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…


  1. A cheaper ikonskop A-cam dll.

    Interesting. It will have its draw backs though. noise. Limited dr. Difficult to get shallow depth of field.

    But Ill keep an eye on it though. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Looks fab. Be interesting if “off the shelf” sensors becomes a thing now…it opens the possibility of other small manufacturers to make neat, focused solutions at a relatively low cost. Wonder if it’s the same CCD as the Ikonoskop?

    Different lens mount options would be lovely as well…

  3. That is the coolest thing I’ve seen for a while, well for the last few weeks anyway. God things are moving fast. It will be a good replacement for my C300 which is already dead after 2 days!!! Canon are trying to fix it but are not sure what the hell happened to it.

  4. The body of this reminds me a lot of the FS100. But I’ll definitely be anxious when this is ready for release! You think you’ll pick one up Philip?

  5. Very interested in this camera.

    I think it will be fantastic if they can do it. I have a few concerns obviously. One being a digital camera,

    1. Will it come with regular firmware updates like a RED camera does?
    2. What about warranty, repair, customer service etc?
    3. $3000 sounds amazing, but I have a feeling if all goes well, the first 100 cameras will be snapped up so what does that mean to someone like me who wants to be more cautious and wait for opinions to come in? Will it be in back order hell? will the price rocket up like the scarlet?

    I do think what there doing is wonderful, and their ethos is to be admired.

    If they can pull it off Ill definitely be buying one.

    p.s Ive put a little money into kickstarter for them to show my support 😉

  6. The specs, the price, the ambition and the attitude= a Godsend.
    This is almost exactly what we were looking for as indies. 2k in either DNG, TIFF or MJPEG formats at 24-32fps?

    Seriously, my dollar is on the table. Well ‘err….after these next couple of gigs, that is O_o

        1. very interesting camera!!

          You say Ef would be a 2.6 crop factor. Would the crop factor change depending on lenses.

          Could you give me an idea if that is the case

          i’m thinking nikon ais, leica r compared to older 16mm lenses? Or is it 2.6 no matter what.

  7. Thanks for the post, Philip. This is very welcome. If it lives up to the spec it will be a serious contender. 4 4 4? That’s fab. I’d love to back them but it seems like – if I have it right – that donations which include a pre-order are confined to the US only. That’s a pity.

    But more power to them.

  8. I am really excited about this camera, but I think it has more to do with the nostalgia of the whole thing. This is the perfect camera for schools. I know where I graduated from they have a billion old bolexes meaning 3 billion old lenses for them… What a score.. I hope I can somehow get my hands on one.

  9. Looks very interesting, Philip. Their enthusiasm is really inspiring… and I’m nearly ready to fund just due to that. It really looks a treat!

    Can you share with us your knowledge about lens choices for the S16 format? How easy/affordable is it to get wide lenses (well, as wide as the format will allow)? How about adapting existing 35mm photo lenses? The FOV must be drastically different.

    BTW, as a long-time lurker, I must say that I absolutely love your work and your passion for moving images, Philip. It’s always great to have a cup of coffee in the morning and read your blog.


  10. The concept looks FANT-AAAA-STIC !

    Plastic construction ? Well, seems a bit odd to me but whatever.
    IF it has the same quality as the Ikonoskop for a much lower price, it is really good. Add in the mix a Nikon mount and as soon as I have the money I’m freaking in !

  11. As an old Bolex shooter this camera has particular nostalgic appeal. 16mm/S16mm sized format is still my favorite general purpose motion shooting format.

    Very much looking forward to seeing how this camera develops. Still have the lenses to match it. Looks like a lot of fun and creative potential for modest bucks.

    Shot enough video in various formats over the years to know that shooting a true raw format motion camera is where I want to be for maximum creative flexibility.

    By the way, I checked and the new Adobe Lightroom 4 supports cinema DNG raw motion files, so there is some serious potential image manipulation possible with cameras like this.

