Apple's Mac OS X 10.6.4 update Tuesday contained several additions of note to serious photographers: support for several cameras' raw image formats and for tethered shooting with Canon cameras in the company's Aperture software.
Apple, like photography software rival Adobe Systems, is on a constant treadmill supporting new cameras' raw formats. The proprietary file formats offer higher quality and greater flexibility, but each camera has its own format for software companies to decode.
By my scrutiny of previous Apple announcements and the updated Apple raw image support page, here are the new cameras supported beyond earlier updates: the Canon PowerShot S90; the lower-resolution Canon sRAW and mRAW formats from newer SLRs; the Leica D-LUX 4; the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, DMC-GF1, DMC-GH1, and DMC-LX3; and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A450 and DSLR-A500.
Also new is expanded support for tethering, in which a camera is connected to the computer, usually by USB cable, so images are immediately available after shooting. It's a desirable feature for studio photographers who want to see the latest shots, scientists taking photos through microscopes, and journalists sending photos to editors on a deadline.
Many Nikon cameras had native tethering support in Aperture, but now new Canon models get the same treatment: The Rebel T2i/Kiss Digital X4/550D, 1D Mark IV, Rebel T1i/Kiss Digital X3/500D, 1D Mark III, 7D, 5D Mark II, Digital Rebel XS/Kiss Digital F2/1000D, Digital Rebel XSi/Kiss Digital X2/450D, 1Ds Mark III, 30D, 40D, and the Digital Rebel XTi/Kiss Digital X/400D. For a full list of supported models, check Apple's tethered camera support page.
The raw and tethering support reflects the ever-closer ties between cameras that capture the images and computers used to handle the images. For enthusiasts and professionals, the computer is increasingly essential to the photographic process.
Aperture users can start a tethered session by selecting File|Tether|Start Session, at which point the software asks for file naming and location particulars for the shots. You can take the photo either with the camera itself or with a button in the software, but there's no way to control camera settings through Aperture or get a live view version.
On the MacBook Pro I used for testing with a Canon 5D Mark II, each image took a couple seconds to arrive on the computer and a couple more seconds to render a more polished version. Although each new shot arrives as it's taken, you can go view, edit, and otherwise handle images as you shoot.
One more tidbit in the 10.6.4 update should help those exporting images later edited in Adobe's Photoshop CS4. Although images exported from Aperture stored metadata such as captions and titles in accordance with the newer Metadata Working Group guidelines first released in 2008, some older applications including Photoshop CS4 couldn't read the data. Apple changed how Aperture writes metadata into exported images so it can be read now, though.