Film Review: Ferrania P30

Perhaps no other black and white film stock is so romantically connected to cinema than Ferrania P30. Yeah yeah, Eastman Kodak 5222 a.k.a Double X has its diehard fans (Raging Bull, Schindler’s List, etc.) but for many a cinema buff Federico Fellini immortalized Ferrania P30 when he used the film stock in the cult classic 8½. That P30 look from created such high demand that Ferrania produced both 35mm and 120 versions so that non-professional stills photographers could “feel a bit Fellini.”

So the film world went ape $h!t a couple years ago now when Ferrania announced they recreated the original formula for the modern day. Fast forward to today and rolls are still hard to come by and sightings are as rare as Vaquitas it seems. So you can imagine my genuine arousal when I was given a roll to test this bad boy out and see firsthand what the fuss is about.

Background Recap

Ferrania P30 is the newly manufactured film proudly made in Ferrania’s rebuilt factory on the grounds of the original company in Ciaro Montenotte, Italy. Ferrania P30 is an 80 ISO panchromatic black & white motion picture film for still photography and reintroduces the legendary P30 film produced by Ferrania from the mid 20th century.

Until 2010, Ferrania was the leading Italian motion picture and still photography film brand beloved by film directors such as Fellini, De Sica and Antonioni (to name a few). In fact, the vast majority of classic Italian cinema released between 1923 and 1965 was shot on Ferrania stock.

In 2012, entrepreneurs Nicola and Marco committed to resurrecting the iconic film brand using the original Ferrania formula. Enter Ferrania P30, a new 35mm film with deep, rich shadows and punchy, sharp highlights. It features a very high silver content, resulting in a native high-contrast film with minimal visible grain. Yet production has been low and stock is extremely scarce. It’s not even available here in Japan yet.

Ferrania P30 Specifications

  • Made in: Italy
  • Film Type: Black & White Film
  • Film Format: 135
  • ISO: ISO 80
  • Grain: Ultrafine
  • Sharpness: Very High

Note: Ferrania P30 is not DX coded. As such, you should use a fully manual 35mm camera, or at least a camera that gives you some control over either ISO, aperture or shutter speed. Cameras with no manual ISO setting may make P30 difficult to use.

Ferrania P30 Negatives

The roll I shot was at box speed and developed with Tmax developer following the official recommended techniques here. Ferrania P30 dries pretty flat but not perfectly flat as say Fuji Acros II. Both are black and white films on the slowish side and similar in thickness. Ferrania though does have a slightly more purplish tint to it as can be seen in the side by side below.


Ferrania P30 Scans

The following images were taken with a Leica M6 and Summaron 35. Scanned on a Plustek OpticFilm 8200i.

Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30 Ferrania P30  Ferrania P30Ferrania P30

Film Review: Ferrania P30 Conclusion

If you’re a fan of very strong contrast, Ferrania P30 might be the black & white film for you. It is in the vein of Fuji Neopan 1600 or JCH Streetpan 400, albeit a much slower one. Each roll features a very high silver content to create a high-contrast film with almost no visible grain. Kind of a sleeker Efke. Shadows are deep and rich. Highlights are punchy and sharp. And just like the aforementioned contrast kings, when shooting with this panchromatic film you want to be careful not to shoot in contrary light because you can easily blowout the highlights.

However, a glaring problem with Ferrania P30 reveals itself pretty quickly. And that is its latitude, or rather lack thereof. It doesn’t have the generous latitude we’ve come to expect from modern black and white films such as Tri-x or HP5. It seems to only really handle about 1.5 or 2 stops, max of underexposure or overexposure before shadows start to look like ink stains and highlights start to wash out. It’s a rather unforgiving film, especially for a black and white.

For that many people will be technically unimpressed. But then again, it doesn’t need to be technically impressive. When exposed properly it’s a beautiful, classic film that has delivered us some of the most revered pictures in cinema history. Not the easiest to shoot with and the applications are limited but if convenience is your priority, shoot digital. Ferrania has served many in their search for black and white perfection for well over fifty years for good reason and. A nice niche film IF you can get your hands on some. Would love to learn more about its nuances. Here’s hoping it’ll be more accessible soonish somehow.

What were your experiences with it? Feel free to comment or provide feedback below. Take care out there everyone.