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Digital Bolex D16 Review Part 2: First Footage & D16 vs. Blackmagic Pocket vs. SI-2K Mini Test

Digital Bolex D16 Sensor

I shared my initial thoughts on the camera last week in Part 1, and since then I’ve been able to spend a little more time with the camera. The firmware I had when first shooting with it was slightly more beta than the firmware the camera currently has, but even in that time many more things have improved. I will elaborate on those in future posts, but for now I thought it would be a good idea to post some footage and talk about the image. With help from Adam and Dylan from Rule Boston Camera, we compared the D16 to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the SI-2K Mini (which is in a housing known as Black Betty). Check out that test below, as well as some of the first footage we’ve shot near the bottom of the post.

Digital Bolex D16, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, & SI-2K “Black Betty”

Here is the comparison test, again thanks to Rule for the help putting this together — and of course thanks to Joe and Elle from Digital Bolex for providing the camera. Our lighting setup was daylight LEDs in the front, and a Tungsten head coming in from the back, so this test was a mixed color temperature scenario:

All of the cameras were shot RAW, and everything was kept in DaVinci Resolve, even titling, to make the comparison as fair as possible. Each shot was put in BMD Film and then graded to match. It should be noted that while 800 ISO was in the firmware at the time of this testing, it was pulled out when I sent the camera back for a newer version. As of right now the Digital Bolex team is still working on getting 800 to look a bit cleaner, but it was fairly noisy when I played around with it.

What’s striking to me is just how flat the log is from the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. It takes quite a bit of pushing to get that camera back to something usable, whereas the other two cameras didn’t go quite as flat when set to BMD Film. The Blackmagic is the cleanest of the bunch, even at 800 ISO, but it’s also the newest sensor tech of any of these cameras. We had to move the frame quite a bit to get the Blackmagic to match as that sensor is bigger than the D16, and much bigger than that of the SI-2K.

Rule Boston Camera Lighting Setup - Joe Operating

The moire on the spinning camera in the scene was very apparent with the Blackmagic Pocket. While some of that could be attributed to moving the camera and slight changes in focus, it was noticeably bad on that camera even in the monitoring.

Dynamic range wise, the Pocket also looked like it had the edge on the Bolex, and a significant edge on the SI-2K. I don’t think you’ll have problems with either the Pocket or the Bolex for even uncontrolled environments.

D16 Footage

We also were shooting a quick short film with the camera, which has seen all sorts of scheduling issues, but at least for the time being I thought I would put up some flat and un-flat footage so you can see what the D16 is doing. At some point I will have some color graded stuff handy, but I know people always seem to be asking to look at log footage with new cameras, so it made sense to me to provide some. Here is Megan Phelps standing in for us, with our own Dave Kendricken also operating camera (everything in these clips is daylight balanced shot at 200 ISO, with Zeiss Super Speeds). Vimeo did a pretty good job killing the sharpness so it’s probably not a bad idea to download the original:

To me the image looks a bit less digital than some other cameras, and I think part of that is due to the CCD sensor. The texture is different from CMOS sensors, and certainly at lower ISOs this can be a great look if the project you’re working on benefits from it. I have always been partial to CCDs and the way they produce an image, so I’m probably a little biased. Either way, you can do so much with these images when you bring them in post, and it’s pretty easy to keep everything in a gradable range on set — not blowing out highlights or losing shadows.

I think the image is much closer to Kodak Super 16mm than anything digital I’ve used so far, and that makes a lot of sense considering Kodak developed the technology for the sensor (the sensors are now made by Truesense Imaging). The life to the image is very noticeable when you’re playing with it in post, but I do prefer the camera at lower ISOs. 400 is usable, but it is a little noisy, and as said above, 800 wasn’t in the camera the next time I used it. I’m going to do more tests with all of these ISO ranges as well as color, so there will be a lot more testing in the coming days and weeks.

I’m hopefully going to have some RAW footage or single DNGs up to download and play around with, but for now at least you can grab the file straight from Vimeo and mess around with it.

