Saturday, November 04, 2006

Aperture 1.5: my emergent review

My one month free trial of Aperture 1.5 began yesterday. Note that after installing the free trial Software Update offers a 128MB 1.5.1 update download. Don't accept the update -- it will terminate the trial.

Alas, it's hard to evaluate this produce without the update; I ran into many nasty bugs, some of which are said to have been fixed in 1.5.1. Aperture crashed 3 times-- don't think I lost any photos). Aperture displayed unpredictable white lines and black lines on RAW images -- a known bug. Apple made a mistake by not supporting the 1.5.1 update; it's not like Aperture is a polished application. It was train wreck on release, and it's only now been promoted to a pile-up.

I won't bother reporting what everyone else reports. I'll sequentially update this blog posting with brief comments. Newest on top for a change. I'll focus on date issues and what odd things strike me (See also Timeature 1.0: adjust image date field in Aperture). I tested Aperture on two low end machine by Aperture standards:
  • a 2GHz G5 iMac with 1.5GB SDRAM and an ATI Radeon 9600 with 128MB VRAM.
  • a 2GHz MacBook with 2GB SDRAM and an integrated video card
The G5 mostly worked with JPEGs. I moved a project to the MacBook and imported a few hundred RAW files. The MacBook felt about as fast as the G5, maybe a bit faster. It would do for small Aperture projects. The MacBook handled both the internal display and an external Dell 20" LCD panel without a hiccup (ok, one crash). Pretty impressive.

Aperture performance was unpredictable. Sometimes it felt fast on the MacBook (only a few hundred RAW images though), sometimes it felt slow. If I restarted it seemed faster -- maybe memory leaks?

There are some things Aperture does well, but in general it's a less polished application that iPhoto 6. Despite Aperture's pro orientation, there are parts of the iPhoto workflow and image review toolset that spank Aperture. If iPhoto could manage importing and exporting "projects" or Libraries there'd be little reason for the non-pro to look at the current version of Aperture.
  • It doesn't feel like a Mac application. The UI is cramped and murky; it's full of pointless, even gratuitous, non-Mac UI elements.
  • There's no OS X help file; the "Help" menu references the PDF manuals. They're pretty well done, but I really missed the Help function. There are two main manuals, it's not obvious sometimes which one to look in. Neither manual described the baseline RAW tuning tool.
  • Performance on these machines was often acceptable and sometimes surprisingly quick, but I didn't try a Library with thousands of RAW files. My large library test was JPEG. Periodically, however, Aperture would slow down mysteriously.
  • An iPhoto Library of 1.94 GB is 2.88 GB in Aperture (ugh).
  • The number of options to set seem way too small. I think they're scattered in other parts of the app. Did I mention this doesn't seem to be a Mac application?
  • Dates are really messed up. I have a scanned image in an iPhoto Library with a date of 1890. Aperture actually sets the date correctly internally (I can see this by sort order), but the date displayed in the UI omits the first two years, so it appears to be 1990 (or 1690, whatever). Yes, Aperture has Y2K problems.
  • Aperture won't let users set an IPTC date prior to 1972 (known bug).
  • Aperture iPhoto install stupidly ignores files it cannot import -- without a warning or report. One might delete an iPhoto Library after initial testing, only to discover all the videos were lost.[Update: It says a file format could not be recognized, but it doesn't identify the file.]
  • The install is about 220MB.
  • The iPhoto "phantom edit" bug that's afflicted many of my iPhoto Libraries does not seem to affect Aperture import. My test Library imported correctly. Images that had been edited stacked as two images, images that had not been edited appeared as one image -- even when iPhoto "thinks" there's been an edit.
I really wanted to like Aperture. Sometimes I did, but at other times it just gave me a headache. It's not a train-wreck any more, but it needs a LOT more work on performance, stability, date management, import/export, user interface before it will be an excellent solution. I'm going to wait and see what iPhoto 7 brings (Library import mayhap?). Perhaps by then another maintenance release of Aperture with some performance improvements will have come out.

Update 12/19/06: I'm back at it again, this time with Aperture 1.52 trial. Within 10 minutes of first launching it cratered. The crash left junk in an OS X cache folder, so that even iPhoto didn't work. A 'safe boot' clean-up (hold shift on startup then restart normally) purged the caches and fixed everything. Aperture is still a work in progress ...

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