It comes as a shock to some that the absolute darling camera of the digital age is taking a final bow and exiting stage left.
Digital Bolex was a joint venture between Bolex International, S.A. and Cinemeridian, Inc. The company was founded in 2011 after a successful Kickstarter campaign by Elle Schneider and Joseph Rubinstein, and is apparently winding up and will be no more by the end of the month.
There will be no more D16 cameras.
Digital Bolex we salute you!
Read the Digital Bolex Farewell press release by Elle here:
Anyone who’s started a small business can tell you that it’s not easy, especially in tech; even the most viable and promising product can be held back by the discontinuation of a part, a materials shortage, or rising cost to manufacture when facilities close or require large minimum orders to continue production.
As a small business, always facing potentially fatal hurdles and unknown competition, it can be extremely difficult to know when the “right time” is to for a product line to come to an end. Do you try to read the tea leaves looking for potential new competitors? Do you hold your breath and dread a future when stock could be collecting dust on the shelves? If production costs rise, do you raise prices? What is the right margin for survival? What happens if the sensor you’ve been waiting for to make your next camera simply doesn’t exist?
After much deliberation, our team has recently decided that, for us, it’s the responsible decision to leave the table before any of those questions begin to affect our company and our customers.
Digital Bolex will no longer be producing cinema cameras after this month, and we will close our online store effective June 30th. Cameras will still be available to purchase until 11:59PM, PST on that date, and we still have cameras in stock. So if you’ve been eager to purchase a D16 for your project, consider this last call.
Five years ago, in summer of 2011, when I started on this journey with Joe and our team, we were filmmakers a vision: we wanted to use the new culture of crowdfunding to amplify the voices of independent filmmakers and show the camera industry that creative storytellers didn’t need to rely on big box corporations to choose the look and function of how they told stories for the big screen. When we raised $262K within 36 hours of launching our Kickstarter in March of 2012, we lit a fire and proved that filmmakers truly wanted control over their tools of expression, and were willing to think outside the box and join a revolution to create those tools. From that revolution a community was born that’s grown over a thousand members strong, and includes world-renowned artists and filmmakers from every background and tradition, using their D16s on the smallest of independent projects to the largest of network television shows, screening their work in theaters and major film festivals across the globe. We couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishment, and of the community that helped us to build it.
Our community is a strong one, and (not to brag, but) the most helpful, considerate, and brilliant group of filmmakers I’ve had the honor of conversing with and sharing work with online—a rarity these days. On a personal level, I’ve grown tremendously as a storyteller, cinematographer, and director through interacting with our users, and many have come to be close friends.
From suggestions on how to improve the original KS camera, to tips on grading, development of color science, encouragement to fellow filmmakers to test and learn and experiment and share, our users have intimately participated in the development and growth of the D16 from day one, and are to thank for making the D16 one of the most important cameras in the field today—not just because it was the first crowd-sourced cinema camera, but because, even after two and a half years on the market, it still remains the only affordable camera with fully raw, uncompressed 12-bit footage, native global shutter, incredible audio capabilities, and, as of our most recent firmware update this May, color science that now rivals cameras tens of times its cost (and is finally recordable through HDMI to compressed formats of your choice.)
As we still debate the value of higher bit-depth 2k over compressed 4k in the trades today, and what high resolution really means when people watch content at home or on small screens, it’s clear the D16 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we’re proud to have created a storytelling tool that will live on for years to come as the right choice for filmmakers who don’t want to compromise on their creative vision or ability to control what their stories look like on screen.
We’ve learned a tremendous amount from our filmmaking community over the past five years, as we’ve listened to your feedback on ustream and our forums and twitter, designed new products to make using the camera even easier for professionals, and produced and sponsored content to show the world just what our camera is capable of, and we’re excited to keep growing and sharing content with you. As we’ve always said—buying a camera from Digital Bolex isn’t the end of our relationship, it’s just the beginning.
While we aren’t going to be making cameras anymore, we’re not going anywhere—you don’t have to go home, but you can stay here. Our website, forum, and help section will continue as a resource for existing customers and those renting the camera from private owners or rental houses who need help, and as a way for filmmakers to promote their D16 projects. Our phone will stay on, and all warranties, repairs, and upgrades will continue to be performed by our team as we honor our commitment to the users who have chosen to enter into a relationship with us. Our in-kind support of filmmakers, film initiatives, and our grant for women cinematographers will also still be active, and we will also continue to support owners by sharing rental information and locations for interested filmmakers.