CMOS vs. CCD Gain

The nature of the D16′s CCD sensor means that RAW isn’t just metadata when you’re dealing with ISO. Unlike the CMOS sensors of the Blackmagic (and to a lesser extent the SI-2K), the CCD sensor does not really have a native ISO, as some gain needs to be applied or taken away for every ISO in the camera. This means that choosing an ISO will have an effect on your final output, but with something like the Pocket, you can set it to whatever you’d like and change it in post.

The power of RAW means we can get them all to look very similar without too much effort, but it’s something to keep in mind when you’re shooting with the D16.



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 124 COMMENTS

  • after watching the first 49 seconds…..BMPC wins all day long :)

    • I was thinking the same on the test footage…but then the footage of the girl looks great.

    • yes it totally wins… at looking like brittle video. I kid, they are both great cameras, but I cannot deal with rolling shutter and the way cmos sensors render motion. This looks much more like film.

      The BM4k is a great contender though!

    • after watching the first 49 seconds…..D16 wins all day long :) absolutely !! unfortunately i don’t like the shape of the D16

  • The tools available to us indie film makers, now days, are exciting.

  • Kenneth Merrill on 12.24.13 @ 5:03PM

    I love the motion and event he color. But my biggest concern with this camera right now is dynamic range. In every clip I’ve seen, the highlights clip pretty hard.

  • What an amazing achievement, creating a camera from zero. Congratulations! (wish I had $3000)

  • There is a dimensionality with the D16 that the Pocket doesn’t have, imho. Also, look at the film credits Evelyn Keyes, the Pocket looks hazy in comparison. Overall, the Pocket’s footage seems to have some sort of veil on it compared to the D16.

  • Shouldn’t the comparison be between the D16 and BMCC?

    • Yes, and the 5D3 in RAW if you’re going to be in the correct base price bracket, but its a start.
      Thought both the Bolex and Pocket looked good and very useable.

    • We wanted to compare only cameras that could take Super 16 or older C-mount lenses for this, as that’s more why you’d be in the market for a Digital Bolex.

      • I get the impression DB never intended on reaching a larger market.

      • I don’t buy that reasoning in the slightest but hey, the footage looked good given the limited time/test. Like its CCD cousin the Ikonoskope it handles greys so beautifully.
        Look forward to seeing it go toe to toe with the other BMs, sensor sizes be damned :-)

        • Haha you can believe whatever you want but we picked the other two cameras for the test because they both shoot RAW and are close to native for Super 16mm lenses. If we had an Ikonoskop handy we would have tested that too.

  • Love it but would be cool to get 50/60fps raw at 2k..

  • That Bolex sure makes a pretty picture. The motion has a very nice temporal feel reminiscent of film footage. Must be do to the global shutter.

    We live in exciting times. Just a few years ago $3500 dollars maybe got you a nice matte box. Now you can get a camera that produces a picture good enough to shoot a movie.

  • Joe, if you could test it, I’d be interested in seeing how well the CCD holds the color saturation of different in focus colored light sources versus the CMOS of the other two cameras. For example, red traffic lights and automobile tail/brake lights at dusk or later at night often render white or pink with a pink halo. It’s a dead giveaway for digital and its Achilles heel, IMO. I know it’s a dirty word for some but film tends to saturate the color way before blowing out to white under bright colored lighting conditions.

    It would be nice for digital to overcome that hurdle at some point and I’m wondering if the sensor type makes any difference. It’s not a huge deal but it’s a pet peeve of mine to see white blobs with colored halos on traffic lights, neon signs and the backs of cars at night where it should be a fairly saturated blob of the appropriate color.

    • Yeah if I can remember I will try it. I know exactly what you’re talking about.

    • I would be interested to see that as well. Here is an example of that problem in some footage shot on the RED Epic:
      As shown in the RGB parade, even though the values are well within range, the tail lights of the car look quite blown out and video-like.
      I, too, hope that digital will overcome that hurdle at some point.

      • If the values are not clipped in the raw data, then they are recoverable and gradable. Tail lights and stop lights don’t have to look blown.

