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Andrew Reid

See the Digital Bolex at Hot Rod Cameras in LA - Wednesday 15th January

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Thanks Kays for your impressions.

I think the built in battery and SSD make it a less versatile, more niche product.

All Bolexs had to have film put in them, so there's no aesthetic reason to not make them user replaceable.

Original RX Bolexes also has a viewfinder, which was a luxury at their price point and part of their continued use many years after production ceased. The momentary on/off switch in the handgrip was convienient and you only has 3 minutes on a 100' daylightspool, so it help you to conserve film.

 

The D16's lack of accessory mounting options and XLRs in your face (if you're a righty) might get annoying. It might also make it a very popular camera with lefties and some creative customizations might come about with a little time (good point).

 

I hope the passion and image quality/global shutter make it work. I have a lot of C mount glass I might/could use on it.

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Got there around 3pm yesterday and hung out for about an hour. These are just my personal impressions from a very limited interaction with the camera and brief conversations with Joe and some of the other attendees. Please keep in mind that these are personal opinions and they might not be entirely accurate or reflect the final camera's functionality.

 

Ok, here goes:

 

First let me say that Joe seems like a very passionate and super nice guy, there is a lot to be said about someone who pursued an idea a saw it through realization, kudos to him and his team!

 

I also want to say that the image quality that I saw on the computer (the camera records CDNG files with Aiff audio) was very pleasant and detailed with low noise and good shadows and highlights.

 

Having said that, unfortunately this camera appears to have a classic case of a solution-looking-for-a-problem, starting from the form factor which doesn't lend itself either to traditional mounting solutions nor to newer DSLR rigs. Sure you can mount it on a tripod, but trying to attach it to a rail system with a follow focus gear is going to be...challenging. I was also surprised at the lack of some screw holes in the body which would come in really handy to attach an external monitor or other gadgets. It does have a hot-shoe flash mount, but I personally avoid those with larger and heavier attachments.

 

The pistol grip is a cool idea, but the camera is fairly heavy (heavier than a 5D with a hefty lens) One's arm would likely become sore after about 20 minutes of holding it. The decision was made  to be true to the original and make the record trigger on the handle not latch when pressed to record. While this is the way the original Bolex operated, it would have been nice if a latch option would have been provided. The camera does have a record button on the top which works as expected, but makes one wonder if the pistol grip button will largely be ignored by most operators.

 

The camera features two CF card slots, however all the video is recorded to a non-removable internal SSD 500Gb drive. Why not write directly to easily removable CF cards instead? Methinks if the Blackmagic Pocket Camera can do it, why not the Digital Bolex?

 

The internal drive can hold about an hour-ish and then some worth of video, and the data can then be transferred to the CF cards, or to a computer through a USB 3 slot. Transfer time through USB 3 for about 500Gb worth of data....about an hour. 

 

Lens mount is a C-type. This was another bit of odd choice to me, while once again this mount is true to the original Bolex, why require the end user to buy into yet another type of adapter, particularly one which is not used by anyone else?

 

No removable battery...grrrrr.

 

2K -- The sensor is a super-16mm sized one, shooting at 2K uses the entire sensor, while shooting in 1080p mode crops the sensor down to what Joe described as regular 16mm size. In my opinion, 2K offers neither high enough resolution for re-cropping and enlargement in post, nor is particularly useful as a delivery format for web, festivals, and DVD/Blu Ray where this camera's output is likely going to end up. So why not either stick to 1080 and use the full sensor, or go all the way up to 4K?

 

Last but not least, the price. At over $3k (actually $3600 after the drive upgrade to 500Gb) I am not quite sure how this camera will fare against the Blackmagic Cinema Camera which features a larger sensor, EF or m4/3 mount, higher resolution, swappable media, and already a thriving accessories ecosystem. Will no-rolling shutter and a cool vintage vibe be enough?

 

In closing, I did like the image that I saw quite a bit, and I feel that some of my concerns could be fixed with a firmware update (most notably the gun trigger function and maybe the ability for the camera to write directly to fast CF cards). I'm not quite sure how this camera will do against Blackmagic and whatever else is announced in April, but I wish Joe and his team the best of luck and a great deal of success nonetheless.

 

I applaud Joe for pursuing a dream, and I think this world needs more, and not less guys like him. Despite the potential shortcomings of this camera, I am happy that it exists, and I am happy that people like Joe are able to realize their visions.

 

 

Once again, these are just my opinions based on a very brief encounter with the Digital Bolex, please take everything I just typed with a huge grain of salt and try to test drive this camera for yourself before you come to a decision on whether you want to buy one or not.

I liked the camera too…but now I want to shoot 4k…so what happens to my 5d mark 3 raw and bmpcc (pocket camera)..?

for 4k are these cameras obsolete now???

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