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A Digital Cinema Camera That Shoots 2K Raw for $3300? The Digital Bolex D16 Aims High

03.13.12 @ 8:11AM Tags : , , ,

There are a lot of great cameras for filmmakers to put on their wishlist – the RED Scarlet-X, the Canon C-300, the Canon 5d Mark III.  Now a small outfit with a classic brand name has just launched a Kickstarter campaign for its new digital cinema camera – the Digital Bolex D16.  The initial specs are quite juicy, and at a planned street price of $3300 ($2500 if you “pre-order” it through the Kickstarter campaign) this item aims to make many people’s wishlists.  What does the footage look like, and what are the specs?  Check it out:

This is a trailer for the very first short shot on a D16 prototype:

With a Super 16mm mode that offers 2048X1152 resolution, 12 bit color depth, and raw outputs into Adobe Cinema DNG, TIFF, JPEG image sequences, along with XLR inputs, the camera has great potential.  Now, how is it that they plan to offer these features at such a low price point?  As part of an excellent interview by Philip Bloom, product designer Joe Rubinstein explains:

“The secret behind this is that it’s actually technologically, electronically, simpler than a 5d Mark III.  Because it doesn’t have any of the stuff in it that does all the compression and everything.  It’s what I’m calling technologically transparent — meaning, it’s lens to sensor, sensor to storage, and the camera really doesn’t affect the image at all [...] I want to make a camera that is as hands off the image as possible.  So it’s more like 16mm film, the way it would be lens straight to film [...] So that’s the goal [...]  Let people play with the raw images that their sensors make.”

The sensitivity of the sensor allows for ISO equivalents of 100, 200 and 400.  That may not seem like a lot, but Rubinstein explains that because you have roughly 12 stops worth of latitude, its ISO 400 will yield a sensitivity closer or greater to the 800 ISO on your average HDSLR.

That’s pretty cool.  Of course, it’s also pretty hypothetical.  Personally, I’m not a gambling man, so it would take a bit more for me to drop $2500 dollars on a camera that still only exists as a prototype, no matter how enticing the specs.  Hopefully they will release actual raw files that show how the camera responds in a variety of light conditions.  But I think with the Bolex company behind them, and an experienced camera manufacturer as their partner, there is a good chance this will work as promised.  This time-lapse footage does look pretty great:

Philip Bloom seems to be sold — he has already placed his pre-order, and as he says at the end of his interview, “If it does what it says on the tin, [they] have a winner there”.

Here are the full specs:

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
Weight 5lbs
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

For more information check these links out:

[via Philip Bloom]

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COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • This is the camera I’ve been waiting for. Although I can’t say I enjoy working on film, super 16mm is my preferred format, I love the field of view and manageable depth of field. Also, with all these cheap c-mount lenses, this could be the one for indy filmmakers.

  • Of course, anything that uses a timelapse as a marketing tool will catch the eye of Bloom…

  • This is going to change everything.

  • What about DoF loss since its a 16mm sensor?

    • I shot on the Ikonoskop which is the current RAW 16mm digital alternative. Shooting on some super speeds at t1.3 I can tell you that there is definitely some shallow DOF to play with. With everyone moving to the digital super35 and FF lenses the guy who owned the camera picked up a whole set of 16mm lenses for a steal!

    • I don’t mean to nitpick. But one doesn’t “lose” DoF because of a smaller film gauge, they gain it.

    • Anyone who has used a GH2 for video knows you DOF obsessives are masters of irrelevance for obsessing over something that has never and will never be a problem on any interchangeable lens cam. The best thing about this is that is comes with cmount, and makes use of pretty much the widest base of lens in the the world. Don’t like crop factors? It all depends on where you’re standing, the factors are relative. I have to divide if I’m using FF, because I don’t multiple for m43s. You adjust and learn to use your fov regardless of the crop. you can get the same frame regardless of the sensor size.

  • Every thing about this is exciting but give me a super 35/aps-c sized sensor! I guess you can’t have everything.

  • Wish it was Super 35. I would love to see more on this camera.

  • Images look nice

    How heavy is the rolling shutter?

  • alex sherice on 03.13.12 @ 10:12AM

    ccd sensor = no rolling shutter?

