now, now, now.. Just because you don't want to shell out big bucks for photoshop doesn't mean you have to be or feel left out.
My scanner came with Photoshop elements which only grey scale scans in 8bit. or color in 24bit (ugly, ugly)
GIMP to the rescue! (it's free) Now I scan in the highest bit mode possible. It makes a substantial difference. See July View Camera Magazine.