I spent a few hours with Bryan yesterday in U-Develop's color darkroom. The basic technique is straightforward but gaining an unconscious sense of color management will take some time. Even with no color experience I made two prints that were better than anything I've been able to yet make on my color printer. So that explains why go to all the trouble to use a darkroom. For exhibition prints I think there is really no question a darkroom is more appropriate.
But that still leaves open the question of work prints. If I'm printing a small 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 just to show myself what's in the photo, is it worth driving 100 miles north and renting darkroom space? In fact that is what I do now for b/w printing, but that situation is a little different. I'm a proficient printer. I can whip out 60 work prints in much less time than it would take me to scan, Photoshop, and print them, and they look better. With color the equation becomes shakier. It's much slower than b/w processing, more expensive, and with my inexperience more prone to waste.
Whether it is worth it is still an open question for me. I think it comes down to, what is the purpose of the print? If it's just for myself an inkjet is fine. In fact a computer image is fine and the whole question becomes, why print at all? But if I'm printing to show others, as I regularly do at monthly meetings of my photo groups, I would like my images to look as good as possible. And based on what I've seen so far, until I really get inkjet printing dialed in, a darkroom print best serves that purpose.
So, how solipsistic am I? See my next post for more thoughts on this...