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Digital Bolex D16 Review Part 1: First Impressions (And How You Can Order One Right Now)

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We heard last week that the Digital Bolex D16 was finally going to start shipping after a lengthy development period that saw the camera transform into a much more fully-featured tool (many of these transformations coming from future owner requests). The cameras are definitely shipping now, as we’ve got our own test camera that we’ll be reviewing very soon. But that’s not all, if you’ve been looking at grabbing one for yourself, pre-orders for new cameras are currently live over on the Digital Bolex site (along with a number of other goodies in the DB store). Click through for more on first impressions of the camera.

The team says they will ship the next 500 cameras in 8-12 weeks, and there is a good chance that pre-order slots will be running out as you read this. Joe and Elle from Digital Bolex were able to work out an exclusive discount with No Film School, so if you’d like to save $100 on your order, check out this post. Here’s what you’ll need to know to get one (from their newest post):

For those of you interested in purchasing a camera, we recommend contacting your financial institution and letting them know that you plan to make a large purchase; we have run into a number of individuals whose banks have declined the transactions due to size. PayPal is accepted by our online store.

You will need to have an account with digitalbolex.com to check out of our store. To register, go to digitalbolex.com and select “Log In” from the top menu. This link is located to the far right, next to our logo. When you are brought to the “Log In” page, you will notice a link beneath the username/password fields to register an account. Click that link, and follow the instructions.

Once you create an account, you will need to click “Log In” again and fill in your new username and password in order to gain access to the store. Then you can navigate to http://shop.digitalbolex.com, or select it from the menu at the top of our site.

With that out of the way, here are some thoughts on the camera.

First Impressions

Yes, that is a Master Prime on the camera, because, why not? We are partnered up with Rule Boston Camera for this shoot (more than just the test you see here), which is why this setup is looking so sweet — but the Master Prime was an in-house thing only. Here are some photos from our first testing of the camera (with Dylan, Adam, and my stupid face, in that order):

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The first thing you’ll notice when picking up the D16 is that while there is a bit of heft to it, it’s balanced extremely well. This is important not only for putting the camera on your shoulder in some sort of rig, but if you want to use it with the handle. It would be nearly impossible to use the camera with the handle if it wasn’t balanced nicely.

The menu system is extremely simple, and is intuitive enough without needing the manual. The camera has an internal battery that can last quite a while, but with a 1-minute or 5-minute power save mode activated you should be able to run the camera for nearly half a day depending on how much you shoot.

We’re still messing with the offloading process right now, but transferring with the CF cards has been painless. The camera has an internal SSD of 256GB or 512GB, and you can then transfer that information directly to dual CF card slots. The D16 is smart enough to span the cards if you run out of space, and you can use as many as you need to in order to get all of the information off of it. The D16 also has the ability to transfer using USB 3.0, so you can use that if you’d like to get it all at once and you’ve got a computer handy.

Image Quality

CCDs tend to develop images a bit differently than CMOS sensors, at least from my experience using both of them. I’ve always been a big fan of the images coming out of CCD cameras a bit more than CMOS cameras (though that could all be in my head). There seems to be something a bit more physical about the images — though the camera brand and the way the sensor has been calibrated play into that. No rolling shutter is a plus no matter which way you look at it.

The camera does a very good job combining color temperatures in the same frame. This doesn’t always look right with certain camera systems, but it was a particular strength of film — and it certainly looks like a strength of the D16. My computer is disagreeing with me at the moment, but I will add to this post later with a few JPEG samples.

In the meantime, check out the Digital Bolex site for more on how you can order and the other gear they’ve got on the website.

Links:

Related Posts

  1. Save $100 on a Digital Bolex D16 Camera with This Exclusive No Film School Discount Code
  2. Digital Bolex D16 Cameras Are Finally Shipping This Week
  3. First RAW Footage From D16 Shows That Digital Bolex Means Business

COMMENT POLICY

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 114 COMMENTS

  • Prabhath MP on 12.16.13 @ 3:10PM

    Wow, the camera looks awesome :-)

  • Brilliant now I can also enjoy XLR connectors sticking in my face instead of the TRS connectors from the BMCC…why does every camera developer forgets that a camera sits on a shoulder now and then?

