A look at the new lightweight 3-stage 4x5.65 matte box from Wooden Camera.
Last year Wooden Camera released the Zip Box, a small rubber matte box designed to hold one filter for lightweight setups (mostly gimbals). Last year at IBC, they announced their next iteration of the lightweight matte box, the Zip Box Pro, which just began shipping in March 2019. I got to spend a few weeks with the matte box, so I took it on some projects to put to it to the test.
Zip Box Pro
- 3-stage lightweight injection molded resin (plastic) matte box
- Holds up to three (3) 4x5.65 filters
- Swing-away OR Clamp-on capable by simply switching backs
- Front-loading filters only
- Weighs only 12 ounces
- Load filters in forward trays to combat light refraction
- Clamp-on accommodates lens front diameters of 114mm, 110mm, 100mm, 104mm, 95mm, 87mm, and 80mm
- Universal cloth donut for light blocking
- Swing-away version is height adjustable, tiltable and adaptable to 15mm LWS and 19mm rods
- Swing-away version comes with reduction rings
- Clamp-on starts at $399 and swing-away starts at $499, but you'll likely spend at least another $150 on accessories:
- Each clamp-on back size is $150
- The swing away back a la carte is $185
Build Quality & Design
For a plastic resin matte box, it's durable and strong and feels like it can take some punishment (always a major factor when purchasing). The filter tab release at the top is well tensioned and the top flag feels sturdy despite how quickly it can be removed. For a lightweight matte box in this price range, the build feels excellent and I don't worry about having to replace it soon. The design is something new: front-loaded filter trays all next to each other, no removable trays like a traditional matte box.
With one filter installed, an accidental bump on the release tab won't easily dislodge the filter. However, with two or more filters the spring-loaded tab becomes a little bit dangerous, as the second filter can more easily slip out if the tab is pressed without care. As with any new design, it will take some getting used to.
The Zip Box Pro feels very simple and elegant. The tab on the top opens and closes the tab that holds the filters in place. A thumbscrew is used to remove the French flag with a plug that slides into the top of the matte box. The first filter slides in like butter and the second filter also clicks into place and feels good.
The third filter, however, feels a little forced into the space and makes the matte box feel a little overburdened. At two filters it totally feels solid and safe with very little to no play. As demonstrated in the video and mentioned above, I do worry about bumping the tab and accidentally releasing a filter when two or more are installed.
Perhaps the best asset of the Zip Box ProI is its speed of use—installing filters feels generally faster than a traditional matte box.
On a recently project with the URSA Mini Pro it was the perfect matte box because I only needed one filter in to supplement the camera's internal ND filters, and therefore didn't need to worry about the second filter. Though I keep mentioning this flaw, I do think it's important to state that it is not easy to depress the tab that releases the filters. Only a drop or very hard unlucky bump would make me worry; general use and camera movement shouldn't pose a threat.
The reduction rings are simple to use on the Swing-away version, simply press them into the native 114mm opening at the back of the matte box and they snap right in. No tools are needed to switch ring sizes, which is handy. Pictured below is the swing away version with its native 114mm back:
If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive matte box that handles a lot of different shooting scenarios, the Zip Box Pro would be a solid option. For me it's honestly very close to exactly what I want in a matte box: low profile, light-weight and quick to change filters. The ability to install filters at an angle and the height/tilt adjustments are must-have features that they have done well with here. If it weren't for the small design flaw in the spring loaded tab release system, it would be a perfect solution for my needs.
Ultimately I just don't feel 100% comfortable stacking three filters in this matte box, but for all of my 2-stage needs, it will do its job well. The added expense of each lens back at $150 a pop ($995 for all seven sizes in the full Clamp-on kit) is a slight deterrent, but if you're on a budget I suppose it's easy enough to buy them a la carte as you need them.
For the price and size, the Zip Box Pro will be my new go-to option, especially when moving quickly and with small crews. Wooden Camera makes solid products for the most part, and I appreciate that they are still trying new things with an accessory as tried and true as the matte box. As their third matte box offering in four years (and second in the Zip Box line), I just hope they keep the innovation coming.