What sort of basic filters does one get for taking B&W landscape, portrait and general photography? Would appreciate some expert advice! I am always awed by B&W photo tones that are perfectly compensated.
BW prints is a very different monster and if some picture blows you away it is more due to a combination of extreme skill in pre + post processing.
It is however nice to use general purpose filters to barken / lighten certain colors in your image and is left entirely to your artistic preference. Yellow / Red are nice to darken blues. Add a polariser and you can get almost black skies. Green filter is great to shoot (lighten) foliage. Blue filter is nice to lighten blues and darken reds and yellows.
Look at a color wheel. Any filter will darken the contrasting color. I use yellow almost always while shooting in daylight to up the effect of clouds.
Seems like I need a whole lot of filters then! The way I see it (and I read it from somewhere) that if I can get a good image in the first place, then we would not have to post-process too much. But then, I'm no purist. So which general colour filter/s should I get to start the B&W ball rolling?
Don't just go out and buy tons of filters first, buy only what you need. RemAcuTetigisti has given you good advice, but you don't need all of the filters. A good starter filter is yellow. Get that first, shoot a few rolls, and try to articulate any things you like to change, e.g want darker skies (need red), want more contrast in skin tones (need blue), want more contrast in foliage(need green). For each thing you want to change, only get that filter particular filter then. And remember that for true B&W, taking the picture is only half the process. Developing and printing in the darkroom is the other half and is just as important, if not more so. Of course with photoshop, dodging and burning can now be done digitally, but a good B&W print is dependent on the whole process. So don't blame yourself immediately if the prints are not what you want, it's just as likely your developer is at fault (if you don't process and print yourself). Most B&W developing I've seen in shops is like sh*t, prints coming out murky grey. It took me a while to find a developer I like and trust here in London...
justarius has good points. Get filters only based on need and not because they are used by others.
If your end image is a web image / ink jet prints, you will be better off with shooting in color film (slides are less preferred) and then desaturating in PS or any of your favorite s/w. You will get more options to up or down certain channels (which duplicates filters). Tonal range is top notch if you go this route.
If you shoot BW film, you will have to spend a number of rolls before you optimize the developing process. It is fun on it's own too
No point spending on film during this period. Take it slow.