The SmallRig Multifunctional Modular Matte Box (Φ114mm) Basic Kit is a universal, versatile, and inexpensive matte box solution.
It has been designed with versatility in mind and it can be broken down and used in different configurations depending on your needs.
The matte box is compatible with any lens that features a 114mm front and it will accept most 4 x 5.65″ filters. However, the kit does include a bunch of adapter rings so you can use it with stills lenses.
There has been a plethora of inexpensive matte boxes flooding the market over the last few years and I was interested to see how the Small Rig option stacked up.
I don’t think I have actually ever reviewed anything from SmallRig before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As usual, every review is done independently and with the same attention to detail regardless of who makes it, where it comes from, or how much it costs.
Good build quality is a must for any product that is going to be used in a professional environment.
The build quality of the matte box is pretty decent, especially considering its price.
Because the matte box is lightweight some of the materials do feel a little on the cheap side and the matte box does mark and scratch extremely easily.
The other slight issue I had was that because the top flag screws down instead of sliding in it does move around a bit and you need to be aware of this if you are working outdoors in any type of wind.
I do like that SmallRig also gives you a padded, protective case to store the matte box, this is something you don’t get with a lot more expensive options.
Size & Weight
The matte box is made out of Nylon with Fiberglass, Carbon Fiber, Magnesium Alloy, and Aluminum Alloy. It weighs in at 675g / 23.80 oz.
The Matte Box is fairly lightweight, however, it can start to get heavy if you are using multiple filters.
Depending on what camera you are planning on using it with you need to take this into account.
Quick Release Design
The Small Rig Multifunctional Modular Matte Box features a quick-release design so you separate the matte box into different components.
This concept allows you to build up and break down the matte box and only use what you need to. You can literally separate all of the components, and while this is hardly a new concept for matte boxes, it does give this product a lot of versatility.
With a product at this price point, I think it was a good idea because it allows you to use the matte box with a variety of different-sized cameras. I personally appreciate the standard Φ114mm back plate because almost all of my lenses feature a 114mm front diameter. This allows me to attach the matte box directly to my lenses without needing to use 15mm rails.
The two quick-release mechanisms on the filter frame adapters work well, despite not feeling overly solid. Any time you are dealing with filters that will cost more than this matte box you don’t want anything accidentally falling to the floor and shattering.
The release mechanism isn’t something that is just going to come loose by itself. You do need to pull up on both sides of the filter holder and then separate the rear matte box opening to release it. To put the sections together all you need to do is line up the bottom tabs and click it in.
The ability to break it down or build it up is sure to apply to a wide array of users.
4 x 5.65″ filter tray
The kit comes with a single 4 x 5.65″ filter tray, but you can buy additional ones.
I like that there is no way that the 4 x 5.65″ filter tray can fall through the bottom of the matte box.
To remove a filter from the frame you need to pull up the tab.
You can’t actually pull the filter frame up and out of the matte box unless you are holding the two levers when it gets right at the top as there is a little safety tab that will prevent it from coming out.
To remove a filter from the tray you need to pull up on the top tab. This is fairly tight and hard to do which is actually a good thing as you doN7t want a filter release mechanism to be loose or too easy to move. I like that the filter frames have a little shoulder over the area where the tabs are so you don’t accidentally grab them when releasing a filter.
The filter trays are well made.
You can use the matte box with multiple filters. However, depending on the lens you are using you may only be able to run a few filters at once.
The only issue I have when using multiple filters is that it is a little difficult to remove a filter because it can be hard to access the release mechanism as they are all positioned so close to each other. If you had big fingers you may find it difficult to do.
SmallRig also sells an optional 4×4″ filter frame that you can buy if you have 4 x 4″ filters.
15mm dual rod support
The 15mm dual rod support is reasonably well made and you can easily adjust its height. It is nice that SmallRig includes this in the kit, because normally with a lot of other clamp-on matte boxes, rod support is an optional extra.
The only small issue I had with the 15mm dual rod support is that you need to be careful with the locking mechanisms because with ceratin cameras they can hit any surface you end up putting the camera down on. The base of the dual rod support is also going to take a lot of punishment every time you place the camera down. This is something you need to have in the back of your mind when you are using it.
Now, I need to stress that this certainly isn’t the case with all cameras. When using the 15mm dual rod support on an ARRI Amira I didn’t run into any issues, because the rods sit up higher and away from the ground.
The matte box has been well thought out and I like that Small Rig gives you 5 adapter rings so you can still use it with still lenses that don’t have a 114mm front.