  12. This is awesome, Do you think the USB 3 is to dump to an external HDD? or just to interface with a computer. This for Green screen, well lit shots and day shots. 5D III for night shots or super wides. Do we know if the mount will power the IS on lenses and if there is aperture control?

  13. mmmmmm this have been in my head since I read the article this morning, Bolex itself doesn’t have the money to make a camera? why the Kickstart campaign? I sounds dubious but if it is true would be an awsome news

  14. It would be really cool if they allow users to make firmware upgrades. do you know if they will have a warranty for the camera? because of the size and simplicity, this looks like a great documentary camera that could allow for truly cinematic documentary filmmaking, or new wave filmmaking.

      1. Perhaps providing Kickstarter funding promos for projects other than your own is not such a great idea. For example, Underwater Realm has not provided their promo gifts, nor have they acknowledged that they are late doing this. Hence, it begins to feel like something of a scam. With your credibility on the line, it might be better to not promote other folk’s projects for funding purposes.

        1. have they not? as far as i know the lighting tutorial is done and available to people who donated for it.

          this is not a promo for the camera but sharing something that excites me.

          I will continue to promote and invest in other people’s projects that i think warrant it. Anyone who invests their own money does so at their own risk…

          1. I have not received the LED plans to be delivered in February, (not the lighting tutorial which I didn’t select), and I did donate. I have written to them regarding this and not heard back. Can you make a suggestion as to who I should contact? There are many un-responded to posts to them already inquiring into the status of things.

            I’m a bit torn here in terms of my opinion: I care for and respect you and what you are doing. And I have learned a TON, thank you. And, I support the independent spirit of invention for filmmaking, and personal expression in general. I would be concerned for you personally, however, about how to vet the projects you advocate since you have no control of the ethics of those that can present a great idea, but won’t necessarily follow through… I understand the distinction you are making in terms of what you are excited about and are sharing vs. making a funding sell. So maybe you’re right: Risk taking is a prerequisite for innovation, so scams be damned, perhaps it’s just the cost of doing business…

            Apologies, as I’m not trying to hijack this thread and change topics. The Bolex digital engineering is a brilliant idea. I would love to outfit my Bolex RX4 in this fashion.

            1. I have simply shared this concept and story and it’s up to people to make up their own minds whether they want to trust them with their money. It’s a risk. I cannot take responsibility if it fails. It is not my camera, my idea or anything other than me sharing the find and saying I like the look of it and hope if happens, so much so here is my money. It could be a mistake, or it could be great. I am hoping for the latter!

          2. Received my link to the digital download for the Eve Hazelton lighting, great video and lots of useful information.
            Very professionally done, even the download link is stunning.

            I am waiting on the LED light plans but have been updated as they are putting the finishing touches to them.

            Don’t mind the wait to get them if the quality is anything like the lighting tutorial.

            Also remember they are shooting a movie while doing all this as thanks to our help in funding them. As far as Kickstarter goes they pretty much hit their dead line by a week or so, I have other projects that I have helped funded and are still waiting due to manufacturing hiccups etc, months late, like all things, I would rather the wait and get a great product than something that has been rushed to meet a deadline.

            Good things take time

          3. Looks great.

            Hey Philip, if you have any free time in Auckland, please check out:
            Piha and KareKare beach, right next to each other, it’s where Radiohead members chill when they’re in NZ and Pearl Jams Eddie Vedder(west auckland) around 45 mins drive from Auckland city centre)
            Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay (10mins drive from city centre)Takapuna and Devonport
            over the harbour bridge 20 mins drive from City Centre.
            Coffee in New Zealand is the best there, the baristas make it perfect every time, I miss it, Starbucks is abysmal though so go for the independents they’re everywhere and looks who serves “Allpress Coffee” if it’s served it’ll be perfect.
            Have an awesome time.

