Philip Bloom Review’s the D16

Philip Bloom recently posted his review of the D16, and it was full of absolutely beautiful images from our camera!

Philip copy

We are very grateful to Philip for taking loads of his own personal time to create this wonderful piece, if you haven’t seen it here it is…

The Digital Bolex D16 Review from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

To us, the most important things he says are that he really likes the organic feel of the image from the camera, and that he enjoys shooting with it. These are the two stand out features in our minds. Shooting should be fun, and you should get great-looking results that feel like a movie.

He of course has his criticisms, but he also raises the question, “where does the D16 fit in the current market place” (now that there are several affordable raw format options)?

I would very much like to take this opportunity to answer Philip’s important question.

If you read Eric Ries’s book The Lean Start Up you’ll find a lot of references to the MVP or Minimum Viable Product. This is often used in context of web services and software, but we got to thinking, what is the MVP when talking about digital cinema cameras? So we created a list based on the technical aspects of a majority of films that have reached theatrical distribution. There are always exceptions, and this may vary some depending on preference, but I think the list we came up with is pretty solid.

First we listed the image requirements:

1. 12 Bit Color

2. Global Shutter

3. No Moire

4. Good Native Color Rendition

5. 12 Stops of Dynamic Range

6. 2K Resolution

7. Uncompressed Image Sequences / Raw

8. DCP compliant

9. 16mm / S16 Imager

10. Archival Format

Next we listed the physical attributes needed:

11. Sturdy Construction

12. 4 Pin XLR Battery Connection

13. Reliable On Board Media

14. Easily Hand Holdable Without a Rig

15. Works “Out of the Box”, just add lens.

And we threw in sound for good measure:

16. Two 3 Pin XLR Microphone Connections

17. 16 bit 48k Sound Recording (now upgraded to 24 bit 96K)

18. Phantom Power

19. Line Level / Mic Level Switchable

Once we came up with nineteen standards a camera had to hit to be considered MVP we took a look at the market. There were some cameras out there that hit almost all, but they were priced higher than $10,000. We thought this was too expensive to be accessible to most people, so we added standard twenty.

Price:

20. Must Not Be More Expensive Than a Top of the Line DSLR

So that’s what we built, the MVP for digital cinema cameras. We believe the D16 is the smallest, cheapest, and easiest to use true digital cinema camera you can buy.

You may say, well there is one that has global shutter and is cheaper. But after you add the cost of a high end SSD, that camera is more expensive. In fact, if you factor in the cost of an enterprise class SSD, a rig, a battery to get it to the same battery life that is built into the D16, and an external sound recorder, you are well over $1000 more than the D16.

And that camera is still not the MVP because it is not 16mm. The fact that the D16 uses a Super 16 / 16mm format sensor is really important. Super 16 has been the go-to format for independent films for decades for good reasons. These lenses are the smallest / cheapest / easiest to use true cinema lenses. Again, this is a really big deal. If you want to make movies that look like movies we believe the D16 is the cheapest and easiest way to do this.

_MG_1504-small

So that’s where we picture ourselves: part of a long history of cinema quality cameras, giving people an image worthy of projecting in a theater for the price of a DSLR, easier to use in real world situations than anything in it’s price class, the bare minimum you need to make a movie.

Why did we do this? Why did we make huge financial investments, work tirelessly, and dedicate years of our lives to this project? Because we think it’s time the people of the digital age get the same abilities our parents had, to shoot our films on a camera that is projection worthy, at a price we can afford. That was the Bolex mission then, and it’s the Bolex mission now. Making movies, real movies, shouldn’t be reserved for companies that can spend a hundred million dollars. It’s something all of us should be able to do. Movies are one of the biggest parts of our culture, they are our story telling, they belong to all of us, and we will take them back.

Shoot movies.

– Digital Bolex

 

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joerubinstein

About joerubinstein

Joe Rubinstein is one of the founders and CEO of Digital Bolex. At Polite in Public, a photo marketing company he also co-founded, Joe was the Chief Technology Officer who worked with electronics developers and software developers to create the Polite in Public Photobooth which helped define modern photo marketing services.

34 thoughts on “Philip Bloom Review’s the D16

  1. A helpful review, which all adds to a better understanding of the camera; however, this review, when coupled with the guest post ‘Normalizing the D16 Color Space’ have both highlighted the fact that the D16, designed as a camera which works ‘straight out of the box’, presumably in an attempt to replicate the ability of our parents to ‘film’, but using a digital camera; is rather wishful thinking. I am not suggesting this is a fault of the camera itself, but more a contradiction between intended design use and actual end-user requirements in order to actually achieve those goals.

