Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Book Review: the 123 of digital imaging (an electronic book)
Reviewed by Chris Taylor

I have been interested in photography for many years. I have shelves filled with books on photography, darkroom techniques, etc. Yet, when I bought a digital camera a couple of years ago, I was a little bewildered.

Things are different enough between digital cameras and film cameras that I felt somewhat lost. Too bad I didn’t have access to the 123 of digital imaging – Interactive Learning Suite v3.5 by Vincent Bockaert back then.

123di is an electronic book that contains 138 topics in 16 chapters and has over 3,000 pages of information. In the author profile section, Vincent says 123di “…aims to synthesize the essential information available today that you will need to make the most out of your digital photography experience.”, which I think is a very good description of 123di.

123di is broken down into three broad steps.

Step one has three chapters which cover digital photography basics as well as digital cameras themselves and how to choose a camera. There are clear explanations of all aspects of digital cameras and how they differ from film cameras. As well, general camera terms such as aperture priority and metering are covered very well.

Nine chapters in step two teach about editing digital images. 123di uses various versions of Photoshop (Elements, v7, CS, & CS2) to show different techniques. However, not having a copy of Photoshop is not a barrier to learning. Most image editing programs include similar functionality. I use Microsoft’s Digital Image 2006 and I found I could easily apply most of the techniques in step 2.

Step two is really the “meat” of 123di. This is where digital imaging really shines. It is astounding the degree of control you have over your images after having taken them. 123di explains it all. There are sections on choosing image editing software, colour management, adjusting resolution, cropping, adjusting brightness and contrast, removing chromatic aberrations and lens distortion, changing the depth of field, sharpening, removing vignetting, retouching, removing backgrounds, and much, much more.

Step three is all about what to do with your images after you are done perfecting them. There are 4 chapters that help you organize, view, share, print, and process your images.

The Appendices contain interactive manuals for Adobe Photoshop Album 2, Photoshop Elements 2 & 3, Photoshop 7, CS, & CS2.

Information throughout 123di is broken down into three levels of detail, starter, essential, and advanced. There are icons at the top of the window that let you jump immediately between the three levels. The starter information is an introduction to the topic. It is really useful if you are unsure of what a topic is all about or whether you are really interested in it. Essential info starts to get into the real substance of a topic and covers the really important aspects. In the advanced sections, the author digs deeply into the topic.

I found the interface to 123di a little quirky in the beginning. But that is because I just dove in and started clicking around without stopping to learn the way 123di was designed. Once I took the time to read the sections that describe how the electronic book works, it became much easier.

I still find myself distracted by the myriad of cross-reference links. I find I seldom can manage to go in and read on a single topic without jumping off in the middle to related material. But at least now I don’t tend to get lost.

The topics covered in 123di covers are enhanced through built-in animations where appropriate. They really help in understand some complex topic such as histograms and how you can use that information to adjust your images.

System requirements: Win95/98/NT/2000/ME/XP, about 110MB disk space.

You can download a demo version of 123di from
www.123di.com, which contains a few of the sections of the full product. You can purchase the full product through a download at the web site for US$45. You can order 123di on CD-ROM for US$58 (shipping included) which adds the freeware Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition 3.0, cdTree 3.1.4 Standard, and Panorama Tools as well as demo or trial versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0, Adobe Photoshop CS2, and PTGui 4.1.

After I saw how wonderfully useful 123di is, I asked Vincent Bockaert if he would be willing to donate a copy as a door prize at the OPCUG 2005 Digital Imaging Workshop and he immediately agreed. So if you were lucky enough to have gotten a spot at the workshop, you could have had a chance at winning a copy of the 123 of digital imaging.

Bottom Line:

the 123 of digital imaging – Interactive Learning Suite v3.5
Download: US$45 (www.123di.com)
CD-ROM US$58 (shipping included)
by Vincent Bockaert

You can download a demo version of 123di from www.123di.com, which contains a few of the sections of the full product.


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