Film in Manchester

A guide to the availability of photographic goods and services

Introduction

When I first started getting into analogue photography, the Covid lockdowns were in full force. As such, I bought the vast majority of my supplies online. Now it's 2024, and all that is just a memory, I have found it convenient and economical to buy at least some of my supplies locally.

Here is a list of all the photographic retailers and labs I know of in Manchester. I would appreciate input from others on this list, as I can't possibly know everything. I'm giving preference to independent businesses, as I find they are generally cheaper and better, but will list chains when I find it to be relevant.

Real Camera

7 Dale St, Manchester, M1 1JA

realcamera.co.uk

Probably my single favourite place to go for my photographic needs in Manchester. The staff are friendly and helpful, they have a great selection of cameras, and they offer repair services as well.

They stock the full range of Ilford (Harman) black-and-white film (including Kentmere), along with a good range of colour including Kodak, Fujifilm and Cinestill, along with Harman Phoenix at the moment. Presumably due to Brexit, they no longer stock any European film. Their prices on Harman film are the best in town, and those on other film are amongst the best.

You can also find a good range of Ilford black-and-white chemistry at Real Camera. They have a branch in Liverpool as well, which I assume is also good, although I have never been.

Advanced Photo

Unit 10 St Ann's Arcade, St Ann's Square, M2 7HN

0161 839 8838

A small shop tucked away in a posh shopping arcade, Advanced Photo offer 1-hour development of C-41 35mm film for just £7 (assuming you don't need your negatives cut up and you don't want scans or prints). I have been pleased with the results of this service, especially as I don't shoot enough colour to make it worth keeping the chemicals myself. They can handle both 35mm and 120 film, black-and-white or C-41, and they do prints and scans as well. I can't remember if they offer E-6 processing.

Advanced Photo sell film, with the usual Ilford black-and-white and also Kodak (including Ektachrome) and Cinestill colour film. They also sell a limited selection of photographic accessories, and provide printing and retouching services, although these are not likely to be of interest to photographic hobbyists. The couple who run the shop are friendly and helpful.

As far as I'm aware, they don't have a website, although they do have social media accounts including Facebook and Instagram.

Come Through Lab

84 Silk Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6BJ

comethroughlab.com

Although not really in the city centre, Come Through Lab still carves out a good place for itself in the Manchester photographic scene. As the name suggests, they are primarily a lab, although they also sell film on occasion (as of 07/05/2024, they're selling Kodak Gold 200 for £7.99 per 24-exposure roll, which is a pretty good deal these days).

They offer the widest range of processing services I am aware of in the city, running black-and-white, C-41 and E-6 in both 35mm and 120 formats, but also ECN-2 35mm film (of course, there is no ECN-2 120 film because it's a cinema process) and 5x4 large format black-and-white negatives. They can scan all these formats, and print all of them except for 5x4.

Their processing is the cheapest, at just £5 (C-41) or £7 (black-and-white) for develop only, and they even cut them up for you! However, they don't offer a 1-hour service, but will do same-day for colour for £5 extra or black-and-white for £10 extra. Otherwise the service is next-day for colour or 2-3 days for black-and-white.

The staff are friendly and helpful, and you can order processing face-to-face, or online through their website. They have an all-hours deposit box by the door, in case you need to drop off film while they are closed.

Fred Aldous

37 Lever St, Manchester, M1 1LW

fredaldous.co.uk

Actually an art shop, Fred Aldous are kind enough to stock photographic materials, unlike most others who only stock boring rubbish like paints! Their range of 35mm and 120 film may be the widest in town - as far as I'm aware they're the only people stocking Fomapan, Agfa, Rollei, Orwo, Bergger, Washi or those horrible 'effect' films made by the likes of Dubblefilm or Kono. They also stock Lomography 'products' (rebrands), and various oddities such as instant and 110 film. All the film is refrigerated (you can see the fridge across the counter).

In addition to this, they stock a good range of Ilford chemistry, along with disposable cameras, 'toy' cameras and scanners, and fun gimmicks like a sun-printing kit. Some may say they are capitalising, but I would just say that I'm glad someone is still selling such a wide range of products from a high-street shop.

Their website is very good and shows the current stock level and prices of everything. As always, there's a catch, and it's the aforementioned prices! They are consistently more expensive than other retailers, especially Real Camera, for the same products.

For example, as of 07/05/2024, a 36-exposure roll of Kentmere 400 will cost you £6.55 at Fred Aldous, but only £5 at Real Camera. As they are only round the corner from each other, I'd suggest starting at Real Camera and buying anything you want that they don't have at Fred Aldous afterwards, a bit like the old trick of going to Aldi before Waitrose.

Boots

32 Market St, Manchester, M1 1PL

boots.com

The less said the better about this once-great photographic retailer, now reduced to a single unit of shelving that sells only the most basic range of film (at inflated prices) and is frequently out of stock. They have Ilford FP4+, HP5+ and XP2 Super... and that's it! They do also carry disposable and 'toy' cameras, along with some Fuji Instax items.

Perhaps their selection of batteries may get you out of a pinch if your camera needs a peculiar one, but I wouldn't count on it. I have been saved by Boots a couple of times in provincial towns, where a roll of HP5+ is a great deal better than nothing, but I wouldn't bother with it in Manchester with so many better choices nearby.

Conclusion

Overall, it's clear that the photographic trade in Manchester is alive and well, at least by the standards of 2024! I hope this information can be of use to somebody.

As I have based this article on my own knowledge and cursory online research, there may well be mistakes, and there are certainly omissions. This will never be an exhaustive list of all goods and services offered by photographic businesses in Manchester.

With that said, if you have any information that you would like to add or correct, whether you are a member of the public or represent one of the businesses on the list, please email me at ivan @ the address of this website.