    • Hi Gee,
      Thanks for your comment.
      We didn’t forget, but this camera is very very skinny!
      Only 80mm wide compared with the BMCC’s 166.2mm wide!
      This means with 90 degree adapters, which they sell for 3 pin XLR, 4 pin XLR, and HDMI cables you won’t have connectors in your face.
      In fact even with the cables plugged in the D16 is over 60mm slimmer than the BMCC with no cables.

      • Thanks Joe for your reply. I have been following the development of the Digital Bolex and think it’s a nice concept and would like to try one sometime, the footage I’ve seen so far looks promising.
        My remark about the plugs is based on my experience with the BMCC, I saw the picture above and thought I would have loved to see the plugs on the other side or maybe even on the back.
        Shure the Digital Bolex is slim but when put on the shoulder I find it’s nice to stabilize a body against the side of my head, most ENG camera’s have a pad , it seems like plugs will create an uncomfortable rugged side.

        • True, but I think you will find that the D16 handles a lot like the Arri IIc with the pistol grip and a shoulder stock.
          Personally I would have fed the cables out the back on the other side, like pretty much every other camera, but I think in practice this will be a minor annoyance.

        • I don’t think lefty’s will have the same problem

      • You da man joe :D really loving the character of this camera. Now I need to start saving.. Unless anyone is feeling generous!

    • agreed

    • Learn to shoot left handed.

      • In fact I’m left handed, but changing shoulder for handheld work now would just be as uneasy as trying to learn to write with my right hand. My remark about the plugs is based on my experience with the BMCC…it might just be not applicable to the Digital Bolex.

      • Stephen Rangott on 12.16.13 @ 6:58PM

        So what happens if you’re right eye dominant?

      • And learn to shoot on one foot! Because that’s also very practical advice.

    • Wouldn’t a 90 degree xlr plug solve that?

      • No. It will make it “better”, but it will not solve it. It’s a flawed design just like the Blackmagic cameras, sadly (and I own a LOT of Blackmagic cameras). Doesn’t matter how slim the body is.

        • Little Mermaido on 12.18.13 @ 9:33PM

          The way to do things ergonomically is already established. It’s in the design of every shoulder-mount camera by every major manufacturer. It’s ignored in new digital cinema designs because they are all about small size and someone’s opinion about aesthetics. The funny part is that the typical professional setup with these cameras ends up being larger and less practical than a professional camcorder. Arri is a notable exception.

    • Agreed – this does seem daft and immediately obvious! How come no-one saw this as a problem. It sounds churlish, but this is almost enough to put me off. I can just see it getting really irritating.

    • No one seems to complain about SLRs putting all the connections on the right side. Annoying, yes. Deal breaker? Meh.

      You shouldn’t be relying on the camera for audio anyways, hire a sound guy.

      • SLRs have always had their connectors on that side. And yes, it’s annoying on them too.
        This camera was an opportunity to start from the ground up and get everything in the right place.
        If onboard sound is as unnecessary as you say, then why are there inputs at all? If they are going to have them, they should be in the right place. We’re not being stupid here.

        • This topic has been extensively discussed on the Digital Bolex forum and apparently the pros’ consensus was to put them on that side.

  • I really want to support one of these independent camera guys (BMC, Digital Bolex) but their designs seem to not consider shoulder support. I don’t understand how that happens in the development of a camera. If you are relying on aftermarket products to fix your product, you haven’t done your work.

    Hate to be negative since we need all these players but this trend is got to stop.

    • In all fairness, very few cameras have any sort of innate shoulder support. Even RED with 10-50k camera does not have any sort of shoulder support.

      • The new Alexa at who knows what price has what looks to be best in class shoulder support.

        • I agree, Amira has the ideal ergonomics. Too bad it cost so much and better suited for renting.

          Docs/reality/handheld fiction are a big chunk of what’s getting made so it always surprises me that this market doesn’t get much attention from indie camera guys.

    • Amira? It’s a bit more money. Not much, just a smidge.

  • you guys should know better than to put that much weight on a c mount.

    • Do they not have a support bracket on?? That’s crazy!!

    • That’s what I thought.

    • john jeffries on 12.17.13 @ 3:26PM

      I think its because of a lack of shooting experience but a wealth of camera and gear obsession

      • Unless the Cmount is titanium, I’ve seen H16 bolex stripped threads with old angenieux lenses without lens support tha twere too heavy and collapsed the mount.

