The beauty of shooting black and white film is that you can cook it up any way you want. That's exactly why I stay away from color processing. Standardized and boring. Leave repetitive tasks to the machines.
I've shot a few different B&W films:
Plus-X, Tri-X, HP5+, FP4+, Fomapan, TMax, Ilford Pan400, Neopan 100, Neopan 400, Neopan SS
in various combinations with:
D-76, ID-11, Microphen, Microfine, HC-110, Super Prodol
ID-11(same as D-76) was my first developer and I should've stuck with it. I used it for all films for pulling, normal and push processing and I always liked the results. Then I started reading what people say online...
People make a big fuss about what film to shoot with which developer. I don't care anymore. Every film works with every developer, period. What makes a real difference is how you print it on the enlarger (or scan). So keep it simple and stick to one of the standard developers. they won't fail you.
You'll have to buy some equipment and learn how to do a few things before you can get started, but there are tons of tutorials on YouTube and the internets.
I use a Paterson plastic tank with plastic reels. Plastic reel tanks take more developer per roll and are a little harder to load, but they don't break and they are made out of plastic. Meaning they don't conduct heat as much as steel tanks do. In steel tanks it's harder to keep the temperature constant during developing. On the plus side the reels are much easier to load. The only problem is they are expensive and if you drop them or happen to bend them another way they are useless. In fact they might ruin a few rolls of film before you realize they are bent. Steel tanks also tend to be more spill proof than plastic tanks. In my case this doesn't matter, because I don't invert. Another myth I uncovered. Just grab your tank and move it in an infinity ∞ or 8 shape to agitate it. All that matters for agitation is that you refresh the developer that's been sitting on the film and that you move in a fashion that doesn't create currents that continue to flow after you finish agitating. Currents can lead to streaks on your film. I've never had that issue, but I've always used inversion or infinity. Infinity is cleaner because you don't spill anything.
Before you develop your first roll:
Poor some developer into a container and cut off a piece of film leader and drop it in there. Agitate and watch how the film turns completely black after a minute or so. This tells, you two things. One, your developer is working and two, how the process works. The final product will be a negative. Darks are bright and brights are dark i.e. whites are black and blacks are clear or the color of the film base. Your leader was completely exposed to light so it should be black when developed. You can do the same with a little bit of fixer. Fixer will wash away anything that wasn't developed. Anything that didn't get exposed to light won't be affected by the developer. So in the case of the leader everything got exposed and developed and nothing should be cleared by the fixer. If you drop another piece of exposed film into the leader that hasn't been in the developer the fixer should completely clear it. This will tell you your fixer is working.
- Develop B&W film yourself. It's fun.
- Watch a bunch of YouTube tutorials here.
- Get dev times from your film's packaging or the massive dev chart
- Download the massive dev chart smartphone app.
- Buy as much of the equipment new in the store to support the industry.
- Shoot 400 speed film. You can pull that or push it. It's most versatile.
- Use D-76 or HC-110 as your developer
- Use the infinity motion to agitate
- Over fix. Just use double the time recommended
- Use a washing agent after the fixer. Fuji QuickWash or Kodak Hypo something
- Over wash your film.
- Use Photo-Flo or the Fuji equivalent (will save you headaches)
- Let your film dry overnight. It's just better.
Try to do everything by the book first. Once you get more experienced you can tweak your process. Consistency will help you determine causes of errors if something should ever go wrong. Developing B&W film is so simple, I have developed drunk and tired and never messed up a roll.