Ilford Photo

Ilford Photo is a UK manufacturer of photographic materials known worldwide for its black-and-white film and papers and chemicals, as previously as its range of Ilfochrome and Ilfocolor colour printing materials, before these were discontinued. Ilfochrome was formerly called Cibachrome, developed in partnership with the Swiss company CIBA-Geigy. Formerly, it published the Ilford Manual of Photography, a comprehensive manual of everything photographic, including the optics, physics and chemistry of photography, along with recipes for many developers.

Ilford Photo
HeadquartersKnutsford, Cheshire
Productsfilm, paper, chemicals


Britannia Works Company

The company was founded in 1879 by Alfred Hugh Harman as the Britannia Works Company.[1] Initially making photographic plates, it grew to occupy a large site in the centre of Ilford.

Ilford Ltd

In 1902, it took the name of the town to become Ilford Limited, despite the objections of the local council.[2]. Production of roll films commenced in 1912 and the Mobberley (Rajar) factory was acquired in 1928.[3]

On 1959 ICI acquired a majority share holding in Ilford. In 1963 Ciba AG, Switzerland, who had bought Lumiere, France the preceding year, and who already owned Swiss photographic coating company Tellko, begin to acquire shares in ILFORD as part of a commercial co-operation between Ciba and ILFORD to develop Ciba's dye-bleach print material (for making prints directly from colour transparencies). Originally called Cilchrome ('Cil' derived from the names Ciba, ILFORD and Lumière) the eventual product name was Cibachrome.

Ciba built a new plant in Marly, Switzerland to coat Cibachrome (renamed ILFOCHROME in 1992 after Ciba withdrew use of their name). The old Tellko factory nearby in the centre of Fribourg was used as the finishing department.

In 1969 Ciba acquire all ICI shares in ILFORD to become sole owner of ILFORD Limited. A year later Ciba merges with JR Geigy to become Ciba-Geigy.

In 1983, their UK headquarters was moved to Mobberley, Cheshire. In 1989, Ciba-Geigy sell Ilford to USA-based International Paper company, also owners of graphic arts materials manufacturer Anitec. The two companies were merged in 1990 to become Ilford Anitec. In 1996, the sales and administration offices were also moved from London to Mobberley.

Ilford Imaging Ltd

In 1997 Ilford Anitec was sold onto Doughty Hanson & Co a British private equity fund manager and subsequently rebranded ILFORD Imaging Ltd. In 2002 plans were announced to redevelop the original part of the factory (former Rajar works) for housing to release funds to re-invest in the business, with the housing subsequently constructed in 2004–07.[4]

On 20 August 2004, after earlier that year celebrating 125 years of photographic manufacture, the UK company (ILFORD Imaging UK Limited) went into receivership with debts of £40m. The Swiss manufacturing site and distribution companies was put up for sale as a going concern.[5][6]

The Swiss part of the company and the plant at Marly was bought by the Oji Paper Company of Japan in July 2005 and by Paradigm Global Partners LLP in May 2010. It produced inkjet products and high quality colour photographic products under the name Ilford Imaging Switzerland GmbH before being declared bankrupt on 9 December 2013 resulting in the closure of the Marly plant.[7][8]

The 'Ilford Imaging' brand and trademarks (but not the Marly plant) was subsequently acquired by Australian firm CR Kennedy & Company Pty Ltd and Japan-based Chugai Photo Chemical Company. The Galerie range of papers was relaunched in August 2014 by ILFORD Imaging Europe GmbH now based in Germany. It holds the rights to the 'ILFORD' trademark for photographic applications but otherwise has no connection to Ilford Photo.[9]

The Marly site is now 'Marly Innovation Centre' with alternate uses found for the original buildings. In 2015, Fotoimpex owners of the ADOX photographic brand and a small scale photographic factory outside Berlin acquired use of the former Ilford Imaging (Ciba Geigy) machine E, medium scale coating line at Marly,[10] with the intention to begin coating ADOX film there in 2018.[11]

