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Apple's Aperture Reviewed 383

phaedo00 writes "Ars Technica has done an in-depth review of Apple's Aperture. Reviewer Dave Girard gives it a once over and walks away with a sour taste in his mouth. From the review: 'It is also disappointing to see form beat out function here, but hopefully this will be Apple's software equivalent of the G4 Cube. They have only themselves to blame: they set themselves up for a big fall by attempting to dig themselves a chunk of the pro market by purporting to have the lossless holy grail of imaging. The trouble with that is they obviously didn't have the engineering or expertise in RAW processing to pull it off or, if they did, they chose not to include it because of speed constraints due to Core Image.'"
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Apple's Aperture Reviewed

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  • I enjoy the app (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PrimeWaveZ ( 513534 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @02:13PM (#14186479)
    And although I don't have a DSLR, or even a camera that shoots raw images, I find it to be a valuable app in terms of form and basic function with my Canon A95.

    His technical concerns are legitimate, and Apple will need to work on those issues. However, in terms of organization and workflow, this program is incredible. I cannot forsee this application going anywhere but up in the coming months and years. I enjoy it, and look forward to updates for bugs and other issues mentioned in the article.
    • by DamienMcKenna ( 181101 ) <> on Monday December 05, 2005 @02:24PM (#14186573)
      find it to be a valuable app in terms of form and basic function with my Canon A95.

      You're using a $500 software product with a $300 camera? There's something wrong here.

      • I'm pretty sure he bought it at either thepiratebay or isohunt.

      • You're using a $500 software product with a $300 camera? There's something wrong here.

        Free your mind from meatspace.

        Some people are using a $600 software product (Photoshop) to make images without any cameras -- zero dollars for image-making hardware!

        Not to mention that you confuse the price of the tools with the quality of output.
      • by King Babar ( 19862 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:15PM (#14187043) Homepage
        You're using a $500 software product with a $300 camera? There's something wrong here.

        So I'm really trying to figure out what your point is here. If I have two tools I use in my work, and one costs twice what the other does, are you really saying that makes no sense? A few weeks ago, I used like $100 worth of precision tools to take apart an iBook, but I put the parts I got out in a $2 mini-muffin tin. Was there something wrong there?

        The closest I can get to a useful argument here is (I think) your opinion that a $300 camera can't generate pictures "good enough" for a $500 editing program, but that isn't a slam-dunk these days, especially if the software saves you a lot of time no matter how much you camera costs *and* your time is worth something. Another possibility is that you're pointing out that most casual users probably don't use most of the features from the $500 piece of software, and would be better off using something cheaper and spending the other money on something else. Now, that would be my opinion most of the time, but I don't see that it has much to do with how fancy your camera is...

        • Using a $500 app for images taken with a $300 camera is like using a cheap lens on a high-end camera body; you're not going to get good results when the most important piece doesn't hold up. The A95 gives great pictures for the price, but spending more money on the camera and less on the software would just make more sense. Heck, the A95 doesn't even support a RAW format! This is ignoring the fact that the OP probably pirated the software in the first place.
          • This is ignoring the fact that the OP probably pirated the software in the first place.

            I'm not the original poster, but I don't see anything in his/her message to indicate that the software was pirated. On what do you base this allegation? On the fact that the camera being used cost less than the software? What kind of "evidence" is that? (other than totally unrelated, as other people have already pointed out).

            I don't get the "in thing" among both ordinary posters and corporations in assuming that everyone
        • The problem is... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Viewsonic ( 584922 )
          Aperature was designed for managing literally thousands and thousands of photos dumped into the program at a single time. When photographers are doing a photoshoot of a model for a day they might end up with close to 10,000 images that they'll have to sort through. This is where Aperature comes into play. A $300 camera has software that comes along with it that is probably more than it will ever need.

          Anyways, the point being is that you're not going to get the amount of images from a $300 camera that this

        • Actually... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by OS24Ever ( 245667 ) *
          ...while commenting on the cost of the camera vs. the cost of the tool there is a problem with what Aperture is being 'marketed as' vs. what you can do with it with the camera mentioned.

