I started shooting about 10 years ago with a Canon AE-1 Program. I picked it up at a pawn shop in florida, along with a cannon 50mm f1.8 and a Sears 135mm f2.8. So I asked around about film and most people seemed to think that the 400CN Professional film that Kodak makes was the better choice because it is a C-41 process film. (you can get it processed at wal-mart or walgreens) It's a fairly 'low hassle' film, has a wide exposure latitude and gives good, sharp photos, though it is interesting seeing wether they will come back greenish, reddish, orangeish or yellowish from the print machine. In a way, this almost adds to the kitschy value of the film but it becomes a pain. If you want them to be true Black and White, you have to scan and convert them, and then print them again. Seems like it hardly justifies the cost, at 5$ a roll, plus another 5-10 dollars for developing and pocket prints.
Several years earlier, I had tried to shoot real black and white film, but taking it to the developer, and trying to get consistent results was always a hassle. Pushed photos would be PUSHED beyond recognition, negatives would have scratches, there were generally 5 day turnovers and the cost was fairly prohibitive. I gave it up pretty quickly and returned to consumer CN400 and the local Walgreens.
Finally, after 7 years in, I re-discovered 'real' black and white film. Still using the trusty Canon, plus a vivitar 28mm f2.8 and a RMC Tonika 400mm f5.6, I began to shoot a regular regimen of kodak, ilford and fujifilm, but I was still stymied by the idea of going to a lab, and dealing with contact sheets, photo people and the COST.
I had recently begun talking to two friends about their camera collections and their experiences with their gear, and one friend stated that he was developing and printing all his own work in his bathroom. He made it sound like a pretty simple proceedure and he also recommended some things to try. His results were far from average, being quite sharp and consistent. It seemed like there were a lot of things that could go wrong, but I was determined to study and learn.
For christmas that year, Stephanie clandestinely purchased me some photochemicals, a dark-bag, a developing tank, 3 plastic reels, and tri-x, t-max and ilford hp5+ films. We mixed it up with help from Steph's memory of her highschool photography class, consulted the oracles of http://www.digitaltruth.com and their massive development chart, then we dove in.
It was INCREDIBLY satisfying. For the first time, the results I was supposed to be seeing, were there in the negative. The first successful development created an instant addiction. I spent the next 7 months pouring over anything I could get my hands on about photography, studying the zone chart more intensely and shooting, shooting, shooting.
Thanks to Stephanie, Derek and Asaf.