The Digital Bolex: A Super 16 sized CCD Sensor with Digital Raw recording Cinema Camera

by danielgrey

Update: Here is a link to their new forum The most up to date info can be found there.

This affordable camera news came to me through Philip Blooms blog. Actually it came thorough Facebook like most of my news does now, I’m sure this doesn’t mean facebook will replace the news, just that I spend to much time on Facebook.

Philip has a review and a phone interview with the creators. I read his post checked out the kickstarter page and put my money down. I got camera number 000010 I’m investing in a company I want to see succeed but still a very scary proposition, send someone $2500 and hope they send you a camera.

Resolution 2048 x 1152 (Super 16mm mode) + 1920 x 1080 pixels (16mm mode)
Format Adobe Cinema DNG, TIFF, JPEG Image sequences
Colour depth 12 bit – 4:4:4
File size 2 to 3 MB per frame in RAW
Sensor Kodak CCD: 12.85 mm (H) x 9.64 mm (V) – Similar to Super 16mm
Pixel Size 5.5 micron (compared to the 4.3 micron size of many DSLRs)
Framerate up to 32 fps at 2K, 60fps at 720p, 90 fps at 480p
Sound Balanced, 2 channel, 16 bit, 48 kHz via XLR
Viewfinder 320×240, 2.4” diagonal, with Focus Assist
Video out 640 x 480 B&W via ⅛” video jack (HD-SDI avail in separate unit)
Ports ⅛” video, headphone, USB 3.0, Audio XLR (2), 4-PIN XLR
Data Storage Dual CF card slots, SSD (buffer drive)
Power Internal battery, 12V External via 4 pin XLR port
Body Milled steel and hard plastic
Size (body) Approximately 5”H (without pistol grip) by 4”W by 8”D
Size (grip) 5”H by 2”W by 5”D
Lens mount C-mount comes standard; Optional PL, EF, B4
Weight 5lbs
ISO Options 100, 200, 400
Also in the box pistol grip, USB 3.0 cable, internal battery, 4 pin XLR Battery, cable, video cable, transcoder/raw conversion software

Lenses will be interesting proposition we can use old 16 and super 16mm film lenses Zeiss, Cooke, Angenieux and Switars although they are rare and expensive. I have read the shorter focal length Switars are RX corrected so anything under 50mm won’t suit the digital chip unless the creators allow for this (edit* Joe has mentioned he is aware of it and might be able to allow for this).
There are some aspect of this little cam I don’t like. The low resolution viewfinder and b/w monitor out. I think I can live with these for the opportunity to learn to not be so reliant on the viewfinder. I think I will shoot Adobe Cinema DNG, colour my footage in Lightroom and edit in Premiere CS5.5. At the moment I’m not totally sure about this Adobe workflow but there are work arounds. Transcoding to cineform is one. There is a vocal for and against spreading around the internet as people take sides. The “against” seem well informed so I will keep doing my research. If you watch the Behind the Scenes of “One Small Step” , the first film shoot on the digital bolex you can see a little camera. Its an industrial camera called a Prosilica GX2300 by GIGE vision usually used in security or medical imaging. It uses the same $350 sensor sensor the Digital Bolex uses which is why Joe and Elle used the Prosilica to shoot a film to show off the camera. The most exciting thing about this camera is the CCD sensor. It does not suffer the jello effect caused by rolling shutter that can be seen on CMOS sensors when you move to quickly. The lens choice for this little cam is also supurb the more I research I do the more excited I get. I’m still hoping to view some stock footage and confirm a workflow, when I find out I will post it here.

A quote from Barry Green a moderator over at DVXuser, who sums the camera in this analogy:

“Okay, you all knew it was coming, but it’s time for a car comparison. Think of the AF100 in terms of a car, it’s a, well, maybe it’s a Honda Civic LX. It’s comfortable, it’s smooth, it’s quick, it has power locks and power windows and air conditioning and a great stereo, and when you want to go somewhere you turn the key and go. By comparison, the DBolex is a 300HP engine on a go-kart frame. When you want to use it, you go blasting down the dragstrip, and then you spend the next week repairing everything that broke off it. (that’s the equivalent to all the post-production you’ll have to do on the raw images).

In other words, the AF100 is the daily driver, and the DBolex is the weekend hobby. There’s definitely a place for both in a shooter’s arsenal, as long as they can afford both. That’s my take, anyway, and I do hope these guys can deliver what they set out to deliver.”

This is an important thing to think about I have been shooting with a DSLRs where ISO, White balance everything is decided in camera. The chip inside the camera even shrinks the footage to a very manageable size through a codec. The Digital Bolex will be the opposite, broom broom.

I received a reply to this post from Joe Rubinstein (one of the creators) “I especially like the car analogy, in fact I used a car analogy when explaining why we needed the partnership with Bolex International. My feeling though is this is not a speedy car, quite the opposite, I think it’s an electric VW Bug. It’s retro, it’s gonna be a hell of a lot of fun to drive, comes with no extras, and you’re gonna end up spending a bunch of time tinkering with it, because it’s fun! I loved 16mm film, it was cheap enough to play with but high enough quality to do some serious work, that’s what I want for this camera, to revive the sense of wonder and discovery I got from my Bolex.

Thanks again, Joe”

A current prototype and mock up, not much to look at unfortunately but it shows they are serious.

Digital Bolex prototype Digital Bolex mock up

Good luck to Joe Rubinstein and Elle Schneider