    As an intended user of the camera, I would love to be able to take out that beautiful retro-looking camera and film, just like my parents would have done with the original Bolex (or UK equivalent); posted the film off for development, and eagerly awaited its return to play back at home using the projector and roll-up screen – ideals, yes, and I know this will never happen. But, and this is a big ‘but’, I am now being told that the D16 even in the hands of an experienced cameraman and DoP, such as Philip Bloom, is a struggle to achieve the correct color, which on the face of it is only achieveable by adopting such a tortuous and technical workflow reserved for the most talented of ‘colorists’; so what hope have I, a mere mortal when it comes to such technical complexities, without wishing to spend hours and hours sitting in front of a computer, trying to get the colors correct on a film I just shot!

    Please, dear Bolex, are you able to produce a digital cinema camera that I can just take straight out of the box ….. and ….. err…….. Just film; come back home, transfer the files and ……. err …….. just watch?

    • Hey Lawrence! Raw workflow is new and developing, and even the most experienced professionals are learning as we all are how to best integrate the footage into existing post workflows. The great benefit of raw is that the files you record today can be debayered to look even better tomorrow, or a year from now, as new methods of debayering and interpreting the raw data appear on the market–if you save your DNG files, you can even apply a new, refined color matrix to your footage months after your original shoot. We are building that functionality into our software LightPost, so that users will be able to continuously update matrices as needed, allowing you to keep your footage up to date with the best look.

      You can certainly transfer D16 files straight from the camera and watch using LightPost, which creates extremely generous MOV files that can be further manipulated as you might manipulate an MOV file from any other camera. However, for those working on a professional level, we have always suggested color correction software in order to take advantage of all the latitude raw offers, just as you would color correct any professional film shot on any professional camera.

    • I’d say the people that figured this out did the tortuous part for you. We basically ironed it out to where you load your clips select a decoding option, add a LUT or simple look if you wish, then export your footage. There is nothing in that article that can’t be done by anyone that’s used Resolve or SpeedGrade before in some capacity within a few minutes. I don’t see how that’s tortuous at all.

      Also, the “out of the box color” is great. In fact the “out of the box” color is what we were trying to get to. It’s just that programs like to hide that and give you display space converted footage, not native, wide gamut footage.

  2. Thank God! Someone who gets it and isn’t quibbling over minor issues! Not everyone out there wants their footage to look freakily clean, or is so lazy that they can’t light a space, or exterior to capture an image! These kinds of whining tossers really have become lazy and just want to point shoot, not have worry about this and that, adjust the colour in post. Come on! Film making used to be an art form. This camera harkens back to when it was. I’m diving in, the naysers can hurtle forth an buy a 3D camera, or some such nonsense! The images Phillip captured are stunning! And RAW is the only way to retain that filmic look. I’m excited man. This could be a game changer.

  3. I have just found out about your camera. I’m going to cut to the chase. I’ve been on the fence, in fact overwhelmed in terms of deciding which camera to buy (Now that I am in a position to do so.).

    I only have so much to spend, which certainly guides one in certain directions. I had finally settled on a Black Magic, but, something was bothering me about it. Great features, but, so much clutter. By the time you add this and that, I could see how my wallet would be hammered and how much fluff I was going to have to hike around with me. I like to shoot from the hip, always loved the feel of the Bolex’s I’d used in the past. I have a certain style and love grittier films from the 70’s. And I’ve always believed that, without a great story and committed talent; you have nothing anyway! So all the bell’s and whistle’s in the world, CGI, 3D, etc… aren’t going mean a thing without the aforementioned.

    I need a camera that is made to travel, made for movement. A guy at Tekserve turned my on to the D16. Instantly I fell in love with it’s utilitarian look and design. It’s designed by people who know what they want. Know that understanding the craft is equal in importance to the capability of the tool you have at hand… and for certain kinds of Film makers. The kind that have an old school bent. This tool will be an absolute no-brainer. I’ll be ordering one over the weekend. Thank you for all of you assistance Phillip. You sealed the deal for me! Peace..

