On the 1st February 2017, backers of Ferrania’s “100 More Years of Analog Film” Kickstarter received an email with a link to a rather exciting video (you can view it at the bottom of this post). It was an announcement that a new 35mm film had been, almost accidentally, stumbled upon during the testing and development of Ferrania colour reversal film.
This new film wasn’t a colour film, but an exciting new black & white, ISO 80 panchromatic film. Unlike most typical black and white films, the quality of this film was quite unexpected – “Absolutely beautiful”, “very soft, very fine grain” and “with a absolutely crazy silver content of 5g per square metre” according to its makers.
“Each frame is a piece of jewellery”
With those claims my interest had peaked – how do I get hold of this film!? Ferrania opened a special online shop for Kickstarter backers. Immediately after the shop was opened it crashed due to 20,000 excited visitors! I persisted and finally managed to place an order for the maximum five rolls.
My rolls (batch P30.12.002) arrived in the post a few weeks ago and the weekend before last I found the time to expose my first roll with some help from favourite subjects; my kids and the dog! To make things (unintentionally) more challenging, I decided to use my dad’s Canon AE-1 with FD 50mm f/1.4 lens, which I was only recently given and haven’t had a chance to use yet. I was trusting that all would be well with it!
Another challenge was that “Ferrania’s Best Practices V1.3 document”, which includes details on how to process P30 Alpha (or where to send it if you don’t develop at home), doesn’t include any times for Kodak HC-110 (UPDATE: It does now – head over to their website to see the latest document). There was a time for R09 (Rodinal), but I prefer to only use Rodinal on large format sheets. So I did a little guessing to give me an approximate starting point with HC-110.
Ferrania P30 Alpha is a very contrasty film; a good thing if you factor it in when making pictures and if you tame it during processing. With this in mind I aimed to use HC-110 dil.H 1+63, which is quite a low concentration and therefore should help keep the contrast at bay.
Update: I’ve been in touch with Dave Bias (Marketing Director at Film Ferrania) and he explained that P30 isn’t necessarily an inherently contrasty film. The film has its roots in motion film and as such, the most suitable developer is Kodak D-96. Finding equivalent chemistry, timings and development techniques is key in extracting the best results from this film. From feedback from Dave Bias it looks like my first attempt was pretty good!
Find a Development Time
I did a bit of a comparison using another film to come up with a time for HC-110:
According to the ‘Best Practices’ sheet, P30 in Kodak D-76 stock = 7 mins
Using the massive dev chart, I found Ilford Delta 100 in D-76 stock = 7 mins
Ilford Delta 100 in HC-110 dil. B = 6 mins
HC-110 dil. H you typically double the time of dil. B and so I got to 12 minutes
A bit of a stab in the dark, but it was a starting point; the density of the negatives look pretty good to me. I also found a couple of other people online who had used 12 minutes development time so it looked like a good bet.
For agitation, I didn’t deviate much from the usual (small tank) regime, but knowing that the film is very contrasty I modified it slightly. During the first minute I inverted very slowly and gently. Then after each subsequent minute I inverted very slowly and gently twice. The result is lovely and contrasty without being over the top.
The tonal range is still very pleasing with a nice transition between dark and light areas. The pictures are sharp and detailed (when I’ve managed to focus well enough!) but also have a nice softness about it. Grain is almost non-existent and although I actually quite like some grain the other qualities of this film make up for it. P30 is a great choice for those who like very clean negatives.
Scanning and Printing
The negatives scan on my Epson V700 really easily. The next test will be printing the negatives in the darkroom, which I hope to start doing in the next day or so. In the meantime, here are the scans of my favourites. All of these were exposed at box speed – ISO 80 – and with fairly open apertures of f/2 to f/5.6
Finally, here is the video sent to the Kickstarter backers from Ferrania that whetted my appetite for this wonderful new film: