Keeping this short (but probably can’t), Aperture 3 (AP) is a really wonderful application to use but its performance sucks compared to competing images editors such as Lightroom (LR). Aperture runs terribly slow on my Macbook Intel Core Duo 2 rated at 2Ghz with 3GB of RAM (the maximum sadly). But AP2’s performance was acceptable as was both LR2 and LR3.
I started using Aperture in its first incarnation, but soon replaced it with LR for a while and then went back to Aperture for version 2 and stayed with it since. I’ve installed the beta of LR3 at the moment because its noise reduction techniques are really working for me (a few images Aperture can’t clean up are given a quick once over again in LR just to be sure).
A quick history, maybe inaccurate but written with honest intentions.
Some netizens were predicting the death of the Photo Pro App because typical of Apple, they work in secrecy while Adobe with LR have a much more open development; with regular betas released to the public and Adobe are quite vocal about their software in general anyway.
Having a 2 year window of silence (from AP2 to AP3) worried many photographers and many began to think AP3 was never going to come. Tired of waiting, photographers began jumping across to Adobe LR. Understandable and quite rightly so. This is the bit where I want to go all critical on Apple’s silence regarding their application. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t going to bring down the entire Apple ecosystem . Don’t misunderstand, I like how Apple treats its core products and how they never overhype or over promise, they just ship products when they’re ready. But how much does Aperture really matter, especially when there is only 1 competitor. Is it worth losing not just ‘users’ but professional photographers to a competing product? At the moment Apple seems to think so. Maybe their sales tell a different story and only the most upset and therefore vocal will discuss switching their allegiances on the various forums and blogs.
The silence has continued even after AP3’s release, but bug fixes have been regular after the initial release. At the time of writing this, it has been 5 months since Apple released AP3. If it feels like I’m making an issue from this then you’re right, I am and it serves a point later on.
I bought Aperture 3 right away and luckily didn’t install it till the second update so I never had any of the initial major library conflicts or weird bugs other photographers went through.
But even updated with the latest version installed, I actually haven’t escaped some very large problems, I have only realised it this week. They were problems you wouldn’t recognise as being severe and could be masked by my poor hardware setup. I had slowdowns when it came to using brushes, exporting images took an unbelievably long time.
Aperture 2 to Aperture 3
I think the first mistake was to upgrade the AP2 library to AP3’s. You’re not strictly starting from scratch with this method as you’re bringing with you AP2’s legacy into a new library. A better method would have been to install AP3, then import the raw files.
So after installation my work flow slowed. I was dissapointed and expected speed improvements, eventually I put my problems down to the fact the hardware requirements were slightly higher and I was amassing a larger library because I was shooting more. But the process of upgrading Raw files from AP2 to AP3 as far as I know is quite intensive. I did try to follow the tips that had started to float around the internet tubes. One was to turn off Faces and Places, which I readily did as I have no use for them. The second tip was to limit the size of the library; removing projects that were finished.
One nice feature within Aperture is that it can now work with multiple libraries. Everything doesn’t need to be in one library, greatly reducing library sizes. But I’ve used this feature and sadly didn’t notice any difference with performance.
Purchasing an SSD is supposed to help with performance, at the moment they’re expensive and limited due to the size of SSDs. But even these high performance disks would suffer the same fate as I’m about to describe.*
My own tip was to use my 8 megapixel camera instead of the 16 megapixel. For most things I didn’t really need 16megapixels so I did start to use my 1Dmk2N more often. I figured if I generated half the pixels, the performance would therefore double. Wrong!
‘Aperture is Broken’
This blog caught my attention because of the similarities:
We created new Libraries, did fresh imports, repaired permissions, dumped .plist files from the system Library, ran on local drives instead of external drives… even ran repairs on drives… all to no avail.
I haven’t done this yet and I’m not going too, having discovered this second link from Apple’s own support forum from the blog’s comments. It’s 11 pages of really good technical information and some solid troubleshooting for improving performance. Even those with MacPro’s seem to be suffering. It isn’t just slow hardware like I had thought. Upgrading to a new machine will help, but overtime the problems creep back.
Reading the entire thread, the issue is with Aperture’s handling of its database, simply put, its likely to fragment over time with constant writes to the hard drive. It doesn’t matter how much processor power or RAM you can utilise when the hard disks have your information scattered all over the drive.
User and thread starter, Kevin J. Doyle has put together a large, lengthy and invaluable set of instructions for optimising performance. I want to summarise his solution here but that would be wrong considering the time he’s taken to explain his solution as its very through. It’s a combination of e-sata drives, rotating backups, preventing Spotlight from indexing drive and keeping the libraries off the main boot drive.
The sad part is that Apple should be explaining this and this leads me back to my main point on Apple’s silence. It is a shame Apple doesn’t spend the time itself on problem solving and providing feedback for what is a Pro Application on an issue which is very fundamental to the smooth operation of Aperture.
I’m convinced by Kevin’s workaround and will be implementing it as soon as I’m able too, everybody else with the same issues should take the time to read it. Quite an education on not only managing ones images within Aperture but also managing Aperture itself. Until Apple suggests something else this could be the best solution for the time being.
*On a side note, the recent benchmarking by barefeats reports that having an SSD doesn’t actually improve the use of Aperture, not even for exporting images; taking advantage of the faster write capabilities of the SSD. During the export process, the CPU is actually the bottle neck! Link: http://barefeats.com/wst10c4.html