We want to thank our community for supporting our team and championing the Digital Bolex like it’s your own (it is), believing in our mission, and taking a new step in this journey with us as we transition away from retail and towards becoming the best resource for our community of users that we can be. We’re excited to keep sharing our stories with you, and to see the stories you’ll share with us.
We will have one final UStream hangout on June 30th at noon Pacific time, and we hope you’ll join us.
Elle and Team Bolex
And to help ease the pain or draw the tears out quicker, here are a collection of videos made with the Digital Bolex camera:
[EDIT: Please follow me on Twitter @MichaelPlescia where I will announce any developments regarding, theory papers \ plugins \ tutorials of my shimmer-graining process.]
After having the privilege to participate in a test shoot with a beta model of the Digital Bolex, I can state with full confidence that this camera is the real deal and is the one filmmakers like me have been hoping for. Congratulations to Joe and the Bolex Team.
Please Note: My grade is an attempt at accentuating the inherent celluloid look of the camera by marrying it with my shimmer-graining processes to give it an early 90's era Kodak appearance. This process is slightly destructive and introduces flicker, color fluctuation and softness not native to the camera and does not reflect the true sharpness of the Digital Bolex sensor.
There is also some popping flicker (that appears in the skies here), which is a known issue of Adobe Camera RAW.
Lenses \ ZEISS CONTAX 25 mm f/2.8 & 50 mm f/1.4 & CP2 85mm and 21mm
Cinematography \ Kurt Lancaster & Michael Plescia
Edit \ Grade \ Michael Plescia
Music \ Michael Plescia \ soundcloud.com/rinjen
RAW Convertor \ Adobe Camera RAW in After Effects
Dancer Olga Sokolova has been featured in numerous television commercials, feature films, and recorded performances, but never felt the cameras used on these productions truly captured the timing and nuance of her body movements. Learn how she feels about the D16 in this documentary portrait.
Cast: Olga Sokolova
Director/DP: Joe Rubinstein
Sound: Justin Cruse
VO Recording: Rob Kleiner
Music: "To Whom It May Concern" and "Under My Skin" by the Sexbots
The Dancer and the D16 was shot on 3 cameras, one D16 with PL mount and Elite PL primes and two D16's with C-mounts and Kish cinema primes.
Olga Sokolova was recently featured on America's Got Talent:
Many independent and big-budget filmmakers find themselves in a special dilemma when shooting car chases, crashes, and fast motion scenes—forced to resort to unflattering wide-angled cameras to get into tight corners, excessive rigging or camera cars to keep jello at bay, and warping stabilization filters to fix unavoidable slanting and fisheye. In this spot, done with no post-stabilization or motion correction, we show how the D16 is the perfect small camera for your car and action sequences.
Cast: Robert Streeper, Ashley Fiolek
Director / DP: Elle Schneider
Gaffer / 1st AC: Dalton Gaudin
Camera Operators: Elle Schneider and Dalton Gaudin
Key Grip: Chris Haggerty
Car mounts & rigging: Tyler Phillips and Joe Rubinstein
Production Coordinator: Tim Edmond
Hair & Makeup: Lisa Hansell
Interpreter: Hilari Scarl
Music: White Night, Black Light by Doug Parr (Licensed through The Music Bed)
Special thanks to Matthews Studio Equipment (www.msegrip.com) for providing car mounts, c-stands, and Polly Dolly.
Shot a short documentary on Venice Beach with the beta production model a couple of weeks ago (it had an uncalibrated sensor) of the Digital Bolex d16 using vintage 16mm c-mount lenses. Equipment: Manfrotto monopod, 5-in-1 reflector (for interviews), audio with a Tascam D-40 and Rode NTG-2 microphone (Michael Plescia) (beta test model did not have audio firmware installed). Color grading through Adobe Camera Raw.
Special thanks to Joe Rubinstein and Elle Schneider of Digital Bolex for letting me be the first to shoot with the camera outside of the Bolex team.
My intention: Can the D16 be used as a run and gun documentary camera in the field?
As you look at the image, remember that this is shot around noon–the worst shooting conditions possible–and no ND filters, but despite a few clipped values in the highlights I'm still seeing details and skin tones that would have fallen apart on an 8-bit compressed camera (DSLRs, prosumer video cameras). Also take note of the whip pan at end of video, how it has no rolling shutter issues.
My test shows that this camera can be used for documentary work.