October 23, 2005

Welcome, Apple.

What a week it’s been. Sunday through Tuesday I was experiencing the energy and excitement of the Macromedia developer community at MAX, soon (we hope) to be part of the Adobe world (come on, EU commissioners! :-)). Then on Tuesday I got the call that Apple wanted to give us a demo of their new photo-centric application. We’d been hearing about this thing for three and a half years, so I headed to NY a day early.
And, well…?
Aperture is a cool product, no question. Apple’s designers have a great aesthetic, and their marketing is second-to-none. (This is the company, after all, that can sell the iPod Shuffle’s lack of screen as a lifestyle choice.) Aperture zips around on quad G5′s with four GPUs, and I’m looking forward to getting it onto my PowerBook 17″ to see how it might run in the field.
As Apple is the first to say, Aperture is not designed to be a Photoshop competitor. It has a number of very slick features (I dig the Web gallery creator in particular), but if you’re looking to do something as simple as make a selection and sharpen someone’s eyes, you’re out of luck. That’s not a knock–just a reflection of what Aperture is and is not. Fortunately Apple has a one-click method of sending a PSD to Photoshop for further editing.
I’m obviously downplaying competition between these apps because, as I’ve written previously, inventing deathmatches where none exist does us all a disservice. Having said that, however, I’d be blowing smoke not to acknowledge that Aperture does compete with Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw. The capabilities of Photoshop (of which Bridge and ACR are a part) are vast, so there’s bound to be some overlap, and Aperture joins a long list of products (Capture One, RawShooter Essentials, Nikon Capture, Canon Digital Photo Pro, etc.) that also offer raw browsing and editing. Bridge and ACR aim to provide the best possible workflow in conjunction with Photoshop, but you’re free to mix and match.
And you know, to the degree that Aperture stirs things up, I’m excited. CS2 wouldn’t be all it is today without the apps I mentioned keeping us on our toes, and the more tools offer solutions for photographers, the better off customers will be. So in the spirit of the Apple of yore, I say Welcome Apple. Seriously.
J.

Posted by John Nack at 7:53 PM on October 23, 2005

Comments

  • Bryan William Jones — 5:27 AM on October 24, 2005

    And now, perhaps…. it is time for Adobe to show Apple and the rest of the market what we can do with those quad G5s in terms of other sorts of imaging…..not just traditional photography.

  • Andrew Rodney — 10:01 AM on October 24, 2005

    I agree John that Aperture is no Photoshop replacement and I don’t think Apple wants to give that impression.
    The product is pretty slick but until Apple releases it to real users, it’s hard to pin down it’s deficiencies.
    There are a large number of operations we need to apply at a pixel level and opening them to do so is a bottleneck. In this respect, I think Aperture shows promise. However, one area a lot of those reading about Aperture are getting excited about is this idea of applying “edits” to multiple versions of RAW data without affecting the original. Adobe Camera RAW does this as well of course. Where Apple seems to have raised the bar is in applying all these edits to multiple versions and stacking them in one which is kind of cool. Apparently this works with non RAW files as well, an area that might be a good direction for Photoshop to follow. The idea of tracking global edits via some meta-data, showing a “proxie” and applying the edits at the time we need a full resolution version to open in Photoshop seems useful.
    I do like some of the functionality Apple provides in it’s browser and would love to see that in Bridge some day. The magnifying glass is pretty slick and the way it sorts via time shot is clever indeed. I got a few hours of demo’s from some upper level Apple employees at PPE but I still have many questions about the product. Some of the color management seems screwy to me. It is after all a 1.0 product. Can’t deny the buzz!

  • Edward Crim — 10:32 AM on October 24, 2005

    I wish Photoshop DID compete with programs such as Capture One Pro (which I chose after comparing with PS) and Apple’s new Aperture. The workflow is the issue for professional photographers, and I wish Photoshop were a serious contender (since I have to use it for image retouch and manipulation). Aperture is on my wish list.

  • John Nack — 11:02 PM on October 24, 2005

    Edward, would you elaborate? In what way(s) does Bridge/ACR not compete with C1, etc.? If we’re missing something that’s important to you, we want to know.
    Thanks,
    J.

