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Realize the true value of Raw files is that they are raw and not yet "baked" (fixed with a WB and gamma). So, what you can do and the extent to will be able to do it will be limited when working on JPGs and TIFFs.
However, the advantages of being able to apply Camera Raw settings to one or hundreds of images at a time should not be overlooked...also, being able to apply multiple adjustments (via Camera Raw controls) is also useful.
But no...you are _NOT_ gonna be able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear...you will be starting with an 8 bit/channel JPG after all.
I have had a need to crop (and preset) a large number of JPEGs under very strict time constraints. (No time to open each one in Photoshop, for example).
I could individually crop 100+ JPEGs in ACR (loaded at once from Bridge rather than from Photoshop) and save the results in about 9 seconds per image.
(Lightroom might be a better tool, but I doubt if the timing would be significantly better).
I shoot a lot of JPEGs for three companies that I work for. I've been fiddling with ACR since the beta and the results are spectacular. Actually I should say that they were really great and now are spectacular with the release of 4.1.
While highlight recovery is very limited the cropping/resizing and the color noise control are worth the price of admission alone.
One of my chief gripes with Canon camera JPEGs is that I think that they need a higher gamma to bring out the often too-dark mid-shadows. I used to use a 1.1 gamma in the Levels tool. It's also hard to find just the correct WB when shooting events under partially cloudy or evening conditions outside.
ACR has taken care of those problems. The latest tool set far exceeds my expectations. The plug-in is so good that for both RAW and JPEG images I only have to use Photoshop for specific issues like lens distortion or masking.
Good Work Adobe! If 4.2 includes the ability to store custom crop sizes and to right-click and use the Previous Conversion setting for individual tools I'll believe that I have truly entered photographer heaven.
>One of my chief gripes with Canon camera JPEGs is that I think that they need a higher gamma to bring out the often too-dark mid-shadows.
Absolutely. Camera manufacturers, Canon and Nikon in particular, perform in-camera RAW to JPEG conversions designed to generate the over-saturated, over-contrasty and over-sharpened images that appeal to most amateurs.
Their stand-alone RAW conversion software also performs the same conversion to your RAW images.
Noise is also hidden by compressing the shadows so you don't see much of the noise inherent in the image.
They're simply compensating for the natural behavior of the sensors in their cameras.
>If 4.2 includes the ability to right-click and use the Previous Conversion setting for individual tools I'll believe that I have truly entered photographer heaven.
That's there in 4.1 if I understand you correctly. When you go to paste the settings, you get a long table with check boxes for the tools you want to apply.