Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cheap Battery Grip for Nikon D600 - First Impressions

UPDATE: As of 12/29/12 my grip stopped working!  See below.  As of 1/6/13 it's working again.

I finally received the cheap battery grip that I ordered for my Nikon D600.  Here are my first impressions.

UPDATES: See under command dial -- missed clicks and direction of rotation.

I ordered this grip from eBay seller ukpartsdeal on November 7, 2012.  I hadn't gotten it and inquired with the seller who said he shipped it on November 15, 2012.  Coincidentally, I received it the day after I sent my inquiry, on November 26, 2012.

When I received the box, it was a little squished from handling.  There is no brand.  Most distressing was that the photo of the grip on the box shows a completely different grip, with the older-style protrusion that goes into the battery compartment.  However, there was a sticker saying "For Nik D600."

Inside was a bubble wrap with the grip -- no protrusion. Whew.  Contents:

  • Battery grip
  • Plastic cover for terminal contact (covering the terminal of course)
  • Battery holder for the EN-EL15
  • Battery holder for AA batteries
  • Manual in English and Simplified Chinese.  (Interestingly, from perusing the manual, the English seems perfect, not the usual English that looks like a machine translation.)

On eBay, there are two price points for a D600 aftermarket grip.  There is one that is around $50 and another that is around $130.  I ordered the $50 one, thinking the $130 was a rough deal.  However, I found out from the manual that there are two models of this grip: BG-2K (plastic) and BG-2M (magnesium alloy).  I am supposing that the more expensive grip is made of magnesium alloy.  If you're ordering that, you should check with the seller before completing your purchase.

Here is what the grip looks like

Here is how it looks when mounted on the D600.

My overall impression of the grip was that it felt cheap and light.  I would compare the build quality to one of those generic digital cameras sold at department stores for less than $100.  It doesn't look like it would fall apart but you can easily notice that it feels different from the D600.  The plastic used appears to be similar to some of the better Chinese flash triggers that I've used (e.g. Aokatec AK-TTL).  My impression is that it's suitable for normal use, but would probably suffer small cracks with rugged use over time.

The grip fits the D600 just fine.  On the bottom of the D600, I just removed the rubber cap covering the terminal (no tools needed).  I positioned the tripod insert on the tripod mount then turned the wheel.  The wheel can be held from both front and back of the grip making it easier to turn it.  There are a couple of short protrusions on the grip for corresponding holes on the D600 to ensure the grip is correctly oriented and positioned.
When the wheel is fully tightened the grip feels like it is securely mounted on the camera.  I don't feel worried about it suddenly falling off (knock on wood).  However, there is a slight but perceptible flex if you try to twist the grip away from the camera.

The grip follows the contours of the D600 fairly well.  I haven't handled the original MB-D14 battery grip but as far as I can tell from photos of the MB-D14, this grip seems to conform to the D600 just as well.

On a scale of 5, I would say the fit is 4 (because of the slight flexing).  I don't have any prior experience with battery grips, so I don't know how well original grips fit their respective cameras.

As noted above, the grip includes two battery holders.

EN-EL15 holder with EN-EL15 battery

The holders have a latch that you lift up and twist to lock and release the holder from the grip.
Release position

Locked position
The AA battery holder fit the grip well while my EN-EL15 holder first needed a little persuasion before the latch would lock.  The EN-EL15 holder now locks and releases fine.

Yup. I tested these configurations:
D600 with EN-EL15 + Grip with AA batteries
D600 without EN-EL15 + Grip with EN-EL15
D600 without EN-EL15 + Grip with AA batteries
D600 with EN-EL15 + Grip with no battery --> camera works, grip doesn't.  I am supposing this is normal.

Note: I don't have a spare EN-EL15 battery to test the D600 with EN-EL15 plus the grip with EN-EL15.  I also haven't run down the EN-EL15 to see if it would transition to the AA batteries with no problems.  I'll update this post when I get to do that.

Vertical shutter.  The button has a smooth rather than matte finish (like that of the D600's shutter) and seems very slightly more elevated.  The travel from not pressed to half-pressed is about the same as the D600's shutter (other than the difference from the slight elevation) as is the travel from half-pressed to fully depressed .  The amount of pressure is also about the same.

Lock for the vertical shutter.  It's not a physical lock that prevents the shutter from being depressed.  Rather it appears to be some sort of electronic lock that disables the vertical shutter.

Front and rear command dials.  They feel like they are slightly less thick than the D600's dials but otherwise they work just fine.  The detents feel about the same as that of the D600, perhaps with slightly less resistance to turning.  One difference is that the D600's dials have a slightly rubbery texture that makes them less slippery.  The dials on the grip are just plain plastic.

UPDATE 1 - MISSED CLICKS: I found out that if you rotate the dials very quickly, one or more inputs can fail to register.  For example, if you rapidly rotate the dial 3 clicks (as quickly as you normally do 1 click), the change might only show 2 clicks.  By contrast, with the D600's dials, I can rotate them however fast I want and they will always show the correct number of clicks.

UPDATE 2 - DIRECTION OF ROTATION: Apparently some third party grips do not rotate in the same direction (see Bill's comment below).  On mine, they do turn in the same direction. I also tried the option to reverse the rotation and the dials reversed just the same way as the D600's own dials.

Joystick.  Works in all directions.  Feels a little squishy.  Pushing in the joystick works just like pressing the OK button on the D600 directional pad.

AF-ON Button.  Functions perfectly (function can be changed via option f9.  Texture feels the same as that of the AE-L button on the D600.  As with the vertical shutter, it feels slightly elevated compared to the D600's AE-L button but otherwise feels similar.  It feels more squishy than the D600's AE-L button but the overall amount of pressure required is about the same.

Rubber Grip.  The rubber on the grip has a different texture from that of the rubber grip on the D600.  However, it doesn't feel worse and may even feel slightly more grippy.

AC Adapter pass-through.  The EN-EL15 battery holder includes a rubber cover to allow an EH-5 and EP-5B AC adapter cord to pass through.

Overall my impression is that this grip works well for anyone who wants a battery grip either for the vertical controls, the extra battery capacity or the option to use AA batteries in an emergency, as long as you don't use it in rugged conditions and you're fine with missed clicks.  (For pros those issues are probably not acceptable.)  In my case I like the D600's compact size but most of the time I don't always need it to be so compact in which case I will probably keep the grip attached for extra protection for the D600.  I will update this review after I've had more time to use it.

12/29/12 UPDATE: Grip had been working fine then I removed it.  When I put it back, it stopped working!
1/6/13 UPDATE: Tried the grip again and it's now working again.