  • jason stoner — 7:42 AM on October 25, 2005

    Yes it is a great thing, for the consumer. Apple comes out with a great product which forces Adobe to step up their game for fear of going the way of QuarkXPress. So Adobe, let’s see what you can do.
    As a side note, come on and get PS Elements 4 out for the Mac, what’s it take to release them at the same time, I want to upgrade my parents.
    Cheers,
    -jason

  • peterb — 6:04 PM on October 25, 2005

    Obviously, the answer is: Bridge is hideously slow. It’s slower than a turtle that hopped a ride on a snail through a molasses field. On the moon. Bridge basically feels like 80% of a product.
    Look at http://www.camerabits.com/. Here’s an app that does LESS than Bridge, and yet thousands of us are shelling out $150 for it for one reason and one reason only: the subset of things that PM does that Bridge does also, PM does about 10 times faster.
    I work with hundreds of photos at a time. In the time it takes Bridge to render previews of half of the photos I need to work with, I am finished with my workflow in PM.
    I just fired up Bridge and set it loose on a folder with a mere 83 RAW and JPG photos. The first few previews rendered quickly. After that, things got bad quickly — scrolling to the middle of the list and clicking on a file, I had to wait 10 seconds for some of them to appear. PM smoked Bridge on the same folder. I don’t use iView, but friends of mine who do use it claim it is similarly fast.
    Some of this may be smoke and mirrors. Maybe PM isn’t “really” faster, but the UI is just designed to feel more responsive. But to an end user, perceived speed is real speed.

  • Dan Ridley — 11:28 PM on October 26, 2005

    I want to say thank you for your attitude. An entry like this does a lot to bolster my image of Adobe.
    I will concur with peterb above that Bridge is hideously, monstrously slow on current hardware. I’m curious how Aperture and Bridge will compare, performance-wise, on the G5 Quad, and whether Aperture is usable on those tired old :-) Dual G5s.

  • ShaunK — 7:49 AM on October 27, 2005

    It seems to me that most of the cool things Apple is doing with Aperture, it’s doing using Core Image. That technology is there in OSX for Adobe to tap into as well. The magnifying glass, for example is just Core Image.
    I think Adobe could do some really cool things if they got more into Core Image.

  • Britton Fraley — 8:40 AM on October 28, 2005

    I’d prefer to stay with Bridge/ACR/PS, but Aperture seems to have addressed dead-on the suggested improvements I made not less than five weeks ago in:
    http://photoshop.weblogsinc.com/entry/1234000030059377/#c470428
    which curiously, you didn’t comment on in your blog response to the same article. I hope you’re listening now!
    PS is an outstanding product, but it seems that outside of the enhancements made in CS2, it was mostly geared towards designers in the past. There are a lot of photographers for whom PS is a must-have, please make life easier for us, we really don’t want to buy another product.

  • John Nack — 8:47 AM on October 28, 2005

    I was listening then; I just didn’t have time to reply to 20+ comments. You made good points, and we’ll see what we can do (sorry that I can’t be more forthcoming right now).

  • Josh Raymond — 7:39 PM on October 30, 2005

    Aperture shines in its process oriented approach to selection/culling and management of images including versioning and automatic protection of master raw files. PS CS2 barely scratches the surface in this sort of workflow. Aperture really tries to understand a pro/commercial photgraphers method, full of photo (not computer) terminology. Bridge is clumsly and slow. Any moment I can avoid bridge I take.
    Much has been said of the Aperture Photoshop overlap. I can see barely any. The limited edit tools seems basic and have certainly not been emphasised by Apple in this intitial soft launch of the product. However I look forward to more sophistcated options in future versions. Photohsop cannot compete with apertures image managment and lightboxing tools in any way! Please watch the fabulous demo’s of ‘compare’ and ‘picks’ – all with the option of a loupe and ‘freeform’ lightbox like display. And remembering all this with raw files in what appears near real-time. G5 and plenty of ram of course.
    It appears that Adobe are shy to admit they have failed to understand these sorts of workflows let alone provide any tools for us. I presume aperture will usher in a new wave of thoughtful management tools. hooray for aperture. Get with the program adobe. After years of money spent pouring into photoshop and now creative suite, please lift your game Adobe! I want value for money.

  • noot — 6:46 AM on November 02, 2005

    Personally I don’t think this will be a good thing in the long run. Apple introduced Motion as an “add-on” for After Effects and it turned into a full product that competes directly with it.
    The same thing will happen with Aperture, it will start as an add on and then will, as new versions are released, turn into a Photoshop rival.
    In any case I am comited to Adobe, their products are just amazing. So whereever Adobe is, I’ll be. If Adobe pulls it’s products from the Mac, Apple will have a hard time keeping up.
    noot

  • Tyrven — 4:43 AM on December 07, 2005

    First off, I only agree with those that think that Aperture is any competition for Photoshop insomuch as many Photoshop users only scratch its surface (either out of lack of knowledge or lack of need).
    As a graphic designer, I live in Photoshop. As a photographer, I do most of my work in Bridge. Yes, sometimes I need additional editing tools but, honestly, when I’m shooting 600+ photos at a wedding it’s not practical to individually touch up each photo; I need to get it right when I shoot the picture and otherwise correct using batch processing.
    A lot of what I DO use Photoshop for as a photographer will be solved by bridge (things like basic rubber stamping for blemish removal, for instance) all with the added benefit of being stored in instances. That’s a plus. Also, being able to produce multiple sets of meta data files will be a huge plus (e.g., a set for black and whites, a set for high contrast stylized prints and a set for original color corrections).

