Vello DSLR battery grip review

Battery grips as their name suggests allow you to install two batteries instead of one and extend the grip area of your DSLR. I’m old enough to remember film based SLR’s using this additional grip space to house a motor drive to wind on the film but these days we don’t have to worry about that. Using the additional space for an extra battery means less worry about having to swap batteries during a shoot. Having double the battery life is especially important if you shoot time lapses as powering down or moving the camera could ruin the shot.

Shooting video is less of a problem for battery changes as the cameras can only record for around 12 minutes anyway. It’s still nice to not have to keep changing batteries so often though. As well as allowing the use of two canon batteries, many grips also come with an AA battery holder that can be fitted allowing you to continue shooting with regular AA’s should you get desperate.

The other main advantage that battery grips give you is better ergonomics, especially if like me you have big hands. For shooting video the grip allows more of your hands and palms to support the camera resulting in a steadier camera and less risk of shake effecting your images. If you shoot without a rig as shown in the images below you’ll probably find that the grip allows you to hold the camera with the palm of your left hand whilst using your fingers to focus.

   

The grips are designed to also allow you to shoot in portrait mode and still have access to the normal thumb and forefinger controls on your right hand. The controls that fall under your right hand are all duplicated on the lower right side of the grip so that rotating the camera through ninety degrees puts a familiar set of buttons and control wheels under your fingers.

 

Another big advantage that battery grips bring for video shooters is less overheating problems. Batteries are a big contributor to heat build up in cameras so moving the batteries under the camera rather than inside the camera itself helps alleviate this problem.

The Canon BG-E6 that I use with my 5D mkII currently retails for $235 at B&H and even though I don’t regret buying mine I have noticed a few third party grips that seem to offer the same thing for a lot less money. After exploring B&H’s website I came across the Vello battery grips that look similar to the Canon versions at a fraction of the cost. I asked B&H if they would send me a couple to look at and they were good enough to do just that.

 

I asked for the BG-C4 for the 7D and the BG-C2 for the 5D MkII which as you can see in the pics above are fairly similar but with a few minor variations. The portrait mode controls vary slightly to match those on the camera. The following versions are available with prices ranging from $50 – $70, a massive saving over the Canon models.

BG-C1 – Canon XS/XSi/T1i
BG-C2 – Canon 5D Mark II
BG-C3 – Canon 20D/30D/40D/50D
BG-C4 – Canon 7d
BG-C5 – Canon T3i/T2i
BG-C6 – Canon 60D
BG-N1 – Nikon D300/300s/700
BG-N2 – Nikon D80/D90
BG-N3 - Nikon D40/D40x/D60/D3000/D5000
BG-N4 – Nikon D7000
BG-N6 – Nikon D5100

So how do they stack up against the Canon grips? Actually surprisingly well! I was expecting these grips to feel cheap and plasticky in comparison to canons magnesium framed grip but it actually felt very similar. The Canon grip is without a doubt made to a higher quality standard, the textured grip parts are not quite as perfectly fitted on the Vello grips, the battery doors don’t feel quite as solid in operation and the locking wheel has a tiny bit more play, nothing major though. Here’s a few shots of the Vello 5D2 grip with the Canon version for comparison.

     

Fitting the grips on both the 5D2 and 7D is an easy procedure. I expect other cameras are similar but as I don’t own those I can’t really comment as to how they differ. On these Canon cameras you simply have to open and remove the battery door which is done by depressing the spring loaded retainer pins.

 

Once the door is off you obviously need remove the battery if fitted as well. Like the Canon grip the Vello versions also have a spot where you can store the battery door so that it’s ready to be re-attached to the camera when you decide to remove the grip later.

 

You then simply insert the grip into the battery compartment and tighten it to the camera base using the wheel that protrudes from both front and back of the grip. Here’s a few shots of the BC-C4 fitted to my 7D.

   

The Battery grip comes with the AA magazine already fitted so to install the Canon batteries you have to eject that and then slide a couple of batteries in it’s place. Notice that there a slot on the left hand side with a rubber cover that allows for a mains adapter to be used with the door shut if required.

   

In use the Vello grips worked just like the Canon grips, they felt solid and all the buttons performed the functions expected. Without looking which grip was fitted I wouldn’t actually be able to tell the difference just by holding and using the camera.

     

So would I buy one…? To right I would, if I didn’t already own the Canon grip I would buy one of these in a heartbeat and save all that extra cash for extra batteries or other goodies.  I must make it clear at this point that I haven’t used these grips for any length of time so if you have experience with them be it good or bad let me know by leaving a comment.

Click here to view the whole range of Vello grips at B&H.

Alternatively here’s some links to the grips for each camera model.

BG-C1 - Canon XS/XSi/T1i
BG-C2 - Canon 5D Mark II
BG-C3 - Canon 20D/30D/40D/50D
BG-C4 - Canon 7d
BG-C5 - Canon T3i/T2i
BG-C6 - Canon 60D
BG-N1 - Nikon D300/300s/700
BG-N2 - Nikon D80/D90
BG-N3 - Nikon D40/D40x/D60/D3000/D5000
BG-N4 - Nikon D7000
BG-N6 - Nikon D5100

 

 

 

 

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    • Kristobal
    • February 22nd, 2012 7:10pm

    Hi, great review. Two weeks ago I purchase a bower battery grip for canon 60 D. The problem was that the wheel works in the oposite direction than the wheel of the camera. Do you know if this vello Battery Grip works fine, in other words, work the same as the camera wheel?
    Thanks

    • I’ve not tried the 60D grip so I can’t be sure about that one but the wheels on 7D and 5D mkII grips work in the same direction as the ones one the cameras if that’s any help.

