Video review of the Digital Bolex D-16

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My Bolex collection, including bottom right, my Digital Bolex
My Bolex collection with the Digital Bolex D16 bottom right

ETHICS STATEMENT

LIKE ALL MY CAMERA REVIEWS, THIS IS TOTALLY INDEPENDENT.
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO BE PAID BY A MANUFACTURER AND REMAIN UNBIASED.

I AM NOW FRIENDS WITH JOE FROM DIGITAL BOLEX, BUT HE KNOWS THAT
I HAVE TO BE 100% HONEST ABOUT THE CAMERA, AND HE RESPECTS THAT.

THESE ARE ENTIRELY SELF FUNDED.
MY OPINIONS ARE ENTIRELY MY OWN AND SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH.
NEVER BASE A PURCHASE ON ONE PERSON’S OPINION.
ESPECIALLY MINE!

PLEASE TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!!

ANY DONATIONS FOR THESE SELF FUNDED REVIEWS VIA
VIMEO TIP JAR ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED & HELP FUND FUTURE REVIEWS.
FOR MORE ON MY ETHICS & WEBSITE AFFILIATES LIKE THE MUSIC BED, ZACUTO & FILM CONVERT THEN
PLEASE VISIT GOPB.CO/ETHICS

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Well it’s finally done. It took a while, but it was worth taking my time so I could really get to know the camera.

It has been great fun shooting with this camera for the past two months, and I loved the images I have captured with it, many examples of which you can see in the review.

There isn’t much to write about as it’s all said in the video review. Hopefully I cover most things. The camera is available to buy (on back order) here.  Any more questions please write in the comments section below.

Music is courtesy of The Music Bed GoPb.co/musicbed apart from the one track used in the “Rain City” piece, which is of the same name by Turin Brakes. All tracks are listed when they come on in the video at the bottom of the screen.

Video is colour corrected with Magic Bullet Colorista II. All Bolex footage has gone through either DaVinci Resolve or Pomfort’s Lightpost which comes with the camera. Davinci doesn’t want to connect the .wav with the clips right now, which is a pain. Lightpost has no problem with that, but has a lot less parameters, though it’s quicker.

Final grading was done with FilmConvert and various settings. Discount codes for various Magic Bullet Products including Colorista II, their excellent suites and Filmconvert area available. Details on the two banners below. Click through to go to them.

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Below is the short piece I made in Miami called “Ocean on Fire”. The “Timefest” edit within the review is not currently made as a standalone. If people want that, it’s easy enough to do!

Thanks for you patience, as you know it’s all done in my “spare time” whatever that is!! Any purchases through the various affiliates on my website and via the TIP JAR on the actual Vimeo page are greatly appreciated, no matter how small. It all goes to help fund future reviews. This one after all took about, when added up, around 3 solid weeks of work! Thanks!

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I exported this as ProRes Proxy with a resulting file of 10gb! Well it is 42 minutes long. Thankfully Vimeo Pro lets me upload this stupid size file, and with 1TB of annual storage I will be fine! Phew! 

Review shot on the Sony F55 in 4K for reframability. All the shots of me are one single shot on the GL-Optics 18-35mm F1.8 at around F5.6. No reframing was done optically. All shot by myself!

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Review of the Digital Bolex D16 from Philip Bloom Reviews and Tutorials on Vimeo.

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Ocean on fire shot on Digital Bolex D16 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Switronix battery add on for the Digital Bolex
Switronix battery add on for the Digital Bolex

 

ORIGINAL POST FROM 21ST JANUARY 2014

With my absolutely EPIC Sony A7r, A7, RX10 video review all done it’s time to move onto the next one! The Digital Bolex D-16. The review is mostly shot, I just need to do a few more bits then edit it. I have shot loads of footage and that will be in the review video.

On tbe 1st of January I decided to quickly cut together some footage I shot in the absolutely MISERABLE pouring rain of London’s South Bank. Lenses used were the C mount Fujinon 25mm F0.85 and the Computar 12mm F1.4. Mostly shot at ISO 100 with a few shots at ISO 400 for those really really dark bits. God, it was truly miserable today!

