One application that replaces four
Pros: great colour correction and useful light-table function
Cons: massive processor requirements, hogs hard drive
What is Aperture? What isn't Aperture? Apple has aimed about as high as you can go with this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink application.
The target market is the professional photographer and the serious amateur, and Apple must hope they will sweep a hard drive full of applications into the trash in favour of this all-in-wonder.
Aperture allows photographers to rapidly sort through large folders of digital images, select the best ones, colour correct them and then output them for the Web, as prints or for publication, and it does so with assembly-line efficiency. The program is designed specifically to work with the RAW files produced by high-end digital cameras.
This file format produces images that are far more correctable and with potentially much higher quality than the garden variety JPEG. It also works with these files in a non-destructive way, always leaving the original file untouched.
Aperture archives the photos in a database for future use and incorporates key-wording and captioning functions so simple even a photographer can use them. Now we are looking at a single application that replaces four.
Advantages include Aperture's colour correction and its light table function. Image processing was not the best I have ever seen, but it did allow for very good colour corrections more quickly and intuitively than with competing programs. Picking the best shots is only half the editing process, and Aperture's light table function makes it the only image editor capable of helping with the second half.
Making one image larger, smaller, placing it to the left, right, above or below other images changes the way those images speak to the viewer, even if they will only be hung up on your living-room wall. The light table allows you to quickly resize photos and rearrange them to see how a particular arrangement will look.
But for all of Aperture's wonders Apple may have aimed a bit too high. Two very obvious deficiencies make this application a no-go for me. First off, the processor requirements are very high. Testing was done on a dual 2 GHz G5 with 1 Gig of RAM. Aperture was okay when it was the only application running, but it got a bit sluggish when a few programs were running in the background.
A bigger worry is the database function, which will ingest and store all of your RAW images on your computer's hard drive. RAW files are big and pros can shoot thousands of images a week. You can delete images from the database, but that defeats the purpose. A better option would be to provide a function to move the images offline on to DVDs, leaving the caption, keywords and thumbnails in Aperture.