Since (if I understand correctly) the color adjustment tools in GIMP
have been updated to use GEGL, would it be viable to introduce an
optional 16 bit color-correction stage to the import of 16 bit images?
Specifically, a curves dialog, perhaps including saturation. If it's
possible to implement without a great deal of time and effort, this
might be a shortcut to provide the kind of 16 bit support that will
actually benefit photo-editors (particularly those dealing with
scanned film, rather than digital where most of these large-scale
color adjustments where high bit-depth actually makes a difference are
possible in pre-processing tools like UFRaw).
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