With the plethora of image processing and editing tools available to today's digital photographers, making optimal choices from among those offerings has become daunting. Here to shed some light on the issue and help with the decision-making is a book from which every advanced digital darkroom practitioner should benefit.
When digital imaging really began to reach the consciousness level of consumers in the late 1990s, file capture was most often in JPEG format. As the public enthusiasm for digital accelerated, serious photographers loudly debated quality issues, especially as related to film. Then along came RAW -- a digital capture mode using minimal in-camera processing with much more post-capture flexibility and strong potential for higher quality results. Early RAW files could only be converted using the camera manufacturer's proprietary software which often lacked convenience and elegance. Then Adobe popularized RAW with distribution of their Camera Raw Photoshop plug-in which through reverse engineering enabled one program to convert RAW files from many different brands of cameras. This proved very convenient to many who were already using Photoshop as their primary image editor and opened the door to unprecedented control of the digital image development process, including post-capture adjustment of white balance, exposure, and other variables. Numerous third-party RAW converters quickly followed, making informed choices tough without trying them all.
But when there's a need, someone usually rises to fill it...hence this book. Uwe Steinmueller has written a number of books (some co-authored with Juergen Gulbins) in both print and e-book format. What this edition does exceedingly well is describe in detail the concepts of digital capture, color management, and the benefits of shooting in RAW file format, and then it lays out the choices among RAW conversion programs currently available. The authors follow with additional info on perfecting images, batch processing, the DNG format, profiling, and creating black and white images. I know of no other printed volume that provides as comprehensive a survey of current RAW tools with cogent comments on qualitative capability and appropriate application. Furthermore, the clear, concise discussions of often highly technical subjects are really excellent, and the order and manner in which this rather complex collection of topics is presented is logical and understandable - really well done.
A couple of caveats. This is not a beginner's book. While those who wish to learn digital photography thoroughly will benefit a great deal from it, the sheer weight of technical information might stymie someone relatively new to digital imaging. Secondly, technology has moved so rapidly that this book is already dated. There have been significant changes in the industry since the date of publication that alter the choices in RAW converters. Hopefully an updated version of the book will arrive soon to bring issues to a more current status. Nevertheless, as a whole, this collection of information is an important resource for serious digital imagers and is highly recommended.