  • The two samples look great, but feel a little dark to me. Is that an aesthetic choice or a result of topping out the ISO at 400 (800 dslr equivalent)? I would imagine having RAW dng’s to work with rather than compressed 8-bit h264 files would allow for some leeway in that regard.

  • Peter Jensen on 03.13.12 @ 10:54AM

    I’ve been wondering why we don’t have simple digital cinema backs yet. I think there’s an enormous opportunity right now for a simple cam that has an EF mount, a means of controlling the aperture by wire, a sensor completely optimized for video, HDMI, HD-SDI and/or some other output for streaming/storing uncompressed data, and a power input for 7.4V batteries/adapters of your choice.

    Is anything else needed really? Something simple and modular, perhaps with standardized clips or mount points for an ecosystem of accessories. They can come in different sensor sizes, lens mounts, frame rates… Standards can spawn cottage industries of camera making.

    • Agreed. What you describe is sort of like the jerry-rig system used to film BELLFLOWER, but I think the 2k sensor they used was about $2.5k alone.

      • Yeah they were using the SI-2K (one of the cameras that shot Slumdog Millionaire) with some home-made Depth of Field Adapters. The SI-2K is not cheap in the slightest.

  • it seems the sensor in this thing costs $350 to buy from Kodak, so the target price point looks very reasonable

  • 3 years ago I heard 3k raw for $3000. I’ll wait and see.

  • David Schmaus on 03.13.12 @ 1:19PM

    If my math is right its about 3 gig per minute of shooting?

  • According to PBs site “Expect about 8-10 minutes of RAW footage per 32gb Compact flash.”

    I have a feeling that the real cost is going to be tied up in the amount of CF cards you’ll need to get a decent days worth of shooting done. Exciting nonetheless…

    • in the interview they say 3MB per frame, 4GB per minute, 8 minutes per 32GB card
      that translates to 576 Mbps of 12-bit 4:4:4 greatness

      • At the maximum 32-fps rate, it would be 896 Mbps. Strangely, they claim the internal buss chugs along at “over” 200 Mbps.

    • External recorder.

      • No can do, unless you go with the price-doubling HD-SDI module. But you probably wouldn’t be able to record raw with it.

        • Whoa, price-doubling HD-SDI module? That’s ridiculous. Still shouldn’t prevent you from getting a raw stream from it if it’s 3G-SDI, or dual HD-SDI like the F3 has.

  • Rev. Benjamin on 03.13.12 @ 1:29PM

    I can only imagine the “DANGER!” red twirling lights and alarms are going off at Canon Headquarters right now. This sounds absolutely wonderful. So, so tempted to pre-order… aaaaaaa what to doooo….

  • Backed! I really hope three things come out of this:

    1.) The business takes off so well that Kodak is also able to come back

    2.) Jim Jannard stresses out like crazy from this announcement

    3.) Prices on other cameras start dropping ;)

    • 1. Kodak is raising the price of film; they refused to admit they were claiming bankruptcy and told people in good faith they wouldn’t; they did; they lost my trust

      2. Jim Jannard has said multiple times he hopes competition crops up because of them and the reason he started RED was because no one else would do this stuff. Now everyone’s scrambling to compete with them. Guess he was right

      3. Agreed :)

      • why would jim be stressed out about 2k 32p, he just announced red will do 5k 120fps, and he says much more is to come at nab, if 5k 120fps is not big enough to wait to announce at nab think about what is.

        • I think that 2k RAW with all of these features for $3.3k (or $2.5k if you backed early) is a bit more enticing than the $15k for 4k (which means around $22k according to Mr. Bloom if you’re trying to actually make a RED Scarlet work for a full day of shooting).

          You’re right, Jim probably isn’t stressed out because he’s trying to cater to a different audience entirely- those who actually need 5k for projecting onto big screens, and those who believe they need the highest resolution possible regardless of their final output. It just depends on what your shooting needs are and if you can work enough to pay that camera off (post work just sounds like a pain with RED after talking with a number of people).