        • That’s exactly the problem. If you look at the RGB parade you’ll see that none of the values are clipped, yet the tail lights of the car are rendered white and with no recoverable details.
          For further proof of how digital sensors struggle with brightly colored lights have a look at RED’s latest showreel: – At 4:07 there is a shot of the White House which shows the same problem.
          I’d be curious to see how other digital sensors, including the CCD in the Digital Bolex, cope under the same lighting conditions.

  • It really should be tested with product in the same price range – D800, 5D MK III, BMCC and so on.

    • I would say it should ALSO be evaluated among similarly priced cameras in terms of a general “one camera to rule them all” approach. However, I think testing it against other cameras with similar sensor sizes and available lens choices, even at significant price differences, is informative. If S16 or thereabouts is the look or format you’ve settled on (for whatever reasons), it lets you judge performance based on that criteria and helps you draw conclusions about how much cost factors into achieving the look you’re after.

      • When talking $3.5K price range cameras, they all have significant compromises of one kind or another. There is no one to rule them all, just choices based on what set of compromises best fits an individual’s needs.

        • Many people can only afford to buy one camera and have to make it work for the vast majority of what they shoot. When I said one camera to rule them all, I meant all shooting situations, not all cameras. I know every camera comes with certain compromises, especially at that price point.

  • Thanks for doing both ungraded and with some grading.

    This camera looks able to compete with the Pocket and BB. We’ll have to see what it does with the 5Dii/iii, GH2/3. Then against BM2.5K, BM4K, etc. Don’t know if it will hold up to higher K’s. Will someone eventually compare it to ARRI and Red?

  • the D16 footage looks absolutely stunning, perfect for an indie film. buying one now.

    • The D16 footage reminds me of the Sony F35 and of course the Ikonoskop a-cam DII. All three are CCD and the D16 and A-Cam use variants of the same Truesense sensor. The F35 had a really interesting striped pattern CCD developed by Sony.

      One nice thing about the F35 was that its noise often looked like film grain. Hopefully this will be the same for the D16.

      • Yeah, the F35 was such a great cam.
        Pig to work with though. You can get one very cheap!

  • Great post guys this is such an interesting camera. I would love to play with this camera. If you guys plan to shoot your short film in Boston I can help out. I know a lot of artists in the area and would love to work with you gentlemen.

  • Very impressed with the SI-2K! This surprises the hell out of me as I expected it to perform bottom of the list but dang! Has the almost detail of BMPCC without the horrific moire (before all the fanboys jump down my throat I LOVE that camera, but seriously – that colour pattern is pretty gross).

  • Eh, to me, this looks so much better. [ ] – D5300 into Ninja 2 in 422 ProRes.

  • To me, it looked like the Digital Bolex had much better highlight latitude/roll-off at ISO 200, whilst the Pocket Cinema Camera overtook it when exposed at ISO 800. Really, it looked like there were some massive problems with the D16′s highlights in the later shots — almost like they were burnt out and recovered too much.

    • I like the D16 for its refined tonal range and rich color potential. These samples don’t really show that off very well and the BMD log film LUT was not tuned for the Kodak sensor. But it is not a fast sensor. One would choose this for the same reason one used to choose Kodachrome over Ektachrome: Brilliant saturated refined color palette.

  • Too close to the BMPCC to justify the price jump. And let’s be honest. There’s still something incredibly romantic about having a cinema camera the size of one’s iPhone. Even aside from that, having the ability to invest $3000 (if that) into the Pocket to get a fully featured camera system minus lenses while still having the ability to strip it down to absolutely nothing adds an incredible amount of flexibility.

    I love the spirit of the D16, and the people behind it. Financially, however, it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

    • If you don’t mind rolling shutter. If you can afford it, I think it’s worth the investment to differentiate your footage from the digital mass.

      • I don’t. :) And, honestly, I really don’t think putting down several thousand more dollars will buy me an image that differentiates itself from the “digital mass”. I think it’s great, and it holds its own, but 1. the idea that film must continue to be the standard is fairly subjective and arbitrary and 2. it doesn’t look like film, it looks digital, which makes sense since it’s a digital camera and 3. I will continue to rely on powerful storytelling and competent cinematography to make my work stand out.

