Aperture 1.5.2 Review

Apple's Aperture has had a rough ride. The first version was roundly criticised for being prone to crashing, and having limited RAW support. The new version of Aperture is designed to improve reliability and performance in contact-sheet printing, smart albums, watermarks, the Lift & Stamp feature, image export, and file management. This is the best and most usable version of Aperture so far. But before we get to its enhancements, let’s catch up on some previous episodes of ‘As Aperture Turns’.

Buggy updates
Last September, Apple released Aperture 1.5. It was a significant improvement on Aperture 1.1.2, with a far more flexible approach to photo library management, new image-adjustment features, integration with Apple’s iLife suite and more. Better still, Aperture 1.5 was a free update for users of previous versions.

On the downside, Aperture 1.5 had bugs, some of which were potentially serious. And one of Aperture 1.5’s best new features: the ability to create fast-loading preview versions of large images – was implemented in a way that could cause the program to slow to a crawl. Aperture 1.5 also lacked the ability to import metadata from XMP sidecar files – a significant drawback for photographers who have large libraries of Raw images with corresponding XMP sidecar files. There are workarounds, but they’re less than ideal.

Apple addressed these problems last November with the release of Aperture 1.5.1. At the same time, Apple introduced a free, fully functional, 30-day trial version of Aperture – an ideal way for prospective buyers to discover Aperture’s unique approach to digital image editing and, at least as important, gauge how well Aperture would run on their systems.

While Aperture 1.5.1 fixed version 1.5’s bugs, it introduced new bugs of its own. And the free trial version was based on Aperture 1.5, so anyone who downloaded it wasn’t seeing the important performance enhancements of Aperture 1.5.1.

Now Aperture 1.5.2 is out, and it fixes the bugs from Aperture 1.5.1. Plus, the free Aperture trial version is based on version 1.5.2, so prospective buyers can get an accurate preview of the Aperture experience.

What’s new and fixed
Aperture has always relied on Mac OS X’s Core Image technology to decode Raw files. The drawback of this approach is that users of the latest digital cameras would often have to wait until Apple released a Mac OS X update to have Aperture work with their images.

This is no longer the case. Last November, Apple released Digital Camera Raw Support Update 1.0.1, a small download that enables Mac OS X to support Raw files from Nikon’s D80 digital SLR and other new cameras. Aperture still doesn’t support as many Raw formats as Adobe Camera Raw, but it does support the most-popular Raw-capable cameras. Equally significant, the Raw Support Update shows that Apple is willing to respond quickly when the market demands support for a new camera – users won’t necessarily have to wait for a Mac OS X update.

The most annoying bug introduced in Aperture 1.5.1 involved printing photo contact sheets. If you had cropped a photo, it would appear squished on the contact sheet. This is fixed in version 1.5.2. And Aperture’s watermarking feature, which lets you stamp photos with a logo or text, is more versatile in 1.5.2 than in previous versions. Apple also fine-tuned the workings of smart albums to provide finer control over where a smart album searches, and it fixed some glitches in Aperture’s Lift & Stamp batch processing.

OUR VERDICT

With Aperture 1.5.2, Apple has hit its stride. Apple did a commendable job of listening to users’ requests and complaints, delivering seven updates within 12 months. While there’s room to grow, Aperture 1.5.2 brings the program even closer to fulfilling its promise as the start-to-finish hub of pro and advanced photographic workflow. Serious digital photographers should give it a look.

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