Wide angle living - Part 12: Ferrania P30 film review

I have been waiting a long time to get my hands on the newly released and very talked about Ferrania P30 film, made with much fanfare by Ferrania Italy after a very successful 'Kickstarter' campaign. Here are my first impressions. 

Whilst there are plenty of film makers closing shop and moving away from traditional film, every now and then you get news of someone releasing new film. Aside from the imminent re-release of Kodak Ektachrome, it doesn't get much more exciting than the long awaited Film Ferrania P30 film. I had missed out on its hugely successful Kickstarter funding event, but managed to grab a few rolls when it went out for general release. I have actually been storing it for a while waiting for some bright sunshine to go test this ISO 80 panchromatic black and white film.

A bit more about the film

Here is what Ferrania Italy has to say about this film

FERRANIA P30® ALPHA is an 80 ISO panchromatic black & white motion picture film for still photography, and reintroduces the legendary P30 film produced by Ferrania during the 1960s. FERRANIA P30® ALPHA is coated on triacetate base and features an incredibly high silver content of 5 grams per square meter. Speaking about this silver-rich film, FILM Ferrania CEO Nicola Baldini states, “Each frame is like a piece of jewelry.”

Pasolini, Rossellini, Visconti and many other italian directors powered their masterpieces with P30 film. In 1961, Sophia Loren won the Academy Award for “La Cio ciara” ( Two Women) by Vittorio De Sica and the entire world started to appreciate the beauty of FERRANIA P30® . In 1963, the legendary film 8 1⁄2 by Federico Fellini was shot on FERRANIA P30® stock, cementing its place in cinema history. 

About the photos

I kind of feel this film is probably more suited to Venice or Paris, but I was tired of waiting and decided to not think too much about it and just go for a walk. I am a big believer in going for a walk armed with a camera and letting the rest speak for itself, I am rarely disappointed with this approach. However, my intention was to really test this film out, meaning different lighting situations, harsh light, bright skies, shadows, indoors, you name it. All of that with an ISO 80 film and my trustworthy Hasselblad Xpan with its maximum aperture of F4. That was not going to be an issue with a bright summer day. 

As always, these images are super wide, so if reading this on a mobile device do me a favour and turn it sideways to get the full immersive experience!

First impressions

I was blown away by the sharpness of the negatives, even before I scanned these images. It reminded me of infrared negatives, but I had never seen such sharpness and contrast in normal black and white negatives.

I had to take this shot with the camera on the floor due to a lack of a tripod, but it came out really well. Look at that sharpness and contrast - impressive!
It is interesting how dark some of the parts of this shot come out, but there is a real cinematic vibe going on here. 
I am a big fan of vertical Xpan shots when they work. Some decent leading lines here too.
I have never seen black and white film present such dark blacks without the use of a filter, really quite exceptional.
Who needs digital photography when you can get sharpness like this - absolutely no grain whatsoever. 
A small amount of vignetting going on in the corners, but this is due to the fact that I removed the center filter on the Xpan as it takes 2 stops of light and I didn't want to make this film (ISO 80) any slower than it already was. The centre filter ensures there is no vignetting as the lens is so wide.
Phenomenal sharpness in these shots. This is like a good Kodak Tri-X shot on steroids. The detail is amazing. It also has that cinematic look to it with the right subjects. 
There was actually quite a lot of detail in the shadow, but I liked this underexposed look to go with the silhouette shot if Frankfurt's skyline. 
Another great super wide Xpan shot, pity there wasn't more going on in the frame though. This film really excels in bright sunshine, although seems to have a tendency to really darken out anything that is in the shade. I quite like the effect though, similar to using an orange filter on normal black and white film.
Hauptwache in downtown Frankfurt. 
I like the clash between the modern looking architecture leading up to the old Church. Fantastic sharpness too and nice shadows at work. I really like how dark this film makes the shadows, it is an effect I have been looking to recreate for a while with limited success. 
I really like how wide this image is but the shadows are too dark for my liking. When addressing this in Adobe Lightroom it adds a substantial amount of grain, I prefer to keep a super sharp image. 
One of the sharpest shots of the roll. In fact I shot 2 rolls! Oh, and I still don't know why Churches here have such small windows on them...
The Jumeirah hotel.
There are always fancy cars to look at (or in this case photograph) on Frankfurt's Goethe Strasse.
A cropped shot, look at how fine that grain is...actually by fine I mean no grain whatsoever. Really amazing stuff, no wonder Ferrania is proud of this film (nice car too, by the way!)
Alte Oper U-Bahn station. I am really happy this shot came out as I had my Xpan on the floor due to such slow shutter speeds. It reminds me a bit of my 'Empty Spaces' blog post.
Another vertical shot. This was actually shot right into the sun just out of the frame, not a bad result! Not the best shot composition wise, as I said vertical shots are really hard to do effectively with this camera.
Managed to get this quick snapshot, I figured a Ferrari with F for Frankfurt and this film is Ferrania 'Made in Italy'...works for me!
There is something quite unsettling about this photograph, it looks as if they are actually staring down at me. I am a bit fan of silohuettes when they come out well.
The 259m Commerzbank Tower from below. 
These two were so stuck to their phones they didn't see me compose and re-compose until I got the straight lines right. I didn't actually get the effect I was looking for as the Xpan is sometimes really too wide! 
A classic bike for a classic film!
Really nice contrast even in the shadows. I find this type of shot on normal black and white film can sometimes be a bit flat...not with Ferrania P30!
This is not the first time I have taken this shot, previously taken with Ilford HP5, you can see that shot here. Interestingly the Ilford film has much stronger highlights whereas the shot below is sharper with stronger contrast. 
Another fun thing about going for a walk with your camera is that you sometimes run into other "analogue heads" as I call them, and I suppose I belong to this group too!
We are at the 'Silberturm', a futuristic looking 32 storey building that is a favourite with photographers, and it is easy to see why. Built it 1978, it currently hosts Deutsche Bahn as its main tenant, but it used to host Dresdner Bank and then Commerzbank until 2009.
A slightly awkward vertical shot trying to get the Mamiya RZ67 into the frame also. 
There is something very special about the Mamiya viewfinder. Proudly owned by Dominik, a talented photographer who has some really good work, check it out by clicking on his name.
And this is what all the fuss is about - what a wonderful building to photograph and look at how sharp this image is!

Overall observations

I was positively blown away by this film, even after all the hype. It is really unlike anything I have tried before, although in some ways a bit similar to the Agfa APX lineup, potentially due to both films having such a high silver content. 

Not wanting to go too much into chemical technicalities, what most impressed me about this film was its overall insane sharpness and contrast. Black and white film shot during the day sometimes feels a bit "flat" to me, whereas all these shots had fantastic contrast. It does seem to obliterate the shadows a bit making the image potentially too contrasty, but I quite like that look. I will also try out this film with my Leica M6 with a more "normal" viewing perspective. For the shadow-heavy shots, I would compose those more carefully, especially with the Xpan. I guess I now have as good as an excuse as ever to go to Venice to try out this film there, luckily I have 3 more rolls in the fridge. 

I really enjoy shooting films with a cinematic background and this has shot up to the top of my favourites along with Kodak Double X film. These work perfectly with the super wide Xpan and you really do feel like you're on a movie set with them. I would also like to try out some portraiture work with this film, some of the results I have seen are really outstanding. 

So there you have it, a real jewel of a film indeed! I can't recommend this film enough and will be making an order of some more of it soon to enjoy the long summer days we are currently having. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Neil