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Digital Bolex Reveals Final Design for the D16 RAW Camera, First Units to Ship This Quarter

02.7.13 @ 6:53PM Tags : , ,

We’re coming up on one year since the D16 Digital Bolex camera was first announced and Kickstarted, but it’s now one giant step closer to completion and release. The RAW Super 16mm-sized CCD camera, which should retail for a little over $3,000, made a splash when it was first announced (no doubt because of those attributes), but it’s taken a bit of tweaking to finally get the D16 to where it is today. The final design for the body has now been completed, and along the way, there have been at least 100 changes from the initial design — all of which came after careful consideration and feedback from potential users. Click through to check out the final design and read about some of the major changes.

A little bit from Joe’s post about the final design:

I have heard some people say “just give me a brick with a sensor in it”. And I understand that mentality, but as someone working every day to bring a product into this world, I’ll tell you, it’s not just about making a pretty object. It’s about the pride in your work, it’s about imagining someone caring for this object for years to come. The mentality of making the D16 a beautiful object, that we hope people will want to keep for a long time, and making it useful for that same duration of time are tied together. If we had made a plastic camera that we thought most people will dispose of in 18 months we would never have put the effort into the other features that we hope will give the D16 a long useful life. This is form follows function on an emotional level.

Here is the finished version of the body:

These are just some of the changes from the initial design:

  • Steel to Carbonized Aluminum
  • User Removable Optical Low Pass Filter
  • Analog Volume Knobs and 24 bit 96k Sound
  • Weather Sealing
  • HDMI Port with a 1920 x 1080 Output
  • 4 Pin XLR 12V Power Output
  • Future HD-SDI Module Possible
  • USB 3.0
  • Doubled the Battery Capacity from 2 to 4 Hours
  • 2nd Tripod Hole
  • Measuring Tape Post

There have also been some improvements with the CCD sensor in the camera, since CCDs have certain advantages over CMOS sensors:

Improved Sensor Gain Stage Controls: We have doubled the fidelity of control on the sensor board. This means we have much more finely tuned control over how the sensor behaves than most cameras makers do. The use of a CCD sensor instead of a CMOS sensor in this camera has many benefits.

CCDs have a more flexible analog gain stage. If used properly this can dramatically improve sensor performance. CCDs also don’t do any analog to digital conversion, which means that we as the camera makers can decide how that happens, again improving performance. CCDs are generally less noisy especially in the darks at their native ISO. This is important for the economy of bits and the final image. CCDs can be passively cooled much easier so internal fans and limited record times are not a problem. And of course our sensor has a global shutter instead of a rolling one.

They also announced just in the last few days that Hot Rod Cameras will be building their PL mount. While this will add a little bit of cost for those who want that option, the mounts that have been produced by Illya Friedman are exceptional.

So the big question is, when can we expect it to be released? Joe said this in the comments:

We are not scaling to meet huge demand this year, but we will be delivering the first 100 cameras this quarter, and we will be pre-selling 300 cameras after that. Then when those 300 are delivered (in a much more timely way) we will pre-sell 500 more, and so on raising the number of cameras we can produce each time. And growing our production facility, distribution, and service facilities organically…But we will be delivering a couple thousand cameras this year, depending on the demand it may or may not be difficult to get one, but it will be possible

I think this project has come a long, long way since the beginning. The D16 has carved out its niche much, much more clearly than just being a cheap RAW camera. The improvements made make this a solid option for the thousands of lenses out there, like C-mount, that are made to cover 16mm only. While there have been many comparisons made between this and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, aside from their similar price, they are very different animals aimed at different users. Since the BMCC sensor is much bigger than Super 16mm, it requires a decent amount of cropping in RAW mode to make any of those lenses usable. I can see both of these cameras coexisting peacefully without issue.

Either way it’s definitely some good news, especially for those who’ve pre-ordered on Kickstarter. If you have more questions for the team, be sure to head on over to their website and check out the Digital Bolex forum.

