Film review: FERRANIA P30® ALPHA Part 1 – 35mm EI 80 (bracketed +/- 1 stop + filter tests) – Rodinal semi-stand
This article forms part one of a multi-part review series. The film used for this and other tests was kindly supplied by Vishal of Camera Film Photo in Hong Kong – I’ve mentioned CFP in various articles here on EMULSIVE before and would strongly recommend a visit to their website.
Some of the loudest buzz to come out of the film photography community in 2017 was the announcement (in February) and subsequent limited release (in June) of FERRANIA P30® ALPHA, the new ISO 80 black and white negative film by FILM Ferrania – you can find further details right here.
The relatively short history of this new film stock has been well documented here, and FILM Ferrania’s Dave Bias talked a bit about P30® ALPHA and other future films we can expect in July 2017’s EMULSIVE x FILM Ferrania Community Interview.
To quote Dave:
“Our P30, for example, is derived directly from the original formula that was created for our Precision Coater. It performs almost exactly like its older cousin. But the “sameness” to the old P30 depends on your point of view. If you’re an emulsions scientist, our modern P30 is slightly different in very obscure technical details. If you’re a photographer, there is really no perceivable difference from the original.” ~ source
More from Dave a little bit later…
Before I jump into the review itself, let’s take a quick look at what you can expect from this and future parts in the series…
As with my Bergger Pancro 400 and other recent film coverage, this will be a long review and come together over several distinct parts.
Each part covers FERRANIA P30® ALPHA shot at a different speed with per meter, over exposed and under exposed examples. I will also be including the results of testing this film following a black and white reversal development process to produce slides (if you’re impatient, there’s a sneak peek here and a little further below).
Here’s an outline of the series as it stands at the time of writing:
- Part 1: 35mm FERRANIA P30® ALPHA at EI 80 with +/-1 stop exposure bracketing (Rodinal semi-stand)
- Part 2: 35mm FERRANIA P30® ALPHA at EI 640 with +/-1 stop exposure bracketing (Rodinal semi-stand)
- Part 3: 35mm FERRANIA P30® ALPHA at EI 80 with +/-1 stop exposure bracketing (reversal development)
It is highly likely that I will be repeating the bracketing / push processing in parts one and two using a different developer. More details on why at the end of this article.
Back to part one and here’s what’s covered:
Table of contents
- 1 Series structure
- 2 Ferrania P30 vs FERRANIA P30® ALPHA
- 3 FERRANIA P30® ALPHA …what is it?
- 4 Shooting, development and scanning methodology
- 5 Bracketing / filtration samples
- 5.1 Sample 1 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
- 5.2 Sample 1 – per meter exposure + filters
- 5.3 Sample 2 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
- 5.4 Sample 2 – per meter exposure + filters
- 5.5 Sample 3 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
- 5.6 Sample 3 – per meter exposure + filters
- 5.7 Sample 4 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
- 5.8 Sample 4 – per meter exposure + filters
- 5.9 Sample 5 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
- 5.10 Sample 6 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
- 6 A quick word from FILM Ferrania
- 7 Closing thoughts for part one
- 8 Write for EMULSIVE
- 9 Supporting EMULSIVE
Let’s get stuck in.
Ferrania P30 vs FERRANIA P30® ALPHA
Ferrania P30 was a staple of the great Italian directors of the mid twentieth century, specifically directors responsible for the Neorealism movement in post World War II Italian cinema.
Although names such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roberto Rossellini and Federico Fellini all used Ferrania P30 in their productions, it was Vittorio De Sica’s 1960 film Two Women – and no doubt Sophia Loren and her Academy Award winning performance – which raised P30’s profile outside of Europe.
Demand from photographers wanting to achieve the same cinematic results in their own still photography outstripped supply and a further two Oscars for films shot on P30 in the early 60’s resulted (indirectly perhaps) in the acquisition of Ferrania by the 3M Corporation in 1964.
The film was sadly discontinued somewhere in the early to mid-1970s as best as I can tell and that is where the Ferrania P30 story ends.
Fast forward a little over 40 years to February 2017 and FILM Ferrania – the company created to bring the original Ferrania back to life – announced the imminent (limited) release of a brand new film stock: FERRANIA P30® ALPHA (note the capitalisation).