    • Little Mermaido on 12.18.13 @ 11:18PM

      It doesn’t matter. A $25K lens makes everything look so pro. It’s not a lens for peasants, it’s a master prime, something that comes in sets for $2000? a day. I don’t even know if it’s a master prime, I have never bought or used gear of this cost. I had a set of superspeeds for a while but I sold them when I got a good price. Even those were too expensive to hold on to, and I doubt I could buy this lens new with what I got for the full set.

  • Joe Marine are you from Boston? I see you at rule more and more. Im from Boston and would love to shake your hand. This is a cool camera! Might have to stop in wednesday for the Alexa XT class sneek out and play with the Bolex.

  • Great news. Congratulations to the Digital Bolex team! Now the D16 is available, I hope the product delivers as much as they have expected when it was conceived. The rest is up to the artists using it. Looking forward to a full on review !

  • shaun wilson on 12.16.13 @ 5:02PM

    (Joe R) – what lens mounts are compatible with the camera?

  • Congrats Joe and Elle — there couldn’t be a better time for launching cool video gear into the marketplace. Filmmakers love options and it is clear that you guys have put your heart into launching the design and launch D16.

  • Congrats on shipping the camera!!

    However, could we please see some footage, good, bad, or indifferent! :)

  • Anthony Marino on 12.16.13 @ 7:03PM

    Congratulations, it looks super, I will own one. Now that youre big time, when you gonna start leak the 4k, 240fps version? Ha. Joking though nothing’s impossible with you guys. My thoughts are keep going man, you’re way a head of the curve.

    • They don’t like 4K. Joe thinks 4K is unsuccessful right now and won’t be needed for decades.

    • Don’t feed the 4k troll

      • “Amazon Studios to begin shooting original series in 4K
        .
        With five upcoming pilots, the entertainment arm of Amazon says all of its comedies and drama series shot in 2014 will be done in the ultra HD resolution technology.”
        .
        http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57615806-93/amazon-studios-to-begin-shooting-original-series-in-4k/
        .
        But who wants to work for Amazon, right?

        • 4k evangelism is boring as hell

        • DLD,

          I’m finding it’s useless to bring what’s happening in the real world with 4K to some people. They still will have hang ups about it.

          Have you heard new updates on 6K and 8K? I see a couple South Korea and Japan networks will be broadcasting the 2018 Olympics in 8K.

          • Yeah, useless unless you stick your eyes one inch from the screen.

          • I actually think a more interesting development is going on in the display technology, where various pad and tablet devices have gotten above 400 ppi. A 4K TV of 40″-65″ is topping out around 100 (40″ diagonal is ~ 36″ wide x 100 = 3600, just slightly below the Quad HD). In other words, you can get pseudo 8K with a 400 ppi display and a decent upscaler off a 4K signal and that can be done now. As to the rest, Dell has announced 4K computer monitor plans for under $1K. New Sony 4K projector is out, HEVC platforms are still being finalized. More product at CES in two weeks.

          • It is useless to talk about 4, 6 and 8K on a thread about a 2K camera, and to do it repeatedly just makes people think that there is something wrong with your head..

          • Not to be misunderstood – the price of DB with a decent lens package runs about the same price as the new Sony 4K camcorders. Of course, the camcorders (Z 100 for $5,500 and AX 1 for $4,500) have their own limitations – small sensors, thus needing a lot of light – so personal needs and preferences will play a major role in that choice. Also, there’s an anticipation of several affordable 4K cameras announcements between the CES’14 in two weeks time and NAB’14 in April. Some may be priced higher, some may be even lower and, naturally, some may hang in a perpetual limbo. The 8K refers to the ability of the modern and future TV’s to upscale a 4K signal with nary a loss of quality or perceptible difference. The actual 8K streaming is probably 6-8 years away and may be, at best, a niche market even then. The 4K content is already available online.

  • Can someone PLEASE design a camera with a super 35mm CCD sensor with prores and 14 bit raw, with the ergonomics of an true ENG camera, ie JVC HM-790, something that LOOKS like a video/film camera, is sufficiently heavy, has a shoulder pad, top handle and balanced right out of the box for <$5k?? Anyone else think these new cameras are odd looking?

    • you’re asking for a ferrari for the price of a bicycle.

      • there are 4k raw cameras for $4k. unfortunately, their ergonomics are atrocious and require a frankenstein rig. building a camera with the ergonomics of a proper video camera or ENG can’t cost much more. they’re all made with cheap chinese steel or aluminum these days. it is unfortunate that none of these companies build something resembling a camera.. a square or rectangle isn’t my idea of a modern day camera.

