What About Aperture 3? Question of the Week at PhotoPlus


As happy as Lightroom fans are about the announced posting of the Adobe Lightroom 3 beta, Aperture users are dismayed by Apple's silence. During my stay in New York, I've met with many photographers comparing notes about our shared community. One question seems to come up more than any other: What About Aperture?

Concerns seem focused on two issues. First, we've had Aperture 2 since Feb. 2008. That's a long time between releases in the hotly competitive field of advanced photography. And there's been no communication from Apple to photographers as to when they can expect an upgrade. During that same period, Aperture's primary competitor, Lightroom, has been very active and gaining market share. Many Aperture users are feeling left behind while their Lightroom counterparts are seeing their software move forward.

The second complaint centers on Raw file support. Many cameras are simply not supported. And the ones that are often see Raw updates long after the competition has released theirs. For example, the very popular Olympus E-P1 still is not supported in Aperture.

One photographer commented today, "I understand Apple controlling the message on new iPods, iPhones, and Macs. But when your professional software doesn't support the gear you want to use, we should at least hear what's going on with that."

Many shooters, myself included, had pegged PhotoPlus as the event for an announcement about Aperture 3. It seemed like the perfect time. New York is buzzing with top tier photographers. Nikon, Canon, and Adobe have muscled up their respective product lines. Photography news is getting lots of attention. And we don't have another major photo show in the US until PMA, which is having its own problems right now.

So, when I'm asked the question, "What about Aperture 3?" I have to say, I'm out of guesses. I put my money down on PPE, and the dealer has just swept it away. I know Aperture 3 is out there somewhere. But your guess is as good as mine as to when we will see it.

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Apparently Adobe thought it was coming this week too, as the LR3 beta seems a bit rushed.

You have said Aperture is "alive and well at Apple", but even Scott Bourne has abandoned it*, and I'm not far behind him.

I guess it's time to make peace with LightRoom... but it's a lousy asset manager compared to Aperture.

*He insists he hasn't, but if "new projects won't see Aperture", that's abandonment.

Hi Derrick, Don't know if you saw this story yet, but I'm smiling about it.

I think Aperture wants trump the Lightroom 3 announcement (perhaps in April?). Anyway, good news on the Aperture front. I think we will all be happily surprised by 'Aperture X'

Thanks Zandr and trace for your comments. Love the discussion! I have a few thoughts about them.

Lightroom 3 beta - there's nothing rushed about LR beta 3. It's a full blown beta designed to help Adobe make decisions about the feature set. I just interviewed Tom Hogarty today, and he restated that this beta has lots of rough edges. It's not meant to be refined.

If Scott Bourne has abandoned Aperture, I don't think that relates to the future of the application.

And trace, hate to pop the "Aperture X" bubble, but that's a convention that book publishers use to avoid getting in trouble with software makers. When we were working on Photoshop CS4 books, they were also listed as Photoshop X in Amazon until the NDA was lifted.

If I were Apple, here's what I would do. First, I would shore up Raw support for popular cameras that aren't recognized in Aperture now. Then I would announce the next version of Aperture, even if the ship date was in the future. This would change the entire mood of the situation.

I would definitely consider myself in the category of an Aperture lover but I would have to agree to the feelings at PhotoPlus…where is 3.0…How come Lightroom is being upgraded more more readily…

Is it time to switch??? I don't know…I'm not a fan of the Lightroom interface but the operational enhancement make it a much more viable option in terms of getting from point A to B even if I don't like the interface. My only hope is that Apple gets the message…Aperture 3.0 is huge…maybe a UI overhaul to make it even cleaner; definitely needs engine efficiently enhancements - especially on the import (Lightroom is looking great in this department).

I can only say…I hope I see something from Apple soon or I may be starting the process to learn more about LR and how to transition over…something I'm dreading

Apple's treatment of Aperture and its users is a bit odd. I remember Aperture 2 was required in order to get support for some cameras that were released while Aperture 1 was still the shipping version. People made excuses for this, but I'll be curious to see if they do it again since several major cameras are released now and still unsupported by the shipping version of the program... sound familiar?

Apple's normally all about the user, but with Aperture they seem almost arrogant - and I say this as an Aperture 2 user. Apple needs to cater a bit more to the customers who are buying their pro apps - otherwise there eventually won't be any more of those customers. I really prefer Aperture, but I don't like getting jerked around either.

Derrick, I figured that you were beta-testing it under NDA with an eye to putting out a book.

Oh well.

