Description image

Digital Bolex's Low-Light Ability Tested, and the Results Might Surprise You

09.10.13 @ 3:50PM Tags : , , , ,

Digital Bolex Low LightFor the past several weeks, footage from the Digital Bolex D16 has slowly but surely been making its way around the web. So far we’ve seen that the D16′s RAW footage is eminently gradable, and that the skin tones are on par with, if not better than any other digital cinema cameras like the Digital Bolex. Now we’ve got the first low-light shots from the D16. Despite the fact that the camera maxes out at 400 ISO, these tests might just surprise you:

First and foremost it should be mentioned that the Digital Bolex D16 is NOT meant to be a low-light camera. Its sensor size and internal processing prevent it from going head to head with some of its Super35 brethren, such as the FS100, in the category of low-light performance. However, the Digital Bolex is a RAW camera, and the amount of detail that can be pulled from the shadows is pretty incredible. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the video for yourselves.

Here are the first nighttime tests of the D16. These were shot at 400 ISO with a vintage 25mm lens. All shots were pushed heavily in post, some as much as a few stops from the original exposure.

Although I can’t say I’m a fan of the grade on some of these shots, it’s impossible to deny how impressively the D16 handles itself at night with only available light. The noise in the dark portions of the images is barely noticeable in most cases, even after being brought up by several stops in post.

And even though the noise itself doesn’t appear to be particularly filmic (in a sense that it doesn’t look like film grain), the grain itself is still aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eye.

Of course, the D16 will never become your go-to low light camera, because it simply isn’t designed for that type of work. However, it’s nice to know that if you find yourself in a bind, and you can’t produce more light or use faster lenses, the D16 and the crazy amount of detail in the shadows might just be your saving grace.

What do you guys think? Are you surprised at how malleable the D16′s RAW image is? Would you consider using it in low-light situations based on these tests? Let us know in the comments!

Link: The D16 at Night — Digital Bolex


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!

Description image 51 COMMENTS

  • What’s wrong with the grade? I think it looks pretty solid! The image is nice although not as cinematic as the BMCC. I don’t know that I would chose this camera over the BMCC for many projects but it seems to be rock solid camera.

    • Something about the cyan cast just doesn’t feel right to me. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

      • Often times when you boost luminance, which some might call ISO, the image becomes washed out and thus the saturation needs to be increased. I suspect in the case of the Bolex footage, the white balance was also off. Taking those two elements into consideration, the resulting footage makes sense. I’m under the impression from a quick online exchange w/ one of their software guys that they are still fine tuning the color science.

        Raw video can be pushed a lot higher then some know is possible. I recently did a quick low light for-fun-test in one of the worst environments available – a super dim night club. I was surprised at how far you can push it. I did my for-fun-test SLASH favor for buddy who is in a band and wanted video of their stage performance. In the video, especially the shot where there is a group dancing, the video acquired was almost black w/ most detail well below the “20″ line on the waveform monitor. As I was attempting to capture as much footage as possible from a single song performance, I had little time to adjust/check exposure. Please excuse the the extremely blown highlights in some shots. for those wondering, I intercut the ML RAW shots w/ footage from an old Sony MiniDV Handycam!

        Click the link below and watch it =)

        SAMPLE – John Brothers Piano Company – Cafe Du Nord – CHP – July 2013 from Dan Reed on Vimeo.

  • I really do like those images. I might be wrong but it seems to me that the camera release is imminent.

  • That nose! oO

  • CarMe – I think the camera is the point in question.

  • I liked the grade, but please, given that you are based in Los Angles and selling a camera north of the $2k BMDCC, can you please get some people involved that know how to shoot, edit and grade?
    I realise you may not want to for political reasons (I’m old enough to remember punk the first time) but then please release the camera now so that someone who makes their living shooting can film with it, and we can all see the results.
    There are plenty of ‘alternative’ DOPs in this city who would appreciate the attitude of this camera and the company behind it, and deliver images that would make people excited about this camera.
    I can even think of a couple of Oscar winners who might be interested. You want me/my friends/ my clients to buy a $3k camera based on this footage? Seriously?
    I’ve seen better footage shot with a phone. That isn’t a joke or an attempted insult. It’s true.
    I want this camera to succeed – I love old lenses, I love S16, I look forward to possibly shooting with it. But I’ve never seen a camera company, no matter how anti-establishment (even RED was that in the recent past remember) promote their product with such average footage.

