Kolari Vision – yes, those folks who make camera filters and love tearing apart cameras – have released Atlas. They’re calling it “the lightest matte box system in the industry”, and well, yeah, it certainly seems to be. But it’s more than just a matte box. It’s a whole modular filter mounting system that can be utilised for both photography and filmmaking, adapting to each as you need it to.
Kolari Atlas is essentially a filter holder system that allows you to stack filters and effects using magnets. You can also attach one or multiple flags to the sides of the system, allowing you to block light from just about any angle. Weighing in at only 179g at its minimum configuration with a single filter, it will have minimal impact on the balance of your rig or how heavy your camera bag is.
Matte boxes are incredibly useful for filmmakers. When constantly moving the camera around while shooting, having precise control over blocking light from entering the lens is important. With photography, you only need to stop the light from hitting it for one frame at a time, in a single position. For filmmakers, however, you’re doing it for hundreds or thousands of frames at a time. Many matte boxes can be quite large and clunky, though.
This one from Kolari could also be potentially quite large and clunky if you want it to be, with a full complement of flags on it. But when you only need a flag to block light from one direction, you can remove the others to save weight. It’s also very slim, lacking the typical “hood” over the end of the lens to which you attach flags. This means the actual mounting system is also lightweight and small enough to easily slip into your camera bag – or potentially even a large pocket.
As a modular system with easily removable flags and a magnetic attachment system, you’re also able to go back down to the bare minimum setup just for photography. Take off those flags when you don’t need them and just use it like you would a regular filter holder for shooting landscapes or whatever you’d normally use your filters for. No longer do you need a separate matte box and square filter holder system. You can have them both in one with Kolari’s new Atlas. That is, assuming Kolari makes the filters you need.
This doesn’t appear to accept any real standard filters, like 100mm square, 4×5.65″. You can, of course, screw its adapter on top of a regular screw-on filter but other than that, all of the filters are Kolari’s own. So, it’s a closed system and you’re relying on Kolari to keep giving you the filters you want. If you still need to use filters from competitors, you’ll need to get a matte box or filter holder that’s a little more industry-standard.
Despite being limited to Kolari’s filters, though, they do have quite the range available for Atlas, right off the bat. We’ve got the usual circular polarizer, neutral density and variable ND filter. Actually, we’ve got multiple versions of some. There are neutral density filters available with either 2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 stop options, as well as variable NDs in the 2-5 and 6-9 stop ranges. There’s also the ever-popular Mist Diffusion (sometimes called “Black Mist” or “Pro Mist” filter), as well as anamorphic-like streaks and the usual array of infrared filters in 550nm, 590nm, 665nm, 720nm, 850nm, Blue IR and Hot Mirror flavours.
At the moment, the Kolari Atlas filter system is available to pre-order from the Kolari Vision website with prices ranging from $549 up to $1,999, depending on the package you wish to purchase. At each end of the price range, we’ve got the Basic Kit and the Titan Kit. In the middle, we’ve got the Creator’s Kit for $1,499.
I’m not a massive fan of proprietary filter systems like this, although this appears to be one of the most thought-out options I’ve seen. Whereas most companies just try to replicate only the functionality of existing devices – just adding their own proprietary flavour for the sake of locking customers into their brand – this one at least add new modular functionality and tries to appeal to and be more useful to a wider range of camera owners and use cases.
A decent-looking system, if a little on the pricey side!