Experimenting with the Newest Addition: Ferrania P33 Film Review

By Amy Farrer

The arrival of a new film emulsion never fails to get us all excited, which just reaffirms the hold that analogue photography has over us. And when Film Ferrania hinted at the release of two discontinued black and white films back in November 2023, there was much speculation amongst the community as to what they might be. Luckily for us, Ferrania gave us a clue ahead of time on their Instagram post - with exclusive previews of P33 and P36 🤔, the latter mysteriously vanishing from the caption.

Come February 2024, the long-awaited announcement finally arrived and Ferrania P33 35mm film was released! And a few weeks later, we had a batch delivered to AW HQ 🥳 Eager to test its capabilities, we wasted no time loading a roll into our cameras and sending some out to our Ambassadors. Read on to discover our collective experiences...

 


 

What to Expect from Ferrania P33

 

For those who have yet to give it a try, you might be curious about what to expect from this fresh addition to the black and white film scene. Hailing from the picturesque hills of Cairo Montenotte, Italy, P33 proudly joins the Ferrania family of films. Building upon the legacy of its predecessor, the renowned Ferrania P30 is known for its velvety grain and bold contrast, whilst P33 emerges as an even more adaptable and user-friendly option. Boasting a 160 ISO - a full stop higher than P30 - it performs particularly in well-lit environments and the photos we've seen come through our developing lab are fantastic.

 

ferrania p30 v p33

 

In comparison to P30, this newcomer offers a streamlined and flexible shooting experience while maintaining distinctive traits such as fine grain and crisp contrast. Depending on your aesthetic preferences and shooting conditions, it's worth doing some research to determine which emulsion best suits your needs.

 


 

How does Ferrania P33 handle pushing?

 

Despite years of experience behind the lens, I recently ventured into the enchanting realm of film (thanks Analogue Wonderland 🙏). Whilst I used to shoot Kentmere 400 at college, I was blind to the vast array of other black and white emulsions available… oh how annoying hindsight can be! Since experimenting with classics like Ilford HP5, Kodak Tri-X, and WonderPan, I was eager to test a newcomer. Intrigued by the beauty of P30’s deep contrast, I set my sights on its successor. Enter Ferrania P33!

 

Ferrania P33 at the beach

Families enjoying the Easter Weekend sunshine at Hope Cove Beach, Devon. ©amyfarrerphotography

 

Loaded in my Olympus OM10, I took P33 for a spin on a coastal walk in Devon. I've shot there many times before on digital, now it was time to capture the beautiful views on film. Given the unpredictable weather down this end of the country, I bumped up the ISO a bit to play it safe, doubling it to 320 / 400. As I learnt the hard way from half a previous roll, my OM10 does not respond well to 100 ISO and will need a fix.

As expected, the Ferrania P33 35mm film turned out to be a dream for landscape shots. It captured the contrast between the bright sky and sea and dark rocks and foliage beautifully. As a huge fan of high contrast in both black and white and colour photography, this was exactly what I was after. Pushing the film increased the grain, contrast, and depth in the shadows. While I can't vouch for its performance at box speed, I am thrilled with the results obtained through pushing a stop. So, if you're on the hunt for a new black and white film, definitely give Ferrania P33 a shot - I'm sold on it for sure.

 


 

What about box speed (ISO 160)?

 

Let’s hear from one of our awesome Ambassadors, Scott Celli!

“I was thrilled to get my hands on a roll of P33, especially with it being a new film stock on the market. Using my Pentax P30N and 50mm 1.7 lens, I decided to shoot it at box speed to see how it performed. Typically, I stick with the reliable Ilford HP5 for my black and white shots, so it was good to experiment with something new - especially a film with a lower ISO!

 

Photo of cat on Ferrania P33 35mm film

Capturing the cat in the window © analogue_canvas

 

The level of detail P33 captures is impressive, lending an eerie quality to some shots, like the drive up to Dunrobin Castle (below). Although the amount of contrast wasn't exactly what I anticipated, I'm really pleased with how my shots turned out! I will definitely try this film again in future.”

Find out more about Scott and browse more of his film photography work on our Ambassador page.

 

The driveway of Dunrobin Castle on Ferrania P33 film

The driveway of Dunrobin Castle, nestled in the Scottish highlands ©analogue_canvas

 


 

One for the home developers, studio shooters and portrait-takers...

 

Over to Tom Warland, another one of our fantastic Ambassadors:

“It's not often I reach for low ISO films, especially in 35mm. Typically, I stick to 400 ISO films, a reliable choice for Britain's varied lighting conditions. However, I'm always up for trying something new, and P33 from Ferrania caught my attention. In fact, it might just become my go-to low ISO film. I tested the film in a varied range of environments to show its versatility - street photography, landscapes and studio to see how it renders detail, pattern and texture. Using a classic 50mm 1.8 Zeiss lens mounted on a Voigtlander Bessa R2, I aimed for an honest test.

 

Ferrania P33 test

Testing out pattern and texture © tombobwarland

 

My developer of choice is Rodinal R09, known for its cost-effectiveness with its ratio of 1 part developer to 25 parts water, and contrast enhancement, albeit with more pronounced grain. While the suggested development time for P33 is 20 degrees at 1:25 for 5 minutes, I opted for a longer development much like I would for Ilford FP4 (8 minutes) which resulted in a film with excellent tonal range, crisp shadows, and perhaps the finest grained film I have ever used - even with Rodinal.

With 160 ISO this film would perform excellently with more light - not so much spring in the UK! However, the results I got when shooting ranges of textures such as brickwork, plants or hair, makes me wish they would release it in larger formats as it will be hard to beat for landscapes.

 

Ferrania P33 test- mannequin heads

Testing P33 on different skin-toned mannequins in the studio © tombobwarland

 

When testing P33 in the studio, I used mannequin heads to see how it reacted to different skin tones and lit the subjects with a Rotolight Neo 3 rotating through different colours, and an Aeos 2 with a warm white light as my keylight. It does bleach slightly on the highlights here, but not so much that I wouldn't be able to burn in the tone digitally post-scanning, when printing in the darkroom, or through split grade printing.

For me, the subject that Ferrania P33 excelled in the most was portraiture, as shown by this image of my ever-willing model, my daughter, softly lit by a Rotolight Neo 3 Pro to accentuate the shadows.

 

ferrinia P33 test - portrait

A beautiful portrait of Tom’s daughter! © tombobwarland

 

Notably, the film's midtones exhibit a rich range, mirroring the detail retention typically seen in studio setups. Its fine grain adds to the allure, capturing even the subtlest hairs with remarkable clarity. While these images are from the scanned negatives, the film's true potential happens in the darkroom. Even quick workprints at filter 3.5 yield impressive results, underscoring P33's versatility and quality.

Looking ahead, I eagerly anticipate Ferrania's expansion of their film range. A 400 ISO version based on P33 would likely become my go-to film stock.”

 


 

Review of Ferrania P33: Conclusion

 

And there you have it, a brief introduction to the newest 35mm black and white film: Ferrania P33. We're eager to hear your thoughts… Will you shoot it at box speed? What subjects and/or locations do you have in mind? Let us know in the comments below!

Whatever your decision, we're excited to learn about your experiences. If you've already shot with it or plan to soon, don't forget to leave a review on our P33 product page once you receive your scans. Your insights are always invaluable to the growing film community 🙌 In the meantime, feel free to continue exploring our Film Ferrania range.


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