P30® ALPHA is the first publicly available iteration of photographic film produced at the resurrected FILM Ferrania facility and whilst it may not be the film most people were expecting, it represents something very important: FILM Ferrania are not only in business but they’re making film again. It’s a new film and a brand new manufacturer.
To say I am excited about this is an understatement…
FERRANIA P30® ALPHA …what is it?
According to the good folks at FILM Ferrania, FERRANIA P30® ALPHA is an 80 ISO panchromatic black and white motion picture film for still photography. The film has ultrafine grain, and very high silver content and has been made available in 35mm format via pre-order on filmferrania.it.
Unlike most of the motion picture film currently in production, FERRANIA P30® ALPHA does not have a remjet backing and therefore can be shot and developed without all of those extra steps and precautions.
Release in other formats is currently listed as a “near future” endeavour and on a personal level, I’m happy FILM Ferrania are focused on getting the 35mm versions into continuous production and flying out to retailers before focusing on 120, 4×5 and beyond.
I believe the most recent version of this film – and the film tested for this review – to be “ALPHA 3”. This is based on v1.5 of FILM Ferrania’s best practices guide, which describes the film as having correctly exposed branding and frame numbers at the film sprockets. Previous iterations had the branding backwards or none at all.
You may have already seen Phil Harrison’s early review of FERRANIA P30® ALPHA from late April 2017 (a world first review of this film, if I’m not mistaken). Phil’s review serves as a good counterpoint to this and other articles in the series. It’s well worth a read.
Shooting, development and scanning methodology
I have decided to stick to the same camera/lens combination as my other recent film tests. This and all other rolls tested were shot at box speed (ISO 80, set manually) using my Nikon F100. The camera was set to manual exposure mode with the meter in “Matrix” mode.
Each frame was bracketed by a single stop of under exposure and over exposure using the camera’s auto-bracketing function.
In addition, several of scenes shown below were shot with the following coloured filters:
- Red #25
- Orange #21
- Yellow #15
- Green #58
My camera counted a total of 38 frames shot.
I used my Nikkor AF-D 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 zoom/macro lens. For this roll, the lens was set to a constant f/5.6.
This roll was developed at 20c in Rodinal 1+100 for 60 minutes in a semi-stand. The film was agitated continuously for the first 60 seconds and then again for 10 seconds after 30 minutes had elapsed. No pre-wash.
As I was push processing a roll for part two (EI 640), I felt using Rodinal would be the safest option for both due to a lack of reliable push processing times for a 3-stop push. In short, I did not want to risk my valuable test rolls.
Ilford’s Ilfostop and Rapid Fixer were used at the manufacturer’s recommended dilutions for one minute and five minutes respectively. Finally, the film was soaked for one minute in Kodak Photoflo (2+1000ml) and then rinsed for five minutes in running water.
The film was left to hang to dry for a little under a day, cut and then scanned using an Epson Perfection V750 Pro scanner in factory-shipped 35mm holders.
One thing to note is that the emulsion and film base felt very “soft” immediately out of the tank. The emulsion was not scratched but I felt it best to minimse any dust in the environment during hanging, just in case it became embedded on the film.
I used Vuescan to scan the negatives to TIFF at 1600dpi, added a light unsharp mask and removed a small amount of dust spots in Photoshop.
The files were exported to 1000px on the longest edge in Lightroom with a light hand on getting the file size down for web.
Bracketing / filtration samples
I have provided six scenes here for review. The first four include +/- 1-stop brackets plus four filtered examples. The final two samples provide +/- bracketing examples only.
They aren’t exactly examples of fine photography on my part but hopefully capture a wide range of tones and scenes to demonstrate how FERRANIA P30® ALPHA fared in the Rodinal semi-stand development detailed above.
The order of images below is under exposed, correctly exposed (per meter) and over exposed. Weather conditions were great on the whole, especially towards the end of the roll. Where filtered examples have been provided the order is: red 25, orange 21, yellow 15 and green 58.
Click/tap on the image thumbnails to open the full-sized image in a lightbox. Use the navigation icons, swipe the screen, or tap the arrow keys on your keyboard to cycle through each set.
