Do you remember where you were on September 30th 2014?
I was in bed late at night, with my iPhone and I read about the new Kickstarter campaign just launched by FilmFerrania, to bring back online the once mighty film manufacture in Italy.
They had high goals – to recommission the old test and research-lab gear of Ferrania to produce enough film for nowadays. Certainly the complete machinery of the mighty factory would just be too much for the much reduced but growing demand of the recent times.
They promised film as rewards. They promised to deliver the film by about April 2015. Of course no deadline that has some self-respect has ever been realistic…. but this one just killed it.
The task was tremendous! Salvaging old equipment, trimming it to the required size, getting the old computers and software to run and testing, testing testing the whole thing over and over again.
The old buildings had to be reconnected to water, power and heating. Asbestos in the building had to be safely evacuated…. all things not really accounted for in their initial timeline.
Then, this year on February 1st they had a big announcement… but it was not the long awaited color slide film. They had achieved a milestone: Producing a black and white negative film, recreated from the magical recipe of the old Ferrania P30 cinematographic film, dear to Fellini and Pasolini!
And the offer was to convert our rewards to the same number of rolls of P30 as the promised slide film!
For me, the wait was long enough and I opted for the new reward. Most did I think!
But did they deliver it? Not yet!
Ferrania created a web store to accept pre-orders…. and the web store promptly crashed. Some time later it was up again and accepted orders… but still no news about delivery.
Then just three weeks ago I received a simple padded envelope from Romania of all places…. No idea what it might be. Leaving the post office I tore the packaging open and out tumbled two boxes of Ferrania P30 Alpha black and white negative film and three, lovingly hand clipped 😉 and colourful Ferrania stickers.
Of course I knew already that I was not to get the promised two slide films. Ferrania are still very far from producing their first slide emulsions. Just my take on the product is that the boxes look rather cheap, thin cardboard, the stickers, nicely ‘vintage’ styled in the old Ferrania colours are…. well, they are there. Basta!
And the film, an 80 ISO black and white negative film comes in non-DX-coded cartridges with an instruction sheet downloadable from the FilmFerrania website with informations and instructions for developing the film.
Anyways, the film is here and it must be used! The weather is quite sunny for once and rather well suited to 80 ISO. So I load my Canon T90 (as it has the best light meter of my cameras and I don’t want to run risks with this emulsion) and off I go!
Here are some of the results, developed in my trusty Rodinal 1+50 for 14 minutes with gentle inversions for 10 seconds each minute as prescribed. I hesitated to use the alternative of stand development in Rodinal 1+100 for 45 minutes and finally chose the ‘standard’ version.
P30 has a clear base, unlike other b&w films that show a distinct color shade – looking at you, Tri-X!
I scanned the film without any adjustments and found most photos rather dark. As my T90 normally gets exposure spot on I wonder if this perceived ‘darkness’ is inherent in the film. It has a distinct film noir feeling, which is normal as it’s in fact a cinema film!
So with Ferrania P30 it’s back to black… and those blacks are gorgeous. REALLY black blacks just as I like them. But on the other hand, even though I love contrast and always add some to my scans of HP5, this film feels a tiny bit too contrasty for me.
In full sunlight it produces just an extremely stark image. Nice, but it can get tiresome if you do too much of it.
Reddish bricks are rendered quite darkly…
But on the other hand….man, that absence of grain has something! I love grain, I use Rodinal on HP5 to get that gorgeous rough look. But this is something else. Smoooooooth!
Out of focus areas are creamy, lovely, really.
Metering poses a problem with this film. This photo was spot metered, even multi-spot-metered with my Canon T90 but the subjects came out too dark.
At the same time, the sky is utterly featureless. Contrast is good, too much contrast hurts!
So how do I feel about Ferrania P30?
It leaves a mixed feeling to me. The grain, or rather absence thereof is stunning. But on the other hand, the enormous contrast leaves little to play with. It’s there, it’s in the negative and you can’t get it out again.
Ferrania P30 is a very finicky film regarding exposure. It has to be spot on as I noticed. Even my T90 photos, multi-spot-metered had problems with exposure.
I have my second roll and I’ll have to think hard in which camera I’ll use it. I was slightly disappointed with it in the T90 and I’ll either try it again to find if there was a problem or I’ll use another camera altogether – perhaps the Leica IIIa and meter by feel… we’ll see!
Of course I’ll report duly on my second (and perhaps my last) roll of P30.
Anyways, I backed FilmFerrania with 40$ hoping for a new slide film and all I got was a horribly expensive black and white film at 20$ a roll, about which I can’t yet make my mind up.
Love it, hate it…. no real idea yet. All I know is that it won’t replace HP5 for me, neither T-max 400 which I tried some time ago.
And of course I prefer higher ISO film 400, pushed or not, and the grain that goes with it!
I fear that the revived Kodak Ektachrome will be out before Ferrania can deliver their slide film and that will be very bad for them. I wish every film manufacturer well, big or small (except Fujifilm who are slowly killing their great films off one by one). But unfortunately, I think Ferrania will be late to the slide-film-feast.
I wish them to succeed!
Thanks for reading, folks!