Reviews |SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box

SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box Review

SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box review
Review

Price when reviewed

£349

$302

Our Verdict

The SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box is a well-balanced product that offers plenty to those shooting video, whether from a video or photography background.

The lightweight nature of the design makes it flexible in use, and with a modular approach, there’s plenty of flexibility over how it can be used and which filters you drop in or have screwed into the adapters.

In this review, I’ve looked at the base system, which is best for photographers shooting video, while that who predominantly shoot video will want to opt for the more expensive VND Kit version.

Either way, there’s plenty on offer, from the shading hood to the filter mounts. If you’re shooting video and want a flexible and modular Matte Box system that adheres to the standards, then the SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box is the perfect solution.

For

  • Wide compatibility
  • Well priced
  • Neat design

Against

  • For the price, very little

What is the SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box?

SmallRig is a company that has really invested in product design. The contours, materials along with functions are almost always well-balanced. Again, with the SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box, everything feels well-considered; from the lightweight shading hood, lens adapter rings and filter caddy, everything fits together functionally and aesthetically.

While there are plenty of Matte boxes aimed at the stills photographer shooting video and the obvious home of Matte boxes being the video-only option, the SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box manages to blend the two, enabling wide compatibility with lenses and filters.

In use, despite being lightweight, everything feels solid and of high quality. The Matte Box itself is modular, and in this review, I’m looking at the base system, which consists of just the Matte Box and none of the accessories.

SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box review

As you expand the system, various additions, including the VND, available in a kit, and additional filter frames, flag kit, and supports can be attached.

As the base kit, you have the Matte Box that attaches to the lens using an adapter ring. The box has four diameter options, including 82mm, 77mm, 72mm and 67mm. A nice feature of these adapters is that they have a front thread that matches the rear. If you don’t have the Cine standard 4 x 5.65-inch filters, you can use your camera’s standard filters instead.

The lens adapters are essentially screwed into your lens and clamped into the 95mm opening of the Matte Box. It’s a simple yet highly effective system.

SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box review

Next in the line of components is the filter holder, a standard 4 x 5.65-inch holder. This size is standard for cine cameras but not so for stills, so there is the option of a 4×4-inch holder that needs to be purchased separately. Either choice of holder drops into place, and there’s a quick-release lock that enables the holder to be removed and replaced into the holder.

Another point for photographers is that a 4 x 4-inch filter frame can be dropped in to replace the 4 x 5.65-inch, which is more in line with square photography filters. However, if you run a 150mm system, these are too large, and grads would inevitably be graded in the wrong direction.

The final section is the hood; it has a lever on either side that, when lifted, is released from the rest of the unit. Again the front section is nice and lightweight, so it will put little strain on the lens.

At the base of each side is a 1/4-inch thread for the attachment of other lightweight accessories and then attached at the top of the main shade hood. Release using the lever at the top, and it can be flipped out.

Specification

  • For Brands: Universal
  • For Models: Universal
  • Weight: 1.39kg
  • Adapter sizes: 67-95mm,72 – 95mm, 77-95mm, 82-95mm
  • Filters screw in: 4 x 5.65, 4×4 with optional adapter

Performance

Attaching the lens adapter is straightforward, and the screw clamp system to attach the adapter to the matte box is again simple but effective. Once in place, it all feels good and solid, which is reassuring, especially considering the price of Cine filters.

Flip open the hood, and the shade provides excellent shelter for the lens; the sides are a good high-quality, non-reflective Matt black.

The filter holder is handy with the filters dropping into the holder and being secured with a pull-up stop lock before the holder is dropped back into the Matte Box.

SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box review

Having two or three NDs pre-loaded into holders would have been ideal, but we only had one holder, which was fine. On the shoot, I only had access to two 4 x 5.65-inch filters anyway, but as ever, the cost of these makes me very cautious when using them – I also forgot to photograph them in situ.

The other filter option is to utilise standard screw-in filters, which screw directly into the front of the adapter. A nice touch here is that if you have an 82mm lens, then the filter thread at the front is also 82mm. This might seem obvious, but it is rarely the case.

Overall in use, the SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box performed well. My only issue was the side handle locks. These felt far too large for their function and looser in design than I felt they should be. In use, they fared well and caused no issues.

Final Thoughts

Matte Boxes are essential if you’re shooting video; the shade hood stops unwanted light from glaring into your lens and causing unwanted lens effects. Then the drop-in filters can be used to quickly stop the light or create lighting effects that are required for the shoot.

The SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box might not be the cheapest solution, but it is far from the most expensive and offers an excellent range of features that should satisfy most filmmakers.

The overall build quality is good, and the lightweight structure is a great solution for anyone using DSLR or Mirrorless cameras.

SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box review

I’m impressed with the SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box and see that the modular approach has plenty of potential. This is a good solid choice for filmmakers who use Cine filters, as well as for still photographers wanting to shoot video, this one device on the front of your lens has the potential to transform your footage; however, do make sure you also buy the 4×4-inch filter adapter if you’re from a photography background.

The SmallRig Star-Trail System Matte Box is a solid choice and well-balanced in price, quality and features.

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