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Digital Bolex Camera History

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Digital Bolex is now holding pre-sales on their website. www.DigitalBolex.com.

 

It's a big moment in camera history! Congratulations D16 backers as well as the production team behind the D16.

 

Digital Bolex is fulfilling pre-sale orders within 8 - 12 weeks. One surprising factoid is that the camera has an internal hard drive option. It's the buyer's option to purchase a 250GB or 500GB internal SSD. Additionally, they are offering a number of different products including accessories and apparel.

 

As stated in the D16 advertising, the camera costs about the same as a Canon 5D III. However, if you are a hot-rod camera enthusiast like myself, you're going to find a great deal more camera accessories for the D16 than the 5D III. For example, the BMPCC Metabones Speedbooster. Don't let the name fool you. This lens option will push the D16's low-light ability beyond the BMPCC's big brother the BMPC. Just a reminder here, the BMPC and the D16 are the only two budget-minded professional Cinema DNG cameras with a single-plane sensor offering global shutter.

 

On somewhat of a side note, why is the camera called the Digial Bolex D16 and not the Digital Bolex S16? Could it be that by offering shooters the entire 4x3 sensor plane that this camera will be better suited for anamorphic shooters and/or cinema photographers interested in shooting unique aspect ratios? Either way, this sounds like a huge step up from BMPCC software developers. It might even come across as a parallel to 5D III shooters backed by the incredible team behind Magic Lantern.

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For example, the BMPCC Metabones Speedbooster. Don't let the name fool you. This lens option will push the D16's low-light ability beyond the BMPCC's big brother the BMPC. 

 

You can't mount a Speedbooster on the D16 since it doesn't have a MFT mount.

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For example, the BMPCC Metabones Speedbooster. Don't let the name fool you. This lens option will push the D16's low-light ability beyond the BMPCC's big brother the BMPC. 

 

 

 

The D16 will use one of the standard SpeedBoosters.  The BMPCC and BMCC models, with higher speed boosting, are physically designed to work with those cameras and all the extra room they have compared with "normal" MFT cameras.  Given that each D16 mount is purpose built for that camera and only that camera it's theoretically possible someone could make a mount that was built around mimic'ing the physical design of either the BMCC MFT or BMPCC but unless you have specific references to offer this is just wishful thinking.

 

If they can get up to more than three or four units shipping per week perhaps Metabones will make a D16 Speedbooster to the same spec as the BMPCC option.

 

 

Could it be that by offering shooters the entire 4x3 sensor plane that this camera will be better suited for anamorphic shooters and/or cinema photographers interested in shooting unique aspect ratios?

 

 

It doesn't offer 4x3 shooting.  The D16 shoots 16:9, even in 2K mode (2048x1152)

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It doesn't offer 4x3 shooting.  The D16 shoots 16:9, even in 2K mode (2048x1152)

 

There is eventually going to be a full sensor mode which will be 4:3. good news for 2x anamorphic shooters :)

 

They are very responsive to community input, I'm hoping for a 1.5x res that will resolve to scope too!

 

heres hoping for a d16 speedbooster, if not the MFT version would be something. I don't know how the speedbooster works, but I imagine 16mm glass won't work with one on?

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It reduces the image circle so that the sensor sees more of it.  This has the effect of boosting the light the same way a magnifying glass makes light that passes through it brighter (and if focused to a point burn wood, ants, etc.).  The reciprocal effect is also valid so you can think of it as scaling up the size of your sensor (ie. the standard MFT SpeedBooster turns the GH2's 19mm sensor into a 26.76mm sensor).

 

That is very cool if they can make good on their 4:3 promise.  That would be the one feature that could make me consider buying a D16 over a BMPCC or BMCC and well worth the slightly lower DR, goofy case and much higher cost of entry (besides base price, that little display is a joke so add on an EVF or mini-HD monitor).

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It reduces the image circle so that the sensor sees more of it.  This has the effect of boosting the light the same way a magnifying glass makes light that passes through it brighter (and if focused to a point burn wood, ants, etc.).  The reciprocal effect is also valid so you can think of it as scaling up the size of your sensor (ie. the standard MFT SpeedBooster turns the GH2's 19mm sensor into a 26.76mm sensor).

 

That is very cool if they can make good on their 4:3 promise.  That would be the one feature that could make me consider buying a D16 over a BMPCC or BMCC and well worth the slightly lower DR, goofy case and much higher cost of entry (besides base price, that little display is a joke so add on an EVF or mini-HD monitor).

 

Yeah agreed, I don't think the screen on either the d16 or bmppc are useful for much other than basic framing/menus, I guess the expectation is since they are cine cams you setup monitoring yourself. Don't get me wrong, i'd love a good swivel lcd, especially on the pocket since its so portable it makes sense to go rig free.

 

I'm giving the d16 a go because I like the ccd and the spirit of the company, but at a 3rd of the price the pocket is very attractive. Pocket +SB would make a sweet B cam for tightspots and lowlight. Very few excuses not to shoot a film these days.

