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Digital Bolex D16 Review - Part 1


Andrew Reid
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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

I also have a negative opinion on this camera. It just doesn't seem like a good camera to actually work with. There are cameras out there that beat it in every single way, literally, they have bigger sensors, they have MUCH better sensitivity, they have better detail and resolution, better screens, better ergonomics, better codecs besides raw, better prices, better everything. The only way I see this camera is that it's a fashion piece, a thing of nostalgia, a collector's item to be proud of owning.
And there's nothing wrong with that, I'd be very happy to own one, it takes you back to the old Bolex days, lovely.
Aesthetics is a main factor we consider when we're buying cars, mobile phones, cloth, even food and drink. I see no reason why we also shouldn't buy a camera because it looks and feels good. Same principle of the Nikon DF.  

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this camera comes with a c-mount....in a time when most of the cameras look almost exactly the same... i think this one with the right old lenses could recreate a look that others try to immitate with filter upon lut ontop of filter....

 

i want it! it also looks kind of girly...sorry guys. 

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I also have a negative opinion on this camera. It just doesn't seem like a good camera to actually work with. There are cameras out there that beat it in every single way, literally, they have bigger sensors, they have MUCH better sensitivity, they have better detail and resolution, better screens, better ergonomics, better codecs besides raw, better prices, better everything. The only way I see this camera is that it's a fashion piece, a thing of nostalgia, a collector's item to be proud of owning.

 

Quite. It does indeed make a lot of sense to come up with strong conclusions based on spec sheets on paper, without ever having seen, let alone used one in real life. Although the footage created by measurebating hardly ever gets nominated for the Oscars, does it. 

 

 

 

Aesthetics is a main factor we consider when we're buying cars, mobile phones, cloth, even food and drink. I see no reason why we also shouldn't buy a camera because it looks and feels good. Same principle of the Nikon DF.  

 

Speak for yourself only. "We" don't buy cars, food and cameras based on looks alone. If I had enough money to spend, I would probably buy the D16 despite its looks, not because of its looks.

 

I don't actually like the cheesy fake retro (girly?) looks of the D16, but I'd love to have the guts of the Digital Bolex in a less conspicuous package. I'd tolerate weird looks and even a few quirks for a nice interchangeable lens video camera with a nice CCD sensor. 

 

I'm looking forward to the Mk2 version of the D16, whatever it will look like, hopefully with most of the " version 1.0" issues fixed. I think it's great we now have more choice than before.

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I also have a negative opinion on this camera. It just doesn't seem like a good camera to actually work with. There are cameras out there that beat it in every single way, literally, they have bigger sensors, they have MUCH better sensitivity, they have better detail and resolution, better screens, better ergonomics, better codecs besides raw, better prices, better everything. 
 

 

I'm not sure I can think of a single camera in this price range that shoots raw, doesn't have terrible rolling shutter and moire; does have xlr inputs and SSD. You pay extra for those features if they are worth it to you. Personally if I want compression, noise reduction, sharpening I prefer to do it myself and not have it done nastily on the fly by a dslr.

 

Bare in mind it's meant to be a cinema camera and not a replacement for a camcorder or a gh. If you want to shoot compressed video for weddings/corporate a gh4 makes much more sense. If you want to shoot narrative and are after something closer to 16mm film, the bolex might be for you. Try using the camera before declaring it doesn't have good ergonomics. I find it a dream to use after using a dslr, although a viewfinder is a must.

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I'm not sure I can think of a single camera in this price range that shoots raw, doesn't have terrible rolling shutter and moire; does have xlr inputs and SSD. You pay extra for those features if they are worth it to you. Personally if I want compression, noise reduction, sharpening I prefer to do it myself and not have it done nastily on the fly by a dslr.

 

Bare in mind it's meant to be a cinema camera and not a replacement for a camcorder or a gh. If you want to shoot compressed video for weddings/corporate a gh4 makes much more sense. If you want to shoot narrative and are after something closer to 16mm film, the bolex might be for you. Try using the camera before declaring it doesn't have good ergonomics. I find it a dream to use after using a dslr, although a viewfinder is a must.

 

Good points. 

 

It's also funny how some people knock a camera before even using it. 

 

For example, I have never used a Nikon before for video, and when I get asked if they are any good, I reply with 'not sure, never used one.'

 

Baffling!

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

It does indeed make a lot of sense to come up with strong conclusions based on spec sheets on paper, without ever having seen, let alone used one in real life. 

 

 

Try using the camera before declaring it doesn't have good ergonomics. 

 

 

 

 

It's also funny how some people knock a camera before even using it. 

 

 

 

 

Well I am extremely lucky that the only camera in the middle east is in the hands of a dear friend of mine, I arranged a shoot with it on thursday and will tell you how it goes. Maybe you're right and when I try it It would completely change my mind (it happened before!). I am not optimistic though! 

 

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I'm an old 16mm film shooter and professional video engineer who has a D16 on order. 

I have seen some early prototype sample footage from the D16 that I processed and graded projected on a 20' theater sized screen from a $60k 3-chip DLP cinema projector my company was installing for a corporate client. That is where the D16 really comes into its own, producing a seamless rich image with refined color,  grayscale reproduction, texture and motion quality that no compressed codec HD video camera anywhere near its price can come close to.

At that size all of the typical low end HD camera artifacts like rolling shutter, moire and aliasing stand out like a sore thumb. Compression artifacts like crushed blacks, macro blocking, and images that turn to mush when anything moves look horrid. The BMC's are cheap and do shoot raw and Prores, but they still suffer the same range of low end CMOS artifacts. Prores is just another compressed HD video codec, though better than most.

Comparing the D16 to any HD video camera is a futile excercise. It's design target is to be a viable true 2k DCI format compliant digital cinema camera. An affordable direct replacement for an S16mm film camera. That it does extremely well. Better than anything short of a Sony F5 with the 2k OLPF installed shooting raw on an Odyssey 7Q. A week's rental for an F5 raw package will buy you a D16. It is very cheap for what it does.

Can't wait to get mine! :)

 

Joe and Elle, the developers of the Digital Bolex, are film makers with deep professional, social, and philosphical connections with the current indie cinema scene. Not the kids running around with $600 DSLR's shooting their latest take on the zombie craze, but serious film makers shooting narrative, documentary and experimental art films who chafe at the frustrations and image quality limitations of HD video cameras. The D16 is made for them.

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It's also funny how some people knock a camera before even using it. 

 

For example, I have never used a Nikon before for video, and when I get asked if they are any good, I reply with 'not sure, never used one.'

 

Baffling!

 

What we would be supposed to do when we click on "Comment this article" ?

This place is to share our pov based on what we actually know.

So what is really funny is seeing someone criticizing people who are expressing their opinion about a new product.

 

Btw, saying "there are bigger sensors", bigger display or lower price and so on is not something that requires testing before.

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Nice review. Thanks!

 

In the video, the recovery from overblown white back to color, like when she's in front of the sun, looks really nice (like the thumbnail). Do you remember what lens was used for this shot?

 

Also, the review mentions that Vimeo's compression 'destroys' some of the beauty of the image. Any chance you can post some side by side in a format that shows what's lost in compression? The image on Vimeo is pretty good - I'd like to know how much better the actual image is.

 

All the best,

- Rob.

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  • 4 weeks later...

And I would like to add that all those "other cameras" you speek of that have "better specs" most likely don't have a global shutter CCD. Eoshd clearly points out that the d16 has more realistic skin tones. For me this way more important then 4k or shooting at I iso162637288383. Also as a snowboarder and rollerblader having a global shutter CCD with RAW is all the spec I need.

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