        (PS: I’m not saying I am a powerful storyteller or a competent cinematographer.)

        • Rolling shutter looks like crap and this is a discussion about camera gear not storytelling.

          • No one knows, or can tell, what rolling shutter is besides these film websites. Lighting and camera angles make something cinematic… rolling shutter is just the new scapegoat that people WISH made a difference, but doesn’t. Not at all.

            …besides VFX work. Those are the only people that get a pass to complain about rolling shutter. The rest, again, is just a scapegoat. People hoping that something OTHER than story, lighting, angles will make their films stand out. It won’t. Nobody notices or cares.

            Plus, guess what! A smaller cam (like the BMPC) balanced on a HD-1000 gildecam, even with it’s rolling shutter, beats the crap out of handheld global shutter ANYDAY. And guess which is easier and requires less equipment to balance?

          • There is a lot more to ccd that just the lack of rolling shutter. The rendition of motion just looks a lot more like film. If you don’t see it then it doesn’t matter to you. Yes lighting, cinematography and script matter more, but some of us still strive for perfection in other areas too. It all adds up. Should I use a crap lens just because is cheap even if I can access a better one?

          • The Digital Bolex people are resting a lot of hope on their camera having global shutter. That is obvious by how they continually bring it up. We will see how well it works for them. I get the impression purists are big on global shutter. Idealism doesn’t always put food on the table though.

          • Alan, I don’t see a point in holding a technical discussion about a tool used to tell stories if storytelling is a forbidden element to that discussion. Sorry, not interested.

            Stewe, I didn’t mean to suggest that the Bolex doesn’t look more like film than other cameras. I was saying that that standard for how an image should look is a subjective standard that depends on taste and preference, and not on the actual quality of the image being produced. I was also suggesting that the Bolex image still looks digital, even if it is “less digital and more filmic” than other comparable cameras. Ultimately, I was arguing that the very comparable image paired with a much smaller price tag makes the BMPCC an investment that seems to just make more sense. I’m glad that you are striving for perfection. But I think that the differences between the two cameras are so technical and insignificant when it comes to actual storytelling to justify the price gap.

            Also, the smaller size of the BMPCC is a feature that is very important to me. It adds an incredible amount of versatility, and allows the cinematographer to achieve certain shots using much less expensive equipment than if it were a heavier piece (steadicams, underwater housings, etc.) That alone was the biggest reason for my decision.

      • Looking at how much tv and movies are done with cameras that have rolling shutter I can see lots of people don’t mind rolling shutter. They want higher K’s. They want higher resolution and richer color. I don’t see a mad dash to get a camera that has the most sophisticated global shutter. I do see a dash to higher and higher K’s.

        The DB really doesn’t separate itself from the BMPC or the BB that much. Maybe if it had 4K, or 6K, with the same specs we’d see a clear separation from not only the BMPC and BB but from higher K cameras.

        I do wish the people at DB success. I hope they make a good profit. But I still haven’t seen the footage that makes me salivate for this camera. But it is a good camera.

        • That’s odd because the vast majority of DoP care way more about dynamic range, than resolution.
          Also actors dread 4k. It makes them look old or ugly. We’re already having to step on the footage of current cameras, so you don’t see every wrinkle and pore.

          • Yep, right now… it’s all about the dynamic range. When we can stream advance-compressed 4k footage to 50+” screens from the web… resolution will be more important.

            I, myself, love resolution though… but I will admit it’s low on the importance ladder. Still would put rolling-shutter even lower than resolution though. People care even less about that.

          • You guys need to look at the list of tv shows and movies shot in 4K, and the number of internet shows, tv shows, cameras, and movies now in the works in 4K. Higher resolution certainly does appear to be high on the list, if not highest, not low at all.

            These arguments are ridiculous.

        • And 4k and 4k and 4k. Give it a rest with the spam Gene.

          • One man’s spam is Hollywood’s gold.

          • Not sure what hollywood has to do with some raving 4k lunatic

          • Simmer down wender (or are you jerber, or yet another name before that?)

