The D16M: Native Monochrome

The history of black and white is the history of motion pictures, and from Thomas Edison’s early experiments to Sundance Award-winning COMPUTER CHESS filmmakers have used black and white images to create bold visual choices that cannot be reproduced in color.

Since the D16 went on sale back in December, we’ve been asked by educators, filmmakers, and members of our forum to produce a native monochrome camera that can take advantage of the latitude of black and white raw images. After a few months of testing we’re very excited to announce the D16M, boasting a black and white sensor for highest quality monochrome capture without the need to debayer, retaining a higher sensitivity to light and preserving the full dynamic range of the sensor.

_MG_2008 _MG_2016

Technical Specs

  • Kodak native monochrome sensor
  • Same resolution options as D16: Super 16mm (2K), 16mm (HD), and Super 8 (720p)
  • No OLPF filter to further maximize fine details
  • ISO 100, 200, 400, 800
  • 500GB Hard Drive

Texture

Due to the natural contrast of black and white, the texture of objects often stand out more in black and white than in color, especially in subtle lighting and higher noise conditions. Skin texture softens in bright light, creating an ethereal smooth look, where harsh lighting brings a more dramatic focus to imperfections.

The soft Joan Fontaine and the hardened Judith Anderson in REBECCA.

The soft Joan Fontaine and the hardened Judith Anderson in REBECCA.

Objects like wood planks, bricks, or trees suddenly jump to life with grit and dimensionality. It’s no surprise that many landscape and nature photographers still prefer to shoot in black and white to capture jutting rocks, gnarled tree bark, and intricate branches and leaves against the striking simplicity of a grey sky.

Monochrome makes it possible to hide or draw attention to specific details of your image based on their contrast and luminosity, and allows areas of extreme highlight to blow out in a beautiful gradient or glow that melds seamlessly into the overall composition, as we truly experience areas of brightness in real life.

adams_184_2_650

Ansel Adams: the master of black and white landscapes

Mood & tone

Black and white has been used for decades in film and still photography to promote an atmospheric quality that can be difficult to achieve in color. Even after the popularization of color for studio films in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s–the golden age of Hollywood–many prominent filmmakers chose to continue in color to take advantage of the striking look of black and white, already perfected in silent films like the German Expressionist THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI. B films and serials also kept to black and white to maximize their ability to stylishly light a set and imply emotion on a lower budget, creating masterpieces like David Lean’s taut romantic thriller BRIEF ENCOUNTER.

David Lean's BRIEF ENCOUNTER

David Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER made use of harsh, brooding shadows on its small budget.

For nearly 30 years, the Academy Awards recognized this with separate Oscars for black and white and color cinematography, honoring films like WUTHERING HEIGHTS, REBECCA, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, THE THIRD MAN, ON THE WATERFRONT, and other acclaimed titles that used their black and white cinematography to build tension and suspense.

Many key shots in films like THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, like the spiderweb in the darkness or Robert Mitchum riding along the horizon would not have been as effective if shot in color.

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

NIGHT OF THE HUNTER stills collected by http://cinemosaic.blogspot.com/

Fidelity

True black and white is more faithful and dynamic to the subject than desaturated color photography, rendering more natural and subtle shading and color luminosity. While most digital cameras have a black and white mode, or can be desaturated in post, cameras without a native monochrome sensor cannot take full advantage of the benefits of shooting black and white when filtered through a debayering system and, for most non RAW cameras, heavy compression and de-noising which can ruin the fidelity of your black and white image.

Education

Many educators prefer to teach in black and white so that students learn to shoot with proper exposure and composition rather than focus on getting a color balance just right. We’ve spoken to dozens of film professors and school teachers over the past year about their needs in a cinema camera beyond a simple “black and white mode” on teaching cameras. With 16mm film stock it was easy to give students Tri-X, now educators have to use less than stellar black and white capture modes from modern video cameras. We hope our camera will give professors the option of shooting on native black and white cameras.

The D16M goes on sale today for $3999.99 and ship in 8-12 weeks. Check it out on our store.

We’ll be walking around with the D16M at NAB, so come check it out in person if you’re in town!

37 thoughts on “The D16M: Native Monochrome

  1. Pingback: The D16M: Native Monochrome | Indie Filmmaking ...

  2. Im soo stoked for this! Im shooting my film this summer. And originally wanted to shoot in color to get a film noir look in post. Now with this Im sure I will get beautiful results. My only question is about aspect ratio. I know the aspect ratio for super 16mm is 1.85.1 but if I wanted to get a 2.35.1 or 2.40.1 anamorphic aspect ratio how could I make that work? Can I change the aspect ratio in Post without losing resolution? or would I have to use an anamorphic adaptor like this one?
    http://www.slrmagic.co.uk/slr-magic-anamorphot-133×-50-anamorphic-adapter-dioptres-kit.html

  3. Is it not clear now that DB is a “luxury” enterprise (business if you prefer)? 4k for M ha? (Sorry, really, if the question hurts your feelings or feels too cynical for ya…)

    • Hi Nic,
      I’m not 100% sure what you mean with this comment, but it seems like you are implying that a monochrome camera isn’t worth making because 4K cameras exist?
      I’m not sure those two things are entirely related.
      But my philosophy is to shoot (or present products to shoot with) as close to a 1:1 relationship between capture and presentation. So in my philosophy, if you plan to present a 2K B&W image, shooting in 2K and B&W is a very good option. Monochrome sensors provide a richer B&W image than bayer pattern sensors do. I happen to really like the image coming from the D16M.
      Almost all of the Oscar nominated films (that were shot digitally) were shot on the Alexa, which is a 2K camera. It seems Hollywood and ARRI know something about cinema aesthetic that maybe other manufacturers / companies don’t know. Resolution is only one of a dozen meaningful aspects of an image, and in motion picture resolution is near the bottom of the list.

