Do You Need A Battery or Portrait Grip?

I have been asked this question on & off over time. So I have decided to write an article on this topic. I will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of using a battery or portrait grip first before going on to whether you should buy one or not.

Advantages

  • as the name suggest, most grips allow you to put in 2 batteries at the same time, so you will have double the battery power and shooting time compared to just using 1 battery without the battery grip.
  • practically all DSLR use proprietary batteries. If you completely drain your battery and have no spare battery with you, you cannot just simply pop in some alkaline AA batteries and keep shooting. However, with some battery grips, it is possible to put alkaline batteries in them in emergency situation, so you will be able to continue shooting.
  • the reason why battery grips are also called portrait grips is that there is a set of shutter release and other control buttons and dials duplicated in the grip itself, so when you are shooting in portrait orientation, you can rest your right hand on top of the grip and will not have to twist your hands around the camera to press the shutter release or use the other control buttons and dial.
  • although the battery grip adds extra weight to the camera body, some people actually prefer holding a heavier body as some may find it easier to hold the camera steady for hand-held shots. The extra added weight may also act as a counterbalance when using heavy lenses, so the camera body and lens would balance better and not be so front heavy.
  • there are some specialized grips that perform additional functions, like the WFI grips for Canon EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 50D. Although the WIFI grips for these cameras cannot provide extra battery power, they provie additional add on functions like WIFI file transfer and external USB drive connectivity.

Disadvanatges

  • the  most obvious disadvantage is that it makes the camera bulkier and heavier.
  • it adds extra cost to your setup. It’s not like you cannot shoot photos without the grip.
  • may not be cosmetically pleasing. Some people may find the add on grip rather ugly looking and may not be aesthetically pleasing.

If the advantages appeal to you, then you will most likely find a grip useful or almost indispensable. If however the advantages do not really apply to your shooting style and method, or you simply cannot tolerate the disadvantages, then the grip is not for you.

I hope after reading the advantages and disadvantages of using a grip, you can already decide for yourself whether you would want to use one or not. Actually, like many things in photography and in life, it is a question only you can answer for yourself. So long as you understand the rationale, the pros and cons, you should be able to make the right decision easily.

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11 thoughts on “Do You Need A Battery or Portrait Grip?

  1. I have a battery grip on my 5DII, 40D and XTi, and love having them, but I am very disappointed that the most expensive on (almost $300 for 5DII) doesn’t fit very well. I’ve tightened it down, but there is still some wiggle room between the grip and camera. I hate that the build quality of the 5DII seems to be worse than the 40D.

    • Hi brett,

      Sorry to hear about your problem with the 5D II grip. Personally, I have no problem with the 5D II and the grip and I am quite happy with the build quality, much better than the 40D grip in my experience.

  2. Hi Roland,

    How coincident – your last two posts were also something I had been thinking about!

    First a little update on my new batteries – I did not really exhausted it but I observed relatively good to great improvements. My rough estimate is that I could shoot up to 800+ now. I think I had used ~20% for 316 RAW shots. So I am very pleased with the new battery.

    I got myself a dry box – just a few weeks ago in KL. The prices differ a LOT but they all look and feel almost the same.

    In the past I used to shoot with an extra grip. This time around, not so necessary as I wish to keep my camera light (not my wallet weight!) so I will reserve the $ for something else.

    Question again – will an added Flash unit helps the 5D M2 to focus better in low light? I read that only the 500 series provide this function and will like to know if the other (incl the wireless unit) help to improve low light focusing. If it does, it will be something I will consider (investing in one).

    Oh I did not shoot in the plane – the window is just full of scratches! But I had a great trip and shot lots of unique / native plants in a special forest.

    • Hi virtualess,

      All current Canon flash units 580EX II, 430EX II and 220EX have AF assist beam that will allow you to focus in total darkness, provided that the subject is within the distance of the beam.

  3. Roland, thanks for your insight on the grip. I have been toying with the idea of getting one but have not made up my mind.

    Should I get one from Canon (since I am using a Canon 450D body) but there are also third party brands like Phottix? What do you reckon?

    I still can’t decide if I need one..haha.

    As of now, I am not really into heavy shooting over long hours so my battery needs are all right. I may reconsider this later.

  4. Just a passer by: I had the Phottix one on my 450D and I loved it! The quality is really good, much better for instance than some other ‘chinese’ brands. A friend of mine has the Opteka, which is more ‘wobbly’ and tupperware like 🙂

    I now have a 50D with an original Canon grip and the difference in quality is very hard to tell…

    Story goes that Phottix uses the same moulds as Canon…

    Just my €0.02

  5. The portrait grip was a must for all my Canon cameras; recently I found it is heavy and strip all grip off without any grip on, for Canon its no different for the frame rate without the grip, but for Nikon, if you want an extract frames per second, you have to pay for the portrait grip to exchange, I think they’re ripping off the Nikon user for that two more frames.

  6. I’ve purchased battery grips for both my 40D and 5D ii. I do a lot of portraiture work, hence it is essential for me to use battery grip for my cameras. It is makes it more comfortable to hold and shoot for long period of time.

    When attaching with a external flash (580EX II), the overall weight also feels well balanced.

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