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Apple Aperture 1.5.1 released  
Thursday, November 2, 2006 | by Rob Galbraith

Reducing program sluggishness when Aperture is generating JPEG previews in the background headlines the list of changes in Aperture 1.5.1, released today by Apple as a maintenance update that implements more than 100 minor performance or stability tweaks.

Apple is also making available a downloadable, fully-functioning 30-day trial version of the Mac-only application. In addition, the company has posted the Digital Camera Raw Support Update (in separate PowerPC and Universal Binary versions), an updater for the RAW processing code built into the operating system that adds support for the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi/400D, Nikon D80 and Pentax *ist DS. Here are the details:

New in Aperture 1.5.1

There's no question, Aperture 1.5 comprised a big collection of welcome changes to Apple's pro photo management and RAW conversion application. The only noticeable performance gotcha we'd experienced when the new version emerged was when the program was building JPEG previews in the background while we were trying to get other work done in Aperture. Routinely, the program would become unresponsive for a moment and, as other Aperture users did, we traced this to the program's automatic large preview creation and promptly switched the feature off.

This occasional sluggishness in v1.5, says Aperture Product Manager Joe Schorr, stems from how the background preview generator works. In v1.5, the creation of a given preview would always complete before the generator would pause and return the computer's full horsepower to the user interacting with the program in the foreground. While the preview creation cycle was completing, Aperture would sometimes become slow to respond. In v1.5.1, the background preview generator will abort the moment the program is no longer otherwise idle, even if it's in the middle of making a preview, rather than complete the preview generation cycle before pausing. This should reduce or eliminate this cause of Aperture sluggishness and we presume (hope!) that it will allow the background generation of previews to be re-enabled here.

Close Up: Aperture 1.5.1 in action. (Photo in Aperture by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Also on the topic of preview performance, the default preview size in Aperture's preferences is now Fit within 2560 x 2560, says Schorr, rather than the full resolution of the picture file (when the camera's resolution exceeds these dimensions) as before. If you're installing Aperture for the first time or upgrading to v1.5.1 starting from an early version such as v1.1, then you'll see this setting is at Fit within 2560 x 2560 when you first open the preferences dialog. If you're upgrading from v1.5 and have already adjusted this setting to your taste, it should stay at that setting during the v1.5.1 upgrade, says Schorr. Given that this setting has a significant impact on how much hard drive space your Aperture Library file will consume, and how fast the previews display as well, it's probably worthwhile to check this setting in Aperture's preferences once v1.5.1 is installed.

There are many other fixes and tweaks in v1.5.1; the full list of changes is here. The v1.5.1 updater is available via the Software Update mechanism of Mac OS X (10.4.8 is required) or as a standalone download.

Digital Camera Raw Support Update

It's an update to the operating system that isn't part of an operating system update. The Digital Camera RAW Support Update adds RAW conversion support to Mac OS X 10.4.8 for three newer digital SLR cameras:

  • Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi/400D
  • Nikon D80
  • Pentax *ist DS

With the update installed, programs such as Aperture, iPhoto and Preview all gain the ability to view and convert RAW files shot with these cameras. RAW photos from these models that have been imported into Aperture already, and have been displaying nothing more than a grey thumbnail and unsupported image format preview, should automatically turn into properly-rendered images once the Digital Camera Raw Support Update is rolled into the system, says Schorr.

The conversion of RAW files from these cameras performed by Aperture are what Apple calls optimized, says Schorr, and should be similar in overall colour look to those produced by other cameras that Apple has given extra attention to in preparing the processing code. Since v1.1 of Aperture, optimized cameras comprise all Canon and Nikon digital SLR models, plus a handful of others. The full list of supported camera RAW files, and which ones are optimized, is here (as of this writing, the list doesn't yet note the three models Apple added today).

The release notes for the Digital Camera Raw Support Update also highlight these changes:

Other issues addressed:

-Handling of large Canon RAW files (.CRW)
-DNG compatibility on Intel-based Macs
-Lines sometimes appearing in images exported from Aperture

November 14, 2006: Apple has pulled the first iteration of this update in favour of Digital Camera Raw Support Update v1.0.1.

Aperture Test Drive

For the first time, Apple is making Aperture available in demo form. The program is now available as a fully-functioning 30-day trial download from the Apple website. Registration is required to access the 132MB download and receive a trial activation code via email. The trial version is actually Aperture 1.5, not v1.5.1, and it can't be updated to v1.5.1 while in trial mode, says Schorr.

It will be possible to purchase a serial number through an Apple online store; entering that serial number will unlock the program and make it fully-functional beyond the 30-day period. Once the trial version has been morphed into the paid version in this manner, says Schorr, it will then be possible to update it to v1.5.1. The online purchasing feature isn't yet live on the Apple website, but is expected to be switched on sometime during the week of November 6, 2006. The trial version will also accept a serial number from a boxed copy of Aperture, should you choose to purchase a license for the program that way.

Pictures imported into Aperture's Library file during the trial period will not be locked forever inside once the 30 days have elapsed, even if the program isn't purchased. It will still be possible to easily extract and move to safety the originals stored inside the Aperture Library package using the program's Relocate Masters command, which will remain active even after the 30-day period, says Schorr.

Export plug-ins

More export plug-ins for Aperture are on the horizon. Express Digital and Pictage are both showing plug-ins for the program at PhotoPlus Expo in New York today, says Schorr, as is Digital Fusion with its second plug-in for Aperture called DFStudio PRINT. In addition, Apple is close to releasing the first plug-in of its own, one that will closely integrate Aperture with Final Cut Pro. When released later this month, the plug-in will enable you to choose a set of pictures in Aperture, set the preferred output dimensions (to match the destination video project), select a transition plus a duration between transitions and have Aperture create the right-sized JPEGs and bring them into a Final Cut Pro sequence automatically.

Current plug-ins, and new ones as they come available, are linked to from the Extending your Workflow page of the Aperture section on Apple's site.

Revision History
 Added more detail throughout, based on an interview with Aperture Product Manager Joe Schorr (November 2, 2006)
 Noted new version of Digital Camera RAW Support Update (November 14, 2006)

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