            Try to control yourself. It’s easy to talk brave when you’re alone in front of your computer knowing you will never met the man you are trying so hard to insult.

          • LRJenkins

            It’s actually 4K, 6K, and 8K. At least try to be accurate in your juvenile shots.

            Also, try to follow blog policy and be productive in what you say—if you are able.

          • Hey guys, watch out…tough guy Gene might just get mad. He may throw his diaper at you!

          • It what way was your comment productive?

          • It was as productive as you making the same points over and over and over and over and over and over and over no matter what the conversation is.

          • Gene,please do us all a favor and give it a rest. You are flogging a dead horse. Join a forum about resolution and talk 4k, 6k, 8k with other TV consumers who have no idea what they are talking about when it comes cinema cameras.


          • your comment was a personal attack Muh that you feel brave enough to make over the internet but i am certain your ilk are cowards.

          • stewe

            it’s easy to scroll past comments you don’t agree with and not reply to them.

            The reason there is not more talk of 4K, 6K, and 8K in this blog is because filth from low character commenters like Muh, wender/jerber and flung at them. It even happens in posts about 4K. Higher resolution is obviously the hottest topic in the world of video. Ugliness seems to be launched at progress. I suppose these commenters find the most attention attacking the hot topic since spending time throwing their childish filth at lesser topics garners them less attention. The very little attention they get by attacking innovation must make them sleep better at night. They are unable to get respect in a legitimate fashion so they feel the need to resort to toilet humor and hate.

        • People don’t WANT that…they may like it when given, but no one’s complaining about not enough Ks in their tvs.

          • Yes Muh, how correct you are found to be. People don’t want higher resolution. There has been no such thing as moving on from VCRs and cathode ray tube tvs to BluRay and HD tvs. Your arguments are well thought out and air tight. Alas, pitiably, I have to move on and leave your profound and exciting insight behind.

          • Guys you wasting your breathe. There’s “one” at every party.

            Gene: maybe take stews advice and join the best buy forum, give us a rest. Thanks!

  • Thanks Joe. Very solid colors and motion on the d16 footage. Could you tell if the awfull moire at bmpcc footage was present at the original footage (not mp4).

  • Don’t know if people from Bolex are reading this blog, but I’d like to know about the clean 800 iso improvement on the camera. Having a digital camera nowadays that you should shoot at iso 200 to have a clean image is completely nonsense, iso 800 as the base iso is the least we could expect.

    • We’re always reading :)
      Yes we are working on cleaning up 800 ISO. Since our sensor is analog we have a lot of ways to time the image. It is conceivable that all ISO / color temperature settings see improvements over the next few months. Especially with the great community growing around the D16!

    • Hey Daniel, 800 iso was also still in testing and calibration phase when Joe M’s camera was sent to him. I wouldn’t judge our 800 by what’s in this video yet, it’s not at the release stage, just a mistake that it was left on the menu from testing on that one particular camera.

  • I’m surprised, the girl footage looks pretty great.
    If it’s because of the global shutter and the ccd, I want that combination for next year’s BMPCC 2 (with the same price, of course XD).

    • Very unlikely that BlackMagic will ever use CCD sensors.
      They cost at minimum 4X the price of similar sized CMOS sensors and are 10X more complicated to design for.

      BlackMagic is in a clear “race to the bottom price” company. There are good things and bad things about that.

      • Thanks for the answer Joe.
        It’s unfair when one compares the two prices, but I understand why you chose a CCD even if it would be more expensive.

      • I’m glad you went CCD, the footage here looks great. :)

      • As a man with a career in public relations I advice you not to make statements like this. There is now way you could know what BMD would and wouldnt do. One of first rules I teach to corporate big shoots and politicians is “Stay in your box”.
        Happy new year :)

        • Thanks for the advice, I did say “Very unlikely”, not impossible :)

          • Chip Pratchet on 12.26.13 @ 1:13PM

            Doesn’t the 4k Black Magic use a CCD sensor?