          4. i have noticed that too .. i ‘ve payed for the Ledlight project but still no sign not even a notice to let us know they are late 🙁

            also i was reading on here by petar zivkovic
            sorry guys but there is no dbolex prototype …

            their promo video was shoot on prosilica gx2300 machine vision camera…



            download their BTS and look for a camera…


            March 14, 2012 | by petar zivkovic

            im confused now :((

      2. Bloom,
        The affordable 2K sounds amazing, but help me understand the sensor size that will be on it. I currently own a 5D.
        How will the look ,and dof, from super 16 sensor compare to the 5D or super 35.

  15. Hi Philip
    Based on your experience with S16 would the Tokina 11-16mm lens work on this new D-Bolex?
    Or will I need to get something closer to 6,7 or 8mm to have a decent wide option?


  16. This is really fantastic and looks the part. I would love to throw some cash into the campaign to get my hands on one of these cameras; sadly I’m from South Africa… I must say it took only one interview with Philip to sell out the quota of 80 pre-sale units and bust the Kick starter set goal. Well done 🙂

  17. Why must we romanticize film so much?? It was expensive! time consuming! Tons of chemicals were used to make and process film! And film grain sucks. I shot film back in the day. let it drift into memory.

  18. Looks like they’ve made $250k so far which is a great start. I wonder about the practical ergonomics of using this camera in the run and gun sense like many people used the originals for. The original Bolex cameras required you to hold them up to your eye to see what you are filming and the pistol grip made sense in that design. This one has the viewfinder at a slight angle, so I don’t see holding it like the originals. I’m guessing many will want to add the additional unit that allows you to send HD -SDI out to be able to see that 2k goodness with clarity. Hope this comes to fruition though as its amazing to see more options in the market and the revival of a great brand.

  19. Phillip,

    This is classic vapourware. I am surprised you did not scrutinize this a bit closer. This is a post I made recently on filmmshooting forum as per a forwarded post on Frameworks., i.e.

    “Re: Digital Bolex
    by freedom4kids » Wed Mar 14, 2012 2:05 pm

    Some substantiation regarding the “alleged” vapourware, i.e.

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Alistair Stray
    Date: Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 11:06 AM
    Subject: Re: [Frameworks] digital Bolex – Well, there isnt one.
    To: Experimental Film Discussion List

    In the behind the scenes video for shooting ‘one small step’, which they claim to have shot with the prototype, you can see that their shooting with a Prosilica GX2300 machine vision camera. … ica-GX.jpg

    and from their BTS video, though there are other shots of it in there. … _388lo.jpg”

    Where is proof of the licensing agreement with Bolex Switzerland?



  20. Love the concept. Met the guys at SXSW and my concern is they have no way to control shutter speed yet. Call me crazy but I will not spend my money on something this under- developed. Am I missing something here? Please let me know – I WANT to like…

  21. Really, everybody. The idea is wonderfull but are they serious with the shape/design. It talks of the nostalgy retro 50 plastic fantastic Star Wars laser weapon. Well, Bolex did make something in that direction, like Automatics or Macrozooms but they smelled of amator market. C`mon. If you really mean it, using the glorious Bolex name, then just take Bolex 8REX or 16REX. Shave off the top semicircular part of reel compartment, keep the optical system, mirror shutter and so absolutely turret (fast fixed focals), retain control layout and you`ll end with a winner.

  22. While it is much of an investment the good thing about Kickstarter is that if the project doesn’t reach its goal then those who are potential investors don’t lose their money. Once the project has reached its goal then the party receiving the money is required to own up on its promise of supplying people with their tiered investment product.

    So it is either win-win or lose-lose.

    I’m a complete n00b to video/film recording so most of this is beyond my abilities or understanding as of now. I just thought I would weigh in on how the Kickstarter project would work.

    Here’s some text from the Kickstarter Site:
    “If I am unable to complete my project as listed, what should I do?

    If you are unable to fulfill the promises made to backers, cannot complete the project as advertised, or decide to abandon the project for any reason, you are expected to cancel funding. A failure to do so could result in damage to your reputation or even legal action on behalf of your backers.”