Wet and miserable filming in the pouring rain on London's South Bank
Wet and miserable filming in the pouring rain on London’s South Bank

I really like the stuff I got today. Looks quite lovely, more or less everything until now has been indoors. The only downside I can see is the old pink highlights issue that I have seen on far too many cameras like REDs, Blackmagic, 5D3 raw…these get fixed with firmware quite quickly, normally. Best advice, hold those highlights to avoid this!

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I wanted to share with you the whole lot, all the cinema DNGs…well that wasn’t going to happen. FAR TOO BIG! Instead, I have taken the shots I have used in the edit and given you ProRes HQ versions, colour corrected very simply in Davinci Resolve with the flat look of Blackmagic Film. The shots given are longer than the ones I used in my edit below.  There are also some still DNG frames from most of the shots and one whole Cinema DNG shot to play with. If you do use any of these, then please credit me and my website PhilipBloom.Net. These shots are strictly for personal use only. This is a very large download of 8.15b so you are warned!

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Rain City: Initial shooting with the Digital Bolex D-16 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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Now…onto the camera. I backed the Digital Bolex on Kickstarter back on March 13th last year. It was a very nerve-wracking thing to do. Despite the legendary name of Bolex attached to it, itself not exactly doing much these days, this was a camera being made by people with no apparent experience in making cameras. It was also a fair amount of money to put down, around $3000, especially with Kickstarter’s scary way of operating in that you give all the money straight away and HOPE a product one day turns up with no comeback if they don’t.

Why was this of interest to me? Super 16mm is a lovely format to shoot with. With a much deeper depth of field than S35, it has its pros and cons. The pros being it’s a hell of a lot easier to keep stuff in focus! I had shot a little with the lovely but very quirky Ikonoskop, it produced lovely images, but at around 10,000 Euros it wasn’t cheap. This camera however was cheaper, it had the Bolex name, would shoot raw and looked lovely and retro design wise, it looked like a Bolex.

It helped that I spoke to Joe and Elle from Digital Bolex for my post  to put them the questions that I needed to the answers to. The answers helped a lot so I backed it. I was worried still, as me backing it meant others followed…that’s a lot of responsibility.

It has felt a lot longer than just over 18 months waiting for the camera, as so much has happened in the camera world.  In that time I have met Joe and Elle a couple of times and spoken to Joe on email many times. But, as I’m sure you are all aware, we now have a very cheap Super 16mm raw camera on the market and two slightly larger sensor versions from Blackmagic. Massive competition for Digital Bolex and very importantly…you could get them more or less immediately (Pocket Camera is still in short supply) which made me, and I am sure many other patient backers, worry about out investment. 21 months later a very valid question to ask is “do we REALLY need a Super 16mm video camera anyway? Don’t we all love Super 35mm and larger?” An important question, and one I will ask myself a lot in my video review.

Now we all know the BMD cameras are far from perfect, but they are damn cheap. So why is the Digital Bolex still of interest? To be frank that is totally subjective. If we just go by the camera with the closest specs and more importantly the same S16mm sized sensor (the BMD Pocket Camera) as comparison, it doesn’t fare so well in some areas, but does much better in others.

This is not a full review, I will do that as soon as possible. This is just my initial thoughts….so please take them as that, as my thoughts always change over time once I shoot more with a camera. So far my experience with the D-16 has been very limited.

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BEAUTIFUL packing!
BEAUTIFUL packaging!

What the Super 16mm Digital Bolex has over the Super 16mm BMD Pocket Camera from my initial observations

Global Shutter so no skewing.

Proper audio with 2 balanced XLRs with Phantom Power.

Internal SSD of up to 512gb and two CF slots for offloading to. Very fast offload with USB built-in and camera can be switched off when doing this, as drives simply operate like any USB 3 external drive.

Absolutely no moire or aliasing that I have seen. Zero, zlich.

A very filmic image, more so than the BMD Pocket Camera. It really has a proper S16mm look to it, not just a S16mm sized sensor.

Audio meters! Audio Pots!

60FPS at 720p and 90FPS at 480p, as well as the up to 30p in full 2K.

