Mike Johnston over at T.O.P. was bemoaning the ability of digital to capture highlights for B&W, Kjell H (the lentic blog) had a riposte.
I had a think about this, and I think they are both right. On the one hand we have the ability of digital to capture large amounts of information at the highlight end and, if you know what you're doing with editting software, it is easily recoverable. great, as long as you don't saturate any of the channels. There is then that saturation problem - once it's gone, it's gone: there is no roll-off at the high end as with film. Well known, well understood.
There are times, however, when even careful expose to the right will blow the highlights and the detail is gone. there is also the problem of how your camera meters runs the histogram (for my discussion on EOS histograms look here). Specular highlights, or any small area at the high end is typically lost without significant under-exposure. Picture at the top is an example - the sky is blown-out and any cloud detail there might have been is gone. For this shot, not a problem, but if your subject had a similar small amount of highlight it would be gone forever.
My ideal solution: a mythical filter that reduces contrast at the highlight end of the luminance scale so all the info is crammed in there. The new EOS 1DIII has something similar, I believe - an in-built highlight recovery tool as part of RAW processing.