Apple has announced the release of Aperture 2. This all-new version of its high-end, Macintosh-only digital darkroom software that features 100 new features and an improved user interface.

One of the chief criticisms of the original Aperture was that while it was undoubtedly thorough, it was also overly complex and clunky, especially when used on older hardware. Apple appears to have addressed this by whittling down and streamlining the user interface to make it more user-friendly.

"The theme of this release is performance, simplicity and imaging," said Kirk Paulsen, Apple's senior director, application product marketing.

However, this streamlining process has not come at the expense of image-editing features, and plenty of new imaging tools have been added. Chief among these is a new recovery tool to help reclaim ‘blown’ highlights, alongside vibrancy, local contrast definition and soft-edged retouching.

A new Quick View feature will also allow photographers working with RAW to browse through their files in quick succession. As RAW files are considerably larger than traditional JPEG image files this will be of benefit to pros looking to browse what they’ve captured without having to wait for large downloads to complete.

In addition Aperture 2 users will be able to use the software to post their pictures directly to a .Mac gallery, or to an iPhone, iPod Touch or Apple TV.

Unlike iPhoto, which is intended for general use, Aperture 2 is aimed squarely at professional photographers and advanced enthusiasts. Its main competitor is Adobe’s LightRoom, which until now at least has generally thought of as both quicker and easier to use. Photographers will be keeping a keen eye on those all-important review scores in the coming weeks to see if Apple is any nearer to catching up with Adobe.