Apple has introduced Aperture 2, the next major release of its photo editing and management software at a new and lower £129 price.

The new version boasts over 100 new features, a streamlined user interface and an entirely new image processing engine. The application Aperture 2 also provides new imaging tools for highlight recovery, colour vibrancy, local contrast definition, soft-edged retouching, vignetting and RAW fine-tuning, and enables users to post portfolios directly to the .Mac Web Gallery.

"Many of the most respected photographers on assignment all over the world trust Aperture to organize, edit and deliver their images," said Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice president of Applications Product Marketing. "With its simpler interface and lower price, anyone can take full advantage of Aperture's power."

Aperture 2 lets users navigate between Viewer and Browser modes with a single key command. Screen real estate is maximized for images with an all-in-one display that lets users toggle between library, metadata and adjustment controls in a single tabbed inspector.

The All Projects view offers a poster photo for every project and has the ability to quickly skim through the photos inside, while the integrated iPhoto Browser offers direct access to the iPhoto library.

The company has tweaked performance in order to make it faster to import, browse and search large image collections. Photographers can caption, keyword and rate images as they are being imported, and the application also lets them export images as a background process in order they can keep working.

Quick Preview allows users to browse RAW images without waiting for files to load, while the Aperture library database has been rebuilt to offer faster project switching and near instantaneous search results, even when working with extremely libraries of 500,000 images or more.

New tools for improving and enhancing images include Recovery for pulling back "blown" highlights, Vibrancy for selectively boosting saturation without adversely affecting skin tones, Definition, which offers local contrast for adding clarity to images, Vignette and Devignette filters for providing professional visual effects and a true soft-edged Repair and Retouch brush for quickly and easily removing blemishes, cleaning up sensor dust and cloning away problem areas.

The software works with OS X, iLife, iWork, .Mac and Apple print products so any image in Aperture's library can be accessed from within other applications.

Owners of previous versions of Aperture can upgrade to Aperture 2 for £65.