Executive Summary: make the switch.
Should you move to digital?
I will not throw lots of technical arguments around here. 20x30cm prints
from my digital camera look better than what my Yashica kit with prime
lenses ever produced, and I'm quite sure I can print at twice the size
without noticeable loss of quality (I'll have some hi-res scans here
later on to prove the point). Therefore, as I don't see a quality disadvantage
(but that, as always, is a matter of personal judgement), I will talk
about the advantages here.
First and foremost, there are no film costs and you can skip printing
for most of your images - which makes experimentation essentially for
free ('just' your time), and in my book the way to learning photography
is to a large extent doing it - trying new things out, experimenting,
etcetera. You'll become a better photographer faster with a digital
When shooting, you have immediate feedback on composition and exposure
(with a full histogram, comparable to hours of fooling around with
a densitometer in your darkroom!) and if your camera can zoom in on
displayed pictures, you will also be able to evaluate sharpness and
depth-of-field a bit. So leaving the subject and discovering later that
exposure was not optimal is something of the past. Furthermore, apart
from one-time expenses in storage, bracketing and variations in settings
are for free, so there's no reason not to shoot 20 or 30 images of a
single subject with different apertures, exposures, and lens distance
settings. All in all, chances are much better you will arrive home with
that optimal 'negative' necessary for a really nice print.
Your "darkroom" operates in full daylight and chances are that you have
most of the equipment already. You can 'develop' negatives (by means of
RAW conversion) as often as you like with different parameter settings,
you can do B&W in a completely new way (you don't need to put that red
filter in front of the lens if Photoshop can do that based on a color
image just as effectively), you don't need to touch all these chemicals,
etcetera. I remember the days I fumbled around in the darkness with
some nostalgia, but I am not itching to go back. Furthermore, the only
variable cost you have is CD or DVD blanks for backup and paper for
printing - and usually paper is reserved for a single final print,
not for test strips, test prints, etcetera.
You don't need to collect lists of reprint orders for that birthday party
- just throw all the pictures, full-sized, on the web and let people do
their own printing or print ordering. You don't need to have your own
photo quality printer, even - until now, I'm completely happy with the
on-line service of Fuji Digital Imaging and I can pick up the prints
next day in the 1 hour shop in my town.