      • AMEN! Thank you Alex! Most sensible comment of the day.

    • VinceGortho on 12.17.13 @ 1:52AM

      Oh, You want a Kineraw camera. Feel free to order one.

  • This is one ugly, impractical looking camera. Whatever happened to all-in-one camera design?

    • 2k, RAW, global shutter, xlr inputs. What exactly is it lacking from the package?

      As for “impractical” Both red and Arri’s have similar modular setups, it’s geared towards cine environments, and with the pistol grip on it replicates of one of the most successful run and gun camera ergonomics in history.

      If you are looking for a DSLR style form factor to take on your trip to disneyland buy a GH2, this camera is not designed for that.

    • ugly: to each his own, I personnally its look a lot.
      impractical: have you already filmed with it? Have you felt how balanced it is?

    • I love the look of the camera. I think the BMCC looks ugly, here’s a box that takes video. Although it’s GREAT video so who cares…frankly I’d like to have the look of the BMCC in the Bolex body.

  • Technically speaking the cables are on the wrong side, but this will work out. Just repeat to yourself: RAW, 2k, CCD, internal recorder for $3300. What a bargain.

    I used to shoot an Arri IIc with the pistol grip motor and a rifle style shoulder stock and ergonomically speaking this setup works quite well for hand held work. In some ways it’s better than balancing the camera on your shoulder, because you can twist your body a little more. I’m pretty certain that same set up will work very well with the D16.

    • Exactly!
      That’s what I was missing in digital cameras. Something that reminded me of the hand held 16mm cameras :)

    • quite right, connectors on the WRONG side of the camera. the problem is people making cameras don’t have 10, 20, 30 years of shooting experience… LTR, ACL, BVW-400, BVW-600 ! then lets talk after you spend a few days shooting with them.

  • This camera needs to be INTERNATIONAL! Why does the US always get everything?? Wrong.

    Also what on earth comes with the camera?? Any chargers/adapter, a grip? What about SSD??

    • Hi Hendrick,
      You can use a shipping service like myus.com to order a camera in this pre-sale!
      It does add some cost though.
      The camera comes with the pistol grip, an AC adapter / charger, and the Pomfort made LightPost software.
      It also of course has a 3-4 hour built in battery and an enterprise class SSD.
      Basically the camera comes with everything you need to shoot run and gun hand held except a lens, and an EVF depending on how you like to work.

  • Why would you take the Master Prime off it? :-)
    Look forward to seeing graded images. I won’t own this cam, but will certainly try it out via rental.
    And hey, the more the merrier.

  • VinceGortho on 12.17.13 @ 1:54AM

    No chance of speedboosting this camera?

  • What lenses would you guys start with on this camera? Or is everyone waiting for those fixed-focus ones they are working on?

  • What I wonder about is how strong the lens mount plate is on the camera… Looking at the size of the lens in this post’s picture, it would seem that the lens is much more heavier than the camera. I suppose in controled environment it should not be a problem. But in ‘real world’ situations (documentaries, “run and gun” type of work, etc…) ?

    • The lens mount is removable and we will have a proper PL mount designed by Hotrod cameras that will tie into a base plate and be plenty of support for lenses like this.

    • Thyl Engelhardt on 12.17.13 @ 12:14PM

      The above Masterprime, covering S35, is really overkill. One of the attractive things with the d16 is that you can use really small, S16 lenses. Masterprimes weigh more than 2 kg. In contrast, the Ultra 16s (PL mount) from Zeiss weigh 1 kg. And a typical c-mount S16 lens is about, well, err, 200 g?!

  • I have a quick question and maybe it was answered above. Can I use my c mount Switar prime lenses from my analogue Bolex on this camera? My Switar 26mm Macro, 1.1 is a beauty, and I would love to be able to use it for its sharpness and speed. Thanks and please let me know.

  • I like that camera makers have moved towards the modular design where you can invest in customizing your own rig and add a camera to it rather than the camera maker integrating a rig for you and you having to pay for that also. It’s a good way to save money for the customer and also allow them to customize their shoulder support (or lack thereof) exactly to their liking.

    • Yes, I agree. I am 6′ 7″, and shoot from my hip most of the time when working handheld. Shoulder mounts are positioned too high for me to use effectively unless I am shooting concerts. I like using a top handle.

