Aperture 3 was released just about 3 months ago. I picked up my copy on the first day (paying for a digital copy via an electronic purchase). And immediately, I started working on a review.
Why am I about 2 months and 3 weeks late in posting this? Well, I could blame the amount of time taken to upgrade my library but the truth is, I had extremely mixed feelings about Aperture 3. My review was written, deleted, rewritten and now rewritten again. I think I’m finally onto something here.
I was using Aperture 2 for managing my photos since late-2008. Since then, it’s been running like a slow behemoth of a 32-bit software especially when you have 2GB RAM with a library consisting of thousands of RAW images. Mind you, I was running this on a pre-Unibody 2.5GHz MacBook Pro, not just any machine. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when the 64-bit version 3 was announced especially since I’ve added more RAM into my machine.
h3. Getting Aperture
Downloading the electronic copy was painless, and as I mentioned above, I liked how there is an option to unlock the app by simply purchasing an activation key within Aperture or from the “Apple Online Store”:http://bit.ly/aperture-sg. However, I did not like how long it took to upgrade my entire Aperture database to version 3.
h3. So what’s new?
Aperture 3 looks almost exactly like it’s former incarnation but in that familiar interface lies more than 200 new features, which you can read about here. The major enhancements are face detection (“Faces”), maps (“Places”), native Flickr and Facebook exports, non-destructive brushes, built-in adjustment presets, advanced slideshow, and handling of audio/video files.
On paper, this new version is almost like a 64-bit rewrite of Aperture 2 combined with some features of iPhoto 09 with a few new brushes and presets thrown in. I must say that I wasn’t too pleased after a few weeks of use. I can certainly do without Faces, Places and Flickr/Facebook exports since I have iPhoto that can cover that. It almost feels like Aperture was “dumbed down” and I couldn’t comprehend why Apple would do that, especially considering how Lightroom 3.0 (beta) has grown to provide more robust tools for serious photographers.
Did Apple make Aperture 3 as the application that would push consumers to move up to a pro app, like how a user could grow out of iMovie to Final Cut Express? Is this the right strategy for competing against Adobe’s offering?
Fast forward about 2 months. I’ve been using Aperture 3 for a while now and here’s what I think of the major enhancements:
Faces. It’s buggy and the search algorithm is questionable. I’ve had Aperture ask whether the spikes of Esplanade was a face. This was one feature that never worked very well for me in iPhoto.
Places. Well-executed but it’s such a hassle tagging all my previous 10,000 pictures that I don’t bother. In theory, this would be very useful especially if you shoot with a GPS-enabled device because the metadata file can imported and your photos can be tagged automatically.
Flickr and Facebook exports. Again, a feature I never liked since iPhoto days. There is little flexibility when it comes to Flickr export but for Facebook, Aperture can autotag your friends on your behalf so I can imagine this to be useful to some users.
Non-destructive brushes. Great feature that is useful for any user who needs to touch up some photos. This is what Lightroom offers so it’s almost de facto in a photo management application.
Advanced Slideshows. Never used it and again, a feature that is probably more useful to the everyday user.
Audio/Video files. Most new cameras have a movie function so this would be useful to some.
Adjustment presets. I really like this new feature. With the built-in presets, you can quickly and effective enhance your pictures with minimal effort. It works for 95% of the pictures you may have. Here’s a quick example using just the “Auto enhance” preset.
h3. Is Aperture 3 worth the S$298 price tag?
After 3 months of use, my verdict is a yes and no – depending on who’s asking.
Aperture 3 is a robust application to manage your entire photography workflow. If you’re a professional photographer or serious hobbyist, Aperture 3 will not disappoint. Everything from the import menu’s options to managing your offline photos and printing is thoughtfully designed and honestly, works very well.
However, if you’re a casual user looking for something more powerful than iPhoto, then you have to consider before you throw in $248 for this. You’re unlikely to be using a lot of the features that aren’t already in iPhoto but having said that, moving up to Aperture 3 will give you a lot of headroom when your hobby grows in the future.
So, is this “iPhoto on steroids” part of Apple’s plan to win more casual users while potentially losing some pro users? Yes, I think it finally made sense to me. To add more features than you need is really the right way to go for both groups of users. For casual users, it offers so much more than what iPhoto will ever provide. For pro users, having extra tools could mean doing things manually and saving time. For example, a wedding photographer using Faces to locate pictures of a specific bridesmaid or a travel photographer using Maps to track where he’s globetrekking.
For me, it’s simple.
Aperture is the complete solution to my post-processing needs. When I need the muscle to process and manage thousands of pictures, Aperture will churn the pixels tirelessly for you. If I need to quickly download and blog a single picture, Aperture can deliver quickly that one photo, find a face on it and file it without fuss.
If you’ve been wanting to try it, you can find the 30-day trial version here. Whichever group you belong to, the software will not disappoint. You just need to know whether it’ll fit into your workflow.