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RIP Digital Bolex – a sad end to the filmmakers’ darling camera

bolex d16

Today Digital Bolex have announced that they are ceasing production and sales of their D16 camera. Perhaps the most distinctive digital cinema camera ever built, it was a labour of love for filmmakers Joe Rubinstein and Elle Schneider.

Built from the ground up as a camera for filmmakers, by filmmakers, it was initially funded on Kickstarter, successfully raising $262K within 36 hours of launch. They then took it from drawing board to working professional tool in a very short space of time.

digital bolex

The D16 had the look and feel of the original 16mm Bolex film cameras, but brought it into the digital age. It had a Super16 sized sensor and could record 2048 x 1152 Cinema DNG files with 12-bit color depth. The camera produced lovely images thanks in large part to its Kodak CCD sensor and some excellent colour science.

In a post on the Digital Bolex site Elle Schneider gave a detailed explanation for the decision – “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.”

Elle showing off a pair of D16s at NAB 2016.
Elle showing off some D16s at NAB 2016.

A loyal community of users grew up around the camera and I’m sure that this isn’t going to die anytime soon. The Digital Bolex team have committed to keeping their website, forum, and help section alive as a resource for users. Elle had this to say – “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.”

Although no more cameras will be produced after this month there are still some cameras left in stock on the Digital Bolex online store. If you are looking to get a piece of cinema history that you can also use to create beautiful images then there is still time to buy one.

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