A Quick Comparison of Six Important 4×5.65″ Matte Boxes for Single Shooters

Many of us have no access to showrooms where we can test matte boxes. A lot of research includes hearsay, educated guessing and years of experience in the field.

In this article, I will compare six different matte boxes for specs, versatility and price. I don’t have access to these matte boxes for testing (can’t even rent them where I live!), so I have to make the best use of information I have. Do not take it to be a comparative review. The idea is to show you my process of research, so you can formulate your own plans.

If you don’t know about matte boxes, I highly recommend you start by reading my Matte Box Primer.

OConnor OBox

What am I looking for in a matte box and why

I made this comparison because I’m in the market for a 4×5.65″ matte box. My needs are:

  • It should take both 4×4 and 4×5.65″ filters 4mm thick
  • It should have at least filter 2 stages, out of which one must be rotatable around 360°. This excludes any circular rotatable filter options.
  • It must be able to take lenses up to 114mm in diameter.
  • It must have a great sunshade and mattes – ideal for wide angle lenses (at least 18mm for Super 35mm, or 24mm for full frame 135)
  • It must include a French flag or Eyebrow or Top flag.
  • It must offer both mounting solutions – clamp on and LWS rod mount
  • Must be durable and precisely engineered.
  • Must have excellent resale value.
  • Must be versatile (I’ll explain this later).

The matte box should give me enough options to work with current and future gear, while still being lightweight and versatile. I will be using it with both full frame and S35 sensors, so being 4×5.65″ (or Panavision size) is important. I prefer primes, so lenses up to 114mm is all I’ll ever use personally. If I rent zooms, I’ll rent matte boxes as well.

I mainly use ND filters, both solid and graduated. It will hold expensive 4×5.65″ IRND filters, so I can’t afford to have them fall off! A circular polarizer is also on the cards.

The six matte boxes I’ve selected are:

  • Arri MMB-2 Double
  • Arri MB-20II
  • OConnor O-Box DM
  • Bright Tangerine VIV
  • Bright Tangerine Strummer DNA
  • CAME-TV (Just throwing it in there! Not seriously considering purchasing it.)

I’ve avoided other manufacturers for various reasons – lower quality, lack of service and parts, high price similar to the above without an equivalent brand value, or complaints from rental folks I know. If your favorite manufacturer or model isn’t on this list, I’ve discounted them for personal reasons. Let’s leave it at that.
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Comparison of important features

I’ve listed the important features at the beginning of the article. Here’s a table comparing them (click to enlarge):

Important: Prices, specifications and information might be incorrect or plain wrong. For accurate up-to-date information, please refer to manufacturers’ websites. I’m not responsible for any decisions you make based on this.

MB_Optional.pdf MB_Price.pdf

Notes:

  • *I’ve chosen the 2-stage versions for my comparison, because that’s all I want at the moment.
  • n/a means information not available.
  • The ideal weight of a matte box is less than 1 kg (2.2 lbs). The lower the better.

BT Viv

Comparison of versatility

What do I mean by versatility? Here are some features that are good to have, but not mandatory:

  • Swing-away option
  • Tilt – to control flare
  • Height adjustment (should be unnecessary with the right rod system and base plate)
  • Mounting points for hand-grips, monitors, magic arms, etc.
  • 19mm studio support adapter
  • Easy side flag deployment and fine adjustments
  • All kinds of accessories available on demand
  • Ability to add more filter stages

If price were no bar, I would go with the most versatile matte box, but I’m on a budget. This is why these features are not mandatory. Your situation might be vastly different. So, pick and choose your features (click to enlarge):

MB_Optional

Notes:

  • *I’ve chosen the 2-stage versions for my comparison, because that’s all I want at the moment.
  • It’s interesting to note none of the matteboxes offer height adjustments, or at least, they don’t advertise the fact! Correction: The MB-20II does have height adjustments, via an allen key
  • Side-loading is irrelevant to me.
  • Tilting is a really useful and important feature, and I’m on the fence about this aspect.