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comment. I understand your concern. This footage is literally test footage. I know a lot of people say that, but we mean it. This is the first time we took the camera out at night to shoot. I know that people are used to only seeing highly produced and professionally posted images from camera companies, but we are a different kind of company. We are letting you guys in on the testing and calibrating process that most companies don’t let you see. The landscape footage was also from the first time we took the camera out doors and shot landscapes. These are first and foremost for testing.

      I do understand your, and other peoples desire to see highly produced “professional” images. We will get there. After we get through our testing and calibration phase and have a camera that is producing images we internally are all happy with we will get some professionals to lend their artistic sense to the project. Until then please be patient and know that you are getting to see a part of the process no other camera company shares with you.

      Thanks again, Joe

      • Hi Joe,

        If the DIgital Bolex sells well do you see your company expanding into offering cameras with 35mm sensors and perhaps more “complete” systems? I would be interested. BTW, test footage looking good.

      • It’s funny… I was just about to post that it’s rather refreshing that we’re seeing the camera at possibly it’s weakest point, and yet – at the end, up comes the Digital Bolex logo. As if to say, “we’re not hiding what this camera isn’t – or is.” I like that.

    • I have to agree with marklondon, get some pros shooting and grading with the camera.I can see some nice detail in the shots and good potential for detail, but unlike marklondon I think the grade sucks. All of the sample footage I’ve watched from the camera, outside of the development team postings, has been pretty ugly. I watched some footage yesterday that looked like it was 16mm home movies from the late 60′s or early 70′s. That is nice for a flashback scene or intro to a story but useless to shoot an indie film on. Get some footage out there from someone who can highlight the detail captured by the camera and get the most out of it’s ability to shoot raw. Looking at this, it looks like if I took it into Davinci I could pull out some nice detail and color but sorry to say it does not look as impressive as it should from a $3k+ camera.

  • i like the lack of jello in the tube station and theres something about the changing lights in the signs, wish they revealed the fstop used

    • Hi Whispers,

      Thanks for your comment. I like the lack of jello too :)
      We used a Fujinon 25mm .85 vintage lens, the f-stop changed a bit, but was mostly between f.85 for dark city streets / hot dogs / walk of fame stars, and f2.8 for subway / escalator / bright signs.

      hope that helps.

  • Looks like a fun camera. Watching this, I forgot it was a test. Actually, I don’t think it was for the people shooting. At least it felt inspired to me.

  • It looks pretty similar to BMD Pocket Cam’s in footage. FWIW, of the recent models, I’d take 70D on its image quality, features and price.

  • There is a real old school vibe to that footage. It reminded me of the way a low-budg 80s movie would render Hollywood at night. I was just watching the non-classic Angel, and as I started thinking about the grade that movie was the first thing that popped in my head.

    Excited to see more as the testing goes on.

  • Super 16mm sensor, hand-held but without the shake of an unstabilized hyperprime (using a modern lens with “Power O.I.S.”), good grade and great sensitivity at night:

    After calibrating those white orbs away, I think it’s a winner. But I appreciate the competitive options of the Digital Bolex, and I’m quite sure the audio inputs will cream the BMPC.

    • Jerome (also..but not the other jerome) on 09.11.13 @ 12:19AM

      I still don’t get it. I think both of these cameras look like video cameras. There is something about it that just doesn’t look filmic to me. Maybe when it gets on a real set with some decent lighting I’ll change my mind but right now I wouldn’t use either the Pocket Camera or the D16.

  • The images are great! No doubt about how far you can push the raw files…. they are raw after all!
    I downloaded the first few frames of the d16 and try to stress them: they were awsome! even after pushing them 2 stops up!

    I agree with Joe, I’m very greatefull with the digital bolex team to share their tests with us, but I’m also anxyous to see high end footage.

