Aperture 3 Review

As a Lightroom user I was a bit biased against Aperture.  My first experience with Aperture was trying to load the trial of Version 1.0 on my 12″ ibook and finding out that it was not compatible due to the processing power needed.  This should have taught me something about the way Aperture works, or rather doesn’t.  Lightroom came out about the same time and loaded beautifully on my old machine and I have used it for all my digital workflow ever since.

Fast forward a few years and Apple announces the huge improvements to Aperture 3 and photography celebs like Chase Jarvis tout the beauty of this software, and its ability to bring out their creativity.  I was intrigued by the brushes tool that allowed specific control to burning and dodging as well as skin smoothing.  I now had a Macbook Pro with 4gb ram and figured I was good to go with this new software.  Downloading the 30 day trial I proceeded to import a set of photos from a recent shoot.  The following are some initial reflections.

Editing with Aperture is relatively similar to Lightroom, except for a few different short cut keys and editing terminology.  The biggest difference I felt with Aperture was that it was SLOW… way slower than Lightroom in load times and waiting for editing changes to be made, especially with the skin smoothing tool.  I even managed to crash it a couple of times in the first day of use.

One of my favourite features of Lightroom was the ability to hover my mouse pointer over the sliding adjustments and use my arrow keys to make changes.  Over time, this allowed me to be less fatigued from dragging little sliders back and forward in small movements.  Aperture does not allow this and this also made making consistent changes more difficult.  The loop tool was largely useless as well because waiting for the zoomed section to load properly was a huge pain. (Update: Someone pointed out that by clicking on the number value, you can do the same thing.  Still slightly slower, but a very useful tip)

Despite my grievances I really wanted to like this software.  At nearly half the price, Aperture had some ingenious tools that allowed me to achieve some interesting editing effects.  The curves tool was more flexible (and Photoshop like) in adjusting contrast of different colour channels, creating multiple curve layers and the ability to brush adjustments in and out.  The colour toning tools also made making retro looks easier.  It was useful having the skin smoothing tool despite the unbelievably slow lag.

I am curious as to how advanced and powerful a mac is needed to enjoy editing the way these other photographers have so warmly endorsed.  My Macbook Pro with 2.53 GHz and 4 GB ram struggled with this version of Aperture and I can’t see how editing a wedding job with over 500 photos could be an economical exercise, let alone trying to stay sane waiting for it to do anything.  There is much more to explore with this editing software and there are some truly useful and fun features but the slow speed will always bring me back to Lightroom.  I hope someone out there can prove me wrong.

The above image was edited with Aperture 3.

Updade 14/02/2010: Here is a link to another Aperture 3 review, this one reporting some screen graphics issue.  Check it out at fiftyeight.net.


8 thoughts on “Aperture 3 Review

  1. Jason – my sentiments exactly. I have been using all these programs for a while (PS, Lightroom, Capture NX2, Aperture 2) and am trying very hard to justify moving back to Aperture 3 as my primary program, but it will not happen. It sounds like we have the same laptop arrangement and like you, I’m experiencing everything you mentioned. Just this morning I found myself back at the Capture NX 2 / Photoshop CS4 setup primarily because of the speed issue. Also like you, after playing with the software for a couple of days, I have experienced about 4 system crashes. Read the forums out there and you will see how once people are getting past the initial excitement, workflow realities are beginning to set in. They are with me.

  2. Hi Eric – Good to hear that I am not the only one. My Macbook Pro is pretty new and I’d hate it if I couldn’t rely on the laptop to perform. Aperture 3 already has an update, perhaps this might fix some of the bugs but I don’t think it will help it perform much faster. Looking forward testing the full version of Lightroom 3.

  3. I’m running a 3 year old 17″ Macbook Pro, 2.4gHz and 4gB RAM. Works fine for me. Skin smoothing tool is no slower than healing brush tool in Photoshop. I think the big difference between your Mac and mine is that mine has a 256mB discreet graphics card. All versions of Aperture have made big use of the graphics card as a rendering system.

    Also, it might help if you limit the rendered preview size. I work with preview files half size of the originals ( you can set it in preferences ). This way, the loupe renders instantly, so does pressing Z to go into 100% mode.

    As to things like the slider, if you slide the slider itself, you will move by .01 increments, if you slide the number to the right of the slider, it will slide at .05 increments. If you click on the number, you can use the arrow keys to change values at .05 increments.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I’ve been using Aperture since version 1 and I know most the in and outs.



  4. Pingback: Aperture Review and GFX issues on MBP 13" | fiftyeight.net

  5. Long was right about letting the previews load properly first and limiting preview sizes. It does perform better but that doesn’t explain why it crashed twice after trying to edit about 60 photos.

  6. Pingback: Aperture 3 reviews round-up : Photocine News

  7. I have over 60,000 photos (RAW) in my Aperture 3 library. That’s about 2TB of images and over 650GB for the Aperture Library. It’s not blazing fast even on my Mac Pro 8 cores, 3 GHZ with 8GB RAM. But is sufficiently fast and adjustments have no delays. It’s simple, intuitive and has the best algorithms for HIGHLIGHTS and SHADOWS – those of LIGHTROOM just suck in comparison. If you rely on your camera and lenses RAW files, not having to manipulate them heavily, APERTURE 3 is the number 1 software. The alternative: use PHOTOSHOP. Lightroom comes in close, but just doesn’t have the exceptional algorithms that Aperture has. If you know how to use the Presets, you can process 200 photos in a whisk, less than 30 minutes.

  8. Pingback: Aperture 3 Review and GFX issues on MBP 13″ | christophziegenhardt.com

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