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I highly recommend downloading and playing with the sample D16 raw DNG footage from https://www.copy.com/s/2F1SEP36q04oIcRZ/Ashlee_Willis_Misery.zip and from https://philipbloom.wetransfer.com/downloads/a2361ca610eb3bc6182af7fea9838d5420131228180425/df0c2f in order to informedly make up one's judgement of the camera's strengths and limitations. Whether one sees the CCD sensor as an advantage or disadvantage, will be a matter of priorities (and, for sure: taste).

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Yeah agreed, I don't think the screen on either the d16 or bmppc are useful for much other than basic framing/menus, I guess the expectation is since they are cine cams you setup monitoring yourself. Don't get me wrong, i'd love a good swivel lcd, especially on the pocket since its so portable it makes sense to go rig free.

 

 

I'm more commenting on it (D16) having, per the official spec sheet, a 320x240 2.4" viewfinder.  

 

I wanted to believe that this was simply a horrible misprint but there it is.  For all the heat the BMPCC and BMCC have taken regarding their LCD at least you can make it work.  The swivel LCD on my GH2 is totally useless outside without my loupe.  Even a cheap loupe like mine makes the average 3" LCD on the GH2 useful regardless of ambient light.  That or something nicer like a Z-Finder and you don't absolutely need external monitoring or EVF.  They've got a pretty nice one tailored for the BMPCC too.  

 

There's the very real issue of the rigid screen not being optimal for all operation styles but it can work.  Ironically, the loupe/viewfinders for the BMD cameras only work well in exactly the shooting position the D16 is designed for, face height, close to or pressed against the face for stability.  $20 and you get a nice pistol grip to complete the "rigging".    But there's just no getting around some form of external viewing/monitoring on the Bolex though, unless you're just going really old school with a fixed focus lens at the family reunion BBQ or Christmas party.

 

I wouldn't call that a deal breaker, it's just a reality.  You have to really compare this thing to buying the BMD 4K camera since you'll need to add about $500 or so for a halfway decent means to see what you're doing and by that point you're really close to $4K being the true price of entry.

 

4:3 though, that's a compelling capability if they follow through.  I'm also hoping to see that little crank do something truly useful and unique, like speed ramping perhaps and doing Man on Fire and Domino style hand crank footage.  It seems like a given that this is what it should do if it does anything at all.

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4:3 though, that's a compelling capability if they follow through.  I'm also hoping to see that little crank do something truly useful and unique, like speed ramping perhaps and doing Man on Fire and Domino style hand crank footage.  It seems like a given that this is what it should do if it does anything at all.

 

When I chatted with them at SXSW, they said they were working on some way to use the side crank as a follow focus mechanism.

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Q: What does the crank do?

A: The crank performs a number of programmable functions. You can assign the crank settings you want to adjust on the fly, like ISO, shutter angle, or headphone volume. The crank can also record meta data of the handle movements so that film-like effects can be added in post, and will also serve as a way to control frame rate while shooting.

pretty cool, I heard there was also some work being put into being able to use the crank for focus.

 

 

Re: 4:3. I'm curious what 2x anamorphics would people shoot with? Is there anything "reasonably priced" with a single focus mechanism or is it aimed at rental lenses?

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For my needs only one of the rare focusable options will do, if shooting 4:3.  That precludes anything "reasonably priced".  One of the most important features any adapter must have, for me to buy it, is the ability to follow focus.  

 

It has to pass what I call the "Happy Test" now.  If you couldn't have used it to shoot Pharell Williams' 24hrs of Happy I'm not interested.  Moving camera, moving subject, cinematic stop (and allow for wide angles).

 

That's just me though.  Lots of folks work around the fairly static tableau a reasonably priced, dual-focus adapter imposes because they have different requirements or interests.

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For my needs only one of the rare focusable options will do, if shooting 4:3.  That precludes anything "reasonably priced".  One of the most important features any adapter must have, for me to buy it, is the ability to follow focus.  

 

It has to pass what I call the "Happy Test" now.  If you couldn't have used it to shoot Pharell Williams' 24hrs of Happy I'm not interested.  Moving camera, moving subject, cinematic stop (and allow for wide angles).

 

That's just me though.  Lots of folks work around the fairly static tableau a reasonably priced, dual-focus adapter imposes because they have different requirements or interests.

 

I get what you're saying, and that's a cool video... but it's hardly a litmus test for follow focus. It's a wide angle lens with what looks like mostly fixed focus at about 12 feet. Camera stays about that distance way from the subject at all times, so not much focus following/pulling going on. Just the operator"following focus" by keeping the right distance away from the subject at all times. ;)

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You haven't watched enough of it, really watched it for technique, or read about it then.  Seriously, I triple-dog-dare you to tell any 1st AC familiar with that production that it looks like an easy job.  Flip a coin whether they laugh or want to punch you.  You're looking with Joe Audience eyes.  Great 1st ACs are the hardest working guy on the camera team and their work is practically invisible.

