The 5 Cheapest Matte Boxes for Your Camera Rig
Let’s take a look at five wildly affordable, readily available matte boxes that can help you capture better-looking images on a budget.
There are a few reasons you might want to add a matte box to your camera rig. First of all, they’re perfect for holding cinema-quality filters. Next, they can work as a lens shield that prevents flares from unwanted sunlight. And finally, well, they make you look wicked professional.
All of that said, there a couple of things to note before we start moving down our list:
1. The matte boxes below are mostly for consumer-grade, DSLR-sized cameras and lenses.
2. Let’s be honest. If you’re using a DSLR, you don’t necessarily need a matte box. But, so what?
This isn’t about need. If a product can help create a better-looking image while providing a confidence boost in front of clients and strangers, I say go for it. Especially if that product is exceptionally affordable and readily available like the five matte boxes below.
1. Tiltaing Mini Matte Box: $99
I’ve got the Titlaing Mini Matte Box attached to my Sigma 18-35 right now. I’ve used it for the past six months, and I’ve have generally found the experience enjoyable. It’s lightweight, and it doesn’t up take too much space in my camera bag (the Pelican) or on my shelf when I’m taking a break from shooting. There was the one time that it, how do I put this—fell off—but that’s on me since I didn’t tighten it up as much as I should have.
Watch the clip above to get an idea of what my current rig looks like. You’ll see the Mini Matte Box (and the NiSi two-stop ND filter I use with it) in action.
- Lightweight at 140g (4.9oz)
- French flag with 180 degrees of coverage
- 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 mounting points
- 1x mini matte box single rod support system
- 1x67mm adapter ring
- 1x72mm adapter ring
- 1x77mm adapter ring
- 1x82mm adapter ring
2. SmallRig Lightweight Matte Box 2660: $99 (But Often Discounted)
The Lightweight Matte Box 2660 is a perfect example of the high-quality products that have positioned SmallRig as a staple in consumer-grade filmmaking. The carbon fiber build is lightweight, sturdy, and completely capable of handling filters while protecting your lens in the process. Plus, it’s an absolute steal at around $80.
It’s worth noting that this matte box is bigger than I was expecting. A proper snug fit isn’t possible with my camera bag, so it requires its own box/case. This isn’t a complaint, just a heads up.
- Compact, lightweight matte box
- Carbon fiber box and top flag
- Supports two 4×4″ or 4×5.65″ filters
- 15mm rod clamp, includes adapter rings
- Four 1/4″-20 accessory threads
3. Wooden Camera 2-Stage Zip Box: $125
The main reason I included this box on the list is because I feel like, as filmmakers, we’re always pushing ourselves toward the ultimate goal—shooting with big cinema-style rigs like the ALEXAs and REDs of the world.
Well, this sturdy, reliable matte box from Wooden Camera works with the consumer-level lenses most of us are using today AND the big, cinema-sized lenses we’re hoping to use tomorrow. We seriously love a piece of gear that has the potential to be a life-long go-to. We love them even more when they don’t require a massive investment. (Here’s the adapter ring set you’ll need at some point along the way.)
- Clamp-on rubber matte box/sunshade
- For 90-95mm outside-diameter lenses
- Accepts up to two 4×5.65″ filters
- Wide design prevents vignetting
- Durable rubber and stainless steel
4. Tilta 4×4″ Carbon Fiber: $519
This matte box is on the list because of its handy-dandy removable top and side flags. Short of pointing your lens directly at the sun, you’ll never get unwanted flares from natural light with these flags in play. Another nice feature—a swing-away design that makes changing lenses a quick, pain-free process. This is a real bonus for shooters (like me) who switch between their favorite glass fairly frequently.
The Tilta 4×4″ is a bit more expensive than the other products on this list, but its rugged, built-to-last carbon fiber/aluminum construction makes it worth the bump in price.
- Carbon fiber & aluminum construction
- For lenses with up to 100mm diameter
- One rotating 4×4″ filter stage
- 15mm rod mounting
- Swing-away design
- Top & side flags
- Anti-reflection inserts
5. CAME-TV Matte Box: $149
I added this one to the list (even though I haven’t tried it) because I genuinely appreciate everything that CAME-TV does as a company. They make quality, affordable lights that I’ve used countless times. I actually didn’t even know they made this model of matte box until I heard about it from a friend who used it on a short doc. In their positive experience, while there’s nothing too far out of the ordinary here, the CAME-TV box is dependably sturdy, and it handles filters and unwanted top light well.
- Compact, lightweight matte box
- 4x step-up rings, carbon fiber top flag
- Supports one 4×5.65″ or 4×4″ filter
- 95mm opening with 95 to 77mm adapter
- 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16 threads, shoe mount
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Cover image via CreativeHQ.