What do you guys think about the changes? If you happen to be one of the first buyers, what do you think about what they’ve done to the camera since the announcement?



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Description image 72 COMMENTS

  • Mher Hakobyan on 02.7.13 @ 7:05PM

    when this cameras will ship to Dubai? please write date approxim.

  • Mher Hakobyan on 02.7.13 @ 7:06PM

    when EF mount Digital Bollex D16 will be available? please write approxim. date.

  • Mher Hakobyan on 02.7.13 @ 7:14PM

    how much will be Price for D16 body?

    • Joe Marine on 02.7.13 @ 7:26PM

      They aren’t available for order yet, only the Kickstarter models which were discounted to $2,500 will ship first.

    • Thyl Engelhardt on 02.8.13 @ 4:20AM

      Probably more like USD3200-3500 after the kickstarter orders are delivered. They have made so many improvements. From what I understood, delivery will be in batches. After the initital kickstarter batch is delivered, a new round of ordering will be started. There are too many unanswered questions right now regarding distribution (e.g., what role will Bolex International in Switzerland get?). Aside from that, I would assume that maybe with the next batch, or the batch after that, international delivery will be possible. I don’t expect the camera to ever be “shiped to…” in the sense that there will be a distributor, and you can go to a store and grap one. It might even be that pre-payment will be required, so that Digital Bolex has the money to buy the parts. Can’t tell yet.

  • Carlos dee on 02.7.13 @ 7:36PM

    Looks good. Theyre going to have to step up production though.

  • This is amazing. I’m completely behind this camera. So glad it’s going to beat the Blackmagic in specs and delivery.

    • How do you figure it beats the BMCC in specs? Smaller senor with deeper DOF, and CCD will be great at base ISO, but possibly not so good in low-light. We don’t know.

      • Well, first you can use every available 16mm film lens on this camera, while on the BMCC you can hardly find any good wide angle lenses at all because of the weird sensor size.

        Second, a CCD Sensor can deliver better dynamic range and better color reproduction – we’ll see if it really does, but it certainly has the potential to be a better sensor quality wise than any CMOS. Not in terms of high ISO, but not everybody is looking for just high-ISO.

  • Entirely pedantic comment: if it has 4 pins, wouldn’t it be an XLCR? Each letter is for the signal the pin carries…

  • No it’s a 4 pin xlr. The letters have no connection to pin count. X for the cannon company that developed them. L for latch. And, R for rubber backing. There is also 5 pin usually dmx.

  • I guess I don’t “get” the design of this thing. What’s the little wind-up handle on the side all about? Where are all of the buttons? Is that the screen on the top? Does it come with an ironic t-shirt and a single-speed bike?

    • Wind – up handle must be the tape measure?

    • Most appropriate comment ever. Thank you.

    • The hand crank doesn’t do anything as of yet if I remember correctly, but it will eventually do something useful. That part of the design is the most nostalgic to the original bolex which operated by turning the hand crank until the spring tightened internally.

      Yeah the screen and buttons have always been on the top, the picture of the top of the camera was in a weird format on their website so it wasn’t showing up initially. I’ve now added it above.

      The ironic t-shirt and single speed bike are extra…but I think shooting RAW to Compact Flash cards for $3,000 is a pretty good deal as-is.

    • If you shoot RAW do don’t need 100 buttons. You set your aperture, your shutter angle (or speed), your ISO and that’s it.
      Very much like film cameras.

    • Thyl Engelhardt on 02.8.13 @ 4:26AM

      There a presently two functions discussed for the crank:
      -Simply record movements of the crank as meta data, and do with them whatever you want (plug ins to the software may give functions)
      -Follow focus for electrically focussing lenses like mft (this will require an active mount, development of which has not started yet).

    • How can you not get it? It clearly imitates the design of vintage Bolex film cameras.

