Alongside the Mini Follow Focus release, SmallRig also went “mini” with the Mini Matte Box, and it’s also priced at $99. The matte box is what I would think is as small as a 4×5.65 compatible matte box could be at only 6.9 x 5.4 x 1.7″ or 176 x 137 x 42.7 mm.
Let’s see what you get for a sub $100 clip-on matte Box.
Mini Matte Box Includes
- Mini Matte Box (95mm diameter opening)
- adjustable and removable carbon fiber Top Flag
- Kit of four adapter rings in sizes 67, 72, 77, 82 mm
- (1) 4 x 5.65 Filter Tray
- Limited 2-Year Warranty
Optional adapter ring set with 52, 55, 58, 62, and 86mm rings (SmallRig 3383) is available for $34.90. That makes it a well-rounded set of adapters.
A circular filter up to 92.5mm can also be added, along with a filter tray.
Standard 52/55/58/62/67/72/77/82/86mm lens
Round filters of up to 92.5mm
52/55/58/62/67/72/77/82/86-95mm adapter ring
4 x 5.65″ plug-in filters of 4mm in thickness.
Mini Matte Box Construction
The SmallRig Mini Matte Box itself is made of ABS plastic with aluminum hardware. It’s very light. The frame for the filter is also APS plastic.
On the bottom is a 1/4 20″ tap with Arri-style accessories pins. While this is great most Arri accessories mounts are 3/8 with pin slots on each side. I like the idea of having the option with the 1/4 20,” but it’s not a standard.
This tap can be used with lens support hardware. Why would you need this? Since the top of the matte box has two 1/4 20″ taps on each side, you can add accessories on top. Depending on the device’s weight without lens support type hardware, it could be heavier than the lens mount can handle safely, but it’s good to have options.
The 95 mm clamp is metal and uses the classic style tightening knob. It’s nice and wide, so you can get a solid grip on it and tighten it down firmly.
The inside of the matte box is nice and dull to prevent any reflection and flairs. No extra material such as felt is used.
The included Carbon Fiber Top Flag is removable and adjustable.
The copy I received for review is a little sideways, but it didn’t affect the performance only looks funny.
Included Lens Adapters
It’s great to have adapters included in this price range. Most matte boxes don’t include anything other than the box, and the price goes up substantially after you throw all the kit you need into your cart.
The kit includes four lens adapters. A 67 mm, 72 mm, 77 mm, and 82 mm. If you need more, they are cheap as chips to buy. For a set of 52 mm, 55 mm, 58 mm, 62 mm, and 86 mm rings
The kit includes one 4 x 5.65″ frame made of ABS plastic. Extra frames can be purchased for $10. It’s very light. The filter pops into the back of the frame and is kept in place by a spring-loaded clip and a 2″ lip on the opposite end. The filter in the holder is now much more ridged as the frame alone isn’t. This isn’t a bad thing, just an observation.
You can stack the filter frames. I don’t have an extra one to test with; however, it looks like it attaches to the front of the frame the same way it attaches to the matte box with included slots on the front. Simply slide it into the other frame, and it locks in.
The frame holder isn’t the easiest to remove from the matter box. On the right side of the frame is a small tab. To remove it from the matte box, you have to pull back a small tab with a fingertip and slide it to the right. It’s a little fumbly when the matte box is not on a lens. I think it would have been better if this clip was also spring-loaded to make it easier to detach. Putting the frame on the matte box is fast and simple as it locks into place when it gets into position, so that is a good thing.
To avoid touching the filter, a small handle is on the right side of the frame. This handle also doubles as a part of the frame that holds the filter in place. Additional SmallRig 3319 filter frames can be purchased for only $9.90. I would pick up a couple and have them preloaded with the most common you would need on set for quick, fumble-free operation. At such a low price, it makes sense, plus, as I mentioned, you can stack the frames on top of each other.
Inner Circular Filter Option
SmallRig added threads to the lens adapters so you can use screw-on filters. This is helpful if you want to use a variable or other ND filter with a creative 4 x 5.65″ filter or vice-versa, or just want to have the matte box as a lens shade and use all circular filters. Again, options are strong here.
I tested a 77mm ND filter with the Canon 24-105 on the full-frame Z Cam E2-F6 and found no vignetting at 24mm.
Is a “Mini” Matte Box Practical?
Smaller in most cases is better. Especially when you want to keep your setup compact. I use the Bright Tangerine Misfit Atom for a compact clip-on, but the price difference is substantial at $465. compared to $99. for the SmallRig. Plus, the Misfit Atom is bigger and doesn’t come with lens adapters. I do think you get your money’s worth from the Misfit Atom if you can afford it. It is one of the best compact options.
When comparing only the size, the Mini Matte Box is much smaller. I think this has to be the determining factor here and well, of course, the low price. In most cases, the Mini Matte Box will do exactly what it needs to do. Hold filters and assist in preventing lens flairs from stray light. The larger, deeper matte boxes will shade the lens better for obvious reasons, and if you worry about side light flaring your lens, the SmallRig Matte Box Mini doesn’t have side flags available.
In the $99 price range their surprisingly several options. Below are a few that I found in and around the $100 US mark.
- Tiltaing Mini Matte Box $99
- LanParte Mini Matte Box $99
- Wooden Camera 2-Stage Clamp-On 4 x 5.65″ Zip Box (90-95mm) -$125
- CAME-TV Matte Box with Carbon Fiber Flag $185
I feel the direct competitor is the Tilta Mini Matte Box. It comes with different accessories, such as a 15mm Rod Clamp with a 3.9″ rod. If you want to mount the SmallRig version to rods, you will need to use or purchase lens support to mount from the bottom or some DIY hardware as SmallRig doesn’t offer a single rod mount for Mini Matte Box. One advantage is that the SmallRig version uses a 95 mm mount instead of a non-standard 87.5 mm that the Tilta has. This makes the SmallRig version compatible with cinema lenses as they generally have a 95 mm front diameter.
SmallRig really delivered on the Mini Matte Box. It’s very affordable and does what you need it to do in a very inexpensive and compact way. I like how light it is, and it will help keep the front of your rig from getting overly front-heavy. This is a constant problem with small cameras. Lens swapping is slowed down a bit if you don’t have the adapters already on each lens. I think purchasing additional adapters in the same size would be helpful but not available from SmallRig; however, the standard 95 mm outer diameter will make it easy to find other options. A 4 x 4” filter tray 3320 is in the works for the Mini Matte Box, so you can also use those.
Something to keep in mind is a mini or small matte box won’t shade your lens as well as a larger model. You might run into some flare issues if you are shooting outside with the sun low or shooting into lights. It’s a trade-off.
One thing I like is how SmallRig made the Mini Matte Box with some standard features. It looks like a mini version of a larger professional system. The 95 mm lens mount will also fit on most cinema lenses, making it a good option for those quick light and compact setups in a pinch.
The option to stack another 4 x 5.65″ filter on top of the filter frame is a great feature, also. If you need to use round filters, you can since the adapters are threaded. Lots of options for a $99 matte box.
For a limited time, B&H has the SmallRig Mini Matte Box at $79.92. That’s 20% off.
SmallRig Mini Follow Focus Review
As I mentioned earlier, I did a review on the SmallRig Mini Follow Focus as well. Check out the full review HERE.