Until recently I opened NEF files with Nikon View and did all my corrections (levels, curves etc.) in Photoshop CS. Now that I have CS3, and ACR is working for my D200, I'm confused as to the best way to work on my images. ACR automatically puts 50% and 25% contrast and brightness settings, and then I can play with exposure, recovery, blacks etc. Is this the way to go, or do people get better results zeroing all the ACR presets and go right to CS3 to play with levels, curves, etc?
I think you are better off doing as much of your editing in Camera Raw as possible. Those changes are made to the image nondestructively, so if you find it necessary at a later time to create a different effect it is possible to go back to the original state of the image. I'm not a technician, but from the reading I have done the experts seem to recommend that it's better to make your exposure adjustments in camera raw.
If you don't like the settings that are being applied, you can adjust those settings specifically for your camera and then save those settings as your Camera Raw defaults. Additionally, if you find you need a different setting for a specific project only, you can save a subset that you can apply as needed.