          • As far as I know, no it does not. Blackmagic doesn’t tell people the exact sensor they use, but it is thought they use CMOSIS sensors. There are global shutter modes on some high speed CMOS sensors.

          • Chip Pratchet on 12.26.13 @ 7:39PM

            Thanks Joe. That’s very interesting. I’ve not heard mention of that kind of sensor before.
            You learn something every day. Your camera is splendid, by the way.
            And anyone that can’t take advantage of any of these new generation cameras is an idiot.
            They are all variations on a beautiful theme.
            Long live Digital Bolex and Black Magic.

          • John Brawley on 12.29.13 @ 5:57AM


            The 4K Blackmagic production camera has a CMOS sensor with a global shutter. You should know that CCD’s can have rolling shutters or global shutter’s too. Not everyone realises that the Arri Alexa and RED EPIC also have rolling shutters.


          • to be fair though the rolling shutter on the Alexa or Epic are pretty different from the rolling shutter on a DSLR or a BMCC.

          • John Brawley on 12.29.13 @ 4:19PM

            There’re not different. They have a shorter integration time, so you notice the signature artefacts of the rolling shutter less. I see RS on an Alexa and an EPIC in the course of my shooting regularly. It’s just much less obvious.


  • The D16 footage looks like I hoped it would. It has character. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Thanks for the test! I like the D16 footage a lot although there are definitely some highlight issues. I’m sure they’re working on improving that right now and hopefully when I get mine in 8-12 weeks it’ll be taken care of. Cheers!

  • I wonder if there is anything being done about certain highlights – from traffic lights, headlamps, etc – blowing out to white. It shouldn’t be due to the CCD, is it? Or is it a firmware issue?

    • Assuming it is not blown in the DNG raw data, which is often the case, it is purely a grading issue.

  • Joe, one of the big selling points of the Bolex is sound recording. Supposedly very high quality for direct to camera. Will you be testing that in the future?

  • D16 all the way. You are the man Joe!

  • That 800ASA graded d16 footage has a huge pink shift in the highlights, especially compared to the 200 footage. I wonder why there’s such a huge color shift from the 2 ASA/ISOs? Is that purely a post handling issue?

    • Our ISO settings are not metadata, they are changes in the amount of electricity going to the sensor, or gain settings. So they require multi-stage calibrations for every ISO and every frame rate. We have not finished our calibration of 800 ISO yet. When we do it will be included in a firmware update. At that time the pink highlight issue should be removed.

      • Thanks for the explanation Joe! I remember the calibration examples from the other 2 ISOs, and you guys seemed to remedy the pink highlights quite well.

        When it comes to the pink highlights, in all fairness, to anyone who has seen most footage from 16mm cameras, the skies have this tint to them. It seems like there’s a lot of people (myself probably included) who are unfairly comparing the dynamic range of this camera to something akin to a 35mm film format, which is frankly ridiculous. While there are some 16mm film cameras and stock combos that handle the sky a little nicer, or at least allow for a thorough coloring in post, it’s still not 35mm. It’s not supposed to be. 16 has a very unique look to it, and while some 16mm cameras like the Krasnogorsk K-3 used M42 and other mounts, many used the C-Mount…This one was certainly designed with it in mind. It would seem like a wise idea to utilize lenses offered in this mount to get the best feel for what this camera actually is, and not compare it to some 35mm lens on a DSLR or other types of cameras.

  • Anthony Marino on 12.26.13 @ 5:37PM

    Not to go off topic here. Forget the other cameras in this test though can used as a wonderful reference. Notice the Arri SR16 footage, the DB 16 looks great in comparison.

  • Gearie Bowman on 12.28.13 @ 3:44AM

    I would have loved to have seen more of the BMPC graded footage in this comparison.

    You guys should try to get your hand on the INDieCAM for the next test. It would have fit perfectly into this type of comparison.

    Any word on how much the Indiecam cost Joe?

  • The problem with DB16 being a 2014 camera it is not 4K and costing $3300 the competition are bringing out very nice 4k cameras that can also handle low light a lot better.

  • Priceless expressions of model; hilarious. May be worth refilming once equipment is established.
    I wanted to view more!