Tilta Mirage VND Matte Box Review
I’ve been considering the new Mirage Matte Box from Tilta for a while now because they’ve added couple of features that might tip the balance between functionality and practicality on smaller cameras like my Sony FX3. The main thing that attracted me was the option of a variable ND and the fact that they can mounted direct to the lens instead of having to use clunky under camera rails.
I’ve owned a few matte boxes in the past and reviewed some from Genus and Shoot35. I’ve generally found that while matte boxes do provide some usable features I rarely used them because those advantages are outweighed by the fact that they can be impractical and clunky, lets see how this one stacks up!
Tilta Mirage Matte Box Kits
The Mirage Matte Box comes in three different kits, firstly there’s the basic Matte Box Kit which just contains the matte box itself with lens adapter rings.
Next is the Tilta Mirage VND Kit which ads the variable ND along with a motor mount and a mounting assembly if you want to use the matte box on rails.
Finally theres the Tilta Mirage Motorised VND Kit which also includes a wireless motor and controller plus charging and mounting accessories.
I decided to go for the non motorised VND version because I prefer to keep my rig as simple as possible. Having a motor fitted to the matte box plus a controller on the camera ads quite a bit of complexity just to save reaching up to the lens to adjust the ND. I was also hoping to see if I could use the focus motor on my DJI Ronin-s to control ND when using the gimbal and we’ll look at that a little later.
Mirage Carry Case
The VND kit is supplied with a rigid woven fabric style case that’s light and compact whilst still providing good protection to the matte box and accessories. The case also includes areas for the wireless motor and controller should you decide to purchase those separately. Velcro’d to the inside of the case is a pouch containing the Variable ND which has room for up to six 95mm filters.
Lens Adapter Rings
All three of the Tilta Mirage kits include four lens adapter rings with threads for 67mm, 72mm, 77mm & 82mm lenses. The matte box can also be mounted directly to 95mm cine lenses. Adapter rings can also be purchased separately in sizes ranging from 52mm – 86mm.
Once nice feature of the adapter rings is that they are threaded on both sides with the same size thread meaning you can still fit your lens cap or add circular filters to the adapter. Be aware though that whilst you will be able to mount the matte box with a circular filter fitted it may stop you being able to slide a 95mm filter in to the matte box.
Included in the VND kit is this nicely designed rod support. The height can be adjusted however theres only around 1cm movement in the height adjuster. The connection to the matte box features arri style pins and is secured with a thumbscrew.
Nucleus Nano Motor Adapter
The Mirage VND Kit also includes a Nucleus Nano Motor Adapter which can be attached to the VND with two small bolts. This adapter has a short section of 15mm rod allowing a focus motor to be mounted which can then drive the small gear on the opposite end.
Tilta Mirage Matte Box
The Tilta Mirage Matte Box’s main body is a lightweight metal construction which holds a plastic removable front element along with a removable top flag that appears to be made from metal & carbon fibre. Even with the VND and top flag fitted the Mirage Matte Box only weighs 297 grammes or 0.65 lbs.
The top flag attaches via a single retaining knob. This is a really nice design as it allows for the flag to be removed and attached easily. The attachment point has arri style pins stopping it from rotating and the knob can be lifted and rotated to allow it to be positioned per requirements once tightened.
The top flag can be fully closed over the front of the matte box which is always a nice option as it provides some protection to the lens or any filters fitted to the matte box.
Matte Box Body
On the left side of the aluminium body is a thumb screw assembly that allows the matte box to be clamped on to the lens adapters or directly to a 95mm cine lens. The clamping system works well with the matte box being firmly connected once tightened. One point here is that I would like to see an addition locking system in place to stop the matte box falling off the camera should the thumb screw become loose. This could be as simple as a recessed area towards the rear of the adapter ring allowing a loose fitting to be noticed without the matte box being able to fall off.
The right side has a mechanism that locks 95mm filter trays in to the matte box. When a filter is fitted the mechanism gives a satisfying click as it locks in. This lock does make removing filters with one hand impossible though so you’ll need to support the camera on your lap or sit it somewhere in order to change filters.
One thing that often bugs me with matte boxes is when the filter trays are not well sealed in the matte box and light can get on to the lens or glass filters. There’s no such problem with the Mirage, the 95mm filters fit snuggly and do no let light in to the matte box.
The Tilta Mirage offers a unique modular design allowing for multiple configurations.
The front section of the matte box can be removed by pressing two small clips on the base. Once removed additional 95mm or rectangular filter trays can be stacked with the front section then being clipped back on.
95mm Circular Vaxis Filters
Vaxis offer a range of 95mm circular filters for use with the Tilta Mirage matte box.
These filters look to be very cost effective compared to traditional square or rectangular glass filters and I’m hoping to get hold of some to try out in the future.
Tilta 95mm VND
The VND included with the Tilta Mirage VND kit is reported to provide a range of ND0.3 to ND2.7 or 1 to 9 Stops of light reduction. The filter has hard stops at each end of the range and is operated by the small wheel on the top right side.
I tested the filter with my Sony 16-35GM lens at both 16mm and 35mm and found that by turning it to it’ maximum setting i was able to achieve closer to seven stops of light reduction.
Cross Pattern Test – 16mm
At 16mm both Variable ND’s would start to exhibit a cross pattern at around five stops which would become extremely bad at six and seven stops. I tested this against my Polar Pro Peter McKinnon 2-5 Stop VND.
Cross Pattern Test – 35mm
16mm is tough for any VND and most will show a cross pattern at extreme setting with that focal length. The next test shows the results using 35mm on the same lens.
At 35mm the Tilta VND shows much less cross pattern up to five stops with only slight pattern visible at 6 stops and becoming more visible at seven stops.
Colour Shift Test
Next I tested the Tilta VND for any colour shift against the Polar Pro PMVND and without a filter fitted. Both VND’s were set to 4 Stops of light reduction.
The test shows that while the Polar Pro filter does a great job of keeping whites balanced the Tilta does reduce the blue channel a little resulting in the image being a little warmer.
I tested vignetting with the matte box fitted to the 16-35GM lens on the full frame Sony FX3. At 16mm vignetting is visible in the corners however this does disappear as the lens is zoomed to 18mm and beyond.
It’s worth noting that whilst I don’t have any additional stackable filter trays at the time of testing, adding these will likely introduce further vignetting at wide angles.
ND Level Indicators
The Polar Pro has both visible and tactile indicators for each stop of light reduction however with the Tilta you have no way of knowing what level of filtration is currently being applied.
DJI Ronin-s Motor Control
I tried fitting the focus control motor from my DJI Ronin-s to the Tilta VND and I’m happy to report that this works really well. It’s great being able to control VND from the focus wheel on the Ronin, especially as the Sony FX3 can handle focussing very well on it’s own.
The DJI Focus Motor fits nicely on to the Tilta Nucleus nano mount thats included with the Mirage VND kit.
The Tilta Mirage Matte Box is a fantastic choice for smaller mirrorless or cinema cameras. The product is extremely well designed, very light weight and offers excellent value for money. The 95mm VND does have some limitations, especially when paired with wide angle lenses however this is a common side effect for all polariser based VND solutions and I think the Tilta VND stacks up well against other options.
I’m looking forward to getting hold of some 95mm fixed ND filters to pair with black mist or other effect filters as this will likely offer better image quality in a very modular and adaptable package.
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- Tilta Mirage Matte Box
- Tilta Mirage VND Matte Box with VND
- Tilta Mirage Motorised VND Matte Box with Motorised VND
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