After five years of camera development and manufacturing, the independent minded Digital Bolex will stop selling cameras effective June 30th, 2016, with only one design under its belt. While the creators ran into many problems, including supply chain and cost issues, in the end it may have been good old fashioned timing that caused it to close shop.
“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 … 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. After much deliberation, our team has recently decided that Digital Bolex will no longer be producing cinema cameras after this month… ” – Elle Schneider, Digital Bolex Blog
In writing a heart felt thank you to fans of the D16, Digital Bolex co-founder Elle Schneider wrote on the company blog the reasons why the cinema camera startup would be closing its doors. When it launched in 2012 at South By Southwest, Digital Bolex was one of the first to harness the power of crowdfunding and social media, to raise over $250,000 in seed captial within 36 hours.
“When we raised $262K within 36 hours of launching our Kickstarter in March of 2012,” Schneider writes, “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.”
But as time wore on, design and production delays caused many who had preordered the 2K Super 16 digital camera to wonder where their money went. Ultimately, Team Bolex secured additional funding, and were able to eventually ship their original back log of cinema cameras.
“So Digital Bolex is no longer. I honestly, truly loved what they were trying to accomplish and with a ton of passion. They were in the game for all the right reasons. Nothing but a ton of respect for their entire team. Very sad day.” – RED Fire Chief Jarred Land on Facebook
The problem though, was that Blackmagic Design came on the scene with a huge splash at NAB just two months later in 2012, introducing the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and promising performance equal to the D16 for a fraction of the price. Then, in 2013, Blackmagic announced the Pocket Cinema Camera, which offered 1080p Raw for under $1,000. Add to it the rise of the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony A7 family of cameras, both at affordable prices. The competition grew as the D16 started to ship.
Then there was the price. Initially, the Digital Bolex D16 was promised for around $3,000. But design changes caused the price to edge up to over $4,000, especially if you wanted a PL mount option. In the very beginning, when it was announced, this was a bargain. But thanks to the rapid fire pace of camera development over the last few years, that price became less and less of a value as other camera companies, like Blackmagic, Panasonic, Sony, and Kinefinity, came on the scene offering similar design specs for less, and they were shipping.
Then there was talk of quality. When the test footage came out, the promised 12 bit 4:4:4 color of the 2K image didn’t meet the hype, leaving many to conclude that their software partnership with Pomfort for color correction may be the strongest link in the chain. Others though, liked the 16mm-style 2K image and pronounced it a success.
By then, the writing was on the wall, the industry had moved on. We were talking 4K, and Blackmagic had their ultra high def Production Cinema Camera for under $4,000. Without a next generation model on the horizon to answer the challenge, it became clear that Digital Bolex’s time had come, and gone.
Schneider does assure, though, that while the online store cease selling cameras after June 30th, the team at Digital Bolex will keep the support side of their company open, and will continue to develop firmware improvements and provide customer support and repairs.
“Our website, forum, and help section will continue as a resource for existing customers who need help,” Schneider assures. “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.”
It’s sad really. Digital Bolex was a great idea, building on the legacy of the film Bolex from years ago, but it ultimately suffered from bad timing. Sure, it had issues with supply of parts and development shortcomings which prompted redesigns, but in the end, it was a case of a great idea come too late.