          Aperture is a 'workflow' program. Designed to help in getting a RAW image out of a camera, do basic processing, and hand it off to an image editor.

          The problem with the camera mentioned in my limited knowledge of the product is that it produces no RAW/NEF image, only a JPG.

          What would you workflow on it? Nothing that another
      • by ChrisA90278 ( 905188 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:35PM (#14187231)
        "You're using a $500 software product with a $300 camera?"

        No you are thinking backwards. He is using a $500 software product to manage $10,000 worth of images. The fact that those images where shot with an inexpensive camera does not mater.

        I use a Canon A95 also. But for example a couple weeks ago I spent two days of my time and $2,000 worth of SCUBA equipment and waterproof housing and pay for a charter boat to take me to the back side of an island of the California coast. I shoot for three hours and get about 200 images. What did those images cost me? The $300 I paid for the camera is meaningless in that calculation.

        Let's say I go in vacation to Hawaii and take the famly or I take the camera with me to my daughter's Halloween party and so on and so on. OK I've actually done all that and have 2500 images all shot wuith the $300 A95. and now I'm thinking of how I'm going to scan a few thousand slides and negatives I shoot with 35mm and 120 size film. What are these images worth? The cost of the equipment they were shot with? The cost of the time effort and money spent shooting them? IIf so then they are wortth FAR more then the cost of a $500 software aplication AND the Quad Core Power Mac.

        If you are a profesional it's easy to know tha value of your images: It's whatever a client is willing to pay you for them. The cost of your time and your equipment does not even come into the calaculation. If you images are paying the rent and you areliving a midle class lifestyle then a few years worth of image are worth a LOT more then a Quad Core Powwer Mac and a RAID disk system and the $500 cost of Aperature would be in the noise.

        All that said I'm seriouly looking to buy a DSLR soon. My A95 is just to darn slow and the image quality is not up to 35mm film standards and I think the new Nikon D200 will do better. OK it's a $2K camera but it will shoot tens of thosands of images in it's lifetime - A nickle a shot maybe.

      • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:55PM (#14187435) Journal
        You're right, despite the crap being doled out as responses. Perhaps if you'd asked why someone would grab a (puportedly) high end image program to deal with images shot with a (very) amatuer level camera. If you're so concered that you need the maximum image quality for archival purposes that you need a specialzed RAW software package, you darned well better start where the image is captured. Top quality glass and a big, low-noise, high pixel count CCD is a good place to start.

        There will always be better algorithms and processing as time goes by - the RAW data will never get more accurate than that which you capture initially.
  • by bblazer ( 757395 ) * on Monday December 05, 2005 @02:38PM (#14186697) Homepage Journal
    I am what you might call a serious amateur photographer. For the past few years I have used a full version of Photoshop CS (on Mac) for my processing. On a lark, I pre-ordered Aperture. I think that it is not a refined as photoshop, but I am not sure it is meant to be. Photoshop is a scalpel in a swiss army knife, and Aperture is more of a chef's knife by itself. I definitely think that Aperture has a MUCH shorter learning curve and is more intuitive. It does not get in your way. While I (again) am no expert, I believe that the images I have processed with Aperture have the same final quality as Photoshop. Plus, it loads about 2x faster than photoshop.
    • You can see from the article sample images that the quality of aperture's output is not very high. And, loading time is utterly irrelevant. It will take you longer to apply a decent filter to an image - even with macosx and the graphics core - than it will to start photoshop.
  • by toupsie ( 88295 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @02:39PM (#14186706) Homepage
    I am a heavy user of iPhoto but my "shoebox" of photos is getting a little too big for it. At ~29,000 iPhoto is usable but is starting to choke a little. Aperture seems to be perfectly able to handle libraries over 100,000 with no problems but I am not a Pro photog and $500 for Aperture is a little much since all I want is a cataloging app. Anyone have a suggestion on the an iPhoto alternative that will import my iPhoto library?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If you've got too many photos for iPhoto, try iPhoto Buddy ( It lets you group your photos into separate libraries, and then launches iPhoto with only the library you want to work on. It's convenient, and free.