          Will you want 5k in a few years? Sure- I have no doubt that that will become the new standard down the line, but remember that 1080 televisions just became huge in the market three or four years ago, and people are still trying to catch up with that technology in their homes. Computer displays are there already, but then if you’re relying on streaming your final product to someone, are they going to be patient enough to sit through and wait for 5k to come through, or click down to 1080/720/even 480 just to watch it online?

          Again, depends on final delivery, and I think these people at Digital Bolex hit a sweet spot for the indie market.

          • Absolutely

          • Please specify what you mean by indie crowd. Is it Independent filmmaking: feature films that are not financed through a studio, and have budgets averaging between $750,000-$1,000,000. Or is it no budget filmmaking. If its the first I would argue that dp’s will always choose the best camera body the production can afford, and the specs of this camera from an untested company would be too much of a liability, especially when s35mm cameras 1080p-4k rent for $300-$600 per day, (scarlet is actually the $300). If it is the no budget filmmaker, then I agree with you for the most part, it would be more appealing. However I’m not so sure about what you said about workflow, is CinemaDNG natively compatible with Avid, Premiere Resolve? (Actually asking) Because if it is not then you would prefer the current R3D workflow in comparison, it can be edited and graded natively.

          • >post work just sounds like a pain with RED after talking with a number of people

            I call BS, if they aren’t working on old Pentium 4 machines, haha. It’s no more pain that with 35mm film scans.

  • If this was s35 I’d pre-order, still really neat. I am tempted to buy… It is so interesting how the footage looks so vintage, very 16mm film like. Pretty neat and retro. Amazing detail, The trailer is not HD but the thing is sharper than the HD previews of the MKIII

  • With a 16mm sensor, EF lenses will yield a crop factor of about 3x. Yikes.

    Now a 50mm lens becomes a 150mm super telephoto lens.

    • Well shoot. Are there c-mount lenses that have decent glass to compete with Canon’s EF lenses?

      • Certainly, and they’re much cheaper. But who wants to buy another set of old lenses that won’t work on any APS-C or FF camera? Of course, you may have grandparents who have old 16mm lenses collecting dust in their attic.

        • Right, your crop factor info just scared me though because I love currently using my 50 and 70-200 as workhorses. I’m guessing I’ll have to use the 16-35 to get as wide as the 50?

        • C mount Bolex lenses, decent Kern Switars and 16mm Arri or Cooke panchro’s aint cheap. Just check out prices on ebay and you have no idea what you are getting. Even a decent Bolext lens often screws off the mount when you focus as it has tightened with age. CCTV are great, use them on my Gh’s but they dont compare to my cheap NIkkors or a Voigtlander 0’95. Native lenses do concern me to own unless Bolex Switzerland decide to remake lenses specifically for the new digital US version.

  • This has so much potential to be absolutely huge. Definitely gonna keep my ear to ground about this one.

  • Very exciting specs I am nervous about two things though. The B&W 640×480 monitor output (does the hd-sdi output color and HD?) and that you will shoot about 4gb per minute on this (you will need thunderbolt drives on set to keep up or a lot of cards). Other than that, images are impressive and if the price is right. C-mount lenses are cheap too, this could be the new king of indie cinema only time will tell.

  • I have a doubt:
    if the electronic are simpler, that means that there’s no downsampling in camera, the same the RED does.

    But then, if they record the whole single sensor and the image is 2048*1152, doesn’t that mean that the effective resolution the camera wields is sginificantly lower?

  • yeah, jim jannard just crapped his pants!!

  • Why on earth would we be worried about the crop factor? DOF? The last thing we need right now is more DOF. Throw the tokina 11-16 on here and we got plenty for narrative work. In fact i like the idea of crop for super telephoto stuff, my 70-200 is now a 600mm at 2.8 with the sharpness of the center :D

    Plus, there is nothing that says you cant have 2 cameras, 5D III (or II) for low light and wide angle stuff. It kinda bugs me people complain instantly. 12 bit 444 2k is much more impressive than apsc or FF at 720

    • … with the sharpness of the center :D

      you should add: “blown up 3x”, it makes a huge difference: you’re blowing up all the minor issue, and now they become clearly visible

      my medium format (60×60) lenses are decidedly soft when used on APS-C
      and the lens on my point-and-shoot is a hell of a lot sharper than my sharpest DSLR lens put in front of the tiny sensor of the point-and-shoot

      if you’re designing a lens, having to cover a greater area is a restriction: to get a wider image circle, you have to sacrifice other things

      not saying it won’t work, just saying there’s a big downside to your plan

  • Are you guys not impressed with the sensor the Apertus Project is planning to use for their Kickstarter Campaign?

