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Aperture 2.0 and Why I Didn't Switch to Lightroom

21CAKVInroL._AA_SL110_.jpgWhen Apple released Aperture 2.0 this week it was a make or break situation; meaning if it wasn’t a significant release I was going to bail and move my workflow over to Lightroom. Today, I own Aperture 2.0 and will continue using it. This narrative details the new features and why I didn’t switch.

I purchased Aperture 1.0 way back when I got my first DSLR and have stuck with it ever since. When Lightroom hit the streets with it’s early-bird pricing I jumped on board and grabbed a copy. After all, I’ve been using Adobe products professionally for over a decade. Due to the lack of updates from Apple and a weak feature set, I have been teetering between Aperture and Lightroom and have had both apps installed on my Macbook Pro 17" (2.16 GHz) for a long time now.

Needless to say, Apple came through in a big way for me with this dot oh upgrade. There are a lot of new features as well as stability and speed improvements that renewed my faith in the application. A lot of the new features bring Aperture back to competition level with Lightroom and some new features, in my opinion, have exceeded Lightrooms capabilities.

New Features

Speed and Stability
First and foremost. My issues are gone with speed and stability in Aperture. Even with photoshop open on my Macbook Pro (along with many other apps) Aperture is snappy. Searches are fast, editing is fast. I am a happy user. The only places I have found speed issues is when using Aperture’s tint tools with it’s color picker.

RAW 2.0 Decoder
In Aperture 1.x, RAW images had a tendency to have blown hightlights, some of which were difficult to fix. The RAW 2.0 Decoder in Aperture 2.0 is a huge improvement leaving less work for the photographer. A feature Lightroom had and Aperture now has too is the “highlight hot and cold” feature. In 1.x, Aperture would only overlay the blown highlights. Now it will overlay blue where your shadows are underexposed. Chalk that up to a match between the two apps.


Definition Slider
One tool I always wished Aperture had that I envied from the Lightroom toolset was the definition tool. It’s a quick way to get the details in the image without adding edge sharpening or jumping to photoshop. Thank you Apple for including this!


The vibrancy tool is a punch-my-colors-up-quick tool. It does what you thought the saturation tool should do without creating more work for you. Tip: I’ve always heard people complain that the vibrancy tool in Lightroom made everything look blue; back off your saturation if this happens.

Black Point and Recovery
I’m not going to go into these two tools and what they do. I think most people already know, especially Lightroom users. However, the engineers put an easter egg in Aperture. If you hold down your command key while making adjustments you get a overlay showing you what regions of the image will be effected. This also works on the exposure tool.

All Projects and Mouse Gestures
For a quick visual scan of your projects, Aperture 2.0 has a new feature in the projects panel call “All Projects” which provides you with a thumbnail of each project starting with the first image. Now where it gets cool is when you mouse over any of the thumbnails and move your mouse left or right, the images scroll through the thumbnail’s region giving you a mouse gestured window into that project. And it’s extremely fast! Kudos to the Apple engineers for this feature.


Tethered Shooting
This is the straw that broke the camels back for me. I’ve been searching for a way to tether my D80. In some cases it would be nice to have a larger image instead of having to look at the tiny 2.5" LCD on the camera. I’ve purchase several portable DVD players and returned them because the quality just wasn’t there. Third-party software seemed to be the solution and it’s not cheap. Now Aperture users can tether their camera and use their laptop as a chimping machine. I can attest that this works with the Nikon D80 and have friends who have used it with their Canon 5D. I can’t say that all cameras will work but give it a try with the trail version of Aperture 2.0 and see.

Update: I’m compiling a list of supported cameras. If you have confirmation that your camera does or does not work with this feature, add your camera in the comments and I’ll update the list.


Quick Preview and Faster Searches
quickpreview.jpgQuick preview makes Aperture blazing fast when moving through hundreds or thousands of images. When activated, the button becomes yellow alerting you that you cannot make edits but it allows you to navigate without having to wait for RAW images to update. Searching your image library is much faster in Aperture 2.0 compared to 1.×. On my machine, these two features have moved Aperture above Lightroom in the speed category.

New HUD Layout and Tabs
In Aperture 1.x, by default, the adjustment tools were separated from your projects and if you had both toolsets activated you lost valuable real estate. When in full screen mode, your projects were not available to you. You had to continually switch between the to screen modes to navigate between projects. In Aperture 2.0 he Aperture engineers have rearranged the layout a little bit giving you more real estate and allowing you to work continuously in full screen mode. The hot key ‘w’ allows me to jump between my tabs to activate the projects, metadata or adjustment tools.


One big gripe I always had with Lightroom is having to switch between modes. Again, in my opinion, Aperture excels in this category. The interface is so much more user friendly. Not to mention that Aperture’s full screen mode is just sexy.

Retouch Tools
Aperture always had a spot and patch tool. Aperture has introduced a Repair and Clone tool in version two. Much like photoshops clone and stamp, the clone tool in Aperture 2.0 allows you to (option-click) a region in your photo as the sample source for cloning. Both the repair and clone tools will paint a white mask on the image while making adjustments so you know exactly what areas will be affected. For most situations these two features will keep the photographer in Aperture without having to use Photoshop. In extreme cases Photoshop will still be required.


Vignetting and De-vignetting
Vignetting is now possible within Aperture. This is another feature I was hoping for and Apple came through. It’s been in Lightroom forever but Aperture users had to jump to Photoshop to add this effect to photographs. Apple engineers took this one step further and gives the option to have vignetting affect the gamma or exposure in your images. Use the de-vingetting tool to remove the effect from images.

Lens Meta Data
In the 1.x version of Aperture the lens data was not present and accounted for. This is now added in Version 2.0.

With over a 100 new features in Aperture I’ve only touched on a few. These were the ones that I really wanted and the ones that stand out at the time of this writing.

Aperture engineers have snuck in a plugin api which will allow third party developers to create some enhanced tools for Aperture. This will be exciting to see what happens!

Why I didn’t migrate to Lightroom

Speed and tethering were the two main reasons I decided to cough up the ninety-nine dollars to upgrade Aperture above the great new tools included in this version.

Why did I decide to stick with Aperture instead of move to Lightroom is a question I’ve been asked dozens of times this week. I’ve always had a issue with file management in Lightroom. It’s probably due to the fact that I was accustomed to the way Aperture handles files or maybe it’s because I think Adobe did it wrong. Either way, I prefer Apertures file management. In addition I never could get used to the interface in Lightroom. Having to switch between modes was cumbersome for me; something I don’t have to do in Aperture. That being said, I did like a lot of the tools in Lightroom which had me seriously thinking about making a switch. Namely, the clarity tool (definition in Aperture 2.0), vibrancy and recovery tools and the vignetting tool. Aperture now has all of these features and leaves me wanting nothing in comparison to Lightroom.

One tool I can’t live without is Fraser Speirs Flickr export plugin for Aperture and since I’ve been working with the version 3 beta, and know what he has in store I can’t imagine having to jump through hoops in Lightroom to get my images into my Flickr stream.

In consclusion, if you’re thinking about which app fits your needs, it’s not my place to say. Download both trials and seriously compare your experiences. Make sure you use the trials to process some really tough images so you can see which one is going to perform your tasks the best.

I will be upgrading the Aperture Cheat Sheets later next week for those using Aperture 2.0. Subscribe to the feed so you’re notified when they are posted for download.