  4. Pingback: A great production house camera: A professional promotional film shot in Jordan with the Digital Bolex D16

  5. Pingback: Philip Bloom Reviews the D16 | Jaguar Films | ...

  6. I think the d16 is a great camera and a worthy ccd sensor successor to the HVX200, which I will now try to sell in order to get the d16. My only concerns are the low light sensitivity, which you guys are planning to address, and the on-board monitor. Seems like one can only use it to frame a shot but not for critical focus. I read that there is zoom in option for focusing which is good. Also the 16mm sensor DOES mean deeper focus, so hopefully shots will be in focus a lot easier. It would be good if a future version had a better monitor or maybe the possibility to output an image wirelessly to an ipad. Just my two-cents, but again, congrats on a great camera. One of the most filmic images I’ve seen out of a digital camera. I will start saving my pennies!

  7. Hi Joe.
    One question about metabones Speedbooster. You said the front of the D16 is removable. And you’ll present it at Nab. When will we be able to purchase the lens mount to use with the Speedbooster for the BMPCC. I have a lot of canon EF lens in stock….
    And maybe is it possible to add an order for it to a already done pre-order with expected delivery in may?

  8. The people who criticize this camera for not being like a 35mm theatrical production camera are missing the whole point. This is a Bolex! The single greatest camera ever created for experimental and artistic filmmakers. The camera of Maya Deren, Jordan Belson and Stan Brakhage. There would be no underground American film movement without Bolex (let alone other countries which created similarly great artistic 16mm works). It was huge to me that the Digital Bolex has a C mount, since this instantly gives you native access to an entire world of lenses that have been used for almost a century. Also, RAW is the one way that video can become truly physical and elemental like film, and all the other elements of construction are likewise what are needed for cinematic filmmaking. I salute these innovators. This new incarnation of the great Bolex name promises to the do the same as the original – giving visionary filmmakers the ability to do anything possible with cinema. But now in the medium of digital!

    Most sincerely,
    William Kersten

  9. I’m one of those who wanted 800ISO, but thinking about it now, I think I was wrong. I’ve used vario-ND filters and fixed-ND filters on DSLRs and they are a pain. (In fact, a greater than 4X is a real-pain!)
    I’d much rather have a 50ISO setting which “should” enable shooting at f/11 or f/8. (Moreover, 200ASA was perfectly normal for 16mm film.)
    I know 800ISO sounds great, but in my experience with 800ISO on other cameras — it was essentially useless because it was still not enough. If one can’t get a really clean 1600 — perhaps it would be better — post Bloom’s review — to just accept that the “d16 as not a low-light camera.” (I liked Bloom saying this because the clear implication was that given adequate light a d16 produces a great image. This is clever marketing.)
    Moreover, 200ISO is the middle ISO for Vision 3 series film. And, the highest ISO Vision 3 stock is only 500. The d16’s 400 setting is quite close to this.
    ISO 50, 100, and 200 with low noise seems to fit perfectly with your MVP concept. IMO, like film, 400/500ISO should only used when there simply is no other choice — and the DP expects the result to be compromised. Seems like an MVP to me.

    Lastly, about built-in audio. I fail to see how a cable from a boom mic running to a camera is so unreasonable compared to it running to a recorder. (Look at the $65,000 cameras with cables running to digital recorders.) But, with wireless mics — who wouldn’t record on the camera? Hire an extra person to hold a 1 pound recorder? In-camera audio is certainly on my MVP.

  10. I find this camera to be very intriguing. I have an old 16mm Frezzolini with a beautiful c-mount Angenieux 9.5 X 95 zoom lens. I wonder if that lens would cover the sensor on the Digital Bolex. The global shutter on this camera is a big plus. Phillip Bloom’s review should help bring more attention to this camera. I was at NAB last year and plan to attend this year. I will make a point of looking for your booth…

  11. There’s no doubt that Phil is a talented DoP. There’s some very lovely, absolutely cinematic footage here and that’s encouraging. I would have appreciated more information about lens choice, ISO, and aperture settings for each setup as opposed to the titles of the library music. Strange how all his stated doubts are contradicted by his images. It looks to be a great choice, just as the original film Bolex was, for documentary (hello, in the elevator!), personal archival (family events and such), as well as narrative film purposes. Could have been much much shorter imho. Bottom line, great to see the camera shine in the hands of a talented cinematographer. Concept completely proven in my estimation and I can’t wait for that FedEx truck to arrive at my door!

