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Differences between lens filters and mattebox filters?


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#1 Clay Hammons

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 12:25 PM

What are some of the main differences between a filter you put directly on a lens versus using a filter in a mattebox?

Obviously a mattebox filter would allow you to change lenses and use the same filter but other than this are there any other pros or cons?

Thanks in advance for any help! ;)
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 December 2011 - 04:07 PM

Filters are either made in acrylic or glass, whether the round screw-on or clamp-on types or the rectangular ones that go into mattebox trays and slots.

Otherwise, the main reason for a mattebox is the speed of pulling out a filter and changing it, plus stacking more than one filter. You can stack screw-on filters to a limited extent though some vignetting might start to happen, and it may take longer to switch filters or lenses. Plus you don't need as many different sizes in filters when using multiple lenses when using a mattebox compared to screw-on filters, unless you are using adaptor rings for different lenses and larger round filters that cover the lenses with larger fronts.

I mean, if you mainly just use one handheld zoom lens, then a clamp-on or screw-on filter plus rubber sunshade may be fine if you are just talking about a few ND's or a Pola. But if you are talking about a set of primes and zooms with different front dimensions, plus combinations of ND's, diffusions, Polas, grads, etc. a mattebox may be simpler, faster.
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#3 steve waschka

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 10:27 PM

i shoot a fair amount around water so boat decks and various white gel coated surfaces, sand, etc throw glare from every unwanted angle. i like a compendium style shade / matte box that accepts a few square filters and is a size or two up from the lens im using. that way i can extend the shade out pretty far without worrying about vignetting and not be constantly on the lookout for a flare on a filters surface. acrylic and gel square filters can be cut to fit a finicky tray whereas circulars or lens mounts either you have the right threads with you or you dont. ive never used clamp ons as david mentioned. probably would have saved me many times if i had. that being said my simplest rig is a bolex with a screw on polarizer and a screw on hood. whole thing goes in a backpack. you wont do that with a set of french flags. however on many zoom lenses for bolexs the objective lens element twists and extends or retracts when you focus. so a linear polarizer will have to be adjusted every focus change unless you use a mattebox that attaches to a rail system and remains stationary in its horizontal while allowing for extension and retraction of the lens. or just get a circular polarizer. the trade off is ive heard theyre not as effective. never used one. might be just fine.

but i use old cameras. new ones dont have a great many of these issues.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 05:07 AM

Apart from the speed of changing filters, a matte box with sliding trays allows you to precisely set up graduated filters.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 12:10 PM

Also with a matte box filter, on some matte boxes such as my own Arri MB, you can actually slide the filter up and down during a shot (such as sneaking a grad in /out left or right as) as you move the camera. Can be kinda fun too; to selectively make, for example, the sky darker.
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#6 Clay Hammons

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 12:42 PM

Thanks for the info guys! Exactly what I needed to know. :)
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