Nikon received quite a backlash when it released the MB-D12 battery grip and priced it at a whopping $616. While Nikon users have long been willing to pay a premium for genuine Nikon products, it was pretty clear that a good percentage of D800 customers were not going to bite at the MB-D12 price.
Third party accessory providers saw a huge opportunity and wasted no time in exploiting it. The first wave of MB-D12 imitators started showing up for sale on the internet in June of this year, approximately 4 months after the announcement of the D800. There are now a number of third party MB-D12 suppliers. Pixel, Meike, Zeikos, Phottix and Vello are among the more popular names you will find serving this market. Some no-name grips even sell for as low as $25 on eBay. And although Nikon’s website still lists the MB-D12 for $616, you can now find it selling for $389 at B&H.
Although I always purchase the corresponding battery grip when I get a new DSLR, I have to admit that my grips have spent much more time on the shelf than attached to my cameras. I do find that they come in handy. And as long as they are reasonably priced, I will likely continue to do purchase them. The MB-D12, however, was a bit too pricey for my taste. Based on the feedback I had read, I realized I wasn’t alone. The market was hungry for a reasonably-priced alternative to the MB-D12. Enter the Zeikos ZE-NBGD800 Battery Grip…
1) Initial Impressions
I have to admit that my expectations were not all that high for the Zeikos grip, particularly considering it was selling for approximately 1/5th of the price of the Nikon MB-D12 grip ($75 vs. $389). After all, it is a well-known fact if a product which costs more that of a competitor, it must be better, right?
I didn’t have an original Nikon MB-D12 grip to compare to the Zeikos ZE-NBGD800 battery grip, but I did have a Nikon MB-D11 battery grip for a D7000. I looked over the exterior of both grips and couldn’t notice any material differences with respect to fit, finish, controls, and overall quality. I pulled out the battery trays and looked inside each with a flashlight. Each appeared to be very similarly designed on the inside as well. If you would have covered the Zeikos label, I would have thought I was looking over a genuine Nikon product. It even sported a metal post (inserts into DSLR) as opposed to some of the polymer posts I have seen on other third party D800 battery grip models. So far, so good!
2) What’s In The Box?
The Zeikos comes with the battery grip extension, a tray for an EL-EN15 battery, and another tray to accommodate 6 AA batteries. The Zeikos grip does not have a battery tray such as Nikon’s BL-5 which enables users to utilize an EN-EL18 (used for the Nikon D4). For those that make heavy use of a battery grip, the EN-EL18 provides a bit more juice than the EN-EL15, and thus the option to use the former may be appealing. Some Zeikos grip competitors do offer a BL-5 compatible tray. It would be interesting to see if the Zeikos unit would accept the BL-5.
3) Build Quality
I attached the Zeikos grip to my D800 and tightened the locking wheel as much as I could. There was no play in the connection and the grip felt as if it was part of the D800. I did the same for my D7000 and the MB-D11. Each grip seemed equally tight when coupled to each of the DSLRs.
I did notice a very tiny sliver of light between the Zeikos grip and the D800 underneath the right side of the LCD, showing that the connection was not perfectly flush. I detached the grip and attempted to mount it again but encountered the same issue. How slight of a gap? I could barely slide a piece of paper into the gap. I did not notice any light leaks between the grip on the D7000.
The slight space between the D800 and the Zeikos grip did not seem to impact the stability of the pair. I probably wouldn’t even have noticed this sliver of light unless I had been performing a product review and holding the camera and grip up to a bright light. I could only see this gap if I held the camera at a very specific angle. I put some additional pressure on the Zeikos, to determine if the slight gap represented something less than a solid fit, but the unit showed no play whatsoever against the D800.
The Zeikos D800 and Nikon D7000 grip weighed 242 and 244 grams respectively. I did some hunting but couldn’t find the weight of the Nikon MB-D12. If you know the weight, please pass it along for comparison purposes.
4) Controls & Operation
I have read a number of reviews of third party battery grips that listed “mushy controls” as one of the main differences between the third parties’ and the original manufacturers’ products. Not so with the Zeikos controls. They felt indistinguishable from their Nikon counterparts. Each control worked flawlessly.
The Zeikos grip sported the same set of controls as the Nikon MB-D12: Joy stick for selecting the AF point, moving forward/backward between photos, changing the LCD layout, AF focus, shutter button, and shutter button lock. Apart from the very slight amount of light I detected between the D800 and the Zeikos grip, I did not notice any differences in feel, fit, finish, or functionality between the grips. Zeikos seems to have done its homework.
With its quality build, responsive controls, and bargain price of $75, the Zeikos grip represents a great value. I would have rated it higher were it not for the paper-thin gap I discovered. I did not judge this gap to be a material issue.
Time will tell how well it will stand up to use in the field. But based on the positive feedback from many others using Zeikos grips made for other DSLRs, however, I expect this grip will prove to be a reliable partner for my Nikon D800.