 

That's a 50mm and the stop varied between T1.4 and T2.8 and has many moments of "godly" focus pulling, considering there were practically no second takes.  Regardless of all that, even in the short, chopped up version it's easy enough to see how impossible it would be for any dual-focus system.  You can't move once much less constantly be adjusting.  

 

The opening shot (from 1AM), before the first cut, has no point where the focus is static or at a fixed distance.  Williams even stops moving forward while the camera continues on and goes from an MCU to a Medium.   Then a bunch of cuts that are a second or two out of full-runs of the song (there is 24hrs of performance that went into the 4min posted edit BTW, and you can see it all), and we see the camera pulling back from a fixed subject.   It's full of moments like that, and subjects going from back to foreground, through frame, end of song + subject handing off to new subject and restart of song.

 

The steadicam ops were wasted after walking backwards for 12-15Km a day but the 1st AC would be exhausted as well, not only because they were constantly working but from the stress of no second takes (they claim ~10 restarts out of 370 setups).  No sir, it's the gymkhana of focus pull productions.

 

Watch harder.

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You haven't watched enough of it, really watched it for technique, or read about it then.  Seriously, I triple-dog-dare you to tell any 1st AC familiar with that production that it looks like an easy job.  Flip a coin whether they laugh or want to punch you.  You're looking with Joe Audience eyes.  Great 1st ACs are the hardest working guy on the camera team and their work is practically invisible.

 

That's a 50mm and the stop varied between T1.4 and T2.8 and has many moments of "godly" focus pulling, considering there were practically no second takes.  Regardless of all that, even in the short, chopped up version it's easy enough to see how impossible it would be for any dual-focus system.  You can't move once much less constantly be adjusting.  

 

The opening shot (from 1AM), before the first cut, has no point where the focus is static or at a fixed distance.  Williams even stops moving forward while the camera continues on and goes from an MCU to a Medium.   Then a bunch of cuts that are a second or two out of full-runs of the song (there is 24hrs of performance that went into the 4min posted edit BTW, and you can see it all), and we see the camera pulling back from a fixed subject.   It's full of moments like that, and subjects going from back to foreground, through frame, end of song + subject handing off to new subject and restart of song.

 

The steadicam ops were wasted after walking backwards for 12-15Km a day but the 1st AC would be exhausted as well, not only because they were constantly working but from the stress of no second takes (they claim ~10 restarts out of 370 setups).  No sir, it's the gymkhana of focus pull productions.

 

Watch harder.

 

You're right. I haven't watched enough of it to make critical comment. But, I did watch about 20 minutes of it... jumping around. Are you sure that's a 50mm? Looks like a 40mm to me. 

 

I think I was also looking for focus pulling errors, since there's always a few on even the best productions and I saw none. That could be, as you say, that they did such a herculean job that it looked easy and made the technique completely invisible. Will have another look at the edited version, as the song got a little monotonous after about 20 minutes of it. ;)

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Here ya go: Planet5D article on "Happy"

 

...sorry for the derailment of the Bolex thread.

 

PS> down in the comments section of that article, 1st AC Scott Johnson confirms about 80% of the video was shot at T1.4

 

Ah! So it was actually an anamorphic 50mm. That's why it looked like a wider 40mm masked to wide screen. I thought it looked a bit soft too, as it mentioned in the article. The compression likely didn't help that much either. 

 

Curious, excuse my ignorance, but why do you and others insist on referring to T-stops instead of F-stops? Even the article you reference cites f-stops instead of t-stops. I vaguely remember the difference from film school, but wonder why some use one or the other in film conversation. 

 

Ok, back to the Digital Bolex ;) One thing they told me at SXSW was that the battery isn't user changeable. That, when it's spent you'll have to send it back to them for a new one. I know you can power it from an external source as well, but I was hoping they'd change that in the development process. 

 

All in all though, I have to say that the sample footage I've seen so far definitely looks interesting. The camera itself seemed a bit heavy, but nice and solid. What I held wasn't a working prototype though. Certainly very interested in how it develops if they can get enough out there in the wild.

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Cinema lenses feature T-stops which is an actual measurement of the light transmission rather than simply a physical calculation of the focal to iris ratio of a lens.  F-stops don't guarantee the same transmission of light between lens type or manufacturer.  An SLR zoom, for instance, will likely transmit slightly less light than a prime at the same F-stop (because of light loss in the glass), meaning f/4 isn't always f/4 in terms of effective exposure.  The two lenses would have different T-stops if measured.  

 

It's just a more precise reference and when you see it used you know the lens in question was designed for cinema.

 

 

All in all though, I have to say that the sample footage I've seen so far definitely looks interesting. The camera itself seemed a bit heavy, but nice and solid. What I held wasn't a working prototype though. Certainly very interested in how it develops if they can get enough out there in the wild.

 

 

Yes.  I think it's significant too that the first clips coming from the D16 are nicer looking than the earliest footage from the BMCC/BMPCC.  There's great looking stuff now, to be sure, but perhaps the D16 will be easier for some folks to get something decent, more out-of-the-box where too many BMD customers bought more camera than they know what to do with, to see all that still-raw looking, flat footage still being posted online.

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