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Ilse Jurriën : October 15th 2006 - 21:02 CET

Ilford interview

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IlfordIlford interview with Ann Carlier : Anyone who has ever made prints in a dark room is bound to know Ilford. It was renowned its fantastic black and white film, papers and chemistry. There is not much demand for such products in the digital age and so Ilford started producing various types of paper for inkjet. Unfortunately, the famous company is still having a hard time despite this measure. At Photokina 2006, however, Ilford presented itself as it had done at its peak, with a large, attractive booth and lots of interesting products. We spoke to Ann Carlier, the sales manager for Benelux and she enthusiastically told us about the products and Ilford's vision.
Ilford interviewIlford Photo - OJI papers
Ann Carlier answered a burning question for all dark room fans; Ilford has sold its black and white division to Harman Technology. This company may now use the name Ilford Photo for black & white articles. Ilford now only works for the inkjet business. Ilford is now the property of OJI Papers, a big player. Ilford's market share is 48%. “This also consists of papers that are sold under another name”, declared Ann Carlier as we expressed our surprise. Research is very important to Ilford. Of the 450 people employed in the Ilford factory, 70 are involved in R&D. Ann Carlier also tells that Ilford obtains printers months before they come on the market so that they can do tests with them. Ilford can still develop the right papers for every printer. The quality and tenability of the print depends on the combinations of the ink and paper. Ilford only tests with original inks from the manufacturer. What's more, Ilford helps develop these inks.

Ilford - Own printing paper
When asked if Ilford also supplies paper to the print factories, Ann Carlier replied: “Only a few factories really make their own paper. We make everything ourselves. If the print factories don't inform us about the latest printers well in advance, the manufacturers are left without paper”

Inkjet papers - ICC profiles
Making paper for inkjet requires a totally different way of thinking than analogue photography. “Everything was very simple with the black and white darkroom. Only a few factors played a role. With inkjet, there are a lot of combinations. You can no longer see how something is being printed, or which inks, settings, etc are being used. That makes it very difficult”. A good way of making prints is with the help of ICC profiles. These are tables in which the software can see how the colour is being reproduced on paper, in this case, and what the exact composition of inks should be. Logically, Ilford provides ICC profiles on-line at their site at ilford.com. Ilford offers users on-line help to enable them to choose the right paper. There is even a team of professionals on hand for professional users. The information is updated regularly and the quality is tested continuously. Ann Carlier said: “We regularly buy a printer in a shop, without saying that we are from Ilford. This lets us do spot checks to see if everything is of the required quality”.

Ilford Photokina Booth

Ilford Photo chooses quality
The resurrected Ilford has set two objectives: to rebuild the brand name and to increase the share of consumers. Ilford is mainly a familiar name to dark room workers and professional photographers. They are not planning to abandon this group, but it is consumers who account for sales volume. However, this does not mean that they are going to position themselves in the lower segment: "We have never been the cheapest, we can't be and don't want to be either", according to Carlier. Ilford chooses quality.

Ilford Gallery Classic & Smooth papers
Ilford has been making the Gallery line for professional photographers and enthusiastic amateurs for many years. It is a series of attractive papers available in the formats 10x15cm to A3+. For large printers like the Epson 4000, Ilford now also supplies Digital Printing Software to make it easier for the user to achieve attractive prints. The Gallery series consists mainly of two parts: Classic and Smooth. The Gallery Classic papers are only suitable for dye inks. Gallery Smooth can be used for both dye and pigment. Premount is a new addition. The papers have been stuck on already, so that you don't have to do that afterwards. Correspondingly, the paper is thicker and requires a suitable printer. According to Carlier, this is no problem for Epson printers as they have a special input for such thick sheets. Gallery Premount is ideal if you have to give a presentation or deliver a photo quickly, for an exhibition, for example.

Consumer photo paper for inkjets
The name of Ilford will be introduced to the consumer market as from next year. The biggest difference to the Gallery papers is that the paper for the consumer range is thinner. It is real paper designed for ordinary printers and can be used in any printer. The thickest paper in the series weighs 250 gram which, according to Carlier, could pose a problem for the cheapest printers. Because the papers are non-porous, they are suitable for all types of printers, as long as they are ink jet, of course.

Ilford Booth

Ilford Create - Double sided papers
The double sided papers are a speciality of the range. You can print high quality photos on both sides, more than just photo on one side, text on the other. It's ideal for making cards and CD covers at home. Ilford Create is maybe even more special. With this paper, you can print mat photos on one side and gloss on the other. Its clear to us that Ilford is really making a serious attempt to achieve its goals.

Ilford at Photokina 2006
Once more, Ilford made its mark at Photokina. Two years ago, they had a little stall and looked like they were on their last legs, but now they are back, presenting themselves how they used to, with a large, attractive stall containing amazing products and a clear vision. Not only is Ilford refusing to give up, they are becoming a force to be reckoned with!

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