I’ve been hugely interested in the Digital Bolex ever since it was first announced in early 2012. The camera had everything I was looking for – a small form factor, 16mm format, ability to shoot RAW, and an affordable price tag. But it wasn’t until recently that I actually gave the camera a serious look again, as it’s finally available to pre-order after a fairly long wait. Now that test footage is starting to pop up online, I have to say I am extremely impressed with the image quality so far and would argue that it rivals cinema cameras with a much higher price tag.
One of the early test shots from the Digital Bolex d16:
For those of you that need a quick refresher, here are the specs:
|Resolution||2048 x 1152 (Super 16mm mode) + 1920 x 1080 pixels (16mm mode)|
|Format||Adobe Cinema DNG, TIFF, JPEG Image sequences|
|Colour depth||12 bit – 4:4:4|
|File size||2 to 3 MB per frame in RAW|
|Sensor||Kodak CCD: 12.85 mm (H) x 9.64 mm (V) – Similar to Super 16mm|
|Pixel Size||5.5 micron (compared to the 4.3 micron size of many DSLRs)|
|Framerate||up to 32 fps at 2K, 60fps at 720p, 90 fps at 480p|
|Sound||Balanced, 2 channel, 16 bit, 48 kHz via XLR|
|Viewfinder||320×240, 2.4” diagonal, with Focus Assist|
|Video out||640 x 480 B&W via ⅛” video jack (HD-SDI avail in separate unit)|
|Ports||⅛” video, headphone, USB 3.0, Audio XLR (2), 4-PIN XLR|
|Data Storage||Dual CF card slots, SSD (buffer drive)|
|Power||Internal battery, 12V External via 4 pin XLR port|
|Body||Milled steel and hard plastic|
|Size (body)||Approximately 5”H (without pistol grip) by 4”W by 8”D|
|Size (grip)||5”H by 2”W by 5”D|
|Lens mount||C-mount comes standard; Optional PL, EF, B4|
|ISO Options||100, 200, 400|
|Also in the box||pistol grip, USB 3.0 cable, internal battery, 4 pin XLR Battery, cable, video cable, transcoder/raw conversion software|
The spec sheet alone is enough to entice just about any filmmaker. After all it shoots 2K Adobe Cinema DNG Images captured with a Kodak CCD sensor - meaning no jello or micro jitters! It’s built well, uses readily available CF cards and can even do slow motion, making it a near perfect camera. The only current challenge in shooting with this camera is the fact that you can only shoot at a maximum of 400 ISO. Definitely not a low light camera right now, but that will surely change with firmware updates soon.
I also love how adaptable this camera is. The c-mount was a perfect choice for this camera as you can adapt just about any lens on earth to work with it, and the built in XLR’s help it to function like a true video camera should. Unlike RED, who want to sell only their own propriety accessories (which end up costing more than your camera body), the Digital Bolex team seems much more focused on keeping this camera affordable. Sure you can accessorize it like crazy if you want to, but you can also shoot with your current lenses and CF cards from your 5D, for instance. And the accessories that they are making are extremely well thought out and affordable, namely their new line of lenses which are specifically designed for this camera and exceptionally high quality.
I’ll let the image speak for itself though, take a look at this video shot with the d16:
And here’s a comparison video with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera and SI-2K Mini:
I really believe that this camera is producing one of the most cinematic images out there today. There is a quality about the image that really replicates the look of Super 16 and looks so filmic right out of the box, while still maintaining the sharp details that are required for a modern day, 2K image.
Although it’s taken quite a while for this camera to actually get released into the world, I would say the wait was well worth it. Creating a camera from scratch is no easy task, and this is a camera created by two filmmakers that genuinely wanted a better tool for their own work, and that passion really shines through in this product. The image coming out of any camera is a sum of many different parts – the sensor, color science, compression, etc. Finding that harmonious balance between those components is the only way to get an image this strong from any camera, and although it took longer than planned, the d16 team clearly were doing the legwork to get the image looking just right. So while other manufacturers have been racing to get the next 4K camera out, the d16 remains true to what is was designed to be – a digital super 16mm cinema camera. I for one, can’t wait to get my hands on one of these to try out, and it looks like the wait won’t be much longer.
If you’re on the fence, or are also considering the latest 4K camera from Blackmagic, check out my article featuring the first 4K Blackmagic footage ever released here.
Or if you’re looking to pre-order the Digital Bolex, visit www.digitalbolex.com