Matte Box vs Lens Hood

movie camera with matte box

What Is The Difference Between A Matte Box and a Lens Hood?

Matte box – a device which, when mounted on the front of a camera, spreads and softens the light from the lens for use in close-up photography.

Lens hood – a piece attached to or part of a lens filter that blocks stray light from entering the lens.

So what is the difference between these two? A matte box and a lens hood both do essentially one thing – but with very different results! The key difference between them is that while both devices block stray light, they are meant for different purposes.

First, let’s discuss what they both do. Most lens filters, which are attached to the lens itself, are meant to protect the lens. These come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and are made from different materials. Some of the most common ones include UV filters (which help protect the film or sensor from getting damaged from UV light), circular polarizing filters (which filter out certain wavelengths of light), and neutral density filters (which reduce the amount of light entering through the lens).

These filters are essential to the lens, and a lens hood is essential to these filters. A lens hood protects the filter on your camera from damage, whether that be scratches or scrapes from being knocked or bumped, or dirt getting on it. The lense hood may also have the effect of cutting down on internal reflections within the lens, which will tend to affect image quality. A lens hood can help when shooting in harsh direct light.

Now let’s discuss what a matte box does. The matte box sits in front of the main lens and is mainly used for cinematography purposes. This is because it helps to soften the image and lessen the contrast, particularly during shots with a lot of motion. The matte box is often used when shooting outdoors to keep direct sunlight from spilling onto the lens, creating glare or lens flare. Usually this sits just in front of the camera lens and has two filters, including a matte and a diffusion filter (which are used to control highlights and make sure unwanted details are not seen).

Although they have different functions, both devices accomplish what they set out to do with very little difference between them.

When To Use A Matte Box

Whenever you are shooting outdoors in bright sunlight. The matte box will help to cut glare or lens flare that is caused by the bright sunlight, allowing better image quality.

When you need a soft image and there is lots of motion within the shot. A matte box will help to cut out any harsh bright spots within the shot and soften it, making for more appealing images.

When To Use A Lens Hood

Whenever you have harsh light coming into the lens and you don’t want it to affect your image quality.

Whenever you are shooting in direct sunlight and don’t want to cut down on contrast too much. A lens hood will stop unwanted, stray light from entering your lens.

Bottom Line

Both devices soften the light so that it is suitable for close-up photography, but they do it for different reasons. The key difference between a matte box and a lens hood comes down to what they are meant for and how you should use them.

Remember that both the matte box and the lens hood are meant to perform their specific task without compromising quality or using too much of your precious lighting.