Why I like a battery grip!
You see these pro's with there huge DSLR cameras like the Nikon D5 or Canon 1DXII and it looks impressive... But the ergonomics of the large body is not just to impress and intimidate, but it has two main roles, to provide enough room for a battery large enough to power the gigantic beast, and provide a grip allowing the photographer to shoot in both the landscape/horizontal and portrait/vertical orientations.
Without this additional vertical grip, all the other 'standard' sized DSLR users end up holding our right elbow above our head for those portrait shots... and if you are like and have longer or heavier lenses, this gets old, fast! Thankfully, camera manufacturers created the battery grip that can be screwed onto the bottom of your camera, giving you more battery capacity and more grip! :) But is it worth it to spend even more money on an expensive camera to make it bigger and heavier?
- 2x the battery life
- Vertical shooting is a lot easier with heavier lenses or for prolonged periods of time
- Feels more comfortable in the hand
- With longer lenses, the added weight actually makes the set-up more balanced
- You can take it off when you don't need it (unlike the top end cameras)
- Brand named battery grips are not cheap
- You make an already heavy camera heavier
- You make your camera even bigger
The biggest cons are that it makes you camera bigger and heavier (have I mentioned that yet?). But, unlike the high-end pro cameras, there is this fantastic feature... you can take it off! That's right folks, this is one of those rare examples where you can have your cake and eat it too!
What I would put it on for
- Long shoots, like safari's. The extra battery life means you are less likely to miss a shot when changing batteries, 50% less in fact! :)
- Longer lenses are a lot more manageable, especially when shooting hand-held and in the vertical orientation.
- Video work - the vertical orientation is moot here, but the 2x battery life is a life saver. Just bring a tripod! ;)
What I would take it of for
- Street photography... this makes you stand out way to much
- Travel - Smaller and lighter wins in this situations
- With smaller lenses - Ignoring the double battery life, with smaller lenses, i don't feel the benefit as much.
- Flying - Hand luggage restrictions are a continuous battle for me, as I hate to check in my camera or lenses... they are too essential. So I take off the grips and pack them in my checked luggage and my camera in my hand-luggage.
You get what you pay for
Now, as everything in life, camera grips are not cheap.... and I would only suggest getting a branded grip as they are specifically designed for your camera and meet the manufacturers standards and specifications.
The bottom line
I would recommend a battery grip if:
- You use heavy lenses
- You shoot in the portrait/vertical orientation a lot
- You need as much battery life as possible (e.g. Safari's)
- You have the spare cash to buy one
The increased size and grip makes life a lot easier, and the additional battery life is always a bonus, but the real selling point for me is that you can take it off for those times when you need to slim down your kit!