    If only I would purchase the camera without spending a fortune in shipping and taxes (I’m from Italy….)

    Great job guys! really great job!

  • I can appreciate the testing process being transparent but if I showed people my first few scripts when I was in film school, which sucked, then when I wrote a good one I might have less interest from people because they would remember those few sucky scripts I had them read. That first impression would stick with some, like it will here. People will remember the first images released publicly.

    • Bob,

      Thanks for your comment. That is true that people often remember their first impressions, but we are looking to engage with our audience on a much more personal level than many companies and hope that they appreciate the more long term approach instead of a wuick sale, one night stand approach ;)

      • Hi Joe. I agree with you somewhat and like your analogy of a one-night stand, but even though you are going for a long term relationship you probably wouldn’t show up on your first date in pyjamas and schlepps, would you?

  • that was a real cool test shoot

  • Is it just me or does the color grade make everyone look like zombies? But resolution and motion of footage look very promising.

  • Anthony Marino on 09.10.13 @ 9:42PM

    Really nice, I’m with others that just love the vintage feel…the S16 is turning out some really nice footage and wow vintage glass. I wonder how my 1″ wollensak 25mm would look on this baby. Great to see this camera evolve. Thanks

  • tnguyenlead on 09.10.13 @ 10:17PM

    For anyone that having problem with the way the color look.

    Please do not mind the noise and artifact coz it is screen capture adjusted with lightroom!

  • The tiles in the subway look a bit like a colour chart. He he.

  • I’m by no means a colorist but had fun trying my hand at grading those DNGs with Raw Photo Processor:

  • VinceGortho on 09.11.13 @ 5:28AM

    Really wish this camera had a side grip/handle.
    It’s not the safest camera to take on a night shoot when it’s shaped like a gun.

    • Hahahahaha!
      You will be able to rig many different handles, grips, and other accessories to the D16.
      But we took it out on a night shoot and didn’t have anyone think it was a gun.
      I think it looks more like a ray gun than a real gun.
      I seriously doubt you’ll see anyone duck and cover when you pull it out :)

  • I really like the look this camera produces in the test footage. Almost every test shot brings to mind some aspects reminiscent of early to mid 1970′s cinema.

  • Prepare for this camera on first quarter 2017.

  • this clip was nice. i agree with the company, it’s best to show real world footage instead of pro shots to give a better idea what it’s capable of straight out of camera. i really like the stable images the from analog ccd. i won’t be buying another cmos camera <$5k again. they're just too jittery.

  • i used to wonder why all these indie films at the festivals all have that constant annoying shaky footage. at first i thought it was esthetics. but NO! it’s CMOS!! CCD’s are so much better in this dept. i really look forward to using the bolex d16

  • It’s not bad but really it’s not even that dark in that subway, I get decent shots with my t4i.

  • Luis Lara Gilberto on 09.13.13 @ 9:52AM

    Saludos Joe, quiero decirle que en latinoamerica estamos encantados, emocionados y en suspenso por su trabajo. Confiamos totalmente en usted y su equipo y cada paso que dan hacia el logro de esta cámara, está siendo acompañado por nuestras oraciones, pues creemos en su proyecto y estamos seguros que en el futuro, en nuestra región, serán muchos los cineastas que podrán hacer cine gracias a la bolex. No desmaye, no se desanime…recuerde la frase de “Don quijote” a “Sancho Panza”: “Ladran los perros sancho, eso significa que avanzamos”

    • From translation software (couldn’t resist):-

      Hello Joe, i would like to tell you that in Latin America, we are delighted, thrilled and suspended by his work. We are fully confident you and your team and each step that face toward the achievement of this House, is being accompanied by our prayers, because we believe in your project and we are confident that in the future, in our region, will be many filmmakers may make cinema thanks to the bolex. Not overwhelmed, don’t be discouraged…remember the phrase “Don Quixote” to “Sancho Panza”: “dogs bark Sancho, that means that we move”

  • It should come with the Bolex anamorphot.

  • Good content like this isn’t found often, so I am pleased it’s here. Information like this is deserving of accolades. I see lots of comments.