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Plethora of Updates on the Digital Bolex Reminds Us That Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

05.18.13 @ 3:00PM Tags : , , , , , ,

Kish Lens TestsRemember the Digital Bolex? Despite the fact that most of the camera buzz has been around Blackmagic and Canon (with the RAW video hack of the 5D) for the past month or so, Joe and Elle have just kept on with bringing their vision for the Digital Bolex D16 to fruition. While the final design of the camera is not yet being manufactured, many of the pieces needed to make the camera function out of the box (like a custom-built PL mount and the Kish lenses for the turret) are now nearing completion in time for the release of the camera. Hit the jump to see what the fine folks at Digital Bolex have been up to for the past two months.

Hot Rod PL Mount

Even though the Kish lenses specifically made for the D16 are likely going to be a popular item once the camera ships (especially with the old-school turret mount), many people are going to be looking to use their existing cinema glass or to rent lenses on a project-by-project basis. For those folks, the Digital Bolex team has been working closely with Hot Rod Cameras to design a PL mount specifically for the D16. A working prototype of the mount made an appearance at NAB a month ago, but for those of your who weren’t able to make it out to Vegas, here is a picture of the final product design:

Hot Rod PL w: CP2

Kish Lens Tests

Joe and Elle have also been putting their custom set of Kish lenses through their paces in several different environments. The first set of tests provided a mixed bag of results. While the 10mm and 18mm lenses performed just as well as they theoretically should have (very sharp and precise due to the minimalist design with fewer elements), the 38mm was noticeably softer. However, it was unclear whether this softness was due to an inherent design flaw or a bad sample from the manufacturer (more on the 38mm later).

Here is a photo from the first set of interior tests with the Kish lenses. It was shot with a GH2, and the inner black box marks the relative frame of the D16.

38mm Interior

Another set of exterior lens tests was run several weeks later, and to the surprise of Joe and Elle, the 38mm was the most flattering of the three lenses, although they all performed well. Here are a couple of snapshots from that set of tests. Again, the white box denotes the s16 frame compared to M4/3.

10mm Exterior

They also snapped a few shots to determine the flaring characteristics of the Kish lenses. Check out an example of the results:

38mm Flare

For more info on how these tests were conducted, hop on over to the Digital Bolex site and check out their extensive posts on both the first and second sets of lens tests.

New Internal SSD

Storage devices are often one of those things that are taken for granted in the image processing pipeline. If your memory cards or storage devices aren’t fast enough or don’t write your data properly, you can end up with things like artifacting and dropped frames. Because SSD technologies have been advancing while simultaneously dropping in price since the camera was originally announced, it seemed prudent for the original storage technology in the D16 to get an update. Here’s a little bit about the drive that the Digital Bolex team selected:

The drive we have selected is the 400GB Micron P400e, an upgrade from our previously announced spec of 256GB internal drive. This drive is on the lower price side of enterprise class drives, but has middle of the market performance. It is also the drive with the lowest power consumption after startup, and one of the lowest heat indexes.

The P400e also has power-loss protection, meaning that if the camera power cuts out suddenly the drives’ onboard capacitors store enough power for the drive to commit all pending write commands before turning off.

Although the Digital Bolex D16 is far less of a revolutionary camera now than when it was first announced (largely because of the BMCC and the new 5D RAW hack), it certainly seems as if it will be an extremely viable tool for filmmakers on a budget due to the fact that Joe, Elle, and the others working hard to bring this camera to fruition have been busy making sure that even the smallest of details were attended to before the release of the camera.

I, for one, am extremely glad to see these guys taking their time to finish the camera (even though I’d love to get my hands on one). It seems as if products are too often rushed onto the market only for the first round of buyers to bear the consequences of the lack in R&D. With the Digital Bolex, we can expect the camera to come out of the box a finely tuned piece of filmmaking equipment, and for that I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Digital Bolex team.

What do you guys think? Are you still as excited for this camera as I am despite the fact that the novelty of the 2K RAW cinema camera has worn off? Let us know in the comments.


A Closer Look at the PL Mount – Digital Bolex

Kish Lenses Daylight Test – Digital Bolex

Kish Lens Tests – Digital Bolex

The D16′s Media Core – Digital Bolex



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Description image 37 COMMENTS

  • I’m excited because 2k wasn’t a novelty for me. I don’t know about anywhere else, but, in my market, a lot of local businesses have started showing commercials in the local theaters. The problem is that their ads are being produced by local tv stations on inferior equipment. They look horrible on a big screen. Then, a few months ago, we got an IMAX. So, now we’re getting commercials that were shot in sd and 720p that are being blown up to IMAX and the problem is that much worse. One of the commercials is so bad that you can’t even see the people’s faces because of the pixelation. So, that is a market I am targeting right now.
    So, like I said, it’s not a novelty for me, but a great chance to increase my business.
    For those to whom it is a novelty, they had better watch out because, when concerning yourself with the novelty of an idea, you don’t typically think things through as well, so, post workflow will become a headache and may render your camera useless if you’re not prepared to harness the results. For myself, we are moving to 2k with a BMCC and are investing about $10k just into computer and storage for it all just to get us started.
    I’m just ready to get my hands on a camera that doesn’t come with a boatload of issues like the BMCC came with.