  12. Joe, Elle and crew, and Philip too: I am really impressed by Philip’s review and your openness in sharing what is a critical, if mostly positive, working cinematographer’s point of view. I have been quietly buying a few C-mount lenses–but haven’t made the decision yet to buy the D-16, although I’m closing in on it. I think one thing that needs to be said is that you have always been very inclusive when it comes to suggestions and that your response in terms of dealing with issues is commendable. That gives me confidence that the D-16 which I (will probably) buy will still be a viable camera two or three years down the road. There is, as Phil said, a good reason to hold off being among the first buyers, but are you planning any major alterations now, or more along the line of firmware upgrades?

    Also, will the cranks, as Philip noted, be robust enough to stand several years of use?

    Thanks…as soon as I get some financing, look for me on the “purchase” page…

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comment!

      The D16 hardware is locked, but there will be many many firmware updates in the future!

      The cranks should be robust enough to last for years, but they are also replaceable 🙂

  13. There are a number of adapters available for using SLR lenses on c-Mount cameras. The reason that Digital Bolex wants to come up with their own front ends, is higher precision.

    Regarding ISO 800, expose for ISO 200 and do a two stop push development, like you would with film!

  14. Love the look that it produces … I believe I’m seeing noise that mimics 16 mm. So I guess Joe never came out with those aperture less inexpensive lenses? Thanks for your time and effort!

  15. I thought it a bit ironic that in your list for MVP you quote price, works out of the box (just add lens), Easily hand holdable without a rig, etc and then you add a photo with the camera dwarfed by all the add ons you said it didn’t need!.

    • True and it doesn’t NEED the add ons, but many people will use it that way, and I felt the pic looked a little more like “part of a long history of cinema quality cameras” 🙂

  16. I totally understand who this camera concept is aiming at. I love the look of the image, I don’t mind it beind super 16 , I like it being ccd for global shutter (as long as the artifacts caused by bright direct sun issue will be sorted out in the future). The Only thing is the ISO! I understand that it will teach some how to light the set etc, however ISO at least 800 please!!!

  17. Well explained. Or as I think of it: Which camera has good audio, xlr inputs, shoots beautiful raw footage, doesn’t have a fixed lens and costs well under $10,000 even with an external screen? Only the d16, I think.

  18. I think you’ve made a wonderful camera that a lot of people are excited to own – as evidenced by the overwhelming response to your kickstarter. The look is utterly unique and charming. This list, however, seems like a self-serving response to what I would consider an honest and fair review – an review that is defined by some great images coming from your camera. I don’t know how you derived your list, but it seems more tailored to what you made rather than what I would consider an ideal. While I think this is a great camera, I heartily disagree about it being the MVP (and frankly with that whole concept when it comes to cameras), and nothing in this world frustrates me as much as a strawman because I just can’t help but take swings at it. To that end:

    * 16mm is fine, but I would say that the majority of films that have “reached theatrical distribution” (your standard) have been 35mm, although I suppose that depends on when we start counting. And why theatrical? Fewer and fewer films are seen that way, and are hardly the sole source of visual content worth considering (lots more people are talking about True Detective right now than any movie in theaters). What’s more, these are young days, and what’s true now won’t be very soon.

    * A 4-pin battery connector has no mechanical advantage, and other types of connectors (hello, barrel connectors!) are cheaper, easier to replace on set. Using big external batteries would also require a rig, something you’re saying shouldn’t be important.

    * This isn’t a low light camera. Yes Philip said that a lot, but it is important. Even with lighting, a higher ISO makes a lot more possible. Not having that as an option makes this camera a lot less useful in run and gun situations.

    * Your camera doesn’t work out of the box (just add lens), it desperately needs a monitor (oh yes it does). I also doubt that being able to work out of the box is a standard by which to evaluate a camera used to shoot a film that “reached theatrical distribution” because, well, most of the cameras used were probably not read out of the box.

    * More to that point: The excellent pistol grip is great for a kind of run and gun shooting. However, it’s not going to be great in interiors or anywhere that 200 ISO isn’t enough, so it requires a lighting kit for a lot of situations. If a shoot includes a lighting kit, it probably also includes a rig. Certainly most films that have “reached theatrical distribution” had both, as well as other gear common on set (boom mics, environment lights, lav mics, sliders, tripods, matte boxes, ND filters, etc), none of which were in the box. Which is fine, but again – an odd standard.

    * I for one would much prefer high quality REMOVABLE media, so that the media never limits my options. Especially on a camera that only shoots RAW. Sure, half a TB is a lot, but lots of shoots can go through that in a day (especially those 16-hour ones that are more common than not). Lots of work flows also like having multiple media that can be kept as a backup, at least for a day while it’s offloaded and goes through rushes. Regarding RAW:

    * Being able to shoot RAW is great, but only being able to shoot RAW is limiting. Especially with the media trapped in the camera. ProRes is great – especially for the sort of run and gun types who would want a pistol grip.

