Bernard Miller , Jun 17, 2005; 10:53 a.m.
YES there are big differences. The chief one is that the temperature is much more critical with color processing than with black and white. It can be done, but you need to have a way to control the temperature accurately and consistently.
You could use a water bath in a sink to temper the chemicals; I have the luxury of using a JOBO processor which keeps things at a constant temperature quite nicely.
In 95% of cases, especially since you sound as if you are just starting off, you will be better off letting a lab process your color neg film (unlike black and white, which you *should* process yourself, for a number of reasons).
I process my own because (1) I just happened to get the processor thrown in when I bought a fella's darkroom setup (they are somewhat expensive); (2) I can push film or cross-process slide film quite easily if I need to; and (3) I don't have to worry about scratches from the lab's processing machine, something that you probably won't notice too much until you start scanning film or doing your own color darkroom printing.
I don't want to discourage you--it is fun to do, and easy if you have the right equipment--but it's not something you just want to jump into.
You will probably hear from Ron Mowrey also--he is really the expert here.