    • Wes Coughlin on 05.19.13 @ 2:07AM

      1080p is basically 2k (1920×1080) so you have probably already adopted 2k. The movie theater ad networks still only except 1080 or 720 for their ad specs, so they will likely remain the bottled neck of the problem until they change their specs.

      • Cameron Glendinning on 05.19.13 @ 5:31AM

        Two slight black bars or should I say lines on the left and right of frame is not a huge thing on a cinema screen, that’s the 60 or so lines between 1920 x 1080 and 1998 x 1080 of d cinema. If people want to blow up youtube to IMAX, quality is not suddenly going to be an issue. Cinemas only accept jpeg 2000 files like feature films, last year it was 35mm! I doubt 1080 or 720 workflows have anything to do with it. I’ve seen some crap video to film ads over the years……

  • I’m curious why the lenses were tested on a GH2 and not the Digital Bolex itself?

    • It’s to show the difference between m43 and s16.

      • How about they just show how it looks on the damnnnnn camera itself , we dont care about how it looks on other cameras, h3ll most dont even care about the little lens project, we want the camera , but we understand the struggle, but is it too much to ask for a prototype camera , you know atleast on that can be verified and used by a third party to prove it is not vapor ware.

        Sure both RED AND BLACK MAGIC DESIGN had problems, but at least they had a working prototype, its been over two years and not one working prototype.

        All we get is CLICHE blown out depth of field interviews and new updates about leather tote bags, toy lens.

        SERIOUSLY? Either post a prototype of the new lens or dont post at all, at this point its just getting ridiculous

        Honestly with KICKSTARTER new guidelines, if they would have come out a few months ago, digital bolex would not even be in existence, i feel for the backers

  • This sounds great and it’s good to know that they are trying to put forth the best product possible. Unfortunately since there is no solid release date for the D16 I won’t be picking one up. However to those who do pick one up, it looks as if they will be getting a solid film making tool.

    • yes i agree,,they have been working with limited budget,,they started with nothing just an idea,,i see the public wanting there camera now,,now,,now,,like little babies,,comparing it to bmcc which was already a big business,,the d16 will come out when its good and dam ready,,i think it will be a winner and a great camera,,,it will have a unique look im sure,,i wont be suprised if it gets camera of year soon,,i suspect it will be out end of year or early next??i can wait,,there are so many cameras out now,,im thinking this d16 will be a cinema camera at a price for all to have,,,but im in love with the gh3,,,,,,

  • “With the Digital Bolex, we can expect the camera to come out of the box a finely tuned piece of filmmaking equipment, and for that I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Digital Bolex team.”

    I wouldn’t get my hopes up. That’s quite a lofty statement / hope, and to expect them to deliver up to the quality of the BMCC or the Ikonoskop would be a VERY tall order considering this is the first product they’ve ever made or released. RED had major funding / backing for their initial RED one offering… and it had quite the list of problems / setbacks.

    If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, it might be wise to look into getting a Blackmagic Pocketcam or the BMCC. You can use a simple computer (my $850 PC handles both RAW and ProRes amazingly well) and if you shoot ProRes, you don’t need a lot drive space (which is fairly cheap these days anyway @ about $150 for 3TB ). Even if you shoot Raw, cineform conversion is easy and fast to do as well.

    To hope Digital Bolex is capable of handling a potential recall, or able to fix their product en masse if an issue were to occur… is a pretty large gamble. I wish them the best, and will be watching closely at developments as they come… but don’t fool yourselves… this is more of a mad science project rather than a streamlined product coming from an experienced manufacturer.

    • +1
      instead of just pointing out that it’s probably a no-go, you have some good points, many with the recall idea since they don’t have nearly enough of a company to handle something like that

    • Thyl Engelhardt on 05.20.13 @ 1:47AM

      It is quite apparently not the Kickstarter money that made this project happen or keeps it going. Joe has sold his stakes in the previous company he founded (Polite in Public) and Ienso also seems to be putting money into this. They must have spend much more money on this now than the Kickstater compaign had raised. There is quite some optimism that the camera hardware is final, and they are now tweaking the parameters of the analog front end in order to get the best possible pictures. Here, the devil is in the details. The analog front end seems to have a design that no one had done so far, even not Ikonoskop, despite them using a very similar (though somewhat smaller) CCD sensor.

      • “The analog front end seems to have a design that no one had done so far”

        That is not a comforting statement, given their lack of a track record in manufacturing cameras…

  • These are not good lenses.

  • Reading these posts, it seems as if the mood has turned against the Bolex team, though I can’t help thinking some is a little cruel, based more on how Joe and Elle look visually rather than the camera itself. The recent RAW development with the 5DMk3 has had feedback on the Bolex site.

