Since the first announcement in early 2012, I've been very interested in the digital Bolex. The camera had everything I was looking for – a small form factor, a 16mm format, the ability to take RAW pictures, and an affordable price. But I recently gave the camera a serious look again, as it can finally be pre-ordered after a rather long wait. Now that test material is starting to appear online, I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the image quality so far and would argue that it competes with cinema cameras at a much higher price.
One of the first test shots of the Digital Bolex d16:
For those of you who 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|
|Color depth||12 bit – 4: 4: 4|
|File size||2 to 3 MB per frame in RAW|
|sensor||Kodak CCD: 12.85mm (H) x 9.64mm (V) – Similar to Super 16mm|
|Pixel size||5.5 micron (compared to 4.3 micron size of many DSLRs)|
|Frame rate||Up to 32 fps at 2K, 60 fps at 720p, 90 fps at 480p|
|sound||Symmetrical, 2-channel, 16 bit, 48 kHz via XLR|
|Viewfinder||320 × 240, 2.4 inch diagonal, with focus assistant|
|Video out||640 x 480 black and white via ⅛ ”video socket (HD-SDI available in separate unit)|
|Ports||⅛ ”Video, headphones, USB 3.0, audio XLR (2), 4-pin XLR|
|Data storage||Two CF card slots, SSD (buffer drive)|
|power||Internal battery, 12 V external via 4-pin XLR connector|
|body||Milled steel and hard plastic|
|Size (body)||Approximately 5 "H (without pistol grip) times 4" W times 8 "D.|
|Size (handle)||5 "H by 2" W by 5 "D|
|Lens mount||C-mount is standard; Optional PL, EF, B4|
|ISO options||100, 200, 400|
|Also in the box||Gun grip, USB 3.0 cable, internal battery, 4-pin XLR battery, cable, video cable, transcoder / raw conversion software|
The data sheet alone is enough to seduce almost every filmmaker. After all, 2K Adobe Cinema DNG pictures are taken, which were taken with a Kodak CCD sensor – That means no jelly or micro jitter! It's well built, uses readily available CF cards, and can even do slow motion, making it an almost perfect camera. The only current challenge when shooting with this camera is the fact that you can only shoot at a maximum of 400 ISO. Definitely not a low-light camera at the moment, but that will certainly change soon with firmware updates.
I also love how adaptable this camera is. The C-frame was the perfect choice for this camera as you can adjust almost any lens on Earth to work with it. and the built-in XLRs help to work like a real video camera. Unlike RED, who only want to sell their own accessories (which will end up costing more than your camera body), the Digital Bolex team seems to be much more focused on keeping this camera affordable. Of course, you can equip it like crazy if you want, but you can also record from your 5D with your current lenses and CF cards, for example. And the accessories they manufacture are extremely well thought out and affordable, namely the new lens range, which was specially developed for this camera and is of exceptionally high quality.
I will let the picture speak for itself. Check out this video shot with the d16:
And here is a comparison video with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera and the SI-2K Mini:
I really believe that this camera produces one of the most cinematic images available today. The image is of a quality that really mimics the look of Super 16 and immediately looks so cinematic while maintaining the sharp details required for a modern 2K image.
Although it took a while for this camera to actually be born, I would say that it was worth the wait. Creating a camera from scratch is not an easy task, and this is a camera created by two filmmakers who really wanted a better tool for their own work and really expressed the passion in this product. The image that comes from a camera is a sum of many different parts – sensor, color science, compression, etc. Finding a harmonic balance between these components is the only way to get such a strong image from any camera, and it is Longer than planned, the d16 team obviously did the footwork to make the picture look exactly right. While other manufacturers ran for the next 4K camera, the d16 remains true to what it should be – a digital super 16 mm cinema camera. I can't wait to get my hands on one of them and it looks like the wait won't be long.
If you're on the fence or are considering the latest Blackmagic 4K camera, Check out my article with the first 4K Blackmagic footage ever published here.
To pre-order the Digital Bolex, visit www.digitalbolex.com
Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!