[probably some opinion here, but I regard it as fact. ]

A well-exposed black and white negative that lives up to the full potential of a particular film and developer will have a greater dynamic range than virtually anything you can print it on, including silver gelatin or alternate processes. Much of the skill in b&w printing comes in making an expressive representation of the huge range contained in a good negative within the somewhat shorter range of whatever you choose to make your print. Much of the appeal of fine black and white work is in the huge dynamic range and subtle tonality it has compared to color negative or digital capture. Once you introduce a digital step (IMO, at least) you significantly chop down the dynamic range and reduce the available tonal steps you can produce.

If you can't do your own processing or printing yet, you might just try using a chromogenic b&w film like Ilford XP2 or Kodak Portra B&W, BW400CN or even their consumer "Black and White" film and getting it processed at your local minilab and getting machine prints. When you want a better print, then you can go to a local pro lab and get a handmade fully analog print of the frame(s) you like.

There's folks here who have a lot more experience with chromogenic B&W films than I, so they can probably advise you on how to choose one far better than I can. One issue, for instance, is if the base is orange or not. Clear base chromogenics are easier to print in a conventional b&w printroom, but orange base chromogenics work better with automated minilabs.

With regard to the time issue, I think an expressive print/printout of a negative/image would end up taking about the same amount of time in both a digital and a wet darkroom, both involve learning fairly specialized tasks, and I don't think one is any more difficult than the other.

I just deleted the rest of this message 'cause I could see it going down the road of comparing digital and analog, and the very very last thing I want to do is to dig another conceptual time/space sinkhole of an Analog v. Digital thread on apug. If there was an enhancement to the site that would zap anyone who started or encouraged yet another such thread here with an electrical shock, I'd be all in favor of it, actually.

-KwM-