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Brian Liepe: A matte box can be really useful if you're working with a lot of hard lighting. Hard lights that shine into your lens can cause lens flares. Although some shooters embrace flares, they can be undesirable if they show up in parts of the image that need to remain clean or unaffected. The matte box is built to accommodate a wide range of focal lengths. The size of its opening increases, so it doesn't show up in your image. The walls of the matte box block rays of light that would otherwise shine into the glass of your lens, which obviously is what produces lens flares.
You could also use a matte box to hold filters. I use my matte box to hold high- quality neutral density filters. In a matte box like this, I can hold NDs in these frames, which allows me to switch lenses without having to unscrew filters from one lens and screw them back onto another. This saves me a lot of time. If you do use a matte box to hold your filters, make sure to seal off the back of the matte box with a donut. These prevent light from leaking and reflecting off your filters and then back into your lens.
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