  • Tyrven — 5:30 AM on December 07, 2005

    Also, with regards to the sub-topic of “What’s wrong with Bridge”…
    First off, as odd as it may sound, I didn’t really discover Bridge until CS2. Of course, it didn’t serve a purpose until then either since the CS version of ACR doesn’t support one of my main carry-about cameras (the Canon 350D).
    By this point, I had become quite used to working in RAWShooter. I was quite excited to be able to use ACR and Bridge with CS2, however. Now, I use Bridge exclusively because I’ve moved over to the Mac (and RAWShooter doesn’t have a Mac version). However, I’m seriously evaluating Apple’s Aperture as a replacement.
    A quick list of items off the top of my head that annoy me about Bridge.
    - There is no shortcut key apparently to rename a single file (if I don’t want to batch rename). This can be tedious when renaming a lot of files. I can’t do this in finder, however, because it’ll mixup the metadata.
    - If I go to click on the filename to rename, it covers up the filename and other data with a tooltip (annoying).
    - If I use a bulk rename and accidentally don’t use the right extension then I will lose all of my metadata (i.e., RAW edits). Oops. You only make this mistake once, of course, but it’s a painful lesson.
    - When using batch processing in Photoshop I must manually open each image (it will open it in ACR but I must then hit “Open” before Photoshop will take it over). I can get around this by using Image Processor, but that requires me to save the file using it’s format. If I’m doing a bulk export for the web, however, I want to use the “save for web” option. As such, I save a JPG *and* save for web (but then delete the exported JPG version). Oi.
    - Speed. I haven’t had the performance issues noted above per se (I’m using a 1.67ghz PowerBook w/ 1.5gb RAM) but there are notable lags while it builds thumbnails and applies ACR settings. Other programs are notably faster in both of these operations.
    - From what I can tell, I can’t save my EXIF data w/ a “save for web” unless I jump into Image Ready and change the preference for EACH image. Ugh. On that note, most designers I know (with a few exceptions) have a long standing issue w/ the distinction separation between Photoshop and ImageReady, myself included, especially where features are not paralleled – for instance, actions can’t have conditions based on landscape/portrait in Photoshop, but can in ImageReady.
    - Unlike RAWShooter or Capture One, Bridge doesn’t have quick select style profiles to choose from. While I normally shy away from prescribed filters like this, these are really helpful (especially with the ability to modify and save custom sets which I may then want to use as standard stylistic treatment). True, I can accomplish this by saving custom settings (although it’s a bit convoluted to open an image, load settings, close the image, copy the settings then paste them across multiple images) but quick ability to select preset options is surprisingly helpful.
    - I’ve had issues with Bridge saving settings. For instance, each time I start bridge I have to reset my preference for it not to require the command key for label shortcuts (6-9).
    - Most other programs have very simple bulk processing capabilities baked in. Admittedly, I love being able to bulk process through Photoshop, but it takes some tweaking (as noted above). The bulk export capabilities of both RAWShooter and Capture One are fairly intuitive and helpful (and also help keep the application itself fast by always working with lower res caches… although it seems like Bridge might do that as well).
    - The built in algorythms for noise reduction and sharpening are not nearly as solid as third parties. I bought Noise Ninja for use with Photoshop to solve this. Capture One seems to do a better job; my hope is that Aperture will as well? We’ll see.
    I could go on, but I’m sure my point is made. Please note that I adore your product and have since I first purchased it thirteen years ago. It’s come a long way and CS2 is an exceptional product (I am often pushing friends who are reluctant to upgrade to at least download the trial). Also, I look to Adobe to provide top-of-class image editing software, which it does; I see Bridge as a handy “free” add-on file manager for Photoshop, similar to how I might view Apple’s built in DVD burning utility. It’s a handy add on, but if I need/demand professional workflow management then I’m not really surprised that I have to shell out another $500 for a specialty program like Aperture. If Adobe Bridge truly competed with Aperture that would make Photoshop an exceptional value!
    As is, I think overall Adobe Bridge is notably better than Capture One Pro (which is ridiculously overpriced for some of it’s limitations such as lack of flagging/rating support) and slightly subpart to RAWShooter. From what I’ve seen Aperture is an incredible tool, although I’ve heard concerning rumors about it’s performance on PowerBooks which, given it’s pricetag and lack of demo, make me nervous.
    If Adobe really wants to compete on this market, they can. Bridge is a GREAT start and a helpful utility. It just needs some maturing still. I think Aperture will provide a great example of what this type of application can be. I fully expect that the next version of Adobe Bridge will make it less likely for people to need to buy a product like Aperture — if they haven’t already.

  • Lee — 5:22 AM on January 09, 2006

    Just to warn you all: Aperture has serious technical problems still. Could embarass you richly on a job and ruin your images. See:
    http://arstechnica.com/reviews/apps/aperture.ars/5

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