We're coming up on one year since the D16 Digital Bolex camera was first announced and Kickstarted, but it's now one giant step closer to completion and release. The RAW Super 16mm-sized CCD camera, which should retail for a little over $3,000, made a splash when it was first announced (no doubt because of those attributes), but it's taken a bit of tweaking to finally get the D16 to where it is today. The final design for the body has now been completed, and along the way, there have been at least 100 changes from the initial design -- all of which came after careful consideration and feedback from potential users. Click through to check out the final design and read about some of the major changes.

A little bit from Joe's post about the final design:

I have heard some people say “just give me a brick with a sensor in it”. And I understand that mentality, but as someone working every day to bring a product into this world, I’ll tell you, it’s not just about making a pretty object. It’s about the pride in your work, it’s about imagining someone caring for this object for years to come. The mentality of making the D16 a beautiful object, that we hope people will want to keep for a long time, and making it useful for that same duration of time are tied together. If we had made a plastic camera that we thought most people will dispose of in 18 months we would never have put the effort into the other features that we hope will give the D16 a long useful life. This is form follows function on an emotional level.

Here is the finished version of the body:




These are just some of the changes from the initial design:

  • Steel to Carbonized Aluminum
  • User Removable Optical Low Pass Filter
  • Analog Volume Knobs and 24 bit 96k Sound
  • Weather Sealing
  • HDMI Port with a 1920 x 1080 Output
  • 4 Pin XLR 12V Power Output
  • Future HD-SDI Module Possible
  • USB 3.0
  • Doubled the Battery Capacity from 2 to 4 Hours
  • 2nd Tripod Hole
  • Measuring Tape Post

There have also been some improvements with the CCD sensor in the camera, since CCDs have certain advantages over CMOS sensors:

Improved Sensor Gain Stage Controls: We have doubled the fidelity of control on the sensor board. This means we have much more finely tuned control over how the sensor behaves than most cameras makers do. The use of a CCD sensor instead of a CMOS sensor in this camera has many benefits.

CCDs have a more flexible analog gain stage. If used properly this can dramatically improve sensor performance. CCDs also don’t do any analog to digital conversion, which means that we as the camera makers can decide how that happens, again improving performance. CCDs are generally less noisy especially in the darks at their native ISO. This is important for the economy of bits and the final image. CCDs can be passively cooled much easier so internal fans and limited record times are not a problem. And of course our sensor has a global shutter instead of a rolling one.

They also announced just in the last few days that Hot Rod Cameras will be building their PL mount. While this will add a little bit of cost for those who want that option, the mounts that have been produced by Illya Friedman are exceptional.

So the big question is, when can we expect it to be released? Joe said this in the comments:

We are not scaling to meet huge demand this year, but we will be delivering the first 100 cameras this quarter, and we will be pre-selling 300 cameras after that. Then when those 300 are delivered (in a much more timely way) we will pre-sell 500 more, and so on raising the number of cameras we can produce each time. And growing our production facility, distribution, and service facilities organically...But we will be delivering a couple thousand cameras this year, depending on the demand it may or may not be difficult to get one, but it will be possible

I think this project has come a long, long way since the beginning. The D16 has carved out its niche much, much more clearly than just being a cheap RAW camera. The improvements made make this a solid option for the thousands of lenses out there, like C-mount, that are made to cover 16mm only. While there have been many comparisons made between this and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, aside from their similar price, they are very different animals aimed at different users. Since the BMCC sensor is much bigger than Super 16mm, it requires a decent amount of cropping in RAW mode to make any of those lenses usable. I can see both of these cameras coexisting peacefully without issue.

Either way it's definitely some good news, especially for those who've pre-ordered on Kickstarter. If you have more questions for the team, be sure to head on over to their website and check out the Digital Bolex forum.

What do you guys think about the changes? If you happen to be one of the first buyers, what do you think about what they've done to the camera since the announcement?