These are the adapter rings you get in the kit:
- 67 to 114 mm Lens Filter Thread (via Included Adapter)
- 72 to 114 mm Lens Filter Thread (via Included Adapter)
- 77 to 114 mm Lens Filter Thread (via Included Adapter)
- 82 to 114 mm Lens Filter Thread (via Included Adapter)
- 86 to 114 mm Lens Filter Thread (via Included Adapter)
It is nice that you get so many choices, as this will cover a pretty good proportion of lenses.
The adapter rings are easy to use, but you need to make sure you screw the adapter onto your lens first. The other thing to be mindful of is that you are going to have a lot of weight sitting on the front of a still lens if you are running multiple filters and all of the flags. This can make using the matte box with a smaller-sized camera difficult if you are shooting handheld as all of the weight will be at the front.
Are there any caveats?
There are a few caveats when using the matte box:
- Incompatible with 2mm thick, 100 x 100mm and 100 x 150mm slide-in filters
- It cannot hold a slide-in filter and circular filter at the same time
- It is incompatible with circular filters that have an outside diameter larger than 100mm
What do you get?
The Multifunctional Modular Matte Box (Φ114mm) Basic Kit comes with the following items that you can see above.
SmallRig’s Silicone Donut with 114mm Rear Opening for Matte Box
You could also just buy SmallRig’s Silicone Donut with 114mm Rear Opening for Matte Box if you wanted to use the matte box on 15mm rails and don’t want to bother with adapter rings.
It supports lenses with a 58mm-114mm outside diameter.
The flexible silicone hood fits directly over the front of the lens and then snaps into the matte box via a 114mm metal ring. I did find that the silicone hood was a little tight and I did struggle to get it over the top of my lenses. In saying that, it is probably because it is still new. Usually, these stretch out over time.
SmallRig VND Filter Frame Kit
You can use SmallRig’s optional VND Filter Frame Kit with the matte box.
The VND is comprised of two detachable CPLs that provide 1-8 stops of light reduction. SmallRig states that the VND offers excellent optical performance, as well as reduced color cast, glare, and flare. It is waterproof and oil-proof.
Even though the VND comprises two detachable CPL filters it is not possible to use the geared CPL Filter by itself. This would have been nice because then you could utilize the VND Filter Frame Kit as a VND and a CPL.
To place the VND filter into the filter frame you need to make sure that you have the two locking tabs released. You then place the filter inside and then you push the two locking tabs in making sure they grab hold of the pitch gear teeth on the filter. This keeps it in place and allows it to turn properly.
The frame that the VND sits in has a 0.8 pitch gear on the top so you can use a focus motor to adjust it if need be. This is also the same mechanism you use to adjust the amount of ND you want to dial in.
You can remove the VND from the rame and then use it with a 95mm front filter thread lens.
One caveat that you need to be aware of is that even though you can run the VND with other filters you do need to use the optional two-filter holder to do this. This means that you need to leave the second 4 x 5.65″ filter holder in even if you aren’t using it. If you don’t, light will enter the matte box.
Real World Use
I tried the matte box out in various configurations with multiple different cameras to see how it actually performed.
I found that the matte box was equally at home on smaller-sized cameras as it was on larger digital cinema cameras.
I liked the versatility of being able to build it up or strip it down depending on my requirements. Yes, certain parts of the matte box do feel slightly flimsy, but you have to remember that it is very affordable given what you get in the kit. I didn’t expect it to have the same build quality or attention to detail as much more expensive options, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually liked the matte box.
The overall usability of the matte box is pretty good, but I did find that it can be a little slow taking the top and side flags off as you need to completely unscrew them from the matte box.
Price & availability
The SmallRig Multifunctional Modular Matte Box (Φ114mm) Basic Kit is now available for $279 USD.
There is a large array of affordable matte boxes on the market, however, there really aren’t any other options that have the same features, flexibility, and included accessories as the SmallRig Multifunctional Modular Matte Box (Φ114mm) Basic Kit, especially at its price point.
A few of the matte boxes that could be considered competition would be:
- Tilta Mirage Matte Box (with options it ranges in price from $119 USD up to $599 USD)
- Bright Tangerine Misfit Atom Matte Box (with options it ranges in price from $464.31 USD up to $891.99 USD)
- Wooden Camera Zip Box Pro 4 x 5.65″ Matte Box (114mm, Clamp-On) $399 USD
- SHAPE Lightweight Matte Box with Single 4 x 4″/4 x 5.6″ Filter Tray $289.52 USD
The SmallRig Multifunctional Modular Matte Box (Φ114mm) Basic Kit is a solid offering, especially considering its low price. Its modular design and ability to be built up or broken down increases its appeal as you can use it with a wide variety of cameras and lenses.
It is hard to fault for $279 USD and it offers good value for money.