A History of the Digtial Bolex Camera Project and an Update on Its Progress
It’s been quite a while since we’ve written about it in-depth (March, actually), but the Digital Bolex project has undergone some minor changes since the success of its Kickstarter campaign. The Digital Bolex, if you haven’t heard of it before, is very similar in concept to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Take an off-the-shelf sensor, make it inexpensive ($3,300), and let it shoot RAW. While it’s a little unfair to compare them since they have different overall design philosophies, and Blackmagic has quite a bit more money invested in their own project, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to each one.
Joe Rubinstein, one of the creators of the project, has written a very long post on the Digital Bolex site regarding the history of the project all the way up to where we are now. It’s an interesting read to see how a camera goes from inception to final product, and it has information about some of the changes that have come along the way as well. Here is a little bit from that post:
Initially The D16 was going to be the first consumer product made by Polite Technologies, but after a hard 1st quarter it was decided that, if I wanted to make the D16, I had to do it alone and not have the protection of the umbrella company. This meant that I was going to sell my half of a company I had spent 6 years building from the ground up. This meant that I was going to take all of the personal investment I had made in Polite in Public and transfer it to this new venture. Essentially taking away my monetary safety net, and walking out on a business tight rope. Many of my friends said I was crazy. Crazy to sell my share of a healthy working company in order to take a risk on something like this.
In June the team signed contracts with Kish Optics, a lens designer in Los Angeles who is going to create custom Bolex lenses for the camera. They also are working with a company called Pomfort in Germany who is programming the transcoding software. The hardware has been slightly upgraded for the most part, and here are the current specs. It seems that there was a huge push for an additional monitoring system as opposed to the B&W only output of the original design, so they decided to add an HDMI port which will give a full 1920 x 1080 image.
The camera is set to release in the next month or so according to the Kickstarter campaign, so it will be interesting to start seeing some more images from regular people from this camera. One of the big advantages this camera has over many other designs is that fact that it can take virtually any lens imaginable, especially older 16mm and Super 16mm lenses. Its smaller sensor, however, means that there will be an even greater crop factor for still lenses than that of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
The Blackmagic Cinema Camera will likely have a slight advantage in resolution thanks to the fact that it is recording more resolution in-camera (2432 x 1366), and after debayering, it should resolve around 1080 (when the camera is downsampling in-camera to ProRes or DNxHD its already doing this debayering to get to 1080p). The Digital Bolex will resolve
a bit lower thanks to its 2048 x 1152 recording area a similar amount of resolution if you use the entire 2336 x 1752 area of the sensor, or crop that to 16:9 which leaves you with 2336 x 1312. The only downside is that would cause vignetting for many Super 16mm and 16mm lenses (you win some, you lose some). In the end, resolution is not nearly as important as image clarity and the ability to manipulate in post, and that is really where we will see what these cameras can do.
Here are some more videos released so far with footage of the camera (if you haven’t already seen them):
The footage below was made to look vintage through After Effects: