If you have been looking for a battery grip for your DSLR, then you have experienced the sticker shock that goes along with this search. I am sure you have also stumbled across the much more affordable Chinese knockoffs that are out there. Like most of us you’re wary about whether the knockoff will do the job the name brand models will. Keep reading to find out.
It took me a while to decide to buy an off brand grip. Mainly because I could not find any serious actual user information on them. The unit I bought came in a box with the Meike name on it. This is a company that I am completely unfamiliar with. The place I got it from on Amazon didn’t even advertize the name brand, only the description. I have seen numerous other grips selling on their site that look identical, just with different names, Adorama and Neewer come to mind. I am under the assumption that they are for the most part all re-branded Chinese grips.
When you open the box you get the grip, wrapped in bubble wrap and a couple of sheets of mostly Chinese written instructions. As usual the Chinese translation is pretty humorous.
When you remove the grip form the bubble wrap it up does feel pretty light and you definitely get the plastic sort of vibe from it. It has a plastic storage cap that you can put on the top when your not using it to keep the contacts clean. It does have some nice grip tape areas where your thumb lays, and where your fingers wrap around below the shutter button.
On the back you will find the On/Off switch, which is a rotary dial that turns on or off the controls on the grip, not the camera. This prevents accidental activation of the buttons when shooting in normal landscape mode, and not using the grip. This can be a little hard to flip with your fingers, but that is probably better than it turning on or off too easily and you missing a shot.
Below the On/Off switch are two buttons that are duplicates of the ones on my Alpha 550, The AEL button and +/- EV button. They work just as they do on the camera, but they are not as quiet, and you feel the click more than on the Sony body. These buttons will probably be specific to what model of camera you purchase the grip for, as you can get the same grip for just about every camera.
On the front of the grip you will find the Shutter Release Button, and the Control Dial. The first thing you notice is that it is not chrome like the one on the Sony A550 body. Not a big deal at this price point, but noticeable. But, for the $175 savings I will make a trade off or two. The shutter release on the grip is definitely not as refined as the one on the camera. It protrudes up more from the base, and has harder edges than the Sony version. But it does operate just fine. It can take a couple of tries to get the feel of the button, but the half press for focus, and complete shutter work flawlessly.
The Control dial works as it is supposed to, but you will notice that it too is not even close to as smooth as the camera mounted dial. It is a larger wheel than the original but a little harder to rotate. This may smooth with use, but for now, I just call’em as I see’em.
Prior to installing the grip you have to prepare the camera by first removing the battery, silly huh? Then you also nee to remove the battery door from the camera. As you can see in the image there is a grey latch (arrow) that slides over to release one side of the hinge so you can remove the door.
On the vertical portion of the grip you will notice a slot that resembles the battery door from your camera very closely. This is where you store your battery door so it doesn’t get lost while your using the grip on the camera. Just reverse the procedure you used removing it to store it in this slot.I found this to be a nice touch.
Pay attention to which way you put the door into the grip. If you take a good look at the image I took you will notice that you are seeing the ‘Inside’ of the battery door. You should be seeing the outside of the cover, with the release visible. Otherwise you will have to come up with some complicated extraction procedure, as I did, to get it out and back in the correct way.
Installing the Battery
On the end of the grip you will find the battery door. Slide it to the rear and pull out to open it on its hinge. Inside you will see a blue button. Push this down to release the battery tray. The tray slides out and gives you a place to insert two of the batteries for your camera.One of the main reasons I purchased the grip was the extended run-time, coming from having 2 batteries. I get roughly 900 shots from one battery charge. I will now be able to get 1800 or so with the grip installed.
On the battery tray you will see it has a ‘1’ and a ‘2’ embossed into each end of the tray. You can ignore these completely, as I will explain later. One nice feature of the grip, and I assume all grips, is that you can in fact run the camera off of one battery. So if you are just interested in the grip for the sake of being able to shoot in portrait mode, then the one battery you have will work just fine.
Now you would think with a tray labeled ‘1’ on one end and ‘2 on the other that if you want to use only one battery, then you would install it on the end marked ‘1’. You would ultimately be incorrect in that assumption, as I found out on my first installation. You will receive an onscreen message similar to the image at the right if you place it in that slot. I was using the original Sony NP-FM500H for this test so I knew the battery was compatible. After my heart-rate came back down to normal I decided to try it in slot ‘2’, and wallah! It worked.
Installation on the Camera
Installation is pretty straight forward. Line up the vertical portion of the grip with the battery slot, with the door removed. Slide it up until it meets the body of the camera. Tighten the thumb screw that meets with the 1/4″ tripod mount hole, by spinning it towards the on/off switch. It needs to be snug, but don’t get carried away. Once it’s on the camera I noticed that the finish and shape match very nicely with my A550. Plus it gives the camera a beefy appearance as well. The unit also has a 1/4″ tripod mount on the bottom, so that you can still mount it to a tripod or mono pod if you wish.
The first thing you have to do to use the grip, aside from turning the camera a quarter turn to the left, is to make sure that the power switch on the grip is turned to the ON position.This enables the controls on the grip and allows you to shoot in portrait mode. Then you basically shoot as you normally would.
The first thing you will notice when you have two batteries and the grip installed is the weight difference. The weight of the grip itself is insignificant. But adding another battery and the grip and it does increase the heft of your camera. But this weight increase comes with a bonus feature, stability.
One downside to a very light camera is the ability to hand shoot at slower shutter speeds and get a sharp image. I can’t specifically tell you how much it will improve your shooting, as that’s a personal thing. If you are already shooting shaky ,then the grip won’t fix that. But it couldn’t hurt either. I personally do notice that it is much easier to stabilize my camera in both portrait and landscape mode when the grip is installed. I also have not noticed any deterioration in the use of the camera when in landscape mode.
There is really only one thing I felt could have been taken care of by a small design change. That is the base of the unit being flat or slightly angled forward. even with a small lens attached, if you set it flat, it wants to tilt forward and drop the lens on the table. This is extremely noticeable with only one battery and an 18-55 lens on the camera. Adding the second battery helps, but I would not trust it to stay there. If I was using a longer telephoto it wouldn’t even have crossed my mind, you expect them to lay over on the lens. It’s not a deal breaker but I felt I should make you aware of it. Someone with a little ingenuity, some tape and cardboard could rig it up pretty easy to be stable.
Overall I feel the for the amateur to semi-pro photographer, the Meike battery grip is a pretty good value for the money. With the average brand name grips being at least 3 to 4 times higher in price, it really doesn’t make sense for the average DLSR user to invest in those, unless you have an overflow of money. This grip will get the job done and leave you money for other toys. Plus the ‘WOW‘ factor when you pull this baby out at a family reunion is worth the $30 or so the unit costs. So pull the trigger and pick one, or two up, you won’t regret it.
Sony VGB50AM Grip For Sony A550 Canon EOS550/T2i Nikon D3100
Latest posts by Kevin Woodyard (see all)
- Q-strap (QuickStrap) Double Camera Sling for Digital SLR’s - April 30, 2014
- Merry Christmas From Str8shot Photo - December 20, 2013
- Cowboy Studio 2 channel Remote Trigger - July 30, 2013