iPhoto 5 is the most wide-ranging iPhoto upgrade yet, bringing interface improvements; new ways to store, browse, and edit images; and greatly enhanced slide-show and book-publishing features. It’s a must-have upgrade for all iPhoto users.
Or at least it will be: iPhoto 5’s debut was marred by several major bugs. Version 5.0.1 addressed the most-serious ones, but some problems remain.
A Cleaner Face
When you launch iPhoto 5 for the first time, it updates your iPhoto library for use with iPhoto 5. I updated several libraries containing thousands of photos apiece, and never had problems.
In iPhoto 5, you’ll see that Apple has removed many of the buttons that used to line the bottom of iPhoto’s window. Buttons for tasks that most people perform infrequently, such as burning photos to a disc, have been replaced by commands in the new Share menu. You can also use the Share menu to choose which buttons appear at the bottom of the iPhoto window.
Like earlier versions, iPhoto 5 switches into import mode automatically when you connect a camera. But iPhoto 5 lets you assign a name and a description to your “roll” of photos before importing them.
This simple but welcome improvement pairs nicely with iPhoto’s new Search box, which lets you search for photos based on text in their roll names, file names, keywords, or comments.
Another way to locate photos is with the new Calendar pane, which lets you browse your library chronologically. This is a fun way to explore your library—a huge improvement over the half-hearted chronological browsing features in iPhoto 4. Like iTunes 4 with its smart playlists, iPhoto 5 has smart albums, which let you compile albums based on criteria such as keywords, file names, or dates.
From Movies to Raw
iPhoto 5 adds the ability to transfer and store movie clips created by digital cameras. And advanced photographers will appreciate iPhoto 5’s ability to transfer and store photos in Raw format—the unprocessed “digital negatives” that a growing number of cameras can shoot.
Unfortunately, iPhoto’s support for raw data is a mixed bag. iPhoto supports fewer Raw formats than Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 3 does (
). What’s more, some aspects of iPhoto’s raw-image workflow can be confusing. One example surfaces when you’ve set up iPhoto to open photos you double-click on in another image editor, such as Photoshop Elements. If you double-click on a Raw file to open it in Elements, iPhoto first converts it into a JPEG and then hands off the JPEG to Elements—thus negating the advantages of the Raw format.
In this case, the workaround is simple: drag the Raw photo to the Elements icon in your Dock. Still, there’s room for improvement in the way iPhoto handles Raw photos.
iPhoto 5 sports a remodeled digital darkroom. With the new Adjust panel, you can fix color and exposure problems and sharpen and straighten images. However, I wish that iPhoto let you, as Photoshop does, identify white points or black points you’ve inadvertantly removed.
The Exposure slider lets you improve a photo’s brightness with more precision than the Brightness and Contrast controls. It works well, but I found that Photoshop Elements 3 did a better job of recovering details from bright highlights or dark shadows.
I can’t find fault with the Adjust panel’s Straighten slider, though. Drag it, and iPhoto simultaneously straightens and crops a photo, superimposing a grid that helps you straighten crooked shots.
Most Adjust-panel features work only on Macs with G4 and G5 processors. On G3 systems, only the Brightness and Contrast sliders are available.
Some of the best changes to iPhoto deal with creating slide shows and books. For starters, they are now independent entities of the albums on which they’re based: when you create a slide show or a book, a new item appears in the iPhoto window’s Source pane, so it’s easy to create multiple versions of a project. Better still, making a change to an album no longer changes (and possibly ruins) the books or slide shows based on that album.
Slide shows themselves are showier: you now have far more control over the appearance of slide shows, and you can even apply panning and zooming—the Ken Burns Effect—to photos. However, the Fit To Music option, which is supposed to adjust the length of a slide show to end when a song ends, simply doesn’t work.
iPhoto 5’s book-publishing mode offers a far larger assortment of page designs, and layout features that are much easier to use, than that of earlier iPhoto versions. For example, deleting a photo from a page no longer causes photos on subsequent pages to shift.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
iPhoto 5 brings welcome improvements in almost every area. The program’s new slide-show and book-publishing fea-tures are spectacular, and its editing features—while still a far cry from what Photoshop Elements provides—make it easier for imaging newcomers to improve their shots.
Version 5.0.1 fixes iPhoto’s most serious problems, so you can upgrade without fear of losing work. But some annoying glitches remain, and iPhoto won’t reach its true potential until Apple addresses them.With iPhoto’s new Adjust panel, you can fix problems in your photos and even straighten crooked photos.iPhoto 5 gives you more control over the layout of your photo books. And it now supports double-sided printing to a wider variety of sizes and layouts.