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You just have to remember that RAW images have no processing done to the in
the camera. It is the raw data from the sensor. JPEGs and Tiffs (if you
camera supports that) do have processing done to them things like
brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpening not to mention I suspect other
things that we have no use control over in the camera menus (most cameras
let you set the amount of sharpening, contrast and the like). So the
difference you see between the RAW image and the JPG is as if you took that
RAW image and made adjustments to it. Besides having the ability to control
these basic adjustments with RAW you also get a much wider range of editing
capabilities with RAW that you don't get with JPG. With JPG when a highlight
is blown or a shadow is totally black there is more times than not not much
you can do about it, that data is lost and gone forever. However, with RAW
you can far more often than not recover the image data because it hasn't
been thrown out.
RAW is a lot more work, not doubt about it. That is one of the reasons I has
taken me so long to move away from JPG or TIFF. However, with Adobe
Photoshop Lightroom or Bridge and ACR it has becomes a ton more easy to
process the several thousand RAW images that I shoot when I go out to
photograph. I think it is just part learning curve and part having the
software that makes the processing a lot less work.
There are many reason why ACR's defaults may look "different" than the jpeg (see the ACR FAQ), but very few reason why they should look "weird", so you better describe what you mean by weird. Relative to Adobe Lightroom, ACR should look very similar to LR's development, given they are using the same default settings.
If it is a color management problem, then you better describe your system, and how it's color managed ...
>...is the fact that when the thumbnails of RAW are first previewed (I have tried various programs like Lightroom, DxO, Capture One etc), they look pretty much like JPEG-s, but when I click on them, the colours of both the large-scaled images, as well as the thumbnails, become flat and very off.
Differences in the rendering of colors by the in camera JPEG engine or the camera manufacturer's raw conversion program have been discussed many times, for example:
David Ritch, "ACR 3.7 works better than 4.2 with RAW NEF - Why?" #1, 31 Oct 2007 5:45 am
In previewing raw files in Adobe Bridge, the image that comes up briefly is from the JPEG preview attached to the raw file by the camera, using the camera settings. Subsequently, the raw file is previewed by using an ACR rendering, which ignores the camera settings and uses the default ACR setting if no adjustments have been made.
You should check your settings and provide more information concerning your camera and setup.
All views of your image started with the same RAW data, and must be converted to RGB or some other image format for viewing. You cannot view the RAW unconverted data, as you seem to suggest.
You are only viewing and noticing the differences between different RAW converter programs. These programs also offer many adjustments to change the resultant RGB image. Adjust them to your liking. But remember some programs are better than others, or have features that you make like more. I am sure that future converters will get better and better as time goes on. So you may want to keep your RAW data for future use.
And if you are describing the famous red to orange color shift, greenish skin tones; that's pretty common for quite a few of us using the default rendering in ACR. Until this is addressed (presumably soon based on hints and comments from Adobe team) the best way to address this is to correct a representative image to your liking using Calibration sliders, etc, then save that as a preset or a new default rendering.
Buy Jeff's book and learn how to use ACR to its fullest extent. The default settings are only a starting point. Very, very few people should be relying on ACR defaults.
(E.g. the calibration and default settings for my specific unit of the Pentax *ist-D happen to be spot on in ACR 4.5. Note that Pentax talks to Adobe in ways that Nikon and Canon refuse to do.)