    * Having good on-board audio is great sometimes, but useless others (multi-camera shoots, any instance where you are on set with a sound person, etc). Most of the samples available online don’t include wild sound recorded to the camera – not because the sound on the camera is bad (it isn’t) but because that’s not how people work. Phantom power, mic/line-level imputs, 24/96 – all fall under this for me. How often would I run a boom to a hand-held? Never. Few if any of the cameras used to shoot the films that “reached theatrical distribution” would be dependent on that.

    * Since DCP is an output format (and a compressed one at that), it’s hard to say that any camera is or isn’t compliant. Unless I’m missing something here?

    I could go on, but I think you get my point. All of these things being true, I can absolutely seem myself using your camera in certain situations. It wouldn’t be my only camera, but at that price point it doesn’t need to be. It’s a great tool and a damn good bargain – you should be proud.

    There is no perfect camera, including yours. There are a lot of types of filmmakers for whom this camera will be perfect enough, and that’s great. There’s a lot that’s unique about the D16 that will guarantee it’s always got a place.

    • Hi Colin,

      Thank for your response. I understand your thinking here. I will say that as with any requirements list it is a personal decision that sin’t mandated by any particular authority, but this is the list we came up with before making the camera. I’ll try to address some of your points though.

      16 vs 35. Yes most films that have been distributed theatrically have been shot on 35mm or a digital equivalent, but this list is meant to represent a Minimum Viable Product, so since many films, even some modern films, have been shot in S16 / 16mm I felt this was the right choice for an MVP. Keep in mind the format choice is also about lens choice and S16 / 16mm lenses are the smallest and cheapest lenses designed by the manufacturers for cinema purposes.

      4-pin XLR batteries again have been cinema standards for 16mm and 35mm cameras for a very very long time.

      Removable media; While many people have expressed concerns working with the built in SSD scenario a total number of ZERO people have complained about dropped frames with the D16, unlike removable media cameras 🙂 This was a choice we made to ensure the reliability of our camera. Removable SSD is really just not a great idea. If you read the handling instructions with any SSD drive you will see they are not designed for hot swap.

      Many productions do not use onboard audio this is true, but it is very useful for the kind of films I want to make so while this may not be essential for MVP, it was important for me.

      DCP Compliant: Yes you can make a DCP from any motion picture camera I’m sure, but we spoke extensively with people who run a DCP company about what makes a camera work well for DCP and have made format / design decisions based on those discussions. Can you make a DCP from a 5D? Yes, but would a DCP from our camera look better? Most likely.

      You are right, there is no perfect camera, and I was definitely not suggesting that we have made a “perfect” camera, but as I stated I believe this is the smallest, cheapest, easiest to shoot with digital cinema camera that you can confidently project in a movie theater. That doesn’t make it perfect it just makes it a good option if you want the S16 look or just want the tech to not get in your way when creating your story 🙂

  19. Thank you very much for this interesting read! It changes the way I see this camera. I had just watched Philip’s review, so thank you for taking the time to give an exhaustive answer.

  20. hi, pls send me details about the cost and where i can buy this camera in india…….i have to give this details to a frnd who has almost decided to go for a blackmagic pocket cinema camera……..also if possible send me a comparison between these two cameras annd 5 d mark iii..
    thank you.

  21. That’s great! Thanks for giving us your take on it. I like your product and definitely would consider purchasing one.
    Two things that you could maybe touch on is: ISO? When will ISO 800 be available? Also, when will the the next rendition of this cameras giving the ability to use other lenses like Nikon or Canon be available? I think most of us have a ton of quality glass already and really don’t want to have to buy another set if we don’t have to. So the ability to use a Metabones converter would 100% sell me on your camera and would be willing to purchase one right away. Thanks again!

    • Hi Phil,
      The front of the D16 is removable so you can change the lens mount on the camera! Passive EF, Passive MFT, and PL will be out by NAB. And the Speedbooster for the BMPCC works on the D16 too!

  22. I am really thankful for Phillip´s time to do a review. It helps a lot, keeps the conversation going and I totally agree with you guys. It is a great camera. Looking forward to get my D16.
    Phillip mentions a lot, that the D16 is not a low light camera. My question is, if you guys think that the Kodak Sensor built in the camera, through firmware upgrades can become a low light?
    Cheers.

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