Travel Adventure Documentary Magazine
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Bolex is Back! Not as a Film Camera, But as a Little Digital Wonder

Dale Johnson Posted by Dale Johnson in Blogs July 23rd, 2012

Many readers of this column  will remember the name Bolex.  It was the predominant camera for documentary and travel adventure film producers when imagery for such programs was actually acquired on film.  As a teenager, I can remember lusting for one of those little black beauties for weeks on end, until finally I persuaded my Mom to sign for me to buy one from Sears and Roebuck on the installment plan. 

 Well, Bolex is back!

 Not as a film camera, but as a digital one.  Yep.  A young couple is producing this camera as an ‘everyman’ camera for the digital age, perhaps somewhat like the niche occupied by the early Bolex 16mm cameras. 

 The digital Bolex, however, is not a toy.  It can capture a truly hi-definition image.  In fact it can capture what is referred to as a 2K image. 

 When Hollywood began to use digital effects in mainstream entertainment films, such as The Terminator, for example, the digital level deemed acceptable for creating effects to be incorporated into a 35-mm film release was 2K.  That is a digital image that is roughly 2000 by 1000 pixels in size (2048 x 1080).  I believe that was the image resolution used in the morphing scene of The Terminator where a human form materializes from a pool of quicksilver on the floor.  So, the Digital Bolex will record at that level of resolution, too. 

 The standard lens mount is the venerable C-mount used by the original Bolex camera for most of it’s history.  Other mounts are available, however.  The camera weighs 5 pounds without lens, and captured data is stored on CF cards, or SSD drives.  The frame rate when shooting 2K resolution is up to 32 fps.  In the 720 mode (1280x720 pixels) you can get a frame rate of 60 fps, and if you still shoot in standard def, 90 fps can be recorded. 

 This Bolex records imagery in raw format, which is an uncompressed recording configuration.  Generally, only very expensive cameras such as the RED record in this format.  Raw records each frame individually, somewhat like a film camera.  The files are larger, but the complete fidelity is captured, and can then be manipulated for color, highlights, contrast, etc., for maximum control with whatever NLE and color program you’re using. 

 The Camera is expected to sell for $3,300, although a number of backers who have pledged $2,500 or more will receive one of the first 100 cameras, due off the production line in August of this year. 

The objective is to provide a very high quality image at a most affordable price just like the Bolex of old.  


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