Aperture X and The Photo Ecosystem

There's nobody that's more disappointed than I am that the little new version of Aperture for the MacPro tidbit that Phil dropped while rolling out that beautiful hunk-o-hardware a month or so ago turned out to be Aperture 3.5 rather than a full-blown Aperture X to complete the re-think of Apple's pro-app line-up. With that disappointment out of the way I do expect that even Aperture 3.5 of Apple machines with huge graphics capability to be even speedier than it is now. Not a bad thing for sure and it beats having to pay $100 every time Adobe puts out some inane little non-feature. Really Lightroom 5? More like Lightroom 4 1/32 if that.

I know that the common mantra of the lemmings is that because Aperture 3 doesn't happen to have some large new number slapped onto it that somehow it cannot possibly cut it and that it's users must be idiots for using such obsolete and abandoned antediluvian dreck. Reality is that nothing could be farther from the truth. Aperture 3.5 blows the doors off Lightroom 5 in every single way - in look, feel, function, and speed (for the most part). The only area that I personally can complain about is the implementation of local adjustments.

I've had reservations about this implementation from the beginning and it's gotten worse but that's it. Others could argue the oft-repeated lens corrections or lack thereof. I guess that's an issue but for me it's not. Specifically it's not the lens corrections in terms of distortion or anything. For most people that report that tiny little nit as the big superiority - it's the "chromatic aberration" which is really not that either - it's that purple de-fringe that they cause themselves by shooting various scenes with not a lot of care. Aperture 3 deals with that - it's just not a global thing. It's a brush thing. In a lot of cases the Aperture 3 thing is actually better unless of course the entire frame is all purple fringe-y in which case you should just hang it up.

Faster - this one is something that a lot of people might argue but on my machines Aperture 3 is significantly faster with a lot of functions that actually count - like switching views or god help us importing images. Lightroom 5 is glacial and Aperture 3 seems about the same or actually better on some hardware combos than Photomechanic. It's definitely faster in just about every use case from a practical point of view.

I won't belabor the point that the current version of Aperture is a nice piece of kit at a great price. What I really wanted to talk about are a few things that seem to be indicators of great things to come and possibly sooner rather than later. First off is the simple one - lens corrections. Aperture does a fantastic job of lens corrections but it's hidden under the covers. I've demonstrated that before with various Fuji and micro 43 cameras that are definitely "corrected". Seems like the tech is there just not any UI and not all cameras/lenses. I would expect this is probably going to find it's way into a fully fleshed out set of features soon.

The more complicated and harder to see things I think are indicative of a more sweeping set of changes coming are actually related to the whole of Apple's photo ecosystem. Anyone notice something conspicuously missing from the complete re-think/re-write of all the consumer OS X and iOS apps? Yes they all got the iOS 64-bit treatment, iWork got the entire redo as in brand new (much to the chagrin of a few people that don't like them) conspicuously iPhoto - probably one of the most used consumer apps is still at iPhoto '11. Take a look at the history of iPhoto major updates and tell me what's wrong with the picture there? Especially with the sweeping changes of iOS and Mavericks.

Over the last few years and even with the latest iOS and Mac versions of iPhoto - All of the photo apps including Aperture 3 have received a bunch of seemingly dis-connected bits. Some overlapping and some not. A lot of those disconnected bits are circling around photo-streams and iCloud. I've actually changed my tune on Photostreams. I love them. Use the all the time. Not the crappy default last 1000 photos kind of thing but they are absolute fantastic in curating little shared albums across all my computers and devices as well as sharing those albums with people - like clients or co-collaborators. For all practical purposes everyone I work with happens to have an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac - one way or another they have access to those photostreams - better yet it's awesome to be able to sync everyones comments on individual images. Heck even non-iOS/OS X people get a gorgeous if not customizable web site if you want.

The thing is Apple has proven it can keep various things related to the same image in sync across lots of devices and users with Photostreams that's where the disconnected features come in. Those photos are currently treated as completely different entities once in a Photostream - they don't update if you update the corresponding photo in any of the libraries. Even various "Photostream related" functionality is a bit different across these similar applications. Take iPhoto for iOS for instance. Have you used the journal feature - awesome but it exists only in iOS. This appears to be the customizeable version of the default website that you can make part of a Photostream… very cool and worth the $4.99 alone.

There are a lot of other tiny little things but consider this. All of these apps use CoreImage for photo manipulations. They share the same underlying library formats. They have broad overlapping functionality - sort of. They all have a bit of iCloud sync thing… sort of. Personally I think the cool but incomplete iCloud/Photostream stuff has been somewhat of a working broadly implemented test bed designed to be innocuous if it didn't quite work right. What's next? We all know predicting Apple's future moves with any precision is a fools game but I'll venture there for a moment…

I think a lot of this library integration, iCloud/Photostream etc is just the underpinnings for a major overhaul of both Aperture, and iPhoto both for Mac as well as for iOS with a lot of very very cool multi-device synchronization and work-flow that's not limited to just one person on multiple devices but also multiple people. When? Soon. I think that all the underpinnings we've seen incrementally roll out was the big hold up for the "plan". We'll see. Until then I am not unhappy with Aperture 3 - with the minor exception of local adjustments which need to be meta-data based and broader and netted out like ACR's are. They are more generally useful, faster to use, and not resolution dependent. Try using the brushes in Aperture 3 on say a D600 or D800 image… the largest size is idiotically small for a lot of very general purposes.

As a last note - if you haven't splurged on iPhoto for iOS do it. It's a very cool app for $4.99.


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