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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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  • Too risky for me. Sending $2500 with no guarantee I’d have a product on the date they promised for a non tested and reviewed camera wouldn’t be an option for me. $800 isn’t worth the big gamble it is to invest on this.

    • Do you not know that Kickstarter will not send any money to a developer unless the entire fundraising goal is reached? It’s all or nothing, and it protects everybody. Although, I too would wait for the camera to be tested and reviewed before spending $3000.

      • Yes I know. One thing is to get funded, the other is to deliver to the backers what was promised. Who would guarantee that their financial plan is reliable? or that the first batch will come bug free? going from prototype to production model is a big leap with many unpredictable variables , I honestly want them to succeed, just don’t want to bet at this moment. They still have a long way to go until they are able to keep up with demand and support for the product.

  • Jordan Carr on 03.14.12 @ 8:40PM

    WAY too risky. That is a lot of money for a “promise” that they might be able to make these (especially since they haven’t finished a single one yet – the one they used to shot the shorts and promos is nothing more than a lens on a box with a cable out of it).

    Not for me at this point.

  • Chris larsen on 03.15.12 @ 12:45AM

    This camera already exists and it’s manufactured by ikonoscope it’s called the a cam sp 16. It costs $8600 dollars. The cf feature looks nice though

    • Glad to see a camera that just goes down to capturing the image leaving the it to the user to tell it what to do. From what it sounds like, (i hope) this format will become a new standard. (like a film print or something) Seeing it come on a camera in the US might boost the format too. As mentioned above, the ikonoskop camera came out with the same concept long ago. But I think the expensive memory cards were the main problem with the sale on that camera. BUT thinking about it now, The CF cards are gonna fill up damn quick on this camera, and you’d probably have to dish out a bunch of cash for fast/larger ones. BUt I’d feel better buying them knowing I can use them elsewhere though …

    • The A-cam SP-16 is a film camera that uses celluloid where as the Digital Bolex D16 is exactly that, Digital but captures images sequentially “1 frame at a time” without the camera having to compress and encode thus giving it a “true frame rate of 24FPS. It is the first digital camera that gives a true representation on film. It also needs no proprietary software like RED or ARRI at a price point that blows everything else out of the water. Personally I love the idea and my order is going in as soon as these are internationally available.

    • Footage from the Ikonoskope camera looks more like 5D stuff to me. I don’t think it’s a competing product.

    • Christian Anderson on 02.8.13 @ 12:54PM

      Chris is talking about the A-cam DII. It’s digital, not film, but recreates the look of Super 16mm. It has a CCD sensor with global shutter and records information directly from the sensor to RAW with no image processing in between.

      No, it does not produce a 5D-like image but thanks for the laugh. Visit the Ikonoskop page for more info. Personally, the DII is my dream camera but the cost is too high and everything is proprietary on it.

  • Chris larsen on 03.15.12 @ 1:08AM

    Sorry company name is ikoknoskop…

  • only 100, 200 and 400 ISO!!!!…. I never use a camera @maximum ISO….

    • Having the camera shoot RAW vide is a major step in the right direction and one that the big companies should of supported years ago. But the two main issues holding back digital cameras from being on par with analog ones is rolling shutter and moire. If they can eradicate those issues I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

  • Beautiful! I love the image quality. Video has always tried to be too clear and high rez which is great for lots of industrial applications, but not always good for artistic endeavors . Love the 60′s 16mm look.

  • Paul Johnson on 07.8.12 @ 12:38PM

    Why doesn’t the Digital Bolex have a lens turret like the original Bolex to make it easy and fast to change lenses with less possibility of getting dust on the sensor?

    • Funny you should ask as I just read the answer – it’s something they’d like to do if they can make it work. Here is Elle from Digital Bolex on the matter:

      “It ships with a C mount but the entire front plate of the camera comes off and is interchangeable. We’re working on at least five different mounts. We said on our Kickstarter that if we raise over $250,000, then everybody who buys a camera will also get an additional mount, which will be at first EF or PL [Arri]. We’re also working on M [Leica], Micro Four Thirds [Panasonic and Olympus], and B4. We want to do a turret, like the old Bolexes have so you can have three lenses on at the same time. We’ll do Nikon if we’re able to. We want to make this camera as versatile as possible so that everyone can use newer and older equipment on it.”

  • This is exciting!!! Image quality is stunning and the price point is just right!! I’ll be placing my order soon.

  • Chuck Norris on 12.12.13 @ 4:50PM

    I m in new movie coming out 2016, and they use this kind of camera for some of the shots.

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