This spring I won a free, un-upgradeable copy of A2 which I have a few thousand images on. I generally prefer the UI but I mightily miss Lightroom's local adjustments and Adobe's superior support (as well as 3rd-party support ecosystem).

Apple really dropped the ball on this one. No supoport for even old cameras like the LX3 (presumably because the camera bakes-in lens coreections, as is also a valid specification in the micro 4/3 format), and no communication with users. Meanwhile Adobe is gaining ground for good reason, with more updates, better support, more openness.

Like many Aperture users I intend to switch (back) to Lightroom 3, and I'll do it once it comes out of beta. It will be annoying to key-in tags with LR, but I know I'll be better supported with a more full-featured product.

As much as I loved Aperture I think once Lightroom 3 is out of Beta, if there still isn't a new version of Aperture I will put it to bed once and for all. While I still think the organisational tools are much better in Aperture, Lightroom is becomming much more of a creative tool and in the 3.0 beta it's even better. I think many of the high end users who are hold outs will soon make the switch if all we get is a continued wall of silence from Apple.

Then need to make some kindo of comment one way or the other about the future of Aperture. and they really need to get it together with regard to RAW support. The popular LX3 still isn't supported either and that's been out for ages. I keep getting the feeling that Apple just isn't serious about their Pro-Apps any more, and I'm hearing the same sentiment from many friends who work in the TV industry with regards to FCP too. I'm beginning to think Apple should spin off their Pro Apps devision into a Filemaker like subsidery and let them get on with it. The wall of silence and surprise announcements works great for consumer products but in this day and age when every other company is doing their best to communicate with their customers, and when you leave people hanging for SO long, it just doesn't cut it for professionals any more.

If Aperture 3 doesn't come out before the holidays, and isn't a substantial product I really fear for it's future. With more and more aperture users looking at lightroom, it will come to a point where the sales won't justify making it any more. It's a shame. I just hope it doesn't come to that because it was a good product and there was nothing like it when it first came out, but as it stands, Lightroom, especially 3, offers so much more now.

Excellent, intelligent conversation from everyone here. Thanks.

Much of the sentiment expressed in these comments is in sync with the conversations I've had in New York. As I've mentioned before, Apple can release Raw updates for popular cameras such as the LX3 and the E-P1 now, without having to release Aperture 3. That would be a good first step toward supporting photographers who are sticking with the application.

Professional photography still seems to be a market that Apple is not willing to cater to. I left Aperture when the whole D3/D300 fiasco occurred, and have never looked back (although I went to PhotoMechanic, not LR).

My biggest problems with Apple were that they would not support new RAW formats in a timely manner, and would not talk about dates for release at all (which we all know is typical Apple for every part of their business). When you've upgraded your camera hardware and have been waiting for 3 months for support, and you have no idea when it will actually come, it's no wonder that just about everyone has moved away from Aperture. (I have issues with the RAW conversion as well, but that's a different story).

My guess is that Aperture 3 will be released in February under the cover of night, just like they did with A2 (it was the week after a major show, where they had a booth that just had a small cardboard sign). They will make more promises about how they will improve their RAW support policies, just like last time, but likely nothing will change.

I would agree with most everything that has been said here. One of the things that surprises me is that Adobe out markets Apple. Only when there is a new release of Aperture do we hear anything from Cupertino. The lack of timely RAW support does tend to show a lack of commitment from Apple and though Aperture is in my opinion a superior management/ productivity is image processing engine and flexibility has become faded. Not bad just stagnant. My main concern is are they truly committed to the pro-market. If they can't handle being in the Pro photographer space and want to take the aperture interface and under the good nondestructive file management drop it into iPhoto fine with me. The Lightroom team with there beta releases totally outstrip Apple's marketing. They give the opportunity to appear like they care what the users say though I have always wondered how much weight is given to feedback or is it free but testing. In any case it wins the hearts and minds of many photographers I know. Finally I would echo if Apple is not going to actively developed the program I wish they would sell it to someone who would/could and if they're going to compete against Adobe in this space than do it.

David, Craig, some excellent points. Well said!

"Apple can release Raw updates"

Apple may not have the staff resources for all the new cameras that come out. I'd always figured they had contracted out with someone like RPP, Raw Therapee, or Silkypix to provide the conversion 'content,' but seemingly not. Word is that the Aperture and iPhoto groups are pretty much merged, and that RAW support is either not their bailiwick or is just not at the top of their priority list.

