When news first appeared about the Digital Bolex D16 being fitted with a native screw thread mount sized to accept Super 16 C-mount lenses, supplies of vintage Super 16 glass jumped in price then began drying up.
Now the Digital Bolex folks have solved the C-mount scarcity problem by releasing their own lenses – the Digital Bolex/Kish Optics Series 1 Primes. And they have turned out way better than the original, stripped-down prototypes suggested.
The Kit of Three
The Digital Bolex/Kish Optics Series 1 Primes come in a set of three lenses, all with a fixed aperture of f4 and with 10mm, 18mm and 38mm focal lengths. Unlike the prototypes which had fixed focus for use in rack focusing, the shipping versions are internally focusable and the barrels have distance markings and are geared.
All three lenses are compact and lightweight, with a filter ring diameter of 43mm. Their fixed aperture of f4 is pretty much the sweet spot for the cinema-style shooting for which the Digital Bolex D16 was created.
If shooting outdoors in bright light, a set of ND filters or a variable ND filter is highly recommended. When shooting in moderate to well-lit locations, f4 should be fast enough to meet your needs.
The lenses’ average dimensions of 3 inches by 3 inches by 3 inches means that your Digital Bolex camera will not be burdened by big, heavy lenses that can throw its balance out of whack when handheld or in a rig.
Discounts are available
And best of all is that the Digital Bolex folks are offering discounts if you buy all three at the same time, if you buy camera and lenses together or if you have already purchased a Digital Bolex D16 or D16M.
I am not yet a Digital Bolex owner although I am in the running to try out one that a friend bought and that has just arrived. His style of cinematography demands long, fast lenses and C-mount or adapted glass suits his needs. The way I would use the D16 is entirely different, much closer to how I used to shoot 16mm and Super 16mm film with a set of primes.
An excellent investment
For me, the Digital Bolex/Kish Optics Series 1 Primes set is an excellent intro into this way of shooting and I look forward to the coming sets of wider and narrower fixed aperture primes that have been mentioned at the Digital Bolex site in the past.
Three matched cinema-quality prime lenses at under a thousand dollars US is a great deal in my opinion and a worthwhile investment given they can also used on other cameras with Super 16-sized sensors.
The Digital Bolex/Kish lenses can be used on the Panasonic GH4, for example, via Fotodiox, Metabones or other brand C-mount-to-MFT adapters. That way, you can combine the best of both worlds – raw shot on the Digital Bolex with 4K made with the GH4 – using the same set of C-mount lenses on both cameras.
Digital Bolex/Kish Lenses
Via Digital Bolex:
Since we announced that we were going to be making new C-mount lenses, a few people have asked us why–other than the camera’s native C-mount–we decided to create lenses in this format, which so few modern cameras use. We feel there are a number of benefits to a C-mount lens, and we kept these in mind when creating the shape and look of each lens:
1. Its light weight, short flange distance, and built-in follow focus gear make it easier to use for true handheld shots, steady cams, and motorized gimbal stabilizers.
2. The compact size means more compact shoulder rigs, even with a follow focus.
3. The smaller circumference of the lens makes building fewer thick elements easier, which means we can make lenses out of 5 or 6 thick pieces of glass instead of 20+ thin elements, which makes these lenses more durable and have a natural contrast.
4. With fewer, thicker elements you can achieve nicer looking lens flares.
5. C-mount is a widely-adaptable format, which would allow you to match shots if needed between a D16 and any other camera with a Super16mm to Micro Four Thirds sized sensor.
6. The low price means these lenses can be used cost effectively in more dangerous situations for your equipment, like crash cams and underwater or desert shoots.
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Digital Bolex: A New Kid In Town (Commercial)
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)