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