Considering that Photoshop/Lightroom and Aperture dominate the conversion marketplace, wouldn't it be fantastic if Apple would open up the Aperture RAW pipeline to allow drop-in converters and plugins? This would enable camera manufacturers themselves to disseminate converters for their new cameras upon release, or at least would permit the now-beleagured 3rd-party converter companies to gain sales by offering better (or specialized) converters that could come out sooner than Apple/Adobe, be more flexible, or offer newer/better features and support.

Also, by opening up the pipeline, plugin makers wouldn't have to deal with exporting images to work on them, then reimporting them (sucking up drive space) and losing the correction-steps made in the plugin. By getting into the pipeline we perhaps would have non-destructive plugins!

To me that's the only plausible way Apple could leapfrog Adobe, since Adobe seems completely unwilling to let anyone into their apps to compete with their RAW conversion. Apple, however, has no particular reason to hold that door closed.

But there's not even the slightest whisper that Apple intends to do anything close to this, so I am sadly and reluctantly resigned to preparing to do the LR switch when v.3 comes out of beta.

I have to admit that I was amazed last week withthe Aperture X NDA situation, and my fears were somewhat assuaged.

With the announcement of LR3, I felt annoyed, at least somewhat.

I think I'm in a unique position, though, in that I STILL shoot with a Canon EOS 20D. 5 years old, yes, but still an amazing heavyweight for the web arena that I shoot for. Aperture 2 does what I need, but I would still appreciate an upgrade.

I've been perfecting my craft, getting exposure, composition, and color tight in camera so that I spend less time in post...

Apple's continued silence about the future of Aperture only strengthens the growing impression out there that this product is dying on the vine. It's really a shame considering the marketing muscle they put behind the initial releases. They clearly caught Adobe flat-footed when this product was introduced.

I've been a die-hard Aperture user that has waited patiently for some kind of good news about the future of this product. The passing of Photo-Plus and lack of response to the LR3 beta release has finally forced me to break down and purchase LR2 and begin learning how to use it (knowing this product has a bright future).

I feel like Apple is waving the white flag.

I hope they prove me wrong.

I got tired of waiting and switched to LR and couldn't be happier. Apple ignores their professional customers and should be punished. Aperture's market share has plummeted and isn't helped by their total lack of communication. In total market share, Aperture is around 4-5%; even considering just OS X, Aperture is only around 8% compared to LR's 30-35%. Every conference and training session I go to, all I hear mentioned is LR and PS. Aperture users are now treated like lepers. There's virtually no coverage in books, training, or DVDs for Aperture compared to the volumes of help available for LR. Even level 3 certified Aperture trainers such as Scott Bourne who should have some knowledge of the existence of an Aperture 3 are migrating to LR. I hate to say this but too little, too late - Aperture has become the "Zune" of photo management tools.

I'm guessing Scott Bourne's decision to start using LR has more to do with his workshop and seminar business than any other factor, he's a good businessman. I'm not switching to LR until I see Aperture 3 but the momentum for LR is building. The lack of communication is really stunning. I wish Apple would take a shot at Photoshop. God knows there needs to be some competition in that market!

Adobe has dropped 2 releases since Aperture 2. Besides the non-destructive plugin, a proper output workflow which includes print sharpening etc.. and wider raw support I would like to see RAW support that is more faithful to Nikon's colors. Adobe Camera Raw seems to hit the mark more consistently than Apple. Apple has a lot of catching up to do. Secretive product cycles don't do any of us any good.

Another major problem that perhaps apple won't ever fix...its virtually impossible to migrate your Aperture library to Lightroom while preserving edits.

Hello out there, just forget about lightroom or aperture! go for PhaseOne Capture One. It is much better and the sharpness the programs creates is light years away from those other 2. They simply don´t hold a candle to Capture One.
So, don´t wait for the looser when you have a winner!

Here is a fact from Adobe's website. "The current Lightroom 3 public beta will expire on April 30, 2010." To me the die is cast. Apple has until then to release Aperture 3. It will need to be 64 bit I think and have some unfair competitive features to regain market share. Let's also not forget that Aperture is merely two thirds the price of Lightroom. I have no clue what the marketing strategy is for Aperture but I do know that Apple has a new operating system that features 64 bit and other advantages. None of Apple's pro apps are as yet 64 bit. Nor is iTunes iWork, of iLife. Let's hope Apple doesn't treat Aperture the way it has Blu-ray capability. Maybe April 1 for Aperture....

Thank you so much for this great article post! I'm not sure anyone else's thoughts, but I can't wait for New Year's Eve 2010 myself!

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Scott Bourne just mentioned on his PhotoFocus podcast that Aperture 3 Beta testing is underway. He decided not to take part apparently.