The Digital Bolex D16. Raw 2K for less than a cost of a 5Dmk3?



WARNING: Investing via kick-starter gives you little comeback if this product does not come to fruition. Take this into account before investing what is a substantial amount of money. If you change your mind before the fundraising is over, you can change your backing. Once the funding is over, your money is gone. Investing in anything like this is done entirely at your own risk. I have invested and therefore have put my trust in Digital Bolex. A large amount of trust is needed in things like this. As Stu Maschwitz says in his post here:  “In your short time on this Earth, would you rather be a pessimist and be proven right? Or an optimist who’s occasionally wrong?” If you have invested or are going to invest, it is entirely your own responsibility! 

Well, this came out of the blue! Whilst I was still waiting to get my grubby mitts on a 5Dmk3 and a D800 AND a D4, this landed in my inbox. Launched at SxSW, this is one of the most interesting camera concepts I have seen…a Digital Bolex, shooting 2K raw with a 16mm equivalent sensor recording in DNG, TIFF or JPEG sequences AND with XLR inputs for recording audio…

I own 2 16mm Bolex film cameras and love them to bits. It’s a much treasured camera by many due to its looks and its performance.

The concept is so crazy good I was instantly in love and instantly super skeptical. All I knew about the project was from the website and their kickstarter campaign. So I did the most sensible thing possible. I phoned the camera creators Joe Rubinstein and Elle Schneider and did an interview with them to find out everything I could about it! You can listen to the interview below. The direct link to Soundcloud for iPhone users is:

Elle Schneider and Joe Rubinstein


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


Bolex Spot: Storybook from Digital Bolex on Vimeo.

Alyssa Miller stars in the second Bolex spot, focusing on the dark ages of compressed video.

Building ‘One Small Step’ from Digital Bolex on Vimeo.

Behind the scenes footage of the set of “One Small Step”.

Digital Bolex: First Frames from Digital Bolex on Vimeo.

The first frames shot on the Digital Bolex D16. A timelapse of downtown Los Angeles.

Behind the Scenes of “One Small Step” from Digital Bolex on Vimeo.


A film Bolex camera

So far all they have is a prototype, and that is what they have used to make the footage below. The Kickstarter campaign says that if you back them at $2500 then you can get one of the first 100 cameras that are to be released around August of this year. That’s $800 off the expected retail price of $3300.

I am absolutely smitten by the concept of this and love what I have seen so far. I really hope it comes to fruition, so much so that I have already backed it! This could be the ultimate indy filmmaker’s cameras if it lives up to the promise and stays cheap…

The main info I got from the interview…I do recommend listening to it, as this is just the bare bones of it. They were great to speak to, huge passion and I feel confident as an investor.

Swiss legend Bolex are on board, hence the name.

The sensor is Kodak sensor. Not newly developed but “off the shelf.”

No crazy proprietary codecs…Adobe DNG. 

CCD, so no rolling shutter.

Sensitivity is 400 ASA, but as it shoots RAW and has a dynamic range of 12 stops, you can push it enormously to make it closer to 800 or even 1600 ASA.

It records sound with PROPER XLRs.

Expect about 8-10 minutes of raw footage per 32gb Compact flash. The cameras has an SSD buffer for slower writing cards.

Because it’s raw it’s 12 bit 444!!

C mount lens as standard, others to come.

They answer the RED Scarlet 3k for $3k question, and they say they have made things easier for themselves compared to RED. The camera is actually rather simple in its tech.

An August 2012 release is realistic.

This is a camera made by filmmakers for filmmakers. They could have charged more, but what was key for them was keeping with the whole value and quality that they grew up with, using S16.

My biggest concern is the lack of comeback one has when using Kickstarter. Is there any? It’s a lot of money to invest with no guarantee. All we can do is have faith…I have invested $3500 of my own money.
Check out their website here and the kickstart campaign below…