Photography

Bolex goes digital with the D16 Cinema Camera

Bolex goes digital with the D1...
The Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera, sporting its snazzy retro pistol grip
The Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera, sporting its snazzy retro pistol grip
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A frame of video capture by the D16
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A frame of video capture by the D16
The D16 is being developed in partnership with Bolex International
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The D16 is being developed in partnership with Bolex International
The Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera, sporting its snazzy retro pistol grip
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The Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera, sporting its snazzy retro pistol grip
A top view of the camera
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A top view of the camera
The "hand crank" on the side is actually used for changing settings
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The "hand crank" on the side is actually used for changing settings
The D16 equipped with a full cinema rig
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The D16 equipped with a full cinema rig
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There was a time, not all that long ago, when most independent film-makers shot their projects on relatively-inexpensive 16mm film – it wasn't as pricey as 35mm, but was definitely a step up from Super 8. The cameras shooting that film were quite often made by the venerable Swiss manufacturer, Bolex. Today, in the age of digital video, film-makers wanting to take a step up from consumer-grade camcorders are looking at some pretty expensive gear. LA-based entrepreneurs Joe Rubinstein and Elle Schneider are trying to change that, with the introduction of their Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera.

The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the D16 is being developed in partnership with Bolex International. It has the appealing retro looks of a classic 16mm movie camera, but records HD video at a resolution of either 2048 x 1152 (2K) or 1080p, via a Super 16mm-sized sensor with 12 stops of dynamic range. Its frame rate is adjustable up to 32fps, and it records in 12-bit CinemaDNG raw format – this means that the video isn't compressed, as it with other formats.

The camera has two 24-bit 96-kHz audio channels, each of which is served by its own XLR mic input. Footage is recorded on a built-in Enterprise Class solid state drive, although the D16 also has two CF card slots. Power is provided by an integrated rechargeable battery that offers about four hours of run time per charge.

Just like a "real" movie camera, it also allows users to swap in different C-mount lenses as needed – they can even use existing Bolex lenses.

A top view of the camera
A top view of the camera

Footage shot with D16 is described as having an "organic" (read, "film-like") quality, and can be seen in the demo video at the end of the article. Additionally, the 2K resolution allows that footage to be projected onto a big screen without getting too grainy, while the uncompressed raw format allows for more in the way of post-production image manipulation.

Rubinstein and Schneider state that the D16 is intended not just for serious film-makers, but also for amateurs who are interested in exploring cinema-quality video. At a cost of US$3,299, however, the former of those two groups are more likely to be buyers. That's actually a very low price, as digital cinema cameras from the likes of RED, Canon and Sony range from $10,000 to over $30,000. Blackmagic's Pocket Cinema Camera, on the other hand, goes for just $995 – definitely a competitor.

The Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera is available via the first of the links below.

Source: Digital Bolex via Digital Trends

Digital Bolex Test Footage: D16 At Night by Kathryn Brillhart

View gallery - 6 images
6 comments
Rt1583
$3300 for a digital camera that produces "film like" quality? Pretty much worthless to go digital at that point isn't it?
Vince Pack
How do you come to the conclusion that it's "worthless"? Have you bought rolls of film stock lately? No? The cost of increasingly rare film stock is very high. It's getting higher. Try and have it processed - yep, way more expensive.
Post processing film stock? Good luck with that. It's an art that, with decreasing demand, is in the early stages of death. Processing a digital file is faster, easier (though not easy), faster, correctable, and far more flexible than film stock.
If you have no need for a "digital bolex", awesome; don't buy one. To call it worthless is ignorant at best.
EH
I wish all camera stories would take the time to mention the most important specification: the image sensor size. Saying "Super 16", doesn't really mean anything to anybody but a gearhead, and other sensor format names are just as obscure.
For comparison here are some image sensor sizes: Blackmagic Super 16 diag 14.5, 12.5 x 7.4mm, 92.5mm^2 Sony Super 35 - diag.27mm, 23.5 x 13.2mm 310mm^2 4/3" diag. 22.5mm, 18x13.5mm 243mm^2 1.8"/ APS-C diag.28.4mm, 23.7x15.7mm 372mm^2 35mm diag.43.3mm, 36x 24mm 864mm^2
Crop factor is ratio of 35mm (43.3mm) diagonal divided by diagonal measurement of sensor - e.g. APS-C crop factor = 1.6. This is multiplied by the focal length of a lens to give the 35mm format lens size with the same field of view.
Pixel size - which is the primary factor in light sensitivity - can be found by dividing the horizontal sensor size by the horizontal resolution, or the same for vertical size and resolution. 1/100 mm = 10micron is very large, often seen in astronomical sensors; 5 micron is large, seen in pro photographic cameras; 1 to 3 micron is small, seen in compact and phone cameras.
Mike Nash
What a bargain at $3,300 plus Bolex found a witch to be in the video.
Gregg Eshelman
So this camera does not use "rolling shutter"? That's what causes the wobbly video in fast motion, especially horizontal pans, and makes rotating objects appear to curve and split into chunks.
Charles Slavens
Hmmmmm... but can I use the pistol grip from my Rex-5?