We just got back from Toronto, and we have news and images to show you!
The beauty of film is what drew me to this art form in the first place. I was always excited to shoot film, and even more excited to watch footage for the first time, but I had the exact opposite feelings when dealing with video. Shooting was stressful, and while watching footage for the first time I often cringed. Eventually through editing and color correction things would come together, but that moment of love at first site was gone.
I desperately wanted a digital camera that I could feel that excitement for. Something with the kind of detail and integrity of the image I got with film. Basically an image I could fall in love with. When this opportunity eventually presented itself I couldn't say no. I knew I had to pursue it.
We planned the camera from ground up to fulfill this one desire. We designed it to offer the image quality and shooting experience I couldn't find in compressed video cameras. All of our decisions were driven by the desire to make the image as good as it could be, but at the end of the day would it work?
We decided to do extensive testing with the sensor we had chosen and off the shelf electronics, a sensor prototype. Our sensor tests were beautiful and dynamic. They told us that we were on the right track. We decided to move forward, designing the image path, an analog front end, the analog to digital conversion, and all the things you need to make a camera. Each stage of the cameras electronics presents opportunities to improve image quality, but also inherent are risks of failure. Would our design for this camera create footage as good as the sensor tests we did? Ever since we shot those tests I have been desperate to see images our design would produce.
If you read my previous post about image improvements you know that we have come a long way in image quality in the last few weeks. While I was there they got the first clean looking images our design had ever produced.
Since then I have seen a few of the images the guys from Toronto have sent me, but they were mostly of charts and things. I was excited to see the progress, but couldn't relate to the images cinematically.
I needed to see it first hand, I needed to put a person in front of it and know what the room looked like. I needed to hold the camera and see it for myself.
Elle and I Headed to Canada, this time we were going to get to shoot some images. We got to Toronto late on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday we eagerly waited in the conference room as Mike had the guys put some final firmware updates on the camera. They brought it in, the sides were taken off, but the display was on. This was the first time we could hold the camera and see the display live. It was an amazing experience. This thing we had been dreaming about was finally working in our hands. But of course as with all things this trip wasn't going to go exactly as we had imagined. While the top screen was working, we couldn't yet record because the sensor clock and the frame buffer were running out of sync. This was because they were writing new firmware for 24fps instead of 32. They expected to have this completed the next day.
On day two the clocks were in sync, but something on the hardware had been shorted out. They do a lot of testing and this happens from time to time. So they were going to have to change out a board, and this was going to take some time. Most of the team stayed very late that night.
On the third and last day we were there, I walked into the office and Mike said, "It works". At least to a level I could shoot a few test images. We were ecstatic. The 24fps recording was still not finished, but we could record.
They brought the camera in, this time with a large color monitor that could show 2K.
From the moment I started focusing the camera on Elle a smile started to creep across my face. The image was sharp, detailed, and beautiful. This was the camera I had been dreaming about.
I was eager to try out some of my recent lens purchases, including a Canon 50mm 0.95! Vintage glass looks amazing to me compared to most modern lenses. So full of life and character.
I have selected three examples.
The first is a 15mm Elitar Soligor.
The second is a 26mm Kern-Paillard Pizar AR.
And the third is the infamous Canon 50mm 0.95.
The images aren't perfect of course. The temperature is a little yellow, there is a dead pixel, and some other small issues, but I love the texture of the images, and the natural organic look. I am so happy with what these images look like for the stage we are at.
There is still a lot of tweaking we have to do to get these images to where they need to be, but we have come so far in just the last couple of weeks I believe we will get there very soon!
Below are the raw files so you can transcode them yourself. I transcoded these using RPP as the new debayer algorithm in our software isn't ready yet. I turned off all the sharpen settings, used film curve, and auto color. Here are my settings…
We were a little pressed for time during this trip, but within the next week or two we will be getting a camera delivered to us in LA, and we will do much more comprehensive tests with various lighting conditions. At that time we will upload CDNG sequences for you guys to play with.
We are still on track to deliver the first 100 cameras in August and have our next pre-sale in August too.
We will do another blog about where we are at in that progression soon, as well as one about where we are at with the software.
For now have fun with these...
And as always, thank you for your interest and patience,
Elle Schneider, Joseph Rubinstein, and the entire Digital Bolex Team