'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.'

One of the reasons that I prefer digital intermediates (ie intermediate between film origination and wet print) is that it is easy to get every last bit of shadow and highlight detail from the negative, whether it be colour or monochrome, dye or silver image. Unfortunately, I suspect that APUG is not the place to discuss this.