Tilta MB-T15 Mini Clamp-On Matte Box Review

The Tilta MB-T15 is a lightweight, portable mini clamp-on matte box with a French flag, adapters for up to 85mm diameter lenses, and rail mount accessories. The price is $99. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Lightweight at 134 grams
  • Compact at 6″ x 4.75″ x 1.5″ when closed up
  • Fits many “run-and-gun” style lenses under 85mm
  • French flag lock is convenient
  • No setup time or need for a rig with rails

To start, the matte box is light. At 134 grams, I barely notice that it’s on the camera. And it’s compact, with dimensions of 6 inches by 4 and three quarter inches by one and a half inches. Its size and weight make it hard to leave behind in a fit of one-tripism. It really can be wedged into pretty much any bag or case.

It’s mini, and I don’t mind not having the support for larger-than-85mm cine lenses. The 85mm maximum lens diameter suits many travel-friendly photography lenses, like the 24-70mm f/2.8 or the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, and many 77mm lens diameter cine lenses. Larger lenses would have needed a larger diameter and therefore larger overall, and less travel-friendly, matte box. This matte box is not for the studio or set. Save it for travel, for run-and-gun, for moments when you don’t have the time or have the ability to break out the rig and rails.

One last pro is that the French flag lock is convenient. It’s right there on top of the box and is easily adjustable with one hand.

Cons

  • Scratches easily
  • Plastic bends and has visible imperfections
  • Hinge for the French flag is questionable
  • Filter ring threading is awkward and generally doesn’t work. Round filters are unusable
  • Would not trust a 4×5.65″ filter in the plastic frame
  • Would not mount anything to the threads or hot shoes on top of the matte box because the position is awkward and I don’t want the weight of those accessories to be put on the lens and camera mount
  • Random Tilta-specific adapter useless for most people

After a day of use, the lens adapter rings left scratch marks on the matte box. Cheap anodizing? I’m no engineer, but it looks like the box won’t keep its black anodized finish clean forever.

Tilta also says that the inside of each lens adapter ring maintains the threading of the lens it is adapting. So, if you are adapting a 72mm lens, the interior ring inside the 85mm ring will have a 72mm threading. It’s a great idea, but tricky. My 77mm variable ND filter does not fit because the glass and frame are together larger than the interior diameter of the adapter ring. And my circular polarizer fits but is pretty much useless once screwed in place. A fix would be to load up a series of lens adapter rings in front of Tilta’s ring so that the threading is free from the bounds of it.

The plastic portion of the matte box bends. Easily. The 4×5.65″ filter holder on the front of the matte box has no metal components securing the filters to the box. The filter must rest inside this bendable plastic frame with a tiny rubber pull piece as the only stopgap from it slipping out. Filters are way more expensive than the cost of this matte box and they are ridiculously fragile. If you’re stationary, it seems like it’ll do fine, better than foil and lots of gaff tape. But if you’re mobile, I would not trust putting any filter on here.

The hinge joining the French flag to the matte box is questionable because it does not have some kind of breakaway safety mechanism. Other matte boxes are secured by twist down clamps that allow the flag to fly off when bumped, just like the MagSafe adapter on an old MacBook. Letting the flag fall off stops the force of whatever’s hitting it to go toward knocking the camera over. The hinge here is so secure that I’d be afraid of either slamming the camera into the ground or ripping the hinge from the plastic matte box frame. It’s a little thing, but still. A breakaway style hinge would have been nice.

On top of the matte box are two hot shoes and a series of threaded holes for varies accessories. I’m not sure what you would put on here. Mic and magic arms seem too heavy. Maybe a mini light? Unless supported by a rail, putting weight on the end of a lens puts stress on the lens and mount, and I wouldn’t risk it.

But, there is a rail included in the accessories. Sort of.

The included rail is Tilta-specific. If you have a Tilta cage, you’re golden. Mount it to the Tilta cage and give yourself some extra support, heck even throw a mic on that matte box. But, if you have anything other than a Tilta cage, you’ve got to break out the baseplate and rails and use the other adapter to secure the matte box, which they included in the box. So is this a con? Not really. It’s more of an upsell opportunity on their end. Get you to jump into the Tilta ecosystem.

Verdict

If all you are looking for is a portable way to reduce flare in your shots, and if you happen to have a camera with built in ND filters and lenses under 85mm, and if you expect you will not move to bigger lenses or will not have a need for diffusion filters, then this matte box at $99 is a great deal and will serve you well.


3/5


So who’s it for?

Videographers and YouTubers who do not need ND or diffusion filters and have lenses under 85mm in diameter.

Does it get used?

Yes. Before getting this matte box, I had only my heavy rail-based Chrosziel one. This matte box required a putting the camera on a rig with rails and carrying around an extra case. I didn’t always have the case with me or want to put in the 10 minutes to set it up. This meant I often would end up putting foil on the lens, making lighting adjustments at the expense of the intended shot, or just ignoring it altogether and running with it.

The Tilta matte box does not require rig, rails, a case, or setup time. It takes less time to put this matte box on then it does to wrap some foil over the lens, and it looks better.

Does it increase your production value?

Yes. The ease-of-use of the Tilta matte box is the reason I now use a matte box more often. In general, a matte box will reduce flare, which in turn retains contrast and color details that would otherwise get washed out. A matte box can also be the “it” thing that impresses some clients.

Would I buy it again?

No. Clip-on style matte boxes from Bright Tangerine, Wooden Camera, and Polar Pro appear to offer more reliable versions of the features of this Tilta matte box, such as the filter holder or the French flag hinge, though at four- to ten-times the cost. If you’re in the game of building up equipment, then this Tilta matte box will eventually get replaced by a more expensive matte box. If you’re in a place to do so, it may be a good idea to just stomach the upfront cost of the more expensive options.

Published by Evan Olson

Freelance video producer and writer, creative director of Dramatic Ads, and editor of CreatorCoffeeShop.com.

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