Alright, so here we are in 2012 with only two options for low-light hand-held B&W film photography: Delta 3200, or pushing a 400 speed film like Tri-X. In the past I've used Neopan 1600, and I liked it a lot, although I tended to get some pretty blocked-up shadows. Unfortunately though, it's gone. I've only used Delta a couple of times, but I really don't like it. I don't have a problem with grain, but the grain with the Delta is too much for me. However, that could be due to my technique, either in camera or in processing. I've pushed Tri-X (and HP5+), but usually only by one stop -- I've never tried pushing it to 1600 or 3200. Usually when I shoot low-light or night exposures, I almost always use a tripod with Acros in the camera. However, there are often times when I need a lot more film speed because I don't have the option of using a tripod (and my flash just fried itself recently, so I'm out of luck there too). What I'd like to do now, is to start developing a technique to get the best out of one film (and one or two developers) to make the most out of shooting in low-light situations hand-held with no tripod or flash.
As I live in Japan in a city where darkroom chemicals are next-to-impossible to buy, it means either expensive trips to big cities to stock up on limited chemicals, or having things shipped from overseas (I usually use Freestyle). Recently I've found that the range of available film-developing chemicals in Japan is decreasing, and making up my own developers is not an option. So before I do my big order to Freestyle, I'd be interested in hearing what people have been able to do successfully with what's available now. For me, it's not necessarily about getting the exposure right (I'm usually okay there), but about getting the exposure + development right. I'm thinking of an ISO of at least 1600, for both high contrast and low contrast scenes -- these might be outdoors at night, indoors with normal lighting, daytime in dark places (like temples, churches, etc) that may have bright areas (windows and such), etc. Most of my photography is travel related, so I'm often in situations where I can't use a tripod or control the lighting in any way, but I'd still like to get as good a shot as I can while I'm there. I usually shoot 120 film, although sometimes I use 35mm as well.
Anyway, I'd appreciate any suggestions with details: type of lighting, film used, ISO used, developer/dilution/agitation/time used. Examples (if available) would be useful too.
I've done some research, both online and in some of the photo books that I have, but most of what's out there is either for digital, for materials that are no longer available, or for using a tripod. That being said, if anyone is aware of a useful site, please let me know.
I'm well aware that we all look for different things, and that this type of shooting will always have compromises, but with limited film options now (and for me, limited availability of chemicals to try) I'd really like to hear from others before wasting time and money. I generally use D-76, Xtol, and Rodinal, and I do have an old box of Microphen that I'm assuming is still good. I'm more than willing to order other types of chemicals (Diafine, for example) from the U.S. if they would be better for these types of situations.