PMA: Apple shows Intel native Aperture 1.1

Apple is showing an updated version of its professional photography workflow application, Aperture at the Photography Marketing Association (PMA) show in Orlando, Florida. In addition to being Intel-native, Aperture 1.1 also boasts significant speed increases on both the PowerBook G4 and the Intel processors.

Kirk Paulsen, Apple’s senior director, market development professional applications, told Macworld on Sunday that Aperture is being shown on the new MacBook Pro and iMac. While Aperture includes a significant number of improvements, the performance of the application on existing PowerPC- and Intel-based machines is impressive.

According to Paulsen, using a Lift and Stamp operation in Aperture 1.1 on a PowerBook G4 shows a 2x increase in speed from the older Aperture 1.0 on the same machine. Using the same operation on the Intel-based MacBook Pro nets another 2-3x speed boost.

RAW improvements

Apple said they have significantly improved RAW decode algorithms in Aperture, resulting in better image quality. The results of the new algorithms can be seen in noise reduction, sharpening and highlight recovery.

“What we did was invite pro photographers to submit their images to Apple,” said Paulsen. “We wanted problem images so we could really fine-tune the RAW performance. Now, there is a completely new RAW pipeline in Aperture that has been significantly improved.”

Photographers will also have the option to adjust RAW decode settings using a new set of RAW Fine Tuning controls. Using the fine-tuning adjustments you can adjust Boost, which lets you intensify or reduce image contrast; Sharpening, which lets you either dial in the amount of sharpening you would prefer to see applied to images in the RAW decode process or turn off sharpening altogether; and Chroma Blur, which allows you to soften chroma noise by blurring color artifacts caused by camera sensor noise.

Fine-tuning controls can be set on an image-by-image basis with the option to save your customized decode adjustments as a camera default.

Photographers that don’t wish to use the new RAW with their existing images have the option to retain the original RAW 1.0 decode or selectively migrate images to the newer RAW 1.1.

Dozens of improvements

Apple said that dozens of improvements have been implemented into the Aperture update. After being introduced 13 weeks ago, Paulsen said this is a more significant update than you would expect from a new product.

Among the changes in this update is a feature called Auto Noise Compensation, which was designed to deal with noisy images resulting from high ISO or long exposures. This feature automatically applies the optimal settings for noise reduction to your image, taking into account the unique noise characteristics of each camera.

A new Color Meter allows you to sample the pixel values anywhere in an image and display them in RGB, Lab or CMYK. The Color Meter can be used anywhere in Aperture — while editing, adjusting, arranging images on a Light Table or laying out a book. Color values can be viewed in the adjustments panel or directly in the Loupe.

Export controls have also been enhanced in the new version with the addition of a “Fit Within (Inches)” option that allows you to specify a resolution in dots-per-inch (dpi) for exported images. Aperture 1.1 now allows you to specify the default DPI for images you would like to open in an External Editor, like Adobe Photoshop.

Apple said further improvements have been made in other areas like image export, metadata handling, onscreen proofing, histogram, cropping, printing, web output, Query HUD and a Tethered workflow using AppleScript and Automator.

Aperture 1.1 is scheduled for release in March as a free download.

Adobe Lightroom enters the game

While Apple got Aperture out the door before Adobe introduced its public beta of Lightroom, Adobe has generated a lot of interest in its application. Even with the applications providing similar functionality for users, Apple said they welcome Adobe’s contribution.

“We are actually thrilled that Lightroom is out and on the Mac,” said Paulsen. “This unquestionable makes the Mac the preferred platform for photographers — it [Lightroom] has helped to validate the space where Aperture lives. Some people were questioning why we released it, but with Adobe entering the space it shows there is a need for a photography workflow application.”

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