So, I have been playing with Aperture 3 for over two weeks now. I haven’t explored fully its 200 ‘new’ features yet, but I have played enough to make up my mind about it.
I am not going to go over every new features since a lot of people have already done it. Instead, I am going to talk about the stuff that matters to photographers.
I am very sorry to say that but the current version of Aperture is slow. Browsing from one picture to the next is slow unless you are in quick preview mode (Press P to toggle). Once you get into the habit of switching between modes, it is not that much of a burden but remember that you can only edit pictures in normal mode.
Before some fan boys reply that it isnt slow, know that I did everything I could to speed it up: rebuild library, use a fast machine with RAID-0 drives, etc… With the same setup LightRoom runs circles around A3. That is sad.
Aperture 3 noise reduction is good and would stand well on its own if it was not of the spectacular results one can get in LightRoom 3 or with Neat Image. If shooting in low light is important to you and you want to use A3, get Neat Image.
I have a love/hate relationship with presets. Amateurs see them as the be all end all of image editing, thinking they can get pro results with a click of the mouse without even understanding what is going on. A3 surfs on the preset wave started with LR to get pretty much the same results (given the same adjustment panels). Actually, I prefer the way A3 handles presets than LR: you can either combine presets by picking them one after the other, or replacing them by option clicking the new preset.
A3 has a nice curves adjustment tool. You can select a color from the image and it will place an adjustment point at corresponding position on the curve. Quite useful to clean up background or changing cloths color. Remembers me of the way Capture One 4 handle curves.
There are a lot of talk about the new non destructive adjustment brushes. Here again, the A3 team fell a bit short. While the brushes work very well, you cannot use the same brush with two different adjustment level. I correct myself, if you click on the option gear, you can add as many distinct adjustment brushes as you want. Cool!
The missing adjustments
Where the hell is the grad filter? It has to be one of the most important filter one can use, yet it is not there. It really makes me wonder if the Aperture dev team actually use the software!
The other missing adjustment is the tone splitting. While I think LR user overuse this tool (especially in presets), it has proven time and again to be a key feature to quickly set a mood on a batch of pictures. Here again, the adjustment isn’t there.
The vignette tool has not evolved at all. I was hoping to at least get the choice of going toward white instead of black as in LR or to select the desired affected corners but we got nothing new.
I love the new import screen and its link to Places. If you have a mix of geolocated pictures and non geolocated ones, once you start to import, the software will ask you if you want to associate the locations. Brilliant!
Unfortunately, A3 is not what I would call a release ready product. While it has some incredible features that I havent covered (slideshows & hybrid stuff) it fails to cover the basic by giving photographers what they need the most: speed and controls. The dev team spent too much time working on ‘new’ features instead of working the app core.
Hopefully, a software update will come in a few months to correct these issues but right now I can only recommend A3 as a slide show editing platform. Actually, pro photographers might want to get it for that feature alone. It is really that great!