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Digital Bolex seen at SXSW: first hand report

3 minute read

Digital BolexDigital Bolex D16

The SXSW festival currently taking place in Texas is the first opportunity eager filmmakers to get their hands on a real Digital Bolex prototype. Although it wasn't fully operational (there were no images), Digital Bolex forum member James M has seen it and says, in his opinion "…the camera is very, very close to being done"

Here's his full post:

Please note that I'm only speaking from my Q & A with Elle, Mike and Joe. They could speak to this better than I could. But from what I understand the image from the sensor to the recorded image on the drive isn't quite what they want just yet. Elle also explained that while their part of the team is at the show the rest of the team is hard at work making those final modifications. Joe or Elle please correct me if I'm mistaken in my paraphrasing but the camera is, very, very close to being done. Joe assured me there would be a working camera and software at NAB next month. I'll let them cover the rest of the details so I don't misspeak.

More on the build: The side panels, handle and main body all felt very rugged. Mike explained the internal frame and such is metal as well to help make things even more durable. Action on the crank is smooth with a decent amount of tension and some built in "stops" that give a light click as you rotate it. Good stuff. Though to be fair some of the more strong arm shooters might feel it has too much "give". As a follow focus it felt different but still quite workable. For menu navigation it just felt right. Better than buttons or touchscreens. Speaking of buttons; the ones on the back of the camera were all functioning and were mechanically and electronically responsive. Though I agreed with Mike they could be just a bit bigger. Particularly for run and gun situations in the elements.

The onscreen interface when the camera is running is very smart and intuitive. ISO, audio meters, frame number AND frames per second setting, record setting, battery life and card status are all simply represented and easy to ready. And I'm sure I'm forgetting something else. You know exactly whats going on with the camera on a single screen. It didn't feel like I would have to learn another language to shoot with the D16 or spend most of my setup time in menus.

Originally I was skeptical about the clarity on the built in LCD. Seeing it in person with eyesight that isn't as good as it used to be relieved any worry. Sure it's small but very sharp and easy to read; at least under the lights of the convention center. Mike put things to bed once and for all on CF vs SSDs or SD cards. Long story short, the wear and tear on a removable drive -- from insertions and removal as well as the constant reading and writing -- would reduce the life on a "five year drive" to "one year". Sounds like Mike wins. Plus they are considering (considering mind you) upgrading the built in drive to 500GB which would give approximately 80 minutes of on board recording capacity.

The shooter side of me really liked what I saw. The editor side of me now really wants to see the software. I accidentally set my still camera to RAW (how ironic) so I can't post any pictures because my laptop can't read them. I'm certain Elle or Joe will start sending out information. Besides I'm a much better motion shooter than still photographer so it might be better if I let the official photos do the camera justice. I think people really will want to see the final button layout and the onscreen interface.

On a slight tangent, and hopefully they don't mind me saying this, but when you see them in person you can tell they are giving everything to this project. The resulting lack of sleep shows a bit. Yet they patiently answered the same questions over and over with grace and professionalism. And what little criticism I heard from attendees was listened to in the same manner. They shared everything they could and remained firm on what they couldn't. And trust me I bugged the heck out of them!

If you get a chance to get out to NAB stop by and see the camera for yourself. It would be really interesting to see what others, particularly camera backers, think about it.

Tags: Technology