There was a time, not all that long ago, when most independent film-makers shot their projects on relatively-inexpensive 16mm film – it wasn't as pricey as 35mm, but was definitely a step up from Super 8. The cameras shooting that film were quite often made by the venerable Swiss manufacturer, Bolex. Today, in the age of digital video, film-makers wanting to take a step up from consumer-grade camcorders are looking at some pretty expensive gear. LA-based entrepreneurs Joe Rubinstein and Elle Schneider are trying to change that, with the introduction of their Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera.
The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the D16 is being developed in partnership with Bolex International. It has the appealing retro looks of a classic 16mm movie camera, but records HD video at a resolution of either 2048 x 1152 (2K) or 1080p, via a Super 16mm-sized sensor with 12 stops of dynamic range. Its frame rate is adjustable up to 32fps, and it records in 12-bit CinemaDNG raw format – this means that the video isn't compressed, as it with other formats.
The camera has two 24-bit 96-kHz audio channels, each of which is served by its own XLR mic input. Footage is recorded on a built-in Enterprise Class solid state drive, although the D16 also has two CF card slots. Power is provided by an integrated rechargeable battery that offers about four hours of run time per charge.
Just like a "real" movie camera, it also allows users to swap in different C-mount lenses as needed – they can even use existing Bolex lenses.
Footage shot with D16 is described as having an "organic" (read, "film-like") quality, and can be seen in the demo video at the end of the article. Additionally, the 2K resolution allows that footage to be projected onto a big screen without getting too grainy, while the uncompressed raw format allows for more in the way of post-production image manipulation.
Rubinstein and Schneider state that the D16 is intended not just for serious film-makers, but also for amateurs who are interested in exploring cinema-quality video. At a cost of US$3,299, however, the former of those two groups are more likely to be buyers. That's actually a very low price, as digital cinema cameras from the likes of RED, Canon and Sony range from $10,000 to over $30,000. Blackmagic's Pocket Cinema Camera, on the other hand, goes for just $995 – definitely a competitor.
The Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera is available via the first of the links below.