Ilford opens US lab to meet demand for black and white film development

Following its 15 years of success in England, ILFORD’s mail-in black and white film processing and printing will now be more readily available to North American customers thanks to the new lab in San Clemente, California. As digital photography has taken over, most local labs can no longer provide processing of true black and white film, nor can they print on real silver gelatin paper, instead opting to print black and white images on color paper.

The ILFORD LAB DIRECT mail-in service ‘can process any make of black and white film, and prints will be made on ILFORD black and white paper,’ according to the company. ILFORD LAB DIRECT accepts 35mm and 120, and turnaround time is 2-4 working days. Basic film development costs $16, which includes 6-megapixel medium scans. See the site for more.

Swan Photo Labs, believed to be the company servicing ILFORD LAB DIRECT. Photo by Ned Bunnell

The physical address listed for ILFORD LAB DIRECT is 946-A Calle Amanecer, which is the address for Swan Photo Labs in San Clemente. Swan Photo Labs is a contract photo processing lab that’s been in business since 1993. 

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Wye Photography

I almost cried. Whoo Hoo! (that’s for the benefit of my American Brothers, I say, we don’t do anything like that in England, that’s simply not cricket what!). Fantastic news! Go Ilford, Go Ilford, Go Ilford!

PS. Shhhh! (very, very quietly) I actually prefer Tri-X, but don’t tell anybody.


in Rodinal, but with you on the Woo Hoo!


Very good news.


England? Where’s that? Maybe it’s in the United Kingdom? Where’s Great Britain and Northern Ireland gone? maybe it’s part of Scotland or even Wales? I don’t know anymore…

Joe Ogiba


Interesting news. Gives me kind of a warm fuzzy feeling – and evokes the smell of a b/w lab and its shimmering orange light


(They found a Japanese investor to replace the British one)


That’s paper only, and an unrelated company.


Ilford Switzerland was near of bankruptcy about one month ago; they are producing print papers, not film if I remember correctly. It was owned by a British corporation and has been saved in extremis by a Japanese firm. It remains to be seen whether the new investors just wanted the (newly installed) machines and knowhow, or whether they will keep the manufacture and about 200 employees working.

Andreas Stuebs

This is not a subsidary of Ilford in Switzerland but of Harman Technology, a management buy-out based in Cheshire, UK. To quote the website:

HARMAN technology Limited is a pioneering professional imaging specialist based in Mobberley, Cheshire in the centre of the United Kingdom. The company announced the launch of its pioneering HARMAN PHOTO inkjet media range, suitable for both colour and monochrome photography, in August 2006; and the first products became available in the UK and USA in February 2007.

The ILFORD range of colour photographic products, including ‘ILFORD Galerie’ inkjet media, is not manufactured or marketed by HARMAN technology, and remains a separate business operated by ILFORD Imaging based in Switzerland.

This Lab is part of the BW business of Ilfordphoto and not of Ilford Switzerland.


Only 6MP digital files from a medium format film scan?

Ken Phillips

Well, that’s all you get without an upcharge!


This is awesome news, love seeing film make headway in a digital world.
BUT- competition with Northcoast & Richard photo lab will be stiff. It’ll be interesting to see how the quality compares to the above 2, which are arguably the best in the country.


Well, despite the advantages of dSLR, a nice print on good quality film paper should last a long time. In that time you have to keep buying new technology every few years and copy your stuff again and again if you want to save it into the future. Hopefully some new stable technology will come along. I thought CDs and DVDs would last, but seems they don’t. (hard drives fail of course routinely).


A quality inkjet print can last well over 100 years framed, even longer in storage.

Nevertheless, it’s good to see film surviving for those who prefer to use it.


Yeah, and paper is forever.


$16 a roll?
150 rolls or a $2400 DSLR, which would you rather have?


Plus the initial cost of the film.

foto guy

The film, absolutely!


Developing B&W film is quick, easy, and kind of fun. It’s slide and color negative film that is much more difficult.

But Ilford makes excellent quality film and I’m happy to read that they are opening a lab. It’s a pity that the included scans are only 6 mp, but perhaps there is an upgrade service.


They offer scans of up to 4492×6774 (30mp) from 35mm film.

tommy leong

best news 2013 !


Well, well… not bad for a dead medium!

Seriously, I chanced to try an FP4 125 Plus roll during the past two weeks. After seeing the results I must say I’m impressed with the sharpness and contrast this film is capable of. Grain is not as smooth as Kodak’s T-Max, but somehow it adds expression to the pictures.

foto guy

“dead medium”?
They’re opening a lab because the demand is there. Sounds to me like the medium is quite alive.

E Dinkla

Harman (Ilford Photo and more) so far made better marketing moves after the split than Ilford Imaging did. This will be another example I expect. A relative small company filling a market niche with their own proven technology and the right brand name to attract customers. Fuji made some new medium format film cameras and has a chromogenic B&W film but it is probably too big for a similar undertaking. Offering the B&W silver halide print service next to the B&W film development rounds it off.


A film company that is actually expanding is a very positive sign.

I hope they can maintain a viable product over the long term and not go all Kodak.


JPEG only scans? Thanks but no thanks.


My black & white film has been in the freezer for over 30 years. Time to use it.

Joe Ogiba

I have mostly color film in my freezer but I do have B&W also.


With chemistry disappearing from camera stores and with the prohibitions and cost of the shipping of chemistry through the mail or predatory couriers, this is a good idea.


In the US, you can get any chemicals you’d ever need from B&H or Freestyle Photographic. Some of the liquid developers like Rodinal have to go via ground shipping but none of the powders like D-76 have restrictions.

tell the truth

YAAAAAA ! This Film is way COOL !! One of the Best Black and White films out there . The results I have seen are Just The BEST from this Film ! .. This is great to have the Processing of this special film so close . Thank You !


I love shooting digital, and I still love shooting film as well, hence I like this kind of niche initiative.
Currently i deliver my films to the local lomography shop, which can handle all kinds film sizes, because their cameras also offer a very wide range of negative sizes, including cameras that expose the sprocket area. I have not yet tried their black and white processing, their colour processing is ok but the scans are rather rough.
Hence it is good to see Ilford coming back with a good quality service towards black and white shooters.

2 observations made during my rediscovery of film: next to indtant gratification, one thing that is so great about digital is immediate ISO change per picture, not so with film!


Considering there are other labs in both Orange County and Los Angeles to get film processed and many areas in the country have none it is a bit ironic that of all the places to situate a company branch they chose this spot 10 minutes from the beach in southern California.


I expect Ilford plan to get film sent in for processing from all over the country, so the location my not be so important.


To follow a market trend, and satisfy a specific niche of customers. Perhaps it is now a good deal for them. An idea, Ilford should make an free app for smartphone focused only on black and white photography. Could be a good way to get to know the brand and products for many new users.


What’s film ?


Think Oscars…


Somebody has to pick up the pieces…

That’s good.


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