    • Seems as if digital monochrome is always more expensive than colour. Funny, but might have to do with the smaller number of sensors built, and special firmware. It was the same with Leica, and iirc also Ikonoskop.

      I think it is a great addition; even though not quite unexpected ;-)

      • Yeah I know it was a bit obvious. And yes exactly, when we order color sensors we can do it in bulk (at least bulk for us), when we order the B&W sensors we will be purchasing essentially one at a time.

  4. hi guys, congratulations, thanks, I’m thrilled with this release. It ca camera I’ve been waiting to be released a few years now. Even my old research, the only form of grading raw monochrome was in after effects, something changed? Pomfort will support these files? Davinci Resolve 10 or maybe 11? Thanks, and keep on the same path, I cheer a lot for you.

  5. Pingback: My Thoughts on the New Cameras Announced at NAB 2014 | wolfcrow

  6. I really hoped you had a better lcd screen too in this model… it is the only reason I still didn’t order this beauty Bolex for me…

    Andrea

    • Hi Andrea,
      Thanks for your comment. Have you tried a D16 in person? The LCD screen isn’t that bad, it is usable, and we are making it better through firmware updates soon!

    • You should give the D16 a try regardless. The built in screen is for the menus. You can use it in a pinch to shoot or for maintenance.

      With the exception of the Black Magic cameras and DSLR bodies the vast majority of cinema cameras do not come with a screen that is intended for operating. That includes the Arri D20/D21/Alexa, Red One/Epic/Scarlet/Dragon, Sony F35/F23/F3/F5/F55/F65, Panavision Genesis and Ikonoskop.

      Many BMC owners use an external screen, because it is difficult to physically operate the camera with the screen on the back (handheld etc)

  7. well said Joe! I have been trying to tell this to budding film makers and pros alike….composition, lighting, aesthetics and flow are so much more important than resolution. If I am drawn out of my experience because I am thinking how lovely and sharp the image is then the film has failed unless it was a demo of how lovely and sharp the resolution is. lol

  8. I think he was implying that paying $4k for a monochrome version was too much? I imagine the monochrome sensors cost more. And if he finds $4k to be too much money for a camera he is going to get a shock when he has to start buying accessories for other cameras to make them as ready to shoot as the bolex out of the box.

    Off topic Joe, shot some 16mm 250D stock here tonight and put the D16 side by side. Will be interesting to see how it stacks up side by side. different lenses and slightly different ISO’s but ehhh close enough. Loving the camera BTW.

  9. This is a great idea. I’d love to see some properly lit samples, especially comparing it to the one B&W negative stock still left…Double X. That is a very grainy film so I’m sure your camera would have much less noise/grain in proper lighting conditions.

    In a way its liberating to not be concerned with color, just exposure and light.

  10. As far as I know there are currently four cameras that use a monochrome sensor.

    Ikonoskop A-Cam dII Panchromatic
    S16 / CCD / 12 stops / RAW DNG
    Discontinued. Rarer than hens teeth.
    ~ $10,000

    Epic Monochrome
    Red MX / CMOS / 12-13 stops / Redcode (compressed)
    ~$50,000-60,000

    Arri Alexa XT Monochrome
    S35 / CMOS / 14-15 stops / ArriRAW
    ~$100,000 – 140,000 (studio)

    Bolex D16M
    S16 / CCD / 12.5 stops / RAW DNG
    $3700

    Kodak 5222 / 7222
    35mm / 16mm / film negative / 12-14 stops / negative or DPX scan
    $0.44 per foot (35mm)

  11. Unfortunately I have to turn the film processing around quickly for students at my college so I could only shoot in two locations at night. Also I couldnt do a proper comparison because I dont have a cmount to pl adaptor and couldnt use the same lenses. Either way should be interesting to see how it shakes out. Both are a little under. We are pushing the film half a stop and will bring the D16 up in post a bit. I’ll let you know how it goes

  12. Pingback: Black and White Cinema Diehards Will Love Digital Bolex’s New D16M - The Phoblographer

  13. Pingback: D16M, cámara en B&N nativo » Hello Pixel

  14. Pingback: Introducing the D16M, the Digital Bolex Native Black & White s16 Digital Cinema Camera « No Film School

  15. Pingback: D16M, νέα μονοχρωματική κινηματογραφική κάμερα | pttl.gr

  16. Hey Nic.
    Really ? Haven’t you heard of the Red scarlet monochrome?
    Did you sleep in your class of Film History ?
    Don’t you like the work of Gordon Willis in Woody Allen’s Manhatan for an example?
    or Fellinni 8 1/2 ? la dolce Vita ?
    Nebraska recently ?
    For me is the D16, my dream camera, but this is one is an important and Welcome release,
    maybe not your piece of cake.
    I think you could give it a second thougth.

  17. This seems like the camera I have been waiting for!!
    I would love to see some footage of this camera in action. Is there any available other than the video of water drops?

  18. Pingback: NERDlogger.com » Blog Archive » NAB2014 Report

  19. Pingback: NAB2014 Report

Add Comment Register



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>