SmallRig Modular Matte Box Review Affordable modular matte box

SmallRig has been expanding its range of products, and today we’re looking at one of the company’s Star-Trail series matte box units (with the long name of SmallRig Multifunctional Modular Matte Box Φ95mm)  and a square  ND filter which is also made by SmallRig that is sold separately.

In the box

SmallRig ships several different kits of the Star-Trail series matte boxes which come in a semihard pouch. The basic kit includes one filter holder, a removable hood with a quick release, a top flag, and 4 step-down rings.

The SmallRig matte box case with the square filter

Smallrig-matte-inside-the-box

Design and build

The step-down rings have a front thread, which means you can use this system with your own circular filters. With the ring in place, the matte box frame pops onto the ring and is secured with a thumb screw.

The inside of the box features a non-reflective matte lining. The box itself is plastic, but it sits on an aluminum frame. There is also aluminum release handles on the sides. The filter holder is also made of aluminum.

The sides of the hood come with ¼’’ mounting holes to add side flags to the setup. There is a mounting hole on the bottom of the unit to position the unit on rails.

The matte box weighs less than 500g with one filter inserted. An additional filter would add more than 200g of weight, which means you’d better use this setup on rails to avoid putting this much weight on the lens’ front thread.

The SmallRig matte box with a circular filter

Modularity

This unit features a modular design, which means you can add an additional section with a double filter holder. The sections come equipped with a quick-release mechanism that you operate by lifting two handles on the sides of the box. There are magnets that help position the sections in place.

This design also allows you to take off the matte box front, and just use the system as a filter holder.

One of the innovative features of this system is the quick-release filter holder. It features a tab on the top of the holder with two buttons on the sides. To insert the filter, pull the tab up and reposition it when the filter is in place.

The modular design of this matte box is a great idea, but the latches are not very strong (at least in our unit). The mechanism is made of metal, but it just doesn’t seem to hold the front section securely enough. It’s not that big of a deal, because the actual filter is held by the back frame. But if you expand this with a double filter holder section, that might be a problem.

Additionally, SmallRig sells a VND filter adapter frame to replace the rectangular filter frame. This kit comes with two magnetic CPL filters that provide from 1 to 8 stops of light reduction.

The SmallRig matte box with a square filter

In use

We tested this matte box with SmallRig’s new 1.2 ND filter. It’s a 4 x 5.6’’ 2mm-thick filter. It features a coating that looks reddish at first sight, but in our tests, we didn’t notice any change in tint or loss of contrast.

We shot with the StarTrail matte box in the desert in bright sunlight, and the filter allowed us to keep a shallow depth of field, while the matte box protected us from glare.

The SmallRig 4×5.65 ND (1.2) square filter case and matte box case

Smallrig-matte-box-filter

Conclusion

In conclusion, even with the latch situation, the StarTrail matte box is still a great product. It’s well-designed, lightweight, and easy to install, but can also transform into a robust filter system thanks to its modular design.

Price

As for pricing, the basic kit sells for $128 and the VND mate box full kit sells for around $350.

You can check out more LensVid exclusive articles and reviews on the following link.

Art Podolski is a photographer and video editor with an interest in marketing, technology and all things cinema. After shooting wedding photography for 5 years, he transitioned into creating video content for online projects and collaborating with various production companies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.