  • I got all excited and then saw it only does 720p @ 60fps. I am seriously waiting to pull the trigger on a cam that does 1080 60p.

    • Like the presently available Sony NEX 5n and FS 100 :)

    • Then buy the AF100, it does 1080 60 at a flick of a switch and you can find them for about $4200 now.

      • I looked hard at the fs100 but I don’t like the the complaints I hear about the lens system, no auto focus “all I do is r&g” unless you use sony lenses, and general build quality. The price is also a tad bit more than I would like to spend. I have also only watched a few videos of the fs100 and never really liked the image?

  • If it’s S16mm look you are trying to achieve, use the GH2 sensor crop (ETC Mode), a c mount lens of your choice, post with Cinegrain.. voila.

  • “Personally, I’m not a gambling man, so it would take a bit more for me to drop $2500 dollars on a camera that still only exists as a prototype, no matter how enticing the specs. “?
    Oh, you mean, like the Red Scarlet/Epic?

    Those cameras are always in Beta phase, even described as so from the creators themselves. And, it doesn’t help that we’re hearing more and more on-set nightmare stories every day with how undependable the Epic and Scarlet are (not to mention unavailable to the point where colleagues of mine have canceled orders muddied with misleading supply claims).

    The crew designing this camera have almost zero ego about the entire situation and are attempting to help indie filmmakers make their mark w/ high quality outputs w/o high dollars. This has been THE biggest movement since the release of the MKII years ago, if not bigger potentially.

    Personally, I’d much rather invest in a camera by filmmakers, FOR filmmakers instead of from a bunch of egotistical characters who brag at every turn and muffle critics on their own forum whenever they can. Despite the image output at the end of the day.

    • Of course they don’t have any ego about the product; they don’t have one yet. Let’s see if they make it through the manufacturing phase. Oh and keep in mind that the customer’s will be testing alpha build first run models. I’m sure those won’t have any issues /s. You seem quite ready to go all in with a vaporware camera/company, and you’re slamming an existing little guy company that actually has made some game-changing products and continues to do so. I just don’t get it. The demand is too high for these products so people whine about not being able to get them? Sure there are onset problems with RED camera’s, same as any camera you don’t properly prep with. A lot of people rent the camera’s without the owner, with no DIT, and think they can point and click with an inexperienced AC and a DP used to lighting for film. It just doesn’t work like that. The technology is changing faster that the industry, that’s the problem.

      Oh, and about RED muffling complaints on their forums? They have a complaints subsection in their forum. Nothing gets muffled there. So either you’re just spouting ill-informed nonsense, or….

      • Red does have a complaint form for users to post..but
        they seem to be a bit of CENSOR-itis on their forum.
        They just deleted the thread that mentioned this D-Bolex.

        They didn’t just close it or delete problematic posts.
        Whoosh…gone…the whole thread vanishes.
        That is not really appreciated by an artistic industry/community.

        • If the thread was in the wrong subforum then it was moved or deleted. Same rules apply to any forum out there. It’s also a different companies camera, and there is a subforum which links off-site to talk about other cameras. Also, name another camera company that hosts a forum on their own servers and has it’s employees deal with customer issues in a public setting. There are very few companies *period* that have the moxy to do this.

          • yeah..true…but D-bolex does not even exist yet.
            So why so scared that it can’t be discussed. Then why
            not just close the discussion instead of making it disappear.

            If True RAW cameras shoot better color than REDCODE it
            will be some hard times in Red world.

    • Haters gonna hate, while rest of us will be shooting films, thank you very much.

  • Good luck to them, but anyone paying that much for a prototype (REDor not) is either crazy, or has money to burn.

  • See also Stu Maschwitz’s more sceptical take on the idea: http://prolost.com/blog/2012/3/13/digital-bolex.html

  • Does anyone else notice they’re using a Prosilica GX2300 Camera in their behind the scenes shoot?

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