February 10, 2010

Aperture 3.0 First Glance

Apple finally took the wraps off Aperture 3.0. The application appears to have caught up to Lightroom 2X and then some. But until Adobe freezes the LR3 beta, we can’t know how the two programs stack up head-to-head.

Some important new features in Aperture 3.0 include:

a. Presets (including on import)
This is one of the things I really found I liked about Lightroom. Presets are fun, cool and time-saving. Glad to see Aperture 3.0 finally has them.
b. Easier import and more import options
c. Backup on import
d. Faster thumbnails on import – This works as advertised
e. Color labels
f. Merge and Sync Libraries
This one is huge – I’ve been wanting this since Aperture 1.0. If you work with many Libraries as I do, this can be a real neat option
g. Fast Library Switching
Another feature I’ve wanted – again because I use multiple Libraries. This should make it easier and faster
h. Better Library/database maintenance options
i. From iPhoto Faces/Places – very cool
j. Non-destructive brushes – Finally selective adjustment in Aperture
k. New curves tool
l. Web publishing to Facebook or Flickr
m. Video support – HUGE with fusion making waves in the industry the ability to do ANYTHING with video in Aperture is a big deal
n. Slideshows vastly improved – yes! Finally you can export and share an Aperture slide show and you can add audio, text and video. Aperture 3.0 also offers six professionally-designed themes.
o. Printing – lots more printing options including books. I’m impressed to see that Apple worked out deals with companies like GraphiStudio. These folks make some really high-end stuff. Should be a boon to wedding and portrait shooters. There are also cool new printing presets.
p. 64-Bit support – huge if you have a beefy machine
q. New project view lets you organize and view projects more efficiently
r. AND last but not least – Aperture FINALLY supports Panasonic’s RAW format on the LX3!!!

There’s a partial laundry list. Apple claims there are 200 changes to Aperture 3. This list represents some of the changes I consider important.

About performance…

There’s no doubt that on my test machine: (Intel Core 2 Duo – 2.93 GHz – 8 GB Memory) Aperture builds the previews MUCH more quickly. But I see no additional enhancements to performance – so far. The program still takes a while to process images and while you can technically work on your photos while this happens, it only took me 30 seconds to crash Aperture 3.0. All I did was try to see a Full Page View of an image that was processing.

Clearly, those hoping to find Aperture noticeably faster will find little to cheer about. The program is also still a bit buggy for my taste. I had one other random crash. I expect these problems to quickly be sorted out.

All-in-all it looks like Apple has caught up to Lightroom and perhaps surpassed it in some ways. Aperture 3.0 is a major update. It was a long wait between Aperture 2.0 and Aperture 3.0 and hopefully Apple won’t take so long between this and the next update. I will continue to use both Lightroom and Aperture, but for me, the jury is still out. I am a little worried about the crashes I experienced and I may wait for 3.01 before I try doing any serious work with Aperture 3.0.

As soon as Adobe announces the gold version of Lightroom 3, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison.

Aperture 3.0 retails for $199, and existing Aperture users can upgrade for $99. Visit Apple for more information.

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