The ability to format in-camera, but not delete clips yet.

Accurate time remaining on media and battery life indicators. The Pocket camera does not tell you how much space you have left on your card. It just stops recording when it has run out.

Surprisingly, a really nice form factor. Especially with the grip, it’s a lovely handheld camera. You actually hold the trigger to keep rolling and release to stop…like a Bolex film camera. Of course, the grip comes off and it can go on a tripod.

C-mount built-in means there are LOTS of, currently, cheap lenses to grab. More lens mounts will come, which will replace the front of the camera, most importantly MFT as hopefully we will be able to use the Metabones Pocket Camera Speedbooster.

No mini or micro HDMI nonsense here. Full, fat, full size HDMI connector for clean out to use with an external recorder, or more likely, like me, a Zacuto EVF as the screen is utter pants and doesn’t tilt enough up anyway. With a side cold shoe, it’s actually really easy to mount the Zacuto EVF, and hand-held is a piece of cake. You don’t actually need a rig with this camera unless you go down the heavier lens route or mount external batteries.

With the Zacuto Z-Finder
With the Zacuto Z-Finder

 

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With the Sigma 18-35 F1.8 Nikon mount...heavy!
With the Sigma 18-35 F1.8 Nikon mount…heavy!

 

With one of my vintage lenses.
With one of my vintage lenses.

What the Super 16mm BMD Pocket Camera has over the Super 16mm Digital Bolex from my initial observations

Better sensitivity…the Pocket Camera is rated as 800, the Bolex I believe is around 200-300. It cannot currently go higher than 400, but this will change to 800 with imminent new firmware. I don’t like to use the Pocket Camera over 800, as it gets too noisy. Neither are low-light cameras, but the Pocket Camera fairs better here.

ProRes internal recording OR Cinema DNG. This makes a difference for quick working. ProRes HQ is a wonderful format, and most of the time shooting raw is not needed, due to the increase in workflow time and the much higher cost in capturing media and storage media due to the massive files that raw creates.

Playback of clips. This is coming in firmware to the Bolex but is not ready as of yet. No Playback. Although when I first got my Epic, I had about 6 months of no playback! There is still no ability to format the cards though!

The active MFT mount is great with all the choice of glass and many adaptors out there, PLUS the wonderful Metabones Pocket Camera Speed Booster.

Removable battery (although you need a lot of them), Bolex has internal that lasts around 3-4 hours.

Recording onto SDHC media, whilst the cards that work are hugely expensive, it is more convenient that currently only being able to record onto the internal SSD.

Much cheaper…without the accessories.

It’s a lot smaller…and a lot lighter!!

The screen on the Pocket Camera sucks…it’s still WAY better than the absolutely awful one on the Bolex…lets just use that for menus only!

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So which is better? They are VERY different. Let’s just wait until my review where I will do some direct comparisons. So far though, I really enjoying shooting with it. It just feels lovely in the hand and makes me feel like I am using one of my old film cameras. After all, the whole point of this camera according to Joe is to make a true digital Super 16mm film camera. Have they succeeded? I will find out soon…after all, I have MANY Bolex film cameras, so I know them very well! But also as I mentioned before…do we really need this camera? Is it simply a hark back to a past that we don’t actually need anymore? Or is it a brave and maybe even successful attempt to make a true digital film camera?

My Bolex collection, including bottom right, my Digital Bolex
My Bolex collection, including bottom right, my Digital Bolex

One thing I feel that they are trying to do, and are doing a pretty good job so far, is the revitalisation of a legendary brand. Bolex was ubiquitous when it came to shooting 8mm and 16mm film. Of course, they will always be known as that and never as THE video camera, an impossible task with the market we have now. Digital Bolex are aiming at a certain niche, they are aiming at an almost boutique market really, where this camera becomes not just a very effective too for certain tastes and needs, but an object of desire. Something to be seen to own. I could be wrong, but with the just-arrived leather case for the camera, this cements if even more for me. If their primary goal was practicality, this bag wouldn’t be a beautifully crafted hand stitched tan leather “man-bag-esque” product, it would be a LowePro!

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