Lex Jenkins , Oct 23, 2008; 11:44 a.m.
When I started toting an Agfa Isolette as my fun camera I faced a similar dilemma: Which film for all 'round use? The camera is limited to shutter speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 second; and apertures of f/4.5-f/32. And I figured EV 5-15 would be a reasonable range for this camera.
Originally I intended to use a film speed appropriate to that camera's era, which would be well under 400. After piddling around with various medium film speeds (APX 100, FP4+), I settled on plain vanilla Tri-X. Usually I rate it at 200 and develop appropriately in HC-110. No problems with blocked up highlights even in sunlight. And on the rare occasions when I've been forced to shoot at night, I'll just guesstimate as for EI 1200 and soup in Diafine.
If you're going for that classic look, avoid pushing. I have hundreds of old family photos dating back to the Civil War and covering every major era in between. None of 'em ever looked "pushed", i.e., contrasty without shadow detail, grainy, etc. There's something about those simple lenses, possibly in part the lack of sophisticated multicoating, that works well with moderate speed film that is generously exposed rather than underexposed and pushed.
Unfortunately the other key element was the contact printing paper typically used for prints from that broad category of snapshot cameras lumped under the "medium format" heading. It's not readily available now and we have to make do with faster paper intended for enlargements.