The general consensus in the forum, supported by the opinion of competent people like PE, is that for various reasons colour negatives are much less at risk than slide film. Black & White is totally out of extinction risk, colour negative is closely observed, slide film is on the Appendix I of CITES
Regarding printing, you will always be able to print colour negatives to chemical papers using laboratories which use machines like the Durst Lambda. Those machines scan the negative, obtain a digital image which they use to project coloured light on the photographic paper (just like an enlarger would do) which is then developed chemically. It's a hybrid process which belong to this forum as most participants just ignore that when they bring their negative film to be developed and printed the most likely occurrence is that the printing is hybrid.
Actually I suspect a Durst Lambda is able to print a positive with just the same ease as it prints a negative. Those machines are not produced any more but should certainly remain working for many years. Besides, production can resume one day. It's like with film cameras: new ones are scarcely produced now because the second-hand market satisfies the demand.
I think you can buy that GF670 with high confidence that you will be able to use it with black & white and with colour negatives and have them printed on chemical papers for many years to come.
The big Durst Lambdas are great but they're large, expensive, and require pricey contract-bound service. Lab owner friends went with a new Fuji dry system that's very impressive after retiring their Lambda.
You are right of course. I am primarily a color shooter so the fact that B & W will be around for the long haul is less than satisfactory a reason for me.
My big fear is being forced to accept digital (ink jet) prints from my negatives. I have NO experience in what those will look like compared to analogue and fear that I will not be happy with that. Your take?
Sounds like you're fearing uncertainty more than actual results.
Inkjet results vary quite a bit depending on the output material and operator skills. They can put out crap or they can put out imagery that looks like platinum of 100 years ago or the most contemporary color. I think they lack slightly in emulating actual silver prints.. But I like B&W darkroom, so I stick with analog printing of most of my film.
Color film especially c41 is still a wonderful capture medium you should be willing to use, knowing you can do either analog or hybrid or fully digital output.
Yes inkjet can look pretty good. What I've seen lately from most hobby photog's injet prints are over saturated, saccharine images. The attitude of "more color the better" and "The bigger the better". I've owned 3 Epson printers. They crap out way too soon. It seems that the days of E-6 are numbered and I hope C-41 neg film will survive. The is still at least RA chemistry and paper still available.
If your enlarger has a colorhead, that's all you need to print color negs, plus a simple processing
drum and some sort of temperature control, and ventilation of course. It's pretty easy to do. No need for some expensive digital printing device. They use the same paper as you can in the home
darkroom anyway. Both Mitsubishi and Fuji distribute color papers in Asia, and Kodak might too. RA4
paper also tends to be cheaper than premium black and white paper. Chrome film, however, is going
to be a lot harder to print in a conventional darkroom due to the demise of Cibachrome, which got
quite expensive anyway.
Internegs are a bit tricky too unless you have mastered masking first. I'm working with the new Portra 160 sheet film at the moment and am testing masked vs unmasked standardized transparencies to fine-tune the process. I'm pretty optimistic that I'll get result quite superior to
old-school ITN film. The big problem is the rapidly escalating cost of Kodak 8X10 neg film. So right
now the experiments are obviously on 4x5.
Type R papers were discontinued long ago due to the ascent of Ciba. Now to print a chrome you
either have to scan it, make an interneg for chromogenic paper, or do a much more convoluted and
therefore more fun yet expensive color separation route onto dye transfer or color carbon. So for practical purposes, analog printing directly from chromes is nearly extinct. Old school interneg film
has a bit of an upsweep to the curve, so by what degree you exposed it, you could control the
highlight gradation. If you started out with a low contrast chrome, you could expect blaah. Masking
with the appropriate modern color neg film will allow you to place the entire scale of the chrome onto
the straight line part of the curve. You also mask up or down for contrast. More work, but really a
much nicer level of reproduction. Internegs got a bad rap back when commercial labs often did them half baked. But there's no reason they can't be done precisely.