  • Note that while I'm not a professional photographer, I work with high-end digital and scanned images as a commercial retoucher and formerly as art director for a fashion magazine...
    A pro photographer is paid for his "eye"/ability to capture an image that is so desirable, someone wants to pay for it.

    so I understand the needs of a professional digital photographer.
    I spent some time working at an OEM, so I got a little tiny window into their workflow. Much of the value of an Aperature is in importing and mana
    • ...I work with high-end digital and scanned images as a commercial retoucher...

      Sounds to me like he is qualified to speak about a digital image processing application. He doesn't have to have the "eye" to tell if an image is technically of high quality.

      Oh...And as an art director you have to be able to recognize quality photographs (not speaking of the technical quality here) or you suck.

    • If Aperature helped photographers take better pictures by, I don't know, suggesting aperature settings, then the reviewer's credentials would be suspect.

      Given than Aperature is a workflow product more than an image manipulation product, a photo retoucher and art director should have an excellent idea of what a commercial photographer needs Aperature to do. Both deal with large numbers of images, are concerned about image quality, relevance, building libraries, searching by metadata, color data, or thumbnai
  • And it's a pretty off-topic quibble, at that:

    While on first impression they look slick, it's a generally known thing in publishing that reverse type (white on black) is not easy to read, and so if someone is going to be spending a long time in front of a long article, reverse type is usually avoided. Is this true? While it might be true for reading printed output, I thought that it was actually the case that white text on a dark background was _better_ on a monitor, since a monitor's natural state is bla

    • I thought that it was actually the case that white text on a dark background was _better_ on a monitor, since a monitor's natural state is black.

      The reason white (actually very light grey) on black is optimal on monitors, while black on white is optimal for prints is very simple. Monitors don't just reflect light (with perfect black being none reflected) but emit light. Even the black on a monitor is actually a dark grey emission of the primary colors. Eyes tire out and become fatigued staring at a light

  • by mosch ( 204 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @02:45PM (#14186754) Homepage
    Photoshop is the darkroom.

    Aperature is the light table.

    If you don't understand this, you're not the target market.
    • That would be me. I have no clue what you're talking about. So, thanks for saving me time regarding RTFA.
    • If you don't understand this, you're not the target market.

      Not really following. My guess is, if the target market sees a histogram offered as a tool in a $500 app, it's going to expect the histogram to actually work and provide accurate results. People are focusing on RAW and such (which is valid), but that part of the review wigged me out more than anything.
    • Photoshop is the darkroom.

      Aperature is the light table.

      If you don't understand this, you're not the target market.

      Thank you for your perfect, masterful, everybody-else-might-as-well-shut-the-fuck-up-now summary of what Aperture is for and why comparisons to various photo editing programs are worse than meaningless.

      If only yours was the first response, it would have saved us all from endless conversations bickering about layer editing, plug-ins, and other irrelevant bullshit.

      This thread is over. "mocsh" fo
  • Can anyone else verify Girard's gripes with the GUI type?

    "They try and make it less illegible by bolding up the fonts but it's really fuzzy and on my 22" monitor at 1600x1200, I'm constantly squinting to read things (and I have near-perfect vision). Maybe things look better on the twin 30" LCD setups that you see in all of Apple's user profiles [Kevin Bacon dork-cred references omitted]

