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Mac OS X update perks up photo performance

An operating system update means faster rendering for raw images in Aperture. Also, the software and iPhoto are supporting 10 new cameras.

Canon's PowerShot S95
Canon's PowerShot S95, a highly regarded new high-end compact camera, is among those models whose raw image files Mac OS X and Apple's photo applications now supports.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's release of Mac OS X 10.6.5 yesterday carried some improvements for photographers: better performance, and support for raw photo formats from a handful of newer cameras.

The release notes mention simply that the update "addresses performance of some image-processing operations in iPhoto and Aperture." In my tests on a dual-core MacBook Pro, however, I found one particular bottleneck is significantly relieved: rendering the raw photos so they can be viewed at 100 percent--when one photo pixel takes up one screen pixel.

That's significant, given how frequently a photographer must wait for a computer to turn the raw images from a higher-end camera into something presentable. Aperture users also should see editing and export performance improve over what already arrived in version 3.1 after the OS is updated.

Here's one telling tidbit: for a change, I found zooming to 100 percent faster than with Adobe Systems' Lightroom, both on that MacBook and on a quad-core Core i7 Windows 7 machine.

Also new in the update is support for raw files for several important, new cameras.

Raw files, which come straight from the camera's image sensor without in-camera processing, offer higher quality and greater flexibility at the expense of larger file size and the significant hassles of required processing. Many photo enthusiasts prefer them, though, and it's for such files that software such as Aperture and Lightoom are designed.

Here's the full list of new cameras with raw support now in Mac OS X:

• Canon EOS 60D

• Canon PowerShot S95

• Hasselblad H4D-40

• Nikon D3100

• Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5

• Sony Alpha DSLR-A290

• Sony Alpha DSLR-A560

• Sony Alpha DSLR-A580

• Sony Alpha SLT-A33

• Sony Alpha SLT-A55