Based on my exuberance for Shoot35's CINEfocus Follow Focus unit, Wayne has sent me his next brain child to test out. The CINEbox R1, a professional matte box for the masses. I base that argument on its price alone, approximately $644.00 based on the conversion rate from 399 GBP. I have to admit, a trend i notice with Shoot35's gear going all the way back to the original SG35 35mm adapter Wayne was selling back in 2006 is that you see its price and have a certain expectation of performance and quality based on that price. Consistently, time and time again i have been left dumbstruck every time i receive one of his new products. They simple have the fit, finish, polish, and thoughtful design of a far more expensive unit. I swear the man has elves on his side....
The first thing that strikes you about this company is the attractive, high quality presentation of the equipment. See below. Yes, it comes perfectly fitted in "shoot35 RED" foam. You open the shipping box and get; "hey... thats nice....." feeling before you even open the box. Classy. Naturally it comes in the foam fitted flight case that Wayne has always provided with his gear. Hes just spoiling us now....
The CINEbox is a perfect match for the plethora of lenses the average professional HDSLR or AF100 shooter would come across. Zeiss ZF's, Canon Lseries, Nikons, etc... The appropriate lens step up rings for the bellows are available on his website. The bellows of the CINEbox is a standard 80mm. Meaning Zeiss Superspeed PL lenses should fit the bellows without the need for a step ring. This is a common lens rental for bigger productions in most parts of the world. Convenient.
In terms of basic function, its a hybrid of swing away and clip on style. There are not many matte boxes that can claim that much flexibility. The swing away mechanism is pretty tough, and holds stable when locked down. I can see it eventually loosening a little, but its built with a tensioner in the hinge to remove slack. Very cool. The speed benefits of a swing away matte box are great and usually reserved for more expensive units. It really makes changing lenses a breeze. I think the Redrock is the only other low cost swing away. I didn't get the clip on function accessory, but based on the manual, you simply unscrew the swing away arm, and replace the bellows with a hard mount, clip on mechanism. It doesn't seem like something to do switching back and forth during the day. IT seems better suited to choosing the style of matte box you like and parking it in that configuration for the day. The bellows is held in place by several tiny screws, hence its "field strip" ability is limited. No one wants to drop a tiny screw in the grass on a location shoot. That said, its really 2 matte boxes in one. A swing away, and a clip on, for $644. Cant beat that.
The CINEbox has two independent rotating filter stages, in the 4x4 configuration. The fact that it only uses 4x4 filters can be a bit limiting as you get into very wide angle lenses on a large sensor camera like a 5D. Its certainly not a deal breaker, but it can be annoying if you plan on stacking lots of filtration with a very wide lens.
One of the main jobs of a matte box is to shield the lens from errant light striking the lens. The CINEbox has as an available option top and side flags for the affordable price of 79GBP, or $127.00 for all three. Usually these are expensive accessories. As you can see they are all easily removable with no tools, and have a nice feel.
To recap, for $644.00 you get, a great matte box thats robust, good looking, fully functional as a swing away OR can be converted to a clip on with very reasonably priced accessories, with 2 fully rotating stages, a flight case and most important of all, quality. Its well built and as i continue testing i will be sure to update this post with my findings about its long term reliability. I expect it to continue to surprise me for a long time to come.