    I think Apple is assuming that everyone is running on larger monitors now but they forgot about that resolution thing that
  • by analogueblue ( 853280 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:04PM (#14186944) Homepage
    I need to preface this by saying that no application is perfect for everyone. Different people have different workflows, different post-processing needs, and different priorities. I'm not saying Aperture is perfect for everyone. Nor should anyone else say Aperture is useless. It may be useless to them, but not to everyone. I shoot mostly fashion and advertising type work. I'm a pretty serious amateur, in that I have good gear, and I'm very serious about photography, but I have a day job doing something else (security architecture, which I also love). I shoot only RAW as it gives me way more latitude if I want to adjust the exposure after the fact to change or increase a look (i.e. I want to make things darker and moodier, or I want to blow things out a little). My post-processing requirements are usually the following (in order of frequency): Exposure, white point, saturation, sharpening, levels, blemish fixing. On very rare occasion I'll need to do something beyond that. My pre-Aperture workflow looked a lot like this: Copy files from CF card. Due to my camera putting them in different folders based on the sequence, I had to write an automator script to pull out just the image files from all the folders and put them in a new folder on my desktop. This works, but takes a little while, and is something I had to write myself. Create a folder for my project "Sarah-DarkWear hoodie". Create the following folders inside that: "raws", "all-jpeg", "best-psd", "best-jpeg". Move all the RAWs from my automator action's results folder into the raws folder. Open up Adobe CS2 Bridge. View the files. Try to pick the best ones. I can't emphasize enough how laborious and time consuming this task is. Out of 200 shots, about 20 are really good, and about 5 are worth using (in a portfolio or ad or whatever). Bridge has no way to compare two pictures other than switching back and forth between them. You also can't see the pictures at 100% so figuring out sharpness or focus is pretty impossible unless you open them up in Photoshop. Which requires a multi-dialog process and a conversion time. Once I get my 20 good ones, batch convert them all to PSDs using an action I wrote. This takes a while. The PSDs go into the "best-psds" folder. They each take up about 40-70 MB of space vs. 3-6 MB for each RAW file. Make the levels, saturation, sharpness adjustments as needed with each file. Using another action I wrote, batch convert the best PSDs to full rez jpegs with my copyright notice on them. As this action involves opening a 70 MB file, creating a new layer for my copyright, setting it up, converting to srgb, converting to 8bit, saving as jpeg, this takes a while. Several seconds each file on my dual 2.5 with 2.5 GB ram. Using another action I wrote, batch covert all the RAWs to small rez jpegs with my copyright notice on them. These are for the model if it's a tfcd shoot, or for my records, or whatever. This takes a good long while. Now my 1 GB of raws are about 2.3 GB of raws, jpegs, psds. Open up iView Media pro and update it's index so that all my new files are in it. Done. With Aperture, I put my card in the reader. Aperture pops up and asks if I'd like to import these images. I pick a destination, specify the metadata and keywords for this shoot, and it loads them all in. I turn on auto-stack. I make a few manual stacking adjustments. I start picking the best shoots. Aperture has excellent compare modes, including 2-up, 3-up, more-up, full rez zoom, a loupe tool for instantly checking focus at full resolution, a 0-5 star rating system, a quick-select key for picking an image as five star, a quick-reject key for an image I know is junk. Within in a stack I can promote, demote, and pick the stack "pick" very quickly and easily. I can do this with just the keyboard. I can easily compare any pictures next to each other. I can go full screen with drops off all the unneeded junk and keeps the various window and toolbar colors for interfering with my vision on my color calibrated display. Picking t
  • To paraphrase what James Agee said of Walt Disney's "Victory through Air Power," I hope that Dave Girard knows what he is talking about, for I suspect that an awful lot of people who read this article are going to think that he does.
  • In Apple's defense, one has to say that good photographers usually don't need to do big adjustments to their images--the images come out nearly perfectly from the camera. Browsing and management are more important.

    However, even taking that into account, it sounds like they still got some pretty basic things wrong. Pity, because the world really does need an alternative to Photoshop.
    • sounds like they still got some pretty basic things wrong. Pity, because the world really does need an alternative to Photoshop.

      It is not supposed to be an alternative to photoshop. This is mostly a tool for organizing and making standard alterations to the massive collections professional photographers amass. Have you ever watched a pro-photographer. Most of them take dozens of photographs of the same scene in an attempt to get the one they want/need. This lets them quickly find that one among th

      • This is mostly a tool for organizing and making standard alterations to the massive collections professional photographers amass.

        Yes, we agree on that.

        Trouble is that Aperture seems to fall short even for the limited set of standard alterations that they implement. Something like sharpen with thresholds and adjust curves should be in there, and it isn't.

