About the 8 , 16 bit issue maybe all what you need may be just first correct
your image with something as  RawTherapee (now Gpl ),and in case of need of
further editing , send the result to gimp (You may set in Rawtherapee Gimp as
"associate image editor)

Let say that if you need to works with layers, layermask, selections, brush
tools,etc gimp (or photoshop) are the tools for the trade

BUT If you have to do adjust exposures, color temperature, gamma, contrast,
and even denoise or demosaizice high res RAW images from your digital camera
then RawTherapee not only suffice, it is even more adapt

If you use film i believe 16 or 8 bit will not make any visible difference 


photocomix (via www.gimpusers.com)
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