      It’s amazing to me the amount of negativity newer cameras of today are getting. When I started shooting with my Sony PD-150 (circa 2001) it costs about this much, was SD with three 1/3 inch sensors, and had no 24P. Now you get 2K, global super 16mm sensor, and over cranking? And a hand crank??? Almost to good to be true. I literally used to dream about this stuff. I could care less where the XLRs are if it means I can have all of the other really awesome things this cam provides.

      I for one will rent this for my next music video shoot in early Jan. Hopefully I can get my hands on one sooner!!

  • The Ripped us Off on 12.17.13 @ 10:10PM

    As one of the original camera backs I want people to know one of the very big points that’s been ignored by so many of these recent D16 articles. Ignoring how incredibly long we’ve had to wait with many huge gaps in time without updates, we aren’t even getting what we were originally promised. We were promised a free PL mount with our cameras and now Joe is trying to charge us for them. I don’t think most care as much that the PL mounts won’t be out by the time the camera is released. It’s just that what we were originally supposed to get is now being “offered” for a few hundred dollars! I think it’s criminal. I’m so done with these people for so many reasons: footage does not hold up well when being pushed, painful delays and many missed promised delivery dates, and when we can’t even get a common PL mount without having to pay more. I just think it’s such a shame. Only product I’ll ever buy from these scammers

    • Thanks for your support.

      We have not made any official announcement regarding pricing of PL mounts yet. The PL mount for the Digital Bolex is being designed by a third party, not by our company. We are not the ones designing, manufacturing, or setting the prices on these mounts, and we don’t know what cost, if any, will need to be passed on to our backers, until it is clear what the PL mount will cost for us to purchase. PL mounts are far from common, they are actually quite complex to design, and we felt that enlisting an experienced company to produce these items, independently of us, would be the best way to ensure quality for those wishing to use PL lenses on our cameras. Our Kickstarter camera backers were promised one mount of their choosing from the mounts our company will produce, including EF and M43, and we are working with those manufacturers making additional accessories for our camera to ensure these items are as affordable as possible.

      You can always email us to talk to us about issues you are having with what we are doing or to ask for updates. We answer emails all the time and I’m on the forum almost everyday, and update our website on a weekly basis.

      Thanks, Joe

      • Joe, I’m going to have to agree with Ripped here. You guys have a variety of stuff made by a variety of people, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t give them the PL mount just because you aren’t making it. It’s nice that quality is important to you, but don’t make your backers suffer for that instead of you. You guys have had a lot of criticism for delays, I don’t think you should set yourselves up for even more.

        • Little Mermaido on 12.18.13 @ 10:24PM

          The PL mount cost will probably be a drop in the ocean of expensive PL mount glass. I would only consider C-mount for this. If I had the PL glass, I would buy a more expensive camera. If I had to rent the PL glass, I would rent a more expensive camera. If others paid for the rental, I would buy a camera more appropriate for the expensive glass.

  • Are they going to have problems finding CCD fabs for their sensors? I was under the impression that Panny was leaving the CCD world because the fabs were all moving to CMOS? This isn’t trivial because the fabs cost a fortune to construct and if they are moving away from producing the chips this camera could be short lived.

    • The sensors we use are from one of the most successful lines of sensors Kodak has ever designed. It is true that Kodak sold off their sensor division, but the company that bought it kept the facility and all the people associated in tact. This sensor line is used in many scientific products (that have much higher retail prices than our camera) and is a healthy line. In fact last I talked to TrueSense about this line they said it’s so popular they are expanding it. I do not believe it is in danger of being discontinued anytime soon. This is an important issue when designing a camera, and we did our due diligence to make sure that wouldn’t be an issue.
      -
      CMOS censors have become the norm for consumer cameras, but CCD is still the norm for scientific and machine vision applications in which color and motion cadence is essential.

  • also still around kodak film…

    • Jorge Cayon on 12.18.13 @ 3:30PM

      ^ This guy again. Stop posting about your obsession with FILM on every article including the ones that don’t pertain to it. Either add to the conversation or GTFO and just listen.

  • If you have time, go to the Digital Dolex site, download some of their available DNG files, grade, and see if it suits you. Also, their forums are great and Joe and Elle are pretty transparent and great with interacting with the forum members – tons of info!