Aperture is a very interesting application: it offers professional photographers and enthusiastic amateurs a place to catalogue and edit shots all from one location. Most of the tools you’ll ever need to adjust a picture are present and you’d only have to move to another application, like Adobe Photoshop, if you needed to do more serious compositing work.
Unfortunately, version 1.0 was plagued with problems, most notably the difficulties it had in displaying Raw images properly, which was an embarrassment since Apple had touted Aperture as the perfect application to work and edit in Raw.
Thankfully, Apple released version 1.1 fairly quickly to resolve this crucial issue as well as fix a few minor bugs and offer Intel compatibility. Now, just over five months since that release, Apple is introducing version 1.5. No longer needing to fix what was supposed to work in the first place, Apple’s developers focused on improving the application, giving it much greater flexibility, and no doubt fulfilling many user requests.
One of the biggest frustrations of Aperture was the fact that your photos could only be stored in one location: its library. You could, of course, choose where that library was located (by default it resides in your Pictures folder), but it could swell up very fast and you may end up having a hard time finding a drive big enough to store it.
That problem has been fixed. In version 1.5, you can store your pictures anywhere you wish – your desktop, another hard drive, removable media such as CDs and DVDs, etc – and Aperture will keep track of where they all are. Any adjustments to those shots will be stored in the main library, but the shots themselves needn’t be: on import, you are given an option of whether to save your shot inside the library or not.
With a new feature called Image Preview you don’t even need to be connected to your external drives to find and work on shots stored there: you can create high-resolution copies of your shots to take with you, which is a godsend for laptop users with large libraries.
Apple has also worked hard to let iPhoto and Aperture work together. You no longer have to import your entire iPhoto library into Aperture thereby duplicating shots: Aperture can now access iPhoto’s library directly, including its albums. In fact this compatibility extends throughout the entire iLife and iWork suites: when looking for stills in iMovie, iDVD, Pages, etc., the Media Browser’s Photo section lets you navigate through your Aperture library and albums just like iPhoto’s.
Unfortunately, this compatibility may come at a hefty price if you don’t have broadband: every application has to be updated in order to take advantage of this new feature. Since you also need the latest OS upgrade (10.4.8), you face the prospect of having to download hundreds of megabytes.
Overall, Apple has refined the interface to make it easier to work with. For instance, the Loupe tool no longer needs to follow the cursor but can stay in a specific location. The Inspector window can now be split into two sections: the adjustments and the keywords tools. If you have limited screen space and need more room to work, temporarily removing unwanted tools will be much appreciated.
Some tools have been improved, like the ability to automatically update your keywords or being able to use the Lift and Stamp tool to copy Crop and Straighten adjustments; and new tools have been introduced, like the Colour Controls, enabling you to adjust the hue, saturation and luminance of each primary and secondary colours (red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow) or the ability to drag an image straight from Aperture into another application (thanks to the Image Preview feature).
To top it all, Aperture 1.5 not only provides support for more Raw file formats, but it has widened the range of Macs able to use it: the Intel Mac minis and MacBook are now part of the Aperture family.
This update, like the one before it, is completely free for existing users. Aperture 1.5 is an excellent and versatile application capable of cataloguing and adjusting your shots in a very intuitive way while being much more flexible in how it lets you work with your shots. It’s getting better and better.