        Therefore, people will have to continue to use Photoshop even for those standard alterations.

        So, right idea, bad implementation.
    • by ChrisA90278 ( 905188 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:50PM (#14187391)
      "...Pity, because the world really does need an alternative to Photoshop."

      Aperature was NOT intended to replace Photoshop. Aperature's job is to streamline the digital workflow. This is a "Big Deal" for people who shoot hundreds of images a day. Just ty it. Download 200+ images every day, day after day. Just previewing those images and ranking them for quality, deciding which to keep and with to toss, doing minor crops and color corections take _hours_ Profesionals are looking for workflow automation it would be worth much more than $500 if post shoot time could be cust by even 20%

      Aperature WAS intended in integrate with Photoshop. You can set up Aperature so that Photoshop is the default image editor and I figure that almost _everyone_ does this.

  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:42PM (#14187304) Homepage Journal
    Why would the reviewer hope this is "Apple's software equivalent of the G4 Cube"? Why not hope it gets *better*?

    That said, it's quite different from the Cube. The Cube was overpriced to begin with ($200 *more* than a comparably-specced, and expandable, G4 tower) and had no hope for success other than the price to be dropped. Software, on the other hand, can be improved and expanded in many directions. If Aperture is as bad as he says (and I'm sure for many it isn't) it can be improved. The Cube, on the other hand, had nothing to offer except "Ooh! Pretty! Small!" and unless Apple would have pushed it in the home-media-hub direction, there's not much that could have been done with a product like that.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday December 05, 2005 @03:57PM (#14187455) Journal
    He reviewed it as an image editor, not as a workflow tool.

    Aperture is what you need if you're shooting a thousand images a day. It's not a replacement for Photoshop, and its image editing capbilities are all targeted to easy batch application.


    • But its useless as a workflow tool if you import a RAW file, pick 10 images out of 100, choose the "work on this in Photoshop" command, and Photoshop is now working on the poor TIFF or PSD versions that Aperture makes from the RAW originals. It does not send RAW files directly to Photoshop (or anywhere else for that matter).

      Basically, Aperture has non-destructive import, but it doesn't really have non-destructive output. (Although you can get to the original RAW files through the Finder, that seems like a p
      • Photoshop is now working on the poor TIFF or PSD versions that Aperture makes from the RAW originals.

        That really can't be helped, because photoshop can't edit RAW images.

        it doesn't really have non-destructive output. (Although you can get to the original RAW files through the Finder, that seems like a poor workflow, don't you?)

        You've just contradicted yourself.


  • by DeathB ( 10047 ) <> on Monday December 05, 2005 @05:00PM (#14188084) Homepage
    I'm a reasonably heavy DSLR user who shoots on a Nikon D2H. I have shot for fashion and dance shows where I leave with over 1500 RAW photos (I attach my camera directly to a Powerbook which has a 250GB firewire drive attached). I've tried using iPhoto for managing my photos, as most of the professional workflow programs with databases are thousands of dollars to say hello. iPhoto essentially falls over and dies with those kind of numbers. iPhoto also doesn't actually handle RAW images, it converts them over to JPEG using a rather mediocre converter.

    I used to use Photoshop CS for "developing" my raw images, but most of its capabilities are focused around working with the photo once you've imported it as a PSD, and not around manipulating the photo itself. Along with many other photographers I've discovered CaptureOne [] is incredibly useful for non destructive processing of RAW images, as well as doing a wonderful job on noise reduction, color noise, banding, white balance, exposure, and levels.

    I was hoping Aperture could replace CaptureOne and iPhoto for me, while allowing me to contine to use Photoshop when I wanted to edit a photo rather than just process a RAW image. As far as I can tell, this is dead on what Apple intended Aperture for.

    To start off, I imported 3 iPhoto libraries with a total of 45,000 images into Aperture. To my surprise, it also imported all album and roll data with it (I was expecting to end up with a flat photo space) as well as importing all NEFs and the jpegs iPhoto had created automatically as different versions of the same photo. It's clear that the upgrade path from iPhoto to Aperture was well thought out.

