- Johnny Wilson
First Impressions of Film Ferrania P30 Alpha
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
In September 2014, a Kickstarter campaign started getting attention from some of my like minded photography friends on Facebook, hosted by Film Ferrania, a phoenix company founded from the remnants of Ferrania, a name I recognized as a company based in Italy that manufactured 35mm film. The plan was to create a completely self sufficient factory that manufactured film directly from raw materials, and was able to sell film on an international basis. It was an ambitious idea, but grounded, credible and achievable, with some progress having already been made before the Kickstarter was launched. Besides, any company that wanted to bring new film to the table in modern times deserved the support of the people that would use it, so I backed it!
Fast forward nearly 4 years and the history of the fledgling Film Ferrania is already a chequered one! Without going into too much detail (but if you want to read more, go here: 100 more years of analog film.) in March this year Film Ferrania released a limited run of it's first batch of film with priority given to Kickstarter backers; a panchromatic 80 ISO black & white 35mm film: P30 Alpha. I tried it out in my Olympus Pen EE-3, rated at box speed and had it developed at box speed by the reliable folks at AG Photo lab.
I was pleasantly surprised at first, I'd seen examples on Flickr and Instagram so knew, generally, the reproduction style of P30, but I expected there to be a much sharper exposure level between the lights and the darks. The results were much more reminiscent of historical black and white photography from the 50's and 60's in comparison to the polished modern day results produced with fresh film by the likes of Ilford, Fuji and Kodak. That being said there is a distinct level of contrast that, I feel, is balanced very well; present enough to distinguish between different shades of grey, especially at exposures in bright sunlight, but not too high so as to show a clear divide between blacks and whites. Despite being a low sensitivity film, the exposure levels are still very good and you won't lose differentiation in colours in a smudgy mess of grey.
Film grain is almost non existent, which I expected because of the sensitivity of the film, but I was still pleasantly surprised at the lack of grain. Personally, I love film grain, and like to find a nice balance between it being present and it not dominating the detail in the image! But if you are a fan of near perfect, sharp detailed black and white photography, P30 should be on your list to use. There is virtually no film grain at box speed and only with images terribly underexposed did it start to creep in. Again, being rated at ISO 80 I expected this, but was still impressed none the less.
I'm probably biased, but for me, if you are wanting to shoot black and white photography, you are going to want to shoot film. It's the faithful way of producing it and you can mod a digital camera, tweak a setting, use a filter or develop a nice software process to convert a colour image to get a black and white photo but for me, the true way to take black and white photos is to use black and white film. There is quite a range, but where P30 stands out is the low sensitivity combined with a unique reproduction that is difficult to find in other manufacturers products and if you are a black and white film shooter it will fill a gap between standard ISO 100 / 125 films and ISO 50 films. You should be able to overexpose it by a stop or 2 and still get the same results as you would rating it at box speed, so you can slot it in alongside the regular ISO 100 films if you wanted to. I'm looking forward to shooting my next roll under exposing it by a stop or 2 to dial down the exposure to dark blacks and greys. If you are a fan of black and white photos, you are going to want to try this film.
You can see the rest of the photos that I took on my Flickr page by clicking this little bit of text. I'm happy with how my shots turned out and It's a proud moment to follow and support what started out as an idea, as an opportunity, to finally having something tangible in your hands and create something with it. I hope Film Ferrania go from strength to strength and I'm looking forward to the day when I can walk into a shop and buy a roll off the shelf, or do the same thing but virtually, online! Knowing that once upon a time they were just a team of people who rescued some machines and wanted to keep film alive. I'm planning to go see my name on that founders wall one day...