How is it possible to do anything new with the mattebox? Wooden Camera has come up with the answer.
What is there possibly left to say about a mattebox? OK, let's watch the product video, then. Oh – hey, that's a good idea.
Wooden Camera's Zip Box Pro was announced at IBC last year, and was easy to overlook because it's, well, a mattebox in a big field of matteboxes. Based on the specs, though, it's interesting, particularly because it could suits people who intermittently need a very lightweight swing-away or clip-on mattebox suiting different jobs on different days. Wooden Camera sell the mattebox set up for one situation or the other, but the mounting arrangements are available separately and comprise a kit that can be quickly swapped out, even in the field, with four thumbscrews.
The filter clamping arrangements are slightly unusual. Instead of the usual slot with filters dropping in from the top, 4 x 5.65” filters hinge from the bottom into the front of the box and are latched at the centre top. Up to three are accommodated, and it's possible to mount two at an angle by careful slot and clamp selection. There aren't any rotating stages and no way to drop a filter through the slots so it won't generally suit polarisers or graduated filters, at least not with adjustment, but it's about the most minimal, lightweight arrangement possible, combining the sunshade with the filter holders. The eyebrow matches the size of the sunshade, so it can be used to protect the lens and any filters without making the whole setup too wide to go in a bag.
Mounting arrangements are attached to the back of the shade, using those four thumbscrews. The clip-on arrangements are straightforward, though the clamping screw is kept accessible on the operator side, as opposed to being buried right by the lens, as with some designs. Rings cover lenses with a diameter of 114, 110, 105, 85, 87 and 80mm. There'll always be a limit to how much weight it's sensible to mount like this – something like a Schneider Tru-Streak or a decent polariser can cost more than this mattebox is worth, and it's possible to stack up three filters together. Some people might not want to have all that hanging on what’s essentially a friction clamp, but either way, it's possible.
The swing-away option is invariably a bit sturdier, and more applicable to a more traditional single-camera production with the occasional lens change to handle. It's not exactly an Arri MB-20, of course, but it's roughly a fifth the cost and likely a lot lighter (and Arri call the MB-20 “compact.”) The shade hinges away from the lens on a single pivot at the bottom, near the rail; the hinge is less than half the height of the filters, for instance, and clearly has light weight among its design priorities.
The Wooden Camera Zip Box is certainly enough of a design departure to be interesting. It takes reasonably big filters in a reasonably small assembly and it's reasonably affordable; we look forward to the opportunity to examine one in person.