Aperture SSD Performance Assessment

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by cnstoll, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. cnstoll macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2010

    I finally made the jump to an SSD for my primary volume, so I thought I'd share some of my experience with using it for Aperture so far. A while back, a lot of people told me that they thought SSDs would have no bearing on Aperture performance. The assumption was that most Aperture tasks are CPU bound (preview processing, exporting) so the SSD wouldn't offer much benefit. I decided to put this to the test using my own setup and workflow.

    First, my setup. I'm using a 2010 3.2GHz Mac Pro with 13GB of RAM. I am using a referenced master's library configuration. The library package resides on the main volume (MacPro HD) and the masters reside on a 2TB RAID-1 mirrored volume (MacPro RAID).

    My basic workflow with Aperture is this. After returning from a shoot I import everything from the CF card (using a FW800 CF reader) into a new project. I mostly shoot sports, which is on a deadline, so I am typically editing immediately without waiting for the import to finish. This means that I am scanning through thumbnails and full size images before they are processed or cached. It's critical that this process doesn't hang or lag at all because I generally don't want to wait for the import to finish (especially on projects involving 2000+ photos).

    For the test I used a 1000 photo set from a trip I just took to India. I completed my import and basic editing process first with my library on a 1TB HD, and then again with the library on a 480GB SSD. In both tests I downloaded all the images from the CF card during the import. While the import was in progress I timed several benchmarks using a stopwatch (I admit this is not very scientific). I also continually scanned through thumbnails and full sizes to gauge the overall "feel" of each system. I also took a few other non-import related measurements that I feel are worth including.

    So, here's the results.

    Mac Startup Time: 56s
    Aperture Startup Time: 39s
    All Photos Load Time: 12s
    All Projects Load Time: 22s
    Import Thumbnails (and metadata): 1:28
    Copy All Images to Masters Directory: 1:50
    Total Import Time: 3:20 (sum of two previous steps)
    Process Embedded JPEGs: 2:57
    Process All Images (previews): 14:25
    Load 10 Previews (select an image, wait for it to fully load, right arrow to the next, wait, repeat): 17.4s

    Notes: during this process scrolling locked up frequently. It was difficult and frustrating to flip between images. Tapping an image often resulted in a 4-5 second beach ball cursor.

    Mac Startup Time: 21s
    Aperture Startup Time: 10s
    All Photos Load Time: 12s
    All Projects Load Time: 8s
    Import Thumbnails (and metadata): 12s
    Copy All Images to Masters Directory: 1:51
    Total Import Time: 2:20 (sum of two previous steps)
    Process Embedded JPEGs: 1:57
    Process All Images (previews): 12:30
    Load 10 Previews (select an image, wait for it to fully load, right arrow to the next, wait, repeat): 15.1s

    Notes: There were never any hangs of any sort while flipping between images during the import process. Tapping on an image resulted in an instant preview followed 2-3 seconds later by a full quality image.

    I think the summary is that there is definitely a performance benefit to having the Aperture Library metadata on an SSD. I think the initial project import time is the best example. From 88s to 12s, a 6x improvement in performance. I have no doubt the hangs in performance with the HDD during this time were a result of the disk head moving back and forth writing metadata, previews, etc. and then having to seek back to find some bit of metadata from the library for a given image before showing it's preview in the viewer. For me, the lack of hangs and freezes during import make the SSD a huge win. I also like the faster startup time for Aperture, as well as more-quickly loading large projects (or multiple projects, like all photos). So yes, while exporting (or as shown in this example, preview generation) don't really benefit from the SSD, I still think it's worthwhile to use one with Aperture.
  2. jabbott macrumors 6502

    Nov 23, 2009
    Wow, thanks for writing this thorough and informative post. I always wondered what kind of improvement an SSD would have with Aperture. One of these days I will have to upgrade...
  3. jbg232 macrumors 65816


    Oct 15, 2007
    I really appreciate this post but I have to ask how economical it is to store all your images on an SSD? This is the issue I always run into when thinking about it. Unless you only keep your 5-star images longterm.
  4. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    Unless I misunderstood what cnstoll said, the images are still on a hard drive. it's only the library package that is on the SSD.

    So, you said it was 1000 pictures. how much space on the hard drive and how much on the SSD does this library take? (After the processing you did in the tests.)
  5. VirtualRain, Apr 12, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2012

    VirtualRain macrumors 603


    Aug 1, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    Thanks for this thorough analysis.

    I'm not at all surprised that the SSD is faster (as I have been using one for awhile now and love the performance), but I am surprised the import time is affected as I would have guessed the CF card would be the bottleneck... you must have a very fast CF card? BTW, what do you mean by "Import thumbnails (and metadata)"... is that referring to filling up the import window in Aperture with thumbnails from the CF card or something else?

    And for those wondering about the economics of storing your photos on an SSD, it's simply not affordable to store all your photos on Solid State of course. However, you certainly can setup a storage strategy that works using an SSD of reasonable size (maybe 256GB?). Whether you can store a single assignment, week, month, or more worth of photos on your SSD depends on how much you shoot. 1000 RAW images is about 25GB so a 256GB drive should last even the most prolific shooter awhile before filling up... and the benefits of keeping your active projects on your SSD are clear. Then when your SSD starts to get full... you can simply move that Aperture Library to a HD and start with a new Library on your SSD.
  6. cnstoll thread starter macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2010
    Yes, this is only storing the library metadata on the SSD and keeping the master images on the HDD. This takes up about 8GB on the HDD. The previews for this project are about 650MB, plus some thumbnails and other data...so I'm guessing maybe 700MB of space on the SSD. This can of course be lowered if the previews are of a lower quality (mine are fairly high).


    Yes, the import window filling up with thumbnails. And I don't think the CF card is that fast, but the card reader itself is pretty good (SanDisk FW 800).

    Definitely storing an entire library, including masters, on an SSD is unreasonable. However, my entire library has 160k photos, and using the referenced masters system with all of the masters on an HDD the library file itself (located on the SSD) is only 120GB. That's fairly economical and worthwhile to store on an SSD, imo.

    Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm glad this is helpful to you.
  7. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    Thank you for the original post and this additional bit of data.

    Space used depends on the camera of course. For example, the RAW files on the Nikon D800 are about 75MB. Or 75GB per 1000 pictures.

    Seeing these numbers makes me soft of happy I feel no need to upgrade my 10 MP which only has a 16MB raw file.
  8. sapporobaby macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2007
    3 earth minutes from your location....
    I have a similar but different setup. I am using 2 SSD's in my MBP. One for the system (120 gig), and one for Data (250). I used to hows my entire library of 120 gigs on the 250 gig SSD but also realized that this was a waste. I opted for an external 1TB Lacie Thunderbolt drive that houses my Aperture (soon to be Lightroom library but that is another subject for another discussion) and the speed from the TB drive assures no lag or delays. For the times when I am out and about without the TB drive, I use a WD My Passport Studio with a F/W 800 interface. Seems to work pretty steady. I thought, that because of the sequential nature in which data is written to and from a HDD it in some ways offered as good if not better performance than an SSD for reading and writing purposes.

Share This Page