Comparison of price and resale value

The cost of a matte box is not just the basic kit (usually sunshade, trays and a flag). To maximize the potential of a matte box, these additional accessories are almost mandatory:

  • Hard Mattes – after all, these are what makes a matte box a ‘matte’ box!
  • Cheap additional filter trays so you can store your filters ‘ready-to-use’.
  • Nuns knickers for zooms and LWS support
  • Doughnuts of all sizes for any cinema lens
  • Screw adapters of all sizes for any still lens, for clamp-on purposes
  • Bellows that allow for wider angles by their absence (when they are removed!)

These costs add up pretty quickly! The following comparison shows you how the manufacturers price these important add-ons (click to enlarge):

MB_Price

Notes:

  • *I’ve chosen the 2-stage versions for my comparison, because that’s all I want at the moment.
  • **The Deluxe kit has everything, so that’s why the total cost includes this. The rest are just there to show you how much OConnor charges for parts,
  • Prices are taken from various sources, so they are all over the place!
  • The resale value was calculated based on FS/Used notices found on the Internet, believe it or not!
  • Rental options are based on brand value, that’s the reality in any market. In India, it’s either Arri or Chroziel. I believe most of the world follows a similar pattern. Arri is ubiquitous.
  • Hard mattes are important, mandatory in my opinion.
  • Estimated loss at resale is total minus resale value. Don’t attach too much importance to this number. However, match it with the rental chances and you’ll see how Arri is a phenomenal investment. If you rent out the MB-20II system a few times, you’ve already recovered your investment.

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Which one am I leaning towards?

As for me, I’m limited by budget. Just based on this comparison, if price were no bar, my personal favorite is the MB-20II. A close second is the Bright Tangerine Strummer DNA. I’m generally not big on Bright Tangerine because I can’t find many independent reviews of this product. I’m not about to spend all that money without endorsements from rental folks either!

For me, the cheap options (you know who they are) are out of the question. I’d rather build one myself with my local machinist than buy a cheap one. It’s like buying a car. Who’ll take care of the ‘running maintenance’ – service, parts and support? Ultimately, I want to own gear that will inspire me. These don’t.

That leaves two options:

  • Arri MMB-2 Double
  • OConnor O-Box DM Deluxe

Similar features, very similar price points all said and done. I’ve contacted local dealers for quotes for both, and have read reviews for both. At this point, all I can say is I’m leaning towards the Arri, because of its higher resale value in my market, and the strange fact that the O-Box doesn’t come with hard mattes. [Update: I purchased the Arri MMB-2]

Arri MMB-2

I hope this quick comparison helps you in your own research. It’s not intended to help you form a judgement on any of these matte boxes, which demands real testing for weeks. But if these manufacturers don’t make them available to you for testing, what else can you do?

What do you think? Do you see a different result from this comparison?

6 replies on “A Quick Comparison of Six Important 4×5.65″ Matte Boxes for Single Shooters”

  1. What bellows did you wind up using for the MMb2 set? I’ll be using some lenses that travel with a LW set up and I’m trying to gauge the differences between different sets I’m seeing.

  2. “As for me, I’m limited by budget. Just based on this comparison, if
    price were no bar, my personal favorite is the MB-20II. A close second
    is the Bright Tangerine Strummer DNA. I’m generally not big on Bright
    Tangerine because I can’t find many independent reviews of this product.
    I’m not about to spend all that money without endorsements from rental
    folks either!”
    Gee… that’s sad… cause your audience, like me, are depending on your reviews & unfortunately, you are depending on other’s reviews to make up your mind!
    Well, if you ever choose to consider Bright Tangerine, then you know who to contact… take it for a spin & please do give us your review then… Cheers ~
    :)

  3. I find used  Chroziel matte boxes are a very good value. In the past I found them to be more versatile and lighter than the Arri studio matte boxes,although Arri has caught up in recent years. Why didn’t  Chroziel make your list?

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