Output, back-up and conclusions
Output in Aperture means several things. These include:
Lower resolution files
All are beautifully implemented and for anyone unfamiliar with iPhoto ’06, the book publishing option is simply a knockout. Aperture offers what iPhoto’06 has and more. Apple is capitalizing on much of the code developed for iPhoto in Aperture. I would guess future releases will offer additional functionality to distinguish the products and keep Aperture premium priced.
At the same time, printing is where I ran into the first performance issues. First you choose Print and a screen with all the usual options pops up. This takes some twenty seconds. That is simply too slow. This is what you get:
Then Printer Settings is clicked for the normal OS X printer choice display. This is nearly instantaneous:
Click Print Preview and it’s another 30 seconds – way too slow:
I suspect Aperture is generating a print file from the original master and is taking it’s time about it. The comparable timings in Photoshop CS2 are 1 second, 2 seconds and 8 seconds, respectively, so Apple needs to improve this dramatically.
On the other hand, you need not choose just one image for printing. Multiple choices are fine and, strangely, do not take a lot longer.
Alternatively, you can elect to print a contact sheet or a light table with as much or as little EXIF data displayed, and while the delays are the same as for a single print, the power to show previews in this way is tremendous:
Finally, with my Hewlett Packard DesignJet 90 printer, I can get margins as small on 8” x 10” and 13” x 19” prints (meaning 5/8”) as I did with the Epson 1270 which preceded it, so my pre-cut mat boards work fine.
Slideshows are very easy to create and, of course, you can add music from your iTunes library and have Aperture automatically fit the slide show to the length of the piece of music – just like in iPhoto ‘06:
Books are simply the bees knees. Drag and drop, resize, spread across two pages, have faded pictures as backgrounds, add text, you name it. No advanced computer language degree needed. Aperture will even scale and align the pages for you, as instructed, and hardcover and softcover options are available. You can submit the book to Apple for production or generate a PDF version for your printer of choice. As an example, my first time with this feature it took me five minutes to generate a 10 page book with cover and title pages. I have printed books in iPhoto ’06 at Apple and can testify to the quality of the reproduction.
When it comes to outputting lower resolution files, such as JPGs for web display, Aperture is sadly lacking, as it does not permit the user to specify dots per inch in the final file. The result is that the output image quality is simply horrid. Apple is aware of this and evidently Version 1.1 fixes that shortcoming. I really need this as it’s a great way of creating files for display in my Photoblog
and I really do not want to use Photoshop any more than I have to. Add the fact that PS CS2 consistently locks up on me when I use ‘Save for Web’, meaning that I have to run Photoshop CS, its predecessor, to do this. Two versions of Photoshop. What a pain!
Finally, web pages. These take more time to explain than to do. It’s a ‘select the images and click a button’, add title and page layout then click to generate files to upload to your ISP or to your .Mac account if you prefer. Most intriguingly, you can create Smart Web Galleries which automatically add content as you add images with the keywords specified in the ‘Smart’ set up. In each case, a click appends as much – or as little – data as you want to each picture.
I like the Better HTML plug-in for iPhoto ’06 for my Web site
and will stick with that for the sake of consistency for now, but the Aperture alternative is fine for someone starting out with a new design. Big image sizes on the highest quality setting are 300-400kB in size with thumbnails 16-20kB each. Aperture includes six themes, each elegant, and you can bet there will be more to come. Large image sizing is up to you – just dial it in.
So now Aperture isn’t looking so expensive after all.
Work is needed to speed printing and improve the quality of small exported files, otherwise the interface is elegant and effective. Just try to do some of these things in Photoshop … and Apple denies it’s crafting a Photoshop Killer. Sure. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
Finally, backing up. I have written before
about my back-up approach. While Apple says you should run the Aperture Library on your internal hard disk (my disk is 160gB) for best speed, I prefer to have the Aperture Library, as it is called, reside on one of my two external 250gB LaCie Firewire drives, the other being used for back-up. I use SuperDuper!
to back-up automatically at midnight, when I am well and truly in the land of nod, and the application does incremental back-ups, meaning that only new and changed files are backed up. While a cursory examination of the hard disk containing the Aperture Library suggests it’s one big file, this is not the case. Apple is simply hiding the details. Control-click on the Library and then Show Package Contents gets you this:
Do the same click routine on any of the ‘.approject’ files and you get the details – this example contains only two picture files:
One more click routine and the individual JPG files are clearly visible. This file structure makes it possible for SuperDuper! to make smart, incremental back-ups. You can also determine the Aperture overhead for these two files, whose aggregate size is 266mB. The additional Aperture files add a scant 0.8mB or 0.3%. Hardly anything to worry about. So if you read about file bloat with Aperture, you had better disregard anything else written by that person. Versioning will add a little more but the bottom line is that Aperture’s filing system is economical.
Aperture, however, comes with its own back-up functions, named the Vault, and frankly they are sadly lacking in design and execution. First, the user has to initiate back-up. Load Aperture and the opening screen will tell you how many items remain to be backed up to the vault. You then have to execute the Vault instructions to do the back-up. This is wrong. Back-ups should never be voluntary or depend on user action. They should be automated so they cannot be forgotten. Worse, while Aperture is doing its back-up, which does appear to be incremental, the application cannot be used. Further, it’s horrendously slow to a fast Firewire drive, almost unusable with a USB 1 drive. Finally, the color indicator which shows whether a new Vault back-up is needed is simply wrong. Do a back-up, exit and reboot and what do you get? An indicator which says you should do another back-up. Lastly, the Vault file is not bootable, unlike a clean back-up done with SuperDuper! You have to restore the vault using Aperture and I don’t want to think how long that takes.
In other words, I’m sticking with SuperDuper! and disregarding the miserable afterthought known as the Vault. Apple should make this fast, timed and automated. As it is, it’s near worthless. Just Say No to the Vault.
Aperture does not permit the splitting of a Library over multiple discs. However, go here
and you can download a free script that will allow your Library to span multiple drives.
Some have objected to Aperture’s proprietary file structure which appears similar to that used by iPhoto. If you ever want to get to your original file you have to do quite a bit of drilling down using the Finder unlike in, say, Extensis Portfolio, where you can see the files easily. This is a poorly thought out objection. With digital camera files being identified with a meaningless number, how often is the user going to want to access these directly? A proper, daily, incremental back-up (I check the file sizes weekly to make sure those of the original and back-up are identical down to the last byte) is all you need.
In conclusion, then, Aperture is a landmark application. It completely integrates Import, Versioning, Retrieval, Cataloging, Image Processing and Output with a superb user interface using much of iPhoto’s design and adding additional functionality. Missing features include Curves and tools like the Lasso. Functions in need of improvement include set-up for printing, back-up (easily worked around), JPG small file output, RAW processing (the last two, fixed, we are promised, in the forthcoming Version 1.1). Lens aberration and distortion corrections along the lines of Adobe Camera Raw would be nice too. That’s not too many complaints for the very first
version of this application which will simply change the way you process your pictures, be they scans from film or files from a digital camera. Speed, printing apart, on my less than stellar iMac G5 is fine with 2,000 files loaded aggregating 22.3gB, with many of these files being 250mB scans from 4” x 5” large format film.
With a street price of around $330 and the upgrade to Version 1.1. free, that’s an awful lot for your money. Of course you do need an Apple computer but then if you are serious about photography you already have one of those, no? And lest I forget, during this intensive workout of the product, Aperture did lock up on me once. But that was my fault. You see, I made the stupid error of loading Microsoft Word at the same time....