I've been getting my feet wet in Aperture and for the most part I'm very pleased with it. I think I can unquestionably say that it is the most complete RAW workflow software out there. That doesn't necessarily mean it's the best in all areas, but there is no end of cool features. This will be a rather long-winded rambling on my experiences.
The most surprising thing to me is that Aperture's RAW conversion is very good. I would say that it is very, very close to my results with Capture One PRO. So close, in fact, that it would make me wonder if Apple didn't license a RAW engine from Capture One. The Aperture output looks like I would expect C1PRO output to look if C1PRO didn't include camera profiling... which I guess amounts to C1LE. Very interesting.
The second most surprising thing is how slow Aperture is, even on my quad 2.66GHz Core 2 Mac Pro with 2G of RAM. I've heard that it really works the graphics card and that you really need to upgrade that to get the best performance out of it, and that could well be. Many things are quite speedy, but overall it feels sluggish and very sluggish when making adjustments, especially in full screen mode. I have one of the fastest personal computers one can buy, I would expect it to be snappier. That's the most disappointing thing, and very likely will keep me from buying it, given that C1PRO exists and doesn't have that problem. Granted, it doesn't have half the features, but iView MediaPro picks up the slack (and then some).
Let's get some screen shots out of the way... the browser/grid:
The browser/grid, with loupe:
The full screen, with loupe:
Full screen, w/o loupe:
More rambling after the jump...
As is probably clear from the screenshots, Aperture looks great and has some very original tools (at least in the digital world) and a very flexible interface. HUDs can come and go in any mode, as can the loupe. The loupe can be used on any image you see on screen, whether in full screen or the main viewer or even in the browser (i.e. on thumbnails). Very sweet. The loupe is probably my favorite feature, just because it brings an element of old-world realism to this new digital thing.
Another huge feature that is unique to Aperture: versions. Because Aperture is non-destructive and stores your edits as a set of changes applied to a master file, there is no reason why you couldn't have multiple such sets applied to one master. Thus, versions... for example, you may want both a color and black and white of the same photo. Aperture takes great advantage of this idea, and it's the most obvious missing feature in Adobe Lightroom. Versions are a big deal, it's appalling that no other software does this, and it's great that Apple really spent time and thinking designing Aperture.
Importing is a joy in Aperture, compared to other software. It's very visual and it's very easy to get your basic metadata done quickly. Here's the import view (yes, it's a stuffed monkey posing for test shots):
The indicator for where the import is going is very nice.
Yet another fantastic feature: stacks. Stacks are groups of images which are represented by one 'select' and can be expanded to view as a group or collapsed so that only the 'select' is seen. This is very nice for a couple things: first, it's good for shots taken very close together, perhaps at a sporting event... you can easily group them and pick the best; second, it's good for several images of the same or similar subject, again, allowing you to pick the best and hide the rest until needed. Aperture also cleverly uses stacks to handle multiple versions... when you create a second version of an image, Aperture puts it in a stack with the original. Very cool.
Apple has brought it's usual smart folders to Aperture as well, so you can have a folder which always has the current set of starred images, for example. Queries can be quite complex and can include metadata. You might tag all your black and white conversions with the "bw" keyword and then keep a smart folder in each project which always has the set of black and white versions.
EDIT: so in my original post I complained about the lack of Photoshop integration, about which I was quite in error... I just hadn't found it yet. So turns out Photoshop integration is quite good, better even than Lightroom, because you can choose to send Photoshop a PSD. I suspect, then, that with compatibility turned on in Photoshop you could save a layered PSD back to Aperture, i.e. you wouldn't have to flatten the image. So, woohoo!
A few issues and wishes:
- Performance... it should scream on my Mac Pro... it doesn't
- Curves... no curves! Eeek... curves are incredibly powerful and useful
- More black and white control (I like the real channel mixer, but I would also like the tone mixer approach from Lightroom)
- Lightroom's Vibrancy and Fill Light controls :)
Overall, I really like Aperture. It does many things very well. I'm swayed by the gorgeous output from Capture One PRO, otherwise I'd be 100% in Aperture's camp.