    • Marcelo
    • March 2nd, 2012 5:37pm

    I’m thinking to buy this grip but I use a lot of tripod for my low light pictures and I’m wondering if the grip is strong enough to hold the camera and my expensive lens with out breaking.

    Nice review, thank you for posting.

    • It certainly doesn’t feel like something that’s going to break Marcelo, I trust my lenses on it. Give one a try and see what you think, let me know if you have any problems. I guess the Canon Grip is tougher in theory as it uses a magnesium frame. Best bet is to have a look and see what you think.

    • shawn whitaler
    • April 1st, 2012 3:02am

    I bought the vello and love it, except that it does stick out slightly past the back of the camera body. not a huge deal normally except now my z-finder with gorilla plate wont fit. the exxtender plate zacuto gives you is flat and now the z finder does not rest against the LCD screen.

    • Joel Blackwell
    • August 17th, 2012 3:01am

    I’m about to replace my Nikon D100 with a D7000 for its video. I’ve had a Nikon battery grip on my D100 and enjoy the feel and extra battery power. Seems the grip for the D7000 at B&H uses one battery, unlike my D100 grip which holds two rechargeable batteries.
    My question: Does the vello bg-n4 (for D7000) use only one rechargeable battery? If so, would I be doubling my battery power because it also uses the single battery in the camera?
    Thanks, really enjoy your sharing of expertise…
    Joel

    • Hi there. I’ve only tested the Canon grips so I’m afraid I don’t know. I’m sure B&H will be able to give you the info you need.

      • Zinnu Ryne
      • September 26th, 2012 5:20pm

      Joel,
      Yes, you are correct: the BG-N4 uses only one battery (besides the one in the camera body); you can configure which battery you want to use first in the camera settings. I wish Vello had opted to allow two EN-El15 batteries in the grip; then we would have really had a blast!
      - Zr

  1. I have Vello grips on both my 7D and my 5D MkII and for the price, they can’t be beat. I have two minor gripes, one of which is worth sending it back to Vello for an exchange under warranty.

    My 7D will suddenly show zero battery strength. Putting in fresh batteries will not resolve it. I have to remove the grip from the camera, let it sit a few minutes, then put the grip back on and it works fine again.

    The grip on the 5D has a minor issue in the battery door not staying securely closed. A small piece of gaff tape takes care of that issue. $65 for Vello vs $335 for Canon? Yeah, the gaff tape is fine.

    One minor note … the Vello grips do not like aftermarket batteries. They won’t pass the data up to the camera. Use Canon OEM batteries, and they pass it along fine.

    Canon grips don’t seem to care one way or the other on OEM vs aftermarket. My 40D has a Canon grip and I run off-brand batteries in it with no problems.

  2. Thanks for the helpful review. One question regarding the Vello grip for the 5D MkII: I am currently using a Really Right Stuff L-plate and love it. Looks like I will need to graduate up to a BGE6-L L-plate in order to accommodate the additional size of the battery grip. Do you have any experience with the larger L-Plate and the Vello BG-C2? Is it compatible with the Vello model?

    • Steph
    • February 4th, 2013 10:07pm

    I would love to know what accessories you use for video. I see from the photo it looks like u have an eye piece and microphone? What are these accessories and where do u get them? I’ve seen some of these, but not sure what route to go. You sound knowledgeable, so I’d love to know what you use.

  3. Hi Paul,
    Great review but I have a question for you.
    I have a Canon grip for my 7D and it works great. I bought a Vello for my 5D mark II and when I turn it on, it overrides the canon shutter release and dials. It makes it a real pain to go from landscape to vertical shooting That doesn’t happen with my Canon grip on the 7D.

    Is that a short coming of the Vello grips or do I have a lemon?

    • That’s certainly not normal, both sets of controls should be functional.

    • Trevor Davies
    • April 30th, 2013 7:04pm

    Do you know where I can buy a Vello vertical grip for a Eos 5Dmk 3 in the UK?

    Regards

    Trevor

    • As far as I know they are only available at B&H in the US.

    • Jon Myatt
    • October 31st, 2013 5:02am

    I have two of them that I use on my Nikon D5200s. I get battery error messages (Use correct battery for this camera) quite often and tonight, thanks to your site providing one clue and the B&H Photo comment section providing another clue, I have solved the problem. The Vello grips do not seem to like aftermarket batteries. But I had two Nikon batteries and two aftermarket batteries, so I put one of each in the Vello grip, with the Nikon battery in the right slot closest to the connection to the camera and it worked fine. The power from the aftermarket battery goes through the Nikon battery which is the battery the camera reads. Problem solved. I just have to keep reminding myself the correct side to put the Nikon battery in each time I recharge them, but I can live with that.

    • That’s really useful info, thanks for posting Jon.

    • Lisa
    • February 23rd, 2014 1:58am

    I am looking at a battery grip for my Nikon D5100. The question I have is, the cable that comes with for vertical shooting…does it need to be connected ALL the time even when shooting in regular position?

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