Sample 1 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
Sample 1 – per meter exposure + filters
Sample 2 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
Sample 2 – per meter exposure + filters
Sample 3 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
Sample 3 – per meter exposure + filters
Sample 4 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
Sample 4 – per meter exposure + filters
Sample 5 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
Sample 6 – bracketed exposure +/- 1-stop
A quick word from FILM Ferrania
I reached out to FILM Ferrania’s Dave Bias for some help on clarifying the history of the original Ferrania P30 and some general fact checking. He came back with some additional (and very useful) information on developing P30® ALPHA. Over to Dave:
“While we are working with the community to learn processing techniques for a variety of chemistries and techniques, our only internally tested and approved methods utilize D76 and D96. In fact, D96, while hard to find, is the most thorough match with the original chemistry Ferrania used to process this film.
P30 is not inherently a high-contrast film, but has a wide tonal range and capturing the widest range of tones depends largely on processing, and not as much on the exposure technique. Also, as a cinema-based film, P30 “expects” constant agitation and carefully controlled temperatures for best results.
With this said, we have seen a wide variety of amazing results from home-based small-tank processors and automated dip-and-dunk lab processors alike.
Nicola (Baldini) has been meeting with our team to provide some additional information for our Best Practices/Processing chart. Some “rules of thumb” so to speak.
Here’s the official word from Marco Pagni about processing P30 in D96:
The official development process for the current P30 film is (after some tuning with respect to the initial tests):
- 8 minutes with Kodak D96 stock in continuous agitation at 21 degrees celsius.
- 30 second stop in water (continuous agitation)
- 11 minute fix bath (Kodak F5)
- 10 minute wash in water
Here, “continuous agitation” is intended to mean development in a cinema film processor, but continuous agitation in a small tank or Rodinax can be considered almost the same.
Thanks To Dave, Nicola and Marco for the clarification.
Closing thoughts for part one
Dave mentioned above that P30® ALPHA “is not inherently a high-contrast film, but has a wide tonal range.” While my results above do not hold that to be true, I believe this to be because of the developer and development method I used, and not the film.
I say this for three reasons:
One, a number of film stocks based on older formulas react very similarly to Rodinal stand / semi-stand development – a fast build up of contrast and squashed mid tones.
Two, I have seen a number of examples of this film developed in other chemistry and the results are rather different to say the least. See this example by Twitter’s Diz:
— Diz@DizzyCow (@dizd) August 29, 2017
Three, my reversal development tests (to create slides) have yielded results with much better mid tones than those in the Rodinal semi-stand. The three images below are a sneak peek from part three of this series, which will be coming in due course (click the thumbnails for a larger image).
Concerning my own thoughts on FERRANIA P30® ALPHA, these initial results are rather high contrast and have shown that for the chemicals and development methodology used here, over exposing the film by a single stop can yield some pretty powerful results. Interestingly, a rather similar result can be achieved by shooting with a yellow filter on the lens at box speed.
As a high contrast film, I like it. The results aren’t as over powering as a film like Rollei Retro 80S can be and there’s lots of detail that can be recovered in the wonderfully punchy negatives this film produces.
If I was looking at these scans in isolation, I would be very tempted to suggest that Ferrania P30 Alpha was an orthochromatic film, not a panchromatic one (I already have, in fact). The building in samples one and two is primarily red and as you can see, there was very little response from the film there. That said, I’m not considering these results in isolation and do not believe that to be the case.
Having seen a number of other examples of red subjects shot on this film (and with little else to back me up), I would suggest that the age of this film’s recipe – however updated – has lent it a bit of a lack of sensitivity to the red end of the spectrum but not one that is distracting. At the very least, not as distracting at samples one and two in this review!
I’m not surprised at all that FILM Ferrania are very keen on providing open and evolving development advice for this film; as well as offering a list of labs whom they trust to develop the film as they originally intended. Community feedback (including this article), are all part of that process.
As for me, I’m trying to source another couple of rolls so that I can replicate this test and develop the film in D96, which it seems I shall be mixing up myself after having found out that my local potion merchant has none to hand. I’m also tempted to try this film at some point in ILFORD ID-3 (a low contrast developer but that might have to wait until the film is in permanent, continuous supply!
Back in a while, I’m off to find my lab coat.
Keep shooting, folks.
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