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.
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.
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.