    More Kickstarter FAQs:

  23. I understand (and have seen pictures) where it looks like the Digital Bolex prototype was an Allied Vision GX2300 machine vision camera tethered to a laptop.

    Can we all start a discussion about why this is considered so groundbreaking?

    I personally own a Bolex Rex 4 and I am more than a bit put off by the Digital Bolex moniker this team is using.

    It seems rather insincere and a bit of an oxymoron.

    Here is my case:

    If I take my friends HV20 and run HDMI out and capture uncompressed to a computer and call that a “Digital Bell and Howell” while I run around trying to get everybody to donate to a fund that would then be used to take said HV20s internals and transplant them and a media storage system in a box with the Bell Howell name (assuming they let me use it) I think a lot of people would cry foul.

    Am I off base with this reasoning.

    I’d like to know.


  24. I am so in love with this camera. the only problems I have with it is I really want it to be able to hold canon lenses nikon lenses rather then Cmount lenses. C mount is becoming extinct IMO. the other thing is I am ok with it looking like a brick rather then some fancy bolex look alike. I’d rather have it fit on rigs because most of us will probably wanna mount the darn thing on some crazy rig. other then that I’d be looking to sell most my gear just to get this camera. 🙂

  25. This is the most exciting camera to come along since RED promised the scarlet, (remember the 3K for 3K broken promise), If they pull this off they will blow everyone else out of the water and good luck to them. I’ll definatly buy one when they eventually come available internationaly. Pitty about the 720p to get the overcranking though. OH well you can’t have everything. Having said that 720p may not be as hidious on the Bolex as it is on a DSLR as the image isn’t being scaled down from 5K by throwing every other line away and resulting in really poor aliasing and moire. (I’m only asuming that by the way)

    LETS HOPE anyway.

  26. Love the concept and the price is right. However:

    I’m from an audio background, and I still don’t understand why digital camera audio is so far behind even the cheapest consumer audio interface. 24bit please. It make a big difference, especially in situations where you don’t have good control over the audio environment. 24bit converters are cheap as chips.

  27. My question is:1 year after this review, I cannot find the camera in e-bay. I shall look better, (I admit I didn’t even read the whole review) but I had no response on first sight. I found some bolex mounted lenses. I am not even sure that they are for digital.
    Provided that I am in Europe, and in the edge, Greece, it maybe more difficult.
    And one critical question, is the price of course ( and the avaliabilty, connectivity, lenses etc)
    For the rest I should look thoroughly the review, and I ask again.

    {shallow depth of field doesn’t sound that difficult.
    Supposed you can pull it down to 50 or 25 ISO, ND 1,2 full open Iris, a bit tele. Ok, it has limitations. But I am sometimes out for ENG style shots, and I am worried for the lack of shallow depth of field, as well as for the existence of it. The last 15 years there are the semipro 1/3′ sensor video cameras (after xl1) that has made as lazy to focus, good for news and not only. Last 4 years , came affordable D-SLRcams ( canon 5DMII) with normal size sensor and the last 1-2 years video cameras with also 35mm sensor (but CMOS). In between the 16mm(2/3′) bolex could be a nice solution.}

  28. I almost bought a Red Scarlet last week. Thank heavens I didn’t. I just bought two Bolex D16 and I couldn’t be more excited. I am a new film maker, and after listening to your interview and actually talking to Joe I decided to purchase my second camera. Mr. Rubinstein is a very helpful pleasant fellow. I can’t wait till I get my two cameras. It looks like February. I have not felt this way since I was a child waiting for a GI JOE I ordered. Only fitting that I studied Sam Fuller in class, and go with the Directing stand point that FILM IS LIKE WAR. Being a Firefighter I live the same run and gun attitude towards rolling the camera. I am pumped up once again. FILM FILM FILM!

    Danny Ahlfeld

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