Man walking on shadowy street (Pic: Kevin Moore)
This shot was taken on Ilford HP5 and processed in 510 Pyro (Pic: Kevin Moore)

By James Lane

You might have heard whispers of a new mythical developer coming to the market, able to render film grain much finer than previous developers could, used at absurdly tiny dilutions and with a shelf life measured in years.

This developer is 510 Pyro. The bottle stands just 10cm (4in) tall, but it’s capable of doing as many rolls as a big litre bottle of Ilford’s DDX used 1+9. 510 Pyro, released by London lab Zone Imaging, can be develop as many as 100 rolls with weaker dilutions!

Who is Zone Imaging?

Zone Imaging is a new photochemical company in the UK which started as a film processing lab. Our mission is to bring new film developers to the commercial market to expand the creative choice for film photographers. We have three key missions:

  1. All film developers will be formulated in the 21st Century and will never be copies or rebrands of other developers.
  2. We intend to reduce the environmental impact from developers by refusing to use certain toxic chemicals such as hydroquinone and cutting down on plastic waste by using more concentrated developers.
  3. We promise to never ask for crowdfunding as we don’t want to give promises we might not be able to fulfil. Instead we will use our own money for expansion and researching new products.

There have been many copies and rebrands of film developers like HC110, D76, Xtol and Rodinal so we’re glad to see actual new developers coming to the commercial market.

What is 510 Pyro and why is it so good?

It’s a modern staining and tanning developer which offers extreme fine grain, high acutance, very long tonal range and has a very long shelf life. It is compatible with Jobo rotary processors, which has made it popular with labs looking for higher quality development. It won the Silvergrain Classics Awards 2021 and was championed by Ilford Master Andrew Sanderson.

Forest in misty light (Pic: Christoper J Osbourne)
 Shot ona. Arista 100 4 x5 (Pic: Christoper J Osbourne)

The staining masks the grain, acts as a variable low-contrast filter for darkroom silver gelatine printing (which makes the process easier) and offers better contrast for alternative printing processes such as cyanotypes, salt and platinum prints. The tanning helps to slow down highlight development, protect the emulsion from damage and allows for more tonal range in scanning.

It’s used at dilutions of 1:100 all the way to 1:500 and is very suitable for semi-stand processing. In fact, it’s a recommended method of development alongside the industry-standard Ilford agitation scheme. This makes the developer very versatile and easy to use.

It’s recommended you don’t use acidic stop baths and fixers as they partially remove the staining. Instead, Zone Imaging recommends using water as a stop bath and either an odourless or alkaline fixer. A list of optimal fixers can be found on our website.

Dummy in shop window (Pic: Jamie Worsfold)
Shot on a Fomapan 100 (Pic: Jamie Worsfold)
Street scene through window (Pic: Jamie Worsfold)
Shot on a Fomapan 100 (Pic: Jamie Worsfold)

You can buy 510 Pyro either direct at Zone Imaging’s website or from the following retailers: Firstcall Photographic, Parallax Photographic, Process Supplies and Silverprint. Silverprint is able to ship internationally and Retrocamera in Belgium and Analog Space also carry it. Northeast Photographic in the US will also stock it later in June.

For those that don’t self-develop film, we have been informed that the following labs, other than Zone Imaging, currently use 510 Pyro: North East Photographic (Maine, US), Analog Space (Netherlands), Silverpan (UK), Lowestoft Camera (UK), Traia (UK), Come Through Lab (Manchester, UK), East Coast Developing (UK). We are sure more are to follow – keep updated via our website.

A new developer?

There’s another planned developer to join 510 Pyro, another staining developer! The following is all the information we can divulge so far.

Man in cap cooking street food (Pic: Kevin Moore)
Shot on Ilford HP5 (Pic: Kevin Moore)
Row of trees (Pic: Roger Lowe)
Shot on Ilford XP2 (Pic: Roger Lowe)

This developer is the most concentrated ever formulated and will be a two-part developer. This developer was designed to create unique artistic results which are quite different depending on the dilution of Part A by either 1:200 or 1:500.

The characteristics you can expect are medium-high contrast, extreme high acutance, and fine grain (though not as fine as 510 Pyro). When Part A is used 1:500, it’s described that you get an “etching like” effect, a lot of compensation, and a compression of midtones. When Part A is used 1:200, you get more midtones and the etching effect is removed.

Our as-yet-unnamed film developer is still being tested, but we’ll release more details when we have them.

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amigo toro
amigo toro
1 year ago

will it be available in powder?

Don Holtum
Don Holtum
1 year ago

Yes 510 Pyro is nice, but for me it doesn’t quite stack up as well as Barry Thorntons Di Xactol. Gives wonderful tones and accutance for landscape work, works on all formats and slow/medium speed films, especially good on HP5, Pan 400 and the like. The problem is that it’s only available from the USA and the postage is exorbitant, so a few bottles ends up costing over £100.

Will your new staining developer compare?

Nik Taylor
Nik Taylor
9 months ago
Reply to  Don Holtum

I have just seen that John Finch of The Pictorial Planet is now selling DiXactol Ultra, if that helps