You sure discovered a nice little subculture on the Gimp mailing list,
Norman.  Here are some of my thoughts.

In my opinion, if you are just interested in getting a raw image out of
the camera, buy a low-end DSLR and spend as much as you can afford on
glass.  I have a Canon 350d and a 1d Mk IIn.  IQ is similar, just more
features and durability with the 1d - better autofocus, spot metering, etc.

As for net resources, The best all-around net community for photography,
in my opinion, is photo.net  You can get lots of good advice, and some
bad advice, in the forums there.   You probably won't even have to post
a question, just comb the archives.  If you want very detailed, highly
technical reviews of equipment, you'll find those at dpreviews.com.  The
links you will find on those two sites will lead you anywhere you need
to go.

On an unrelated, amusing note, I've been receiving so much bulk email
from Sven Neumann lately that my spam filter tagged it.  I set it
straight.  I would view that as a compliment if I were you, Sven. 
Thanks for all you do.

-- 
        --alex

        http://alexfeldman.org

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