  • Jessie Barath on 02.7.13 @ 8:44PM

    Yes, the screen is on the top, as are the (4.. I think) buttons. It only comes with an ironic t-shirt if you were a kickstarter backer. That was one of the options.

  • The form factor is weird. They should of built it modular and sold the handle as an extra attachment, instead of molding it into the body.

    • CalebCinema on 02.7.13 @ 9:32PM

      Actually the handle is removable they mentioned that in one of their blog post. On a lot of the earlier 16mm bolex cameras the handle was removable, and this camera is proving to be no exemption from the rule

    • I think the handle must be removable..or else this camera is doom to be used by anyone except young kids that have a lot of money to spend…….

  • marklondon on 02.7.13 @ 9:39PM

    Love that someone finally went back to 16mm, where there is an ocean of great cheap glass. Otherwise, I’m not particularly convinced. Its an Ikonoskop for less (and I’m pretty sure I like the Ikonoskop more).

    • john jeffreys on 02.7.13 @ 10:57PM

      Wont be cheap for long. Much like how every lomo and vintage super 35mm lens disappeared on ebay after reds became ubiquitous, all the super 16 and 16mm glass will be bought up by obnoxious renters and then they will resell them for 3-4x more

      • Very true. I do think it will take a while – there is a LOT of 16mm glass out there.

        • john jeffreys on 02.8.13 @ 1:04AM

          I’m gonna go ahead and get my zeiss 10-100 right now for 800 while it lasts lol

  • It’s a throwback to the 16mm Bolex and very elegant. I think it’s amazing they have advanced tech in that body. Since the handle and crank come off, the body is very modular. With the removable and replaceable mount, the camera is like a Red Scarlet 2.5K.

    • I agree. I think it looks gorgeous and easy to handle.

      Rather funny that some people think the design is weird. It’s called the digital Bolex. That should have been a clue right there.

  • Other than the lack of hd-sdi, amazing, cannot wait to see footage.

    • EXACTLY. So far, footage of development stages of this camera was underwhelming and that is something they have to improve! Where is the point in all the advantages, if that thing delivers poorer images than the really good ones from the BMCC? Of course you can tweak a bit more with a RAW codec and I’d say that one of the issues of their first test short ( is poor color timing/grading, but to me this thing is just an inbetween on the way to an affordable digital film camera recording 2.5K RAW on Super35mm sensor with a global shutter. One step further (global shutter) but not the groundbreaking development we need. And as much as I try not to feel annoyed by their hippster appeal – they are a goddamn camera company, who’s major offer alongside camera technology is trust and by focussing a bit too much on appearance, they haven’t gained my trust, so far.

      • Watched the short and read they applied a lot of post-sharpening, tough to definitively judge IQ from the web too. I’d really be interested to see ungraded assets and comparisons with the BMCC and RED to see how it compares back to back with other RAW cameras.

    • Thyl Engelhardt on 02.8.13 @ 4:24AM

      There is a digital output on the underside of the camera, and DB plans a box connecting to that output that inter alia will provide SDI (and oterh stuff more from the video, and less from the cine side of life).

  • Anthony Marino on 02.7.13 @ 11:30PM

    The more you see it and read about these guys the more you gotta like this camera It’s hard doing what they’re doing, hats off to them. The those two little shorts they did looked real nice too. It has my attention, can’t wait to see more.

  • Really like what these guys have done and how they have made adjustments and changes in direct consultation with backers and future users on their forums. If the image is anything like the ikonoscop it’s a steal for the price. I’m keen for s16 to make a digital comeback.

  • ccd sensor that what i like about this camera… but again like bmcc when can i get this

  • Ano Nymous on 02.8.13 @ 5:49AM

    So now we can choose between the following cameras for low budget raw filming:
    - Black magic cinema camera
    - Digital Bolex D16
    - Ikonoskop A-Film

    Seems like bmcc is creating the most buzz. Im holding on my dslr (550d) for the moment and wait a bit to see how all camera’s pan out. Prices will drop probably if they want to compete with each other. Ill probably go for a camera with a MFT mount, use the metabones adapter and use my canon lenses.