Harman Technology Ltd

2004 – 2015

The UK site was subject to a management buyout by 6 former managers of Ilford Imaging UK Limited, which resulted in the formation of Harman Technology Ltd (named after the founder Alfred Harman) in February 2005. The company, now traded as Ilford Photo, producing high quality monochrome photographic products. The Ilford brand was retained by Ilford Imaging Europe GmbH and used under licence by Ilford Photo for its existing film products. To finance the purchase the Mobberley factory site was sold to Isola Investments Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Perviaz Naviede Family Trust with Ilford Photo remaining as tenant.[12]

In 2007, Harman Technology acquired Kentmere Photographic Limited, a manufacturer of photographic paper in Kentmere, Lake District.[13] Production is moved to Mobberley and in 2009 two new classic grain B&W films are added under the Kentmere brand. Originally designed as a lower priced brand to their Ilford offer to compete in the US market they are now available worldwide with the Kentmere brand particularly aimed at the student market and those new to black and white photography. Harman also contract manufacture similar black and white films for other brands including AgfaPhoto (APX), Rollei (RPX), Oriental (Seagull).[14]

In 2012, the company invested £350,000 in a 35mm film cassette making plant, bringing production back in house after relying on external suppliers for 50 years to provide long term surety of supply. The company was also noted as having an 80% share of the black and white photographic market.[15]

In 2014, land owners of the 40 acre Mobberley site submitted a planning application to Cheshire East Council to construct 375 homes on the majority of the site including investment to consolidate Ilford Photo operations onto a smaller 7.5 acre campus within the site.[16] The application was refused and an appeal was made to the planning inspectorate in July 2015.[17] Following a public inquiry in 2016, the appeal was rejected.[18]

2015 – present

On 14 September 2015, ten years on from the original management buy out, Ilford Photo announced that Harman Technology Limited had been acquired by Pemberstone Ventures Limited for an 'undisclosed amount'.[19]

In May 2018, the company announced a refresh of their existing Ilford film packaging,[20] with Kentmere film packaging refreshed in September 2018.[21] Both sets of packaging now feature a contrasting Harman Technology sub branding. In December 2018, they launched 'Simplicity' a new range of B&W development chemicals packed in small sachets designed to process 2x135 or 1x120 format films to improve convenience for new or low volume users.[22]

In 2019 Ilford celebrated its 140th year with a 'Silver Ticket Competition' one winning ticket for a factory tour and photographic course being hidden in a 140th anniversary film box and in October the announcement of a number of new products following a teaser campaign on social media. This included Ilford Multigrade V RC Deluxe photographic paper available in Glossy, Pearl and Satin finishes, ORTHO PLUS film in 135 and 120 formats, an Ilford and Paterson film processing starter kit and a Harman reusable camera supplied with 2x 35mm Kentmere Pan 400 films. [23]

Ilford Products

Kentmere Products


  • Kentmere PAN 100[25] (named Kentmere 100 until late 2018[26])
  • Kentmere PAN 400[27] (named Kentmere 400 until late 2018[26])


Variable contrast

  • Kentmere VC Select Lustre [28]
  • Kentmere VC Select Glossy[29]


  • Harman reusable Camera with 2 Kentmere Pan 400 films (from November 2019)

Discontinued Products


Ilford sold a number of cameras under its own name but made for it by other manufacturers, starting with a 'box' camera in 1902, but most were made in the 1940s and 50s. The Ilford Witness was a rangefinder with interchangeable lenses announced in 1947, but not released until 1953 because of manufacturing difficulties. In the meantime, the simpler Advocate series 1 was released in 1949 and series 2 in 1952. A pre-release Advocate series 1 camera was given to Princess Elizabeth in 1948. It was stolen, but later recovered when it was sent to be repaired. Also released in 1949 was the Craftsman, a twin-lens reflex (TLR) which took 120 or 620 film. Then 1951 saw the Prentice folding camera which also took 120 film.

In 1957, Ilford released the Sportsman, a relabelled West German Dacora Dignette, as a lightly built and cheap 35 mm camera to compete with the better made and more expensive Kodak Retinette. In Germany, a comparative Dignette was about half the price of a Retinette, both coming from the Stuttgart – Black Forest area. The Sportsman became a series of camera models produced over the following 10 years. Finally, in 1958, Ilford released the Monobar, a monorail camera manufactured by Kennedy Instruments with a 35 mm back that resembled the earlier Advocate camera (which KI had also manufactured). The Monobar allowed the front (lens) and rear (film plane) of the camera to be moved and rotated, bringing the scheimpflug principle to the 35mm world.

