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.
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