Turning back the hands of time

by Dominique James

I'm feeling a little nostalgic. It's probably because I am thinking forward, and anticipating the annual MacWorld Expo & Conference happening in January '08. In any case, come with me and let's stroll down memory lane. We have time, believe me.

When Apple first introduced Aperture, it got a lot of photographers really excited. I have to admit, I was one of them. And to this day, I am still excited about Aperture. It must be the "geek" in me.

Many professional photographers who are on top of their game, and those who always seem to be at the forefront of digital imaging, embraced the revolutionary concept of an all-in-one post-production tool. This was an idea that Apple introduced with Aperture that re-framed the way digital photographers plow through their workflow after the shoot. There was nothing quite like it, or quite as organized and smooth-flowing, and it seemed short of revolutionary.

Fast-forward to today, the idea of a post-production software unifying almost all the essential steps that most photographers need to take is now somewhat ubiquitous. It is almost difficult to imagine working on digital images without some sort of a step-by-step, logical and organized, and yet flexible, way of going through thousands upon thousands of high resolution image files. Today, every digital shooter seems to be doing the same thing--going through the same "routine" when it comes to post-production workflow.

How many years has it been since Aperture was first introduced? It almost seems a very, very long time; and yet, it was only actually a few years back when version 1.0 was first launched.

Maybe, this is because everyone thinks time is relative. And because of this, to some, the development and evolution of Aperture may be slow. But to others, the pace may just be right. And, let's not leave out those who might even say that Aperture's development is quite fast.

But who's counting the years? Perhaps, I'm the only one. Despite the absence of official announcement, I'm probably just eager for 2.0 to come around. But while I'm in breathless anticipation of the yet unannounced 2.0, there's one feature that was in 1.0 that I somehow miss.

And that is the Camera Clock Sync feature. You do you remember the Camera Clock Sync feature in Aperture 1.0? No, you don't?


The Camera Clock Sync feature is a tiny clock icon that appears from within Aperture's interface when your camera is directly hooked to the Mac via USB cable. Yes, once upon a time, Aperture did have a built-in feature that can supposedly sync the clock of your digital camera with that of the accurate time of your Mac computer. I love the idea behind this feature: for the camera/s we use to finally keep accurate time by being in sync with the Mac's clock. Just like the iPods. Or the iPhone.

Maybe, this feature, accurate digital image time-keeping, is not that crucial to most photographers. This feature is perhaps only really useful to photojournalists, investigative photographers, forensic photographers, event photographers, and maybe, even to paparazzi photographers. Imagine what it would mean if they are able to commonly and routinely capture the accurate time of any event's occurrence with every shot. Personally, and even if my work is far from photojournalistic, I'd be curious to know the very exact actual time of each and every shot that I take.

It seems ironic that, in this day and age, and despite modern advances in inter-connectivity, we still have to manually set (in a notoriously inaccurate analog fashion) our digital camera's internal clock. We do the same analog approach to almost all wristwatches and other time pieces. Frustrating to a certain extent because it would appear that we have not, to this day, mastered the art of accurate time-keeping beyond our computers. The iPods and the iPhone is a good start. What about our camera's clock? And what about our wristwatches? (Maybe, Steve Jobs should introduce a new product line that will do what watches are supposed to do best: tell accurate time.) Is there hope?

With Aperture 1.0, photographers had the chance to sync their cameras into the world's atomic time. Imagine that unprecedented level of accuracy! But somewhere along Aperture's iteration, this "feature" disappeared. It is possible that no one was paying enough attention to it, and therefore it may have eventually been deemed unimportant. Or, it could be that linking into the time mechanism and technology of various camera models, brands and configurations is difficult, hence, was just not working.

In any case, if I can turn back the hands of time, the Camera Clock Sync is one feature that I wish Apple engineers retained. Yes, I'm being nostalgic.

So, while we are moving forward, maybe we ought to step back as well? Do you think Apple engineers will be inclined to bring back the Camera Clock sync feature in future versions of Aperture?

We can only speculate. And of course, only time will tell.


Mihalis Tsoukalos
2007-12-04 01:28:30
This Camera Clock feature looks useful but what I really want from Aperture 2.0 is speed...
I would not mind if Aperture 2.0 has not any new features but twice the current speed :-)
2007-12-04 03:51:39
I use the time sync feature in the application "Digital Images", but apparently there is a bug in 10.5 that prevents the camera clock to be set to the correct time.
I just tested it, on my 10.4.11 Mac the time gets set, on my 10.5.1 Mac nothing happens.

In Aperture (on my 10.5 Mac) i still get that clock icon, but the clock isn’t synced.

Thanks for this article. I geo-tag my images and having the correct time set on the camera is very important for me.

P.S.: time sync only works if the camera supports it and is set to PTP as connection protocol.

Michael Martin
2007-12-04 05:29:37
If you use Nikon, the free TransferNX software allows the camera time to be set by the computer. Very useful.
Dominique James
2007-12-04 06:08:53
Zadian, what version of Aperture do you use on your 10.5 Mac? The Camera Clock Sync icon and feature was supposed to disappear with the upgrades. For me, it disappeared at version 1.1.
Dominique James
2007-12-04 06:10:41
Mihalis, I hear you. I'm sure, Apple hears you too.
2007-12-04 06:22:59
We cover events using multiple cameras, several different models from Pentax and Canon.
When the clocks are set right, all our images will shuffle together in the order they were shot, very usefull especially for weddings. I'd kill to have that feature, built into aperture.
sadly I'd still kill to get aperture to recognize raw files from my pentax ds2...oh well!
2007-12-04 06:29:29
I use Mac OS X 10.5.1 and Aperture 1.5.6.
It might be a problem with the localisation as I use German as system language.

(the application "Digital Images" I mentioned is "Image Capture")

Dominique James
2007-12-04 06:46:08
Michael, is this the link where we can get the free Nikon TransferNX? Hmmm ... was anyone able to successfully download, install and use this software?
2007-12-04 12:46:23
I was using TransferNX (but not the clock sync, as I did not know of it) but it stopped working in 10.5 on my PowerBook. Locks up on launch.
2007-12-05 00:53:22
The Camera Clock Sync feature is a tiny clock icon that appears from within Aperture’s interface when your camera is directly hooked to the Mac via USB cable.
El Tidy
2007-12-06 10:52:25
it is still there for me at 1.5.6 ... although it doesn't show for my 30D, only my 5D and 20d's ...