Ferrania, as a company has had a long and storied history, having been founded in Liguria, Italy in 1917, going through many changes of ownership before ceasing film productions in 2009. In 2013, however, the old factory grounds in Cairo Montenotte was taken over by a new company called FILM Ferrania, in the hopes of getting it up and running again to produce cine and photographic film. Through funds acquired from Kickstarter, they were able to rebuild the old production facilities, and after numerous delays were able to release the first of the films in 2017. That was the test batch of the classic cine film formulation Pancro 30, the P30 Alpha. The Alpha, although having a lot of character, still had production issues in the form of particles and reticles. Now, in late 2019, they’ve release the final production version, simply called P30.
P30 has a very high silver content, with incredibly fine grain and rich shadows. I can only describe the tones as being silky smooth, as its unlike any other black and white film I’ve used. In fact, as someone who only really shoots medium to fast speed film (and pushes a lot) P30 might be the only slow speed film I could see myself shooting plenty of due to its cinematic look. Quite a few classic Italian films like Federico Fellini’s (1963) and Vittorio De Sica’s (1948) were indeed shot on Ferrania P30.
I shot it through the Canon New F-1 (which Nicole wrote about on the blog recently!) with two lenses: the FD 50mm f1.4 with an orange filter as well as the older breech mount, single coated FD 135mm f3.5. I figured since social distancing is of utmost priority, a telephoto prime might be best for street photography. Even in broad daylight, I found myself having to open the lens up due to the slow speed of the film. This, in my opinion, only adds to the dreamy old school look that the film offers.
I remember testing the latitude when I shot the Alpha variant a few years ago by overexposing it 2 stops, and the contrast was such that the photos looked like abstract paintings of black and white, with no detail anywhere in the blown out highlights and dark shadows. Perhaps this is the one shortcoming of P30, that for a black and white panchromatic film it has such a narrow range of latitude. It’s surprising considering its cinematic roots, as cinema film tends to have an incredible amount of latitude like Kodak’s Double X and Orwo’s N74, both of which I’ve under and overexposed by up to 4 stops! As such, you really have to nail the exposure with P30 to get usable images, but it is worth it when you do.
Despite its shortcomings, I have already purchased a few more rolls of it. It is the perfect summer film, as the sun really lends well to its characteristics with its high contrast and fine grained look. You might balk at the slow speed, but it is worth it, in my opinion. E’ bellissimo!