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Apple delivers modest Aperture update

MacBook Pro Retina-display optimization, AVCHD support and better integration with iPhoto top the list of enhancements to Apple's pro photo software.

Updated 6/12/12 after a chat with Apple.

It didn't make the stage during the Apple WWDC keynote, but Apple rolled out a stealth upgrade to its Aperture 3 professional photo organization and editing software. Aperture 3.3 includes a variety of stability and performance updates as well as interface tweaks, most notably to support the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display; the biggest news for more general users is that the application now supports AVCHD video files.

Some of the changes sound like they're designed to make Aperture a little more consumer friendly. For instance, it now has better iPhoto integration, with Faces, Places, slideshows, albums and web sharing operating without any import or export. Thus, the two applications now share a single management interface for more streamlined roundtripping between the applications, as well as to provide a low-risk, low-commitment path for an upgrade from iPhoto. You can now name Faces via drag and drop to the corkboard and set the sort order via menu. You can also now set a photo as your desktop background from within Aperture.

Retina display optimization includes updated thumbnail generation and zoom algorithms plus improved iconography and essential interface adjustments to compensate for the increased resolution, as well as performance tweaks to deal with the fourfold increase in processing bandwidth requirements.

Some enhancements sound like responses to Adobe Lightroom's recent facelift; a modified highlights and shadows tool Apple claims delivers better highlight recovery in ostensibly blown-out areas. You can set the background brightness in the full-screen browser.

Both pros and nonpros can benefit from increased automation, like Auto enhance and one-click white balance, along with the ability to automatically balance for skin tones and grays. It now allows custom sort orders in the Projects view as well. And there's the usual assortment of fixes for performance and stability, including the use of camera-embedded previews for faster browsing of raw files upon import.