, which gives you a lot of freedom over the resolution of the images you upload, Aperture gives only 3 settings without any technical indication on what they are. More annoying, no control over how the metadata of the Aperture image is reflected in the exported image, and the default behavior (using the Version Name as caption, ignore all the rest) is silly. Likewise, no control on the flickr keywords either.

This is quite annoying because Aperture is clearly pitched as iPhoto Pro. But with these features (flickr/facebook export), it’s still as basic as iPhoto, and certainly not “pro”. Still, Apple is clearly not letting Adobe being the sole player in that area – give the state of their relationship, that’s hardly surprising.