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I have Photoshop CS2, which is a bit slow but generally does everything I want. I have recently tried the trial version of CS5, and while the main program itself seems fairly similar (although faster), the real difference I've noticed is with the newer version of Camera RAW.

CS2 has the old, clunky version (no Clarity/Vibrance settings, basic noise reduction, etc.). I can't afford to upgrade to CS5, but I understand that Elements comes with ACR as well, and that's a tenth of the price. I have tried free RAW editors such as RAWTherapee, but they aren't a patch on ACR in my opinion.

Can anyone tell me if Elements' (9) version of ACR is the same as CS5's, or similar? The main points I like in the the later version are the above mentioned settings and Adjustment Brushes.

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Don't want to sound a douche, but couldn't you download the trial version of Photoshop Elements 9? As an added bonus, you would be able to test if the Elements fits your needs in the other aspects as well. –  koiyu Apr 4 '11 at 13:20
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Would if I could. My broadband sucks, in-laws broadband rocks, but I'm no longer at my in-laws. Only tried CS5 once I got back, so it's only just occurred to me. (They live hours and hours away, by the way). –  ElendilTheTall Apr 4 '11 at 14:04
    
Fair enough; investigated an answer in return :-) –  koiyu Apr 4 '11 at 15:03
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It seems it is the same version.

The Camera Raw 6.3 (which is the most current) update pages (Windows, OS X) both have links to Photoshop Elements ACR update and Premiere Elements ACR update pages.

To reduce your clicks:

This new version of the Camera Raw plug-in replaces the original Camera Raw plug-in that was installed with Adobe® Photoshop Elements 9 software.

Photoshop Elements version 9 is minimum requirement. For PSE 8, last ACR plugin is v6.2 and for PSE 7 it's v5.6.

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Excellent. Hopefully they don't 'strip down' ACR for Elements and just give it the same version number. –  ElendilTheTall Apr 4 '11 at 17:03
    
@Elendil I highly doubt it, as it is developed as a plugin i.e. separately from Photoshop and Photoshop Elements—but I'm not an Adobe dev. –  koiyu Apr 4 '11 at 17:30
    
I will hold off buying it until I can get the trial, just in case. –  ElendilTheTall Apr 4 '11 at 20:43
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A bit of an update here: I got the trial of Elements 9 and, while the ACR plugin is ostensibly the same, it does have a more limited toolset, especially when it comes to sharpening and noise reduction. –  ElendilTheTall Jul 8 '11 at 19:47
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