When I brought my new lens I found that CS4 / ACR didn’t ‘know’ about it. I downloaded the trial copy of Lightroom and an afternoon watching some introductory videos and fiddling around with it convinced me that it would do nearly everything I need. Even better, it can fire up CS4 and pass an image to it for final tweaking, and then happily export the edited PSD to the formats I use for uploading – 800 or 1024 pixels on the longest side depending on the final use. It can do this without losing the description of my new lens as well!
Eventually I bit the bullet and brought CS4. However I had signed up for another Open University course so I could get a student copy – far, far cheaper than a standard retail copy! This is a wonderfully powerful editor, so of course I have but scratched the surface. However, unlike both PSP and Elements, it offers 16-bit processing for all operations, and colour management is straightforward if not simple. CS5 has come along since but at present I feel no need to upgrade.
What I did upgrade was my PC! I treated it to a new quad-core AMD CPU and appropriate motherboard, 4GB RAM (since upgraded to 8GB), a 1TB hard disk and a 64-bit copy of Windows 7. That was another student licence and was the princely sum of £30! I have also indulged myself with an Eizo monitor and a Spyder 3 monitor calibration devcice. The quality of the Eizo display still stuns me, and calibrating it avoids nasty surprises when I print.
I also got an NAS which has two mirrored 2TB disks, and backup my PC onto that.
Then I took the Open University T189 course. That came complete with a copy of Adobe Elements 5, which meant I could start to use CameraRaw to deal with my RAW images. Elements in some ways was an improvement, but it didn’t have a Channel Mixer and I kept hitting various other limitations.
Paint Shop Pro
Originally of course I needed no software! However once I started taking digital pictures, software became imperative.
To start with I used an old, free version of Paint Shop Pro, but eventually I upgraded it to PSP X. I still have and use that from time to time, but it’s RAW processing left a lot to be desired, as did colour-managed workflow and the lack of full 16-bit processing.