  • Not super impressed with the footage from “One Small Step”. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad…it just doesn’t blow me away. That being said, I didn’t see any problems with it, but I didn’t find myself longing for one after watching the footage like I did with the BMCC (and no, I’m not a BMCC fanboy…it’s got plenty of issues).

    • Just watched it… looks very video. Not a great launch video for sure

      • jordan carr on 02.8.13 @ 7:29PM

        Wow you are right. Not good at all. Seems the dynamic range is poor as the shadows plug up and skin tone is horrible.


    • Yeah the short’s image not the greatest but it might have more to do with the lightning and grading. (that orange lighting was NOT a good idea)
      + it was captured with a prototype camera. far from being final.

      The camera has the same sensor as the Ikonoskop. I would suggest to dig into that to see what it can do.

    • Thyl Engelhardt on 02.10.13 @ 1:32AM

      As far as I can tell, this was mostly a sensor test. I don’t know how much the electronic is similar, but the film was _not_ shot on a D16 prototype in the strict sense. Actually, that might quite a stir back then, because people complained that the camera was just a plain CCTV cam with the same sensor.

  • The form factor is odd, why would you want to evoke nostalgia when you could have designed it to already basically be a rigged out form factor. I never understood what costs so much about shoulder rigs, its just metal, so why would they pick such a bizarre form factor? Same complaint with the BMCC, they could have just as easily made it look like a RED and cost what it costs, then they would be telling us what we should be comparing it to.

  • This is the coolest toy camera I have ever seen!

  • That’s a beautiful thing. They need to work hard on the subject of making the image as organic as possible with existing digital sensor.

  • on 02.8.13 @ 1:15PM

    I like the idea of this camera but it, along with many of the cameras that have been covered in recent months, are beyond my price point.

  • It looks lie a piece of art, not just a tool. I don’t even really care about the image quality. I mean I do, but I want one whether I’d use it for a show or not. Cut my teeth on a Bolex, would love to play with a digital one.

  • Who is this aimed at? Do you need a monitor or does the screen on the rear show picture? I guess what I’m asking is, is this more of a run and gun camera than the black magic?

  • I have an Angeniuex 9.5-57mm 16mm lens lying around – just to make sure, this lens will be able to cover such a sensor yes?

  • only one problem .. you will look like hipster with this cam

  • Sorry. I do not always judge by the look but this THING is UUUUGLY with no style and heavy and with no Davinci !!!!!!
    BMC AND Canon 5diii here I gooooooooooooooooo ;)

  • Pierre Samuel Rioux on 02.14.13 @ 7:04PM

    Interesting ! Bolex have C mount lens … but 2 kind the AR lens for no reflex Bolex
    and the Rx for the reflex Bolex the 2 of them do not have the same focal range distance in the back.

    The D16 show here look like it’s as on a 10mm Rx lens ?

    I know you could used a 150mm ar lens on a Bolex reflex with out any focus problem ( with long focal lens ) but with wide lens it’s not the same you need to change the focus distance and pretend it’s a little more far or close !
    I do not remember but…

    Many Rx lens are made by Zeiss

    One way this D16 camera could be increase in quality late it’s by made a camera version with 3 chip.
    I like the idea to using 16mm lens.( a lot of them available out there )

  • Owned the 16mm version and it was OK in the 1960 or so, but I would not be interested in this. Looks like it’s from the 1950′s and people would laugh if I use one of these 50′ looking model.

    Let me justify this by all cars go from a-b point then why all the fancy body and paint style?
    Do you think people will show up with one of these and call themselves pro?
    A lot of this business (film) is about how you impress the client who knows nothing about cams but see an antique one like this and politely say, no thanks dude. Get a real cam.