This book should be reviewed in the context of three key directions in which the Creative Suite developers have been moving digital imaging over the past few years: workflow and process integration, major development of the raw processing pipeline and the creation of many more user-friendly and powerful tools which directly respond to the needs of photographers. To date, the culmination of these related initiatives is the production of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw 4.x and Adobe Bridge 2.x. The important new features of these applications are so extensive that no book dealing with previous versions of Camera Raw and Bridge will give users adequate instruction and advice about how best to use them.
This leads to the question of who should be using these programs, and therefore who should be reading this book. Anyone who wishes to maximize the quality of their photographs and have the fullest possible control over doing so should use a camera giving them "raw" files, Adobe Photoshop and Camera Raw for converting those raw files into high quality photographs, and this book to learn how to master and manage Camera Raw, Bridge and the DNG open-source raw file format.
There is, however, much more to this book than editing the appearance of photographs, as fundamentally important as that is. Reflecting the contemporary evolution of these programs, the book has three major areas of emphasis, these being a primer on the nature of a digital image and a raw file (very useful for understanding what one is working with and why some kinds of editing operations are preferable to others), instruction on how best to use Camera Raw for getting the most out of the images one has captured, and workflow (i.e. "what to do when") - emphasizing and explaining not only an orderly way of working within the Camera Raw module itself, but also how to get optimal efficiency in organizing, identifying and processing ones' images using the integrative features of Bridge, Camera Raw, and Photoshop. This structure of the book makes perfect sense given the intended integration of these applications to facilitate efficient and effective workflow.
Hence Chapters 1 and 2 provide a compact and highly readable primer on the anatomy of a digital image and a raw file and basically how Camera Raw works. If you weren't totally convinced before you bought the book why you should be working as much as possible with raw files rather than JPEGs, these two chapters will make that issue will go away.
Chapter 3 provides a handy integrative overview of how Camera Raw, Bridge, Photoshop and DNG all hang together as a system. The remainder of the book is devoted to a very detailed and comprehensive explanation of when and how to use these tools.
Chapters 4 and 5 explain the Camera Raw controls in depth - which is really important, because the last I counted there are at least 84 of them that could be independently combined in infinite ways to produce the image in the eye of the user's mind (and this excludes DNG creation and camera calibration also explained here in depth). The book explains what each of these tools do, how to use them, and most instructively, in Chapter 5, the authors present a very well selected variety of imaging situations we would all encounter, showing firstly how to evaluate what the images need done to them. Then they demonstrate in detail the individual edits performed to improve sharpness, contrast and color as appropriate to the objectives of the edits. Once you've completed reading this chapter you will have a very solid knowledge base from which to gain experience using this program to greatest advantage on your own images. I've processed about 1600 images in Camera Raw and I've run across every situation the authors cover here. I think they've done an excellent job in terms of both correct treatment of their sample images and the exposition of how to do it. It's clear, well illustrated, detailed and accurate.
That takes us to page 201, and Chapters 6 to 9 inclusive. As far as I know, you won't find a more convenient, comprehensive and detailed treatment of how to work with Adobe Bridge and Camera Raw, developing efficient workflows for handling files, folders, collections, metadata and process automation. For busy people needing to organize, recall and process large numbers of images quickly and efficiently, there is a wealth of indispensable instruction here covering the many features in these programs which make this possible.
Having read the book, I'm now keeping it beside my keyboard. It will serve as the most useful hands-on reference work that I own on Camera Raw, Bridge and DNG. It is with deep regret that Bruce Fraser is no longer with us to celebrate the accomplishment of this book, but we can take comfort in the fact that Jeff Schewe has picked up the torch, run with it and brought to fruition a remarkable piece of work which makes a really important contribution to our knowledge of digital imaging.