XP2 Super Development

Unlike most other black and white films, XP2 Super can be processed in the same chemicals as colour print film (colour C41 Process). It produces a monochrome (black & white) negative, despite the development process.[30][31] [32]

Custom film sizing

Whilst Ilford offers its film products in a wide range of common film formats; including 135, 120 and sheet film sizes, there are many more historic sizes that are no longer produced. To assist photographers and artists requiring these and other sizes, since 2005 Ilford Photo has organised via select retailers an annual ultra large, custom and specialist format ordering scheme, similar to a group buying scheme. Customers orders are placed in advance and if there is sufficient demand for a film product to justify conversion to that size the orders are fulfilled.[33][34]

Lab services

In January 2008, the Ilford Process and Print Service (formerly Ilford Premium Direct) was brought in-house to the manufacturing site in Mobberley, Cheshire, UK. the following year Ilford Photo re-launched the in-house black-and-white lab service as "Ilford Lab Direct". The mail order service offers black-and-white film processing and silver gelatin printing from film or from digital files. The launch saw the introduction of a dedicated website The service has continued to expand offering Medium and Large format processing and Digital Black and white Lightjet prints.

In 2009, Ilford Lab Direct was awarded a Gold Award by Digital Photo magazine "Best online Black and White Printer".

In August 2013 Ilford Lab Direct US was launched, operating from California, US and offering a similar service to the UK operation.

See also


  1. R J Hercock and G A Jones (1979), Silver by the Ton. A history of Ilford Ltd 1879–1979, London: McGraw-Hill Book Company (UK) Ltd, 1979.
  2. "Ilford timeline". Ilford History and Chronology. Retrieved 27 July 2008.
  3. "History of ILFORD PHOTO". Ilford Photo. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  4. "Ilford to sell to developers". Warrington Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  5. Macalister, Terry (22 February 2005). "Management buyout saves famous name". the Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  6. "History & Heritage | Ilford". Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  7. "La faillite d'Ilford Imaging a été prononcée (in French)". 20 Minutes. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  8. "Ilford Imaging Switzerland shuts down factory – Amateur Photographer". Amateur Photographer. 16 December 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  9. "Ilford Galerie inkjet paper set for UK re-launch – Amateur Photographer". Amateur Photographer. 31 July 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  10. "ADOX | ADOX acquires Ilford´s medium scale coating line". Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  11. "L'homme qui redonne vie à la Machine E d'Ilford". La Gruyère (in French). Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  12. "Grays of Westminster – News: ILFORD emerges from receivership". Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  13. "History of ILFORD PHOTO – Ilford Photo". Retrieved 31 January 2018.
  14. "UNDER THE RADAR - ORIENTAL SEAGULL 400 | RENATO REPETTO". Film Shooters Collective. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  15. News, Manchester Evening (19 December 2012). "Ilford owner Harman Technology invests £350,000 in film-cassette factory". men. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  16. "Plans for 375 homes on Ilford's site in Mobberley submitted to council". Knutsford Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  17. "Developer appeals council's decision to block 360 homes in Mobberley". Knutsford Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  18. "Victory for Mobberley as residents power crushes homes plan for Ilford site". Knutsford Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  19. "Iford Photo Press Room". Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  20. "New Film Packaging". Ilford Photo. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  21. "Kentmere film has had a face lift". Ilford Photo. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  24. "PAN F PLUS Technical Information". Harman technology Limited. December 2017. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  25. "Kentmere 100 35mm". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  26. "Kentmere film has had a face lift". Ilford Photo. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  27. "Kentmere 400 35mm". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  28. "Kentmere VC SELECT Luster Sheets". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  29. "Kentmere VC SELECT Glossy Sheets". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  30. "Ilford XP2". Ilford. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  31. "Boots XP2". Boots.
  32. "Jessops". Jessops.
  33. "Ultra large and custom film sizes now on order from Ilford Photo". DPReview. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  34. "Ilford ULF Film 2019 – Ultra Large Format, Custom and Specialist Film Sizes". Silverprint. 17 April 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
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