3rd party accessories for our camera’s, they’re everywhere, and I’m guessing they are big business. Why wouldn’t they be, photography is incredibly popular and can be very expensive, so when the chance to get a flashgun, batterygrip at half the price of Nikon/Canon/Sony one appears then its got to be considered, hasn’t it?
For me when it comes to the lens side of things, I’ve had no bad experiences. Tamron and Sigma seem to hold there own very well in against the Nikkor’s, Canon’s etc where image quality is concerned and in many cases the build quality of the lens’ themselves are just as good to.
However, there are some accessories that don’t quite match up build-wise, which in many respects you would expect being that they are cheaper, yet would you be happy if they didn’t perform on a functional level, or even interfere with the camera’s own functions, just to be able to save a few pounds.
I personally have had two separate incidences in the past 12 months where I have gone with the cheaper option, only to find faults and then go for the main brand version instead. A year ago I bought a Nissin Flashgun, that initially I thought was ok for the money, until I put it through some hard work on a wedding and found it lacking, when it failed to flash on a number occasions and at points went into a sleep that was only woken by removing the batteries. I wrote a blog about that particular episode which can be found here.
My latest experience comes directly from a visit to The Photography Show, a trade event that is now pretty much just a retail show, a veritable high street of photography companies all under one roof. In years gone by you could get a real bargain up at the NEC but this year I found all the prices, on the items that had my interest, were the same at the retailers websites and shops. So what was the point in me spending £40 or so on fuel and a further £10 on parking only to find I could have sat at home and ordered what I wanted online for the same price, saving me time and travel costs…….but that’s a whole other blog post.
Anyway, what I did buy was a new Nikon D610, and the other item I did wanted to get with it was a batterygrip. I am a big fan of using grips, the additional battery capacity is a major bonus as is having the ability to hold the camera in such a comfortable way when shooting in portrait orientation.
I wanted to stretch my my budget as far as I could, hoping to get a few lighting accessories as well, but that was all dependent on how much would be spent on the camera and grip. So when I got talking to a Hahnel agent at the Camerworld stand I was given a full on speech about how good their version of the D600/610 grip was. I was shown the grip, and it looked the real deal, though holding it confirmed it to be of plastic construction, though it was a heavy-ish plastic. All the buttons and dials felt correct and the grip itself felt ok, so at the thought of saving £80-£100 compared to the Nikon version I went for it and bought it.
It’s the first time I have gone for a 3rd party grip, all my other ones have always been the main brand version and I have never had a problem with any of them. This Hahnel one though, has given me issues.
Firstly it would never pinch up tight to the camera body. You would turn the wheel to attach it to the body and just as it’s getting to the point of being nearly tight, the gearing inside the mechanism would just slip and go “Click, Click”. Because it wouldn’t pinch up perfectly tight there was just a bit to much movement between the body and the grip. Along the back, where the grip met the body there would be pretty much no signs of movement, but along the front it could be very easily prised open by about 4 to 5mm with minimal effort. I know it doesn’t sound much, but when it supposed to sit together perfectly it didn’t really fill me with confidence.
I realise most people will take extra care with their gear, specially if it’s costly, and generally I’m no different, but when it comes to working situations like weddings, every now and then something from my gear might take a bit of a whack, just like my SB-800 flashgun did when I dropped it from head height onto a wooden floor. Luckily it bounced without damage and it carried on working regardless, but I just worry that, as I use a Black Rapid strap attached to a loop screwed into the batterygrip tripod mount, if I ever accidentally whack or catch the camera/lens that hard that it might potentially snap away from the grip with that kind of movement. It probably wouldn’t, but I’d rather not risk it.
One other rather annoying thing, with the Hahnel grip attached the top info screen would then fail to report the battery status, it would just flash BP instead. I have read that using a non Nikon battery can cause this fault, and I have read that cleaning the contacts between the grip and the camera with an alcohol solution can solve the issue as there can be dirt/grease n them. Neither of these were the issue or the cure, in fact simply pulling the front of the grip away from the body of the camera, changing the angle at which the contacts connected made it report the battery status, so in other words it just simply didn’t line up correctly.
So I sent it back to Cameraworld, and without fuss they refunded the full amount and I ordered a Nikon MB-D14 instead, which I now have in my hands today (22/03/14). Attaching it to the camera, then pinching up very tight has made the connection perfect, it really does feel like one item, and not two screwed together. Because of that there is virtually no movement between it and the camera, and I’m happy to report that it now shows the battery life properly.
Happy days. Trouble is it just begs the questions. Have I been very unlucky, am I expecting to much from cheaper items, and are 3rd party versions really worth it if the cheaper cost means compromise on functionality?
Thanks for stopping by…………Dom