If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I was one of the early proponents of Aperture. In fact, it would have been safe to call me an Aperture “fanboy.” When it first launched, it was far from perfect, but I immediately saw the potential of the program and decided to embrace it anyway.
I co-taught the very first public workshop on Aperture a few days after it launched at MacWorld with Derrick Story. I taught it again the next year as well. I became one of the first Aperture T3 (Train the Trainer) Apple certified instructors. I established the first Aperture blog and podcast which I later rolled into work I did for the O’Reilly Digital Media Blog. I went on to record two Aperture training titles for lynda.com and did the technical edit on two Aperture books. In other words, I have a long history with the program and know a thing or two about it.
So it was with great anticipation that I got my hands on Aperture 3.0. It had been a very long time between Aperture 2.x and 3.0. In fact, many in the photography community moved on to Lightroom thinking Apple had abandoned Aperture.
I myself got tired of their silly secrecy policy and ADDED Lightroom 2x to my arsenal. I also downloaded Lightroom 3.0 beta and played with it.
Regardless of which program I land on permanently, I feel the need to know them both since the Photofocus audience asks lots of questions about both.
I used Aperture 3.0 for a few hours and wrote a first glance post here – http://photofocus.com/2010/02/10/aperture-3-0-first-glance/.
Since then, I’ve invested about 12 hours into Aperture 3.0. I’ve given it a more complete shakedown and tested nearly every aspect of it. I have some conclusions – the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
Lots of new features. Lots of them. 200 to be exact. Some more powerful and important than others but believe me, it’s a major upgrade. My favorite upgrade is the ability to do more powerful slide shows and then export them. I’ve been crying for this feature in Aperture forever. I even met with the Aperture design team in Cupertino one day and got to layout my want list. This was at the top. I also love being able to merge Libraries, look at the video I import, use presets, make spot adjustments with brushes, etc. If all the features in Aperture work as advertised, it is very conceivable that it could replace the need for Photoshop for many photographers. I’ve never said that before. I’ve ALWAYS said the two programs compliment each other. Not any more. If Aperture 3.0 works as advertised, many of you will not need Photoshop. I sense a further chill in the Adobe and Apple relationship.
While Apple thought of many things, the one place they should have concentrated their efforts better is speed. The program does indeed offer faster thumbnails. But EVERYTHING else is as slow or slower than it was before. Aperture 3.0 was a chance to clean up the legacy code and to find workarounds for the heavy dependancy on super fast GPU chips (Graphics Processing Unit.) That didn’t happen. Even on the most expensive, souped up laptop Apple sells, I get a spinning beach ball or the “processing” icon for far too long.
And then there’s the 64-bit problem. New feature – Aperture supports 64-bit computing. YAY! About time! BUT…..(there’s always a but) if you use plug-ins like Nik, Topaz, etc., you have to stop, relaunch in 32-bit mode and move on. AGAIN, because of Apple’s Byzantine marketing and PR policies and their manic desire for secrecy at all cost, they didn’t bother to work with their partners to provide an SDK that would have allowed 64-bit plug-ins to ship at the same time Aperture launched. This leaves the plug-in makers scrambling AFTER the fact to re-write their software to take full advantage of Aperture’s new speed. Despite the fact that every other software company on the planet considers this a standard practice, Apple won’t do it and the users are the ones who get screwed in the end.
Oh yeah it gets worse – I’m averaging one total Aperture crash every 90 minutes. If I were a Windows user I’d expect this sort of thing – (yeah I admit that last comment was flame bait but I couldn’t help myself) – but not on a Mac. I am afraid that Apple has taken Guy Kawasaki’s advice to “ship crap” far too literally.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Aperture 3.0 has a memory leak. The message “Startup Disk Full” started appearing out of nowhere, even though I had 78 gigs of free HD space on my laptop.
And don’t even get me started on Faces and Places. These are two new super cool features bolted onto Aperture from iPhoto and they just plain and simple are completely buggy for me and most users I talked with.
What makes this particularly ugly is that Apple is mum on the problems. They offer us no guidance or advice. We’re just supposed to suffer and wait for the expected update. Will it come today, next month, a year from now? “Apple doesn’t comment on future products or updates,” says the official PR person – who by the way looks a whole lot like one of the monitors in the movie “1984.” I’m just saying…
Aperture 3.0 offers some very, very cool new features. Once the program is stable, I have no doubt that it will be able to quite nicely compete with Lightroom 3.0 – at least based on what we’re seeing in the current Lightroom 3.0 beta. The ability to use presets, slideshows you can export, the editing brushes, the ability to have much better control over photo libraries and the support for video are just a few of my favorite new features. And Lightroom still (even in 3.0) doesn’t have a book feature while Aperture does. But because of Apple’s mindless, self-destructive and downright unhelpful commitment to secrecy above sanity, I can’t right now treat the program as anything other than a beta. And I am NOT going to risk my livelihood (i.e. my photo library) on a beta. I won’t trust Lightroom 3.0 to manage my photos because Adobe has had the courage to label it a beta. And I won’t trust Aperture 3.0 to manage my photos – regardless of Apple’s failure to acknowledge it’s nothing more than a beta too.
I am rooting for Apple and Aperture despite the fact that I find the company’s policies surrounding secrecy to be frustrating and downright counterproductive – at least in this case. If for no other reason than we need Aperture to keep Adobe Lightroom honest, we should all hope it succeeds. But for now, I can’t advise serious photographers to trust Aperture 3.0. I’ll continue to explore it with a small demo Library to learn the new features – but when it comes to the real world, I’ll wait for the 3.01.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store