Considering this exact question was asked in 2009, about much older versions of these three, I thought it might be best to ask the question again rather than gravedig a very old thread.
Santa has given me permission to ask for some software for Christmas, but whatever I go with now, I'll probably have to stay with it for a long time to come so as to not have multiple learning curves. So I need to make sure Santa brings the right program to see me through my current, and future needs as my skills and knowledge improve.
So out of these three, which should I be asking for considering that
My needs are:
The usual RAW enhancement stuff to get the best out of a photo (sharpen, brightness, contrast, saturation, etc etc).
Basic touch ups such as clone/stamp etc to remove odd blemishes etc.
Stitching photos into panos (I do this a LOT).
Eventually basic HDR etc etc.
I don't have the need to fake up a crime scene or turn my 100 year old grandmother into Elle Macpherson, and so full Photoshop is definitely out of the equation. Besides ... it also has to be something that Santa can afford - (I am eligible to buy student versions of the software if one exists), but price isn't the major factor.
It would be especially good if it was something that I can use just the one piece of software to do the whole thing from camera right through. At the moment I'm doing the basics in DPP and the rest in GIMP or even switching to Photo Studio 5.5 (really old Canon software) to do some things, and that's something I really really want to stop having to do.
Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on the various options.