    Aperture seems to be very good at handling a large image database. I now have 45,000 photos in a single Aperture library, and am not using more than 450MB of ram opening a window with all images in it (scrolling of course).

    Aperture also claimed to be able to handle many of the non destructive RAW workflow duties I'd handled before with Capture One. That's a bit more of a mixed bag. The white balancing loupe doesn't work nearly as well as Capture One's and occasionally creates psychadelic white balances in the process. The sharpening and noise reduction algorithms are nowhere near as good as Capture One's, and color noise reduction seems to be almost non existant on high exposure shots. Before someone points out that this is what Photoshop or some other tool is for, Aperture only exports PSDs or TIFFs to other applications so it has to handle all RAW processing itself.

    If Apple can figure out how to handle RAW images better, Aperature could really become an incredible product. As it is, the workflow management, versioning, and just plain dealing with tons of images seem to be really nice.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Tuesday December 06, 2005 @02:10AM (#14191478)
    FIrst of all, I've been using the program for just about four days now - but pretty heavily during that time. I like the app quite a lot, and some people do not seem to be understanding some aspects of the app well.

    This review in particular was I thought not very good from an Ars Technica standpoint, whom I hold to a higher standard as they are supposed to provide very detailed technical interviews. I'll state my issues as we go along.

    First of all, on importing. The Importing dialogue is a little hard to use - but then I wouldn't know because you can just drag images or folders (or folder trees) in from the Finder. Why anyone would not do this is a mystery to me as it's so easy - I think it's unfair to ding the import dialogue box without mentioning the far more common method of import.

    Now on to the package structure. This seems to get people really up in arms, because they think it's just like iPhoto yes noting could be further from the truth and I think Ars should be ashamed of themselves for having such a skimpy section here.

    You don't like it, fine. But do not say it's "Icky" - lay out the whole package structure in gory detail including all the sub parts, then tell me what you do not like.

    Personally I like it a LOT. The problem Apple has is they have to support versions. You can't really do this nicely laid out over an existing directory, so they have chosen to take your directory structure as it stands and make it a bit deeper with a directory for every file. This holds the RAW master, and XML files describing versions along with extra metadata associated with the master (like keywords).

    All of the files you imported are wrapped up in a "Project", which is all of these image directories (along with directories for things like books and light tables) wrapped up in a package. The set of all packages along with a central DB is wrapped in turn in another package, and that package is your API library.

    The review describes this confusingly as a "single file" with a photo captioned "It's not a single file, it's a bundle" and doesn't seem to like it. But why do they not take time to mention the nice partitioning of files - I can for instance move any project out of aperture, and move other projects from other Aperture libraries into a different Aperture library and everything Just Works. More on import where it just notes it's found a new project and asks to rebuild the central database; if you remove a package Aperture thinks it's still there until you remove the shell or rebuild the database.

    On rebuilding database. The great thing about Aperture is that it does NOT use one centralized file. It has a centralized database for speed, but this is based on those individual XML files held with each RAW. Thus if the central database has issues, it can just be rebuilt from all the separate distributed files. Rather than 'Icky" I find this kind of "elegant", and worth a little bother of having your files live inside a somewhat managed directory structure.

    On EXIF stripping this is a BUG and not a design feature. What happens is that currently if you edit your file in an external editor, the EXIF data is dropped FROM THAT VERSION - never from the master or other versions created from the master. If you never edit externally you will not loose EXIF.

    Now that's a pretty major bug to be sure but it does not affect all images, and is not something you should ding a program for if it's not a design choice.

    On Levels I don't think the author understands the full power of the tool as you can drag both top an bottom arrows to achieve different effects and I think similar results to the curve tool.

    Now lets talk about what was NOT talked about. How about Versions? You wouldn't even know what they were reading that review. Simply put you can create any number of versions from a master and have different adjustments applied to each one. You can have one cropped differently than another. And thanks to Lift & Stamp you can make s

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