Plekto - I didn't fully understand the process you describe (because I know so little about this - just what I read on-line, which talks briefly of lightjet technology used to expose the paper), but am clear that you're saying that beyond a certain point, Digital C-type won't produce as good quality as a good inkjet. I'm thinking to buy an Epson R2400 or HP B9180, and my camera is a Canon 350D (8 mp). If I were sending the files to be C-type printed by a high quality fine art lab, would you expect the results to be as good as I would get with the Epson? Maybe you've already made this clear, but I want to be sure.
I've been researching this for a week or so myself, trying to get up to speed again for a pending purchase.
Here's what happens.
The lab inserts the film into the machine and it runs it through, typically taking a fixed 2000*3000 scan of the 35mm negative. Then it essentially prints it exactly like a desktop 300 or 400dpi dye-sublimation printer - just very very quickly.
Of course this causes severe losses in quality, especially if it's larger than:
2000/400DPI = 5
3000/400DPI = 7.5
In addition, the scanner introduces its own dithering and anti-aliasing routines via the software it's running, which often makes it worse. If it's being enlarged, the software basically does a Photoshop trick and increases the size artificially *after* the 2000*3000 scan. Which is why enlargements are so hit and miss.
The result - digital minilabs and the like are generally bad with film.
Now, the same minilab running digital won't do this - it bypasses the scanner, but you're still limited to their one paper and often the image isn't printed in raw format(unless you shoot raw only). But digital is fine on digital. I just can't deal with the $20 a print they sometimes want. It's usurous, to be honest.
IMO, if you're shooting digital, there's zero reason other than convenience to not do larger prints at home. And if you're using film, especially medium format, you're essentially required to print at home, because sending it out to a place that does it the non-digital way is silly money.
But sending something out to a "fine art lab" that does it the old-school way can produce better results by far that you can at home. If it's something like for an exhibition or similar, or your career is being affected, yeah - you'll probably have to spend the money. That's the advantage of film and also it's curse. Getting it printed is slow and expensive now. But that's often only a dozen or less a year for most people, so it's not so insane. The rest, a home printer will more than suffice.
Oh - I'd recommend slide film if you're using film. But that's a whole other topic