    Joe says:-
    “I admit the engineers at Ienso mis-calculated the difficulty of the project. I(we) didn’t really help that by making the project considerably more complex. I have had 2 people with high level understanding of these kinds of systems visit the Toronto team, one of them was a project manager at Kodak for many years. Both of these experts said that the team is on the right track, the components that were chosen are very good choices, and they did not see any fundamental problems with our approach. It is just a matter of time, how much is the question.”

    I think these guys are sincere and that camera will materialise soon(ish !), and it will find its niche.

  • If they can deliver beautiful imagery with a great user experience, which I’m sure that is their goal, then I will consider this camera.
    It’s just getting harder to keep the faith the longer I wait without even some official test footage or a prototype test from a professional and unbiased cinematographer. I sincerely wish them best of luck as their heart is in the right place.

  • I’m actually excited about this camera and company, and always have been. Their entrepreneurship, and continuing dedication, especially now, in the midst of all these new cameras/hacks emerging is outstanding. To me, it’s inspiring.

    The ridiculous “hipster” comments and jabs at the clothes they wear, in comments past, etc. are completely asinine, I just can’t believe, collectively as a film community, we wouldn’t be more encouraging and supportive of these two individuals and their company.

    This camera will kick ass, watch. Go Joe, go Elle!

  • I think Joe and Elle are sincere but had no idea at the start how difficult this was going to be. If you followed Jim Jannard at RED on the forums during development of the original ONE and the Scarlet, you’ll know that he freely admits he had no idea either. If it wasn’t for his rooms full of Oakley money, RED might have failed too. In fact, the 3K for $3K Scarlet did fail, which is why we have BMCC and Digital Bolex trying to fill the gap.

    As for people talking about what Joe and Elle look like, I would think it strange if they wore the light-blue button-downs and khakis I see every day in the engineering department. A graphic-design friend of mine insists her clients wouldn’t respect her if she didn’t have purple hair. Average Joe expects creative types to look creative.

  • Mark Weston on 05.19.13 @ 11:18PM

    I cant wait for this! So excited to read about all these changes and features they are adding. Looking forward to more blog posts about what they envision for this kickstarter project. I can wait till 2014 or 2015. Doesnt bother me. Sure they have nothing finished and now are obsolete by blackmagic and the canon ml hack but this project was never about making a working camera for indi filmmakers…it was about backing a project full or ideas and never ending concepts. To me that is fun and worth the money (not mine though). I do find the backers brave to endure such a journey with the bolex team…and still have nothing to show for it.

  • So if using a full-frame lens, you’re getting even less image than m43?

  • Matt Stevens on 05.23.13 @ 4:54PM

    Addons, lenses, mounts etc. are meaningless without a working camera. I loved the idea of this thing, but now with the announcement of BlackMagic’s compact, I think Digital Bolex’s tires have been shot out from under them. This thing may never come out. Yes, I absolutely love the idea of NO ROLLING SHUTTER and that is something digital capture desperately needs. But the Digital Bolex is just a dram until it’s a reality.

  • they have no global shutter. Ikonoskop is $$$$. that’s all to say. I stay tuned….

  • this is similar to the turnaround for the ikonoskop or if anything slightly faster

  • When/WILL they be available in Australia??


  • May I advise you take a bit more time to get proper information?
    I’ve been following their journey for quite a bit of time now and if you spend a bit of time on the forum/uStream, you’ll see how much is happening behind the scenes at the moment.
    The camera prototype IS actually working but the sensor needs further calibration and this is what they are working on.

  • It isn’t working. I’m a camera backer and all we’ve gotten from these people so far is BS and “it’s not our fault, it was X person but don’t worry, we’ve gotten rid of him!” What further sucks is these guys keep paying themselves, keep wasting our money, and our now trying to charge us for the PL mount we were supposed to get included with the camera. Total joke.

  • Mark Weston on 05.23.13 @ 11:23PM

    Oh NO!

    Keep the faith. I hope you can get your money back!

  • Thyl Engelhardt on 05.24.13 @ 3:12AM

    Are they paying themselves? Joe sold his previous company to have the money for the D16. Seems he is betting his life.

  • Not only were these types of accusations made at RED, but one of Jannard did a major post earlier this month admitting they were late on ALL current projects, so this is not unusual.…-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly

    Joe and Elle could easily have opted to bolt a lens on a wooden box and the camera would likely be out by now, but everyone would have immediately migrated to the new Blackmagics upon release. However, the pressure is now equally on Blackmagic to deliver too, and my understanding is that the Blackmagics will not be fully featured upon release.

    Joe and Elle have made over a hundred improvements which have now impacted on the software end of the schedule, yet it is precisely this which has kept them in the game. Also, if 4K proves to be another 3D or has an excessive delay in take-up, then the Bolex and it’s lack of rolling shutter may yet emerge as the victor in the field.

    Several people have posted on the Bolex site wishing to purchase from the original backers, so possibly you might be able to bail out, but I hope the camera emerges and wish you success.

  • Sorry, some of my wording is way off, but you guys get what I’m trying to communicate, thanks.