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D300s/D700 grip (MB-D10) review

It’s a personal thing using a grip on your camera. Some love the extra size and weight…some hate it, and some just can’t decide. If you own a D300, D300s or a D700, is it worth getting one? Me, I think they are excellent and with each new model comes more features and even better build quality…

MB-D10 with D300 & 70-200 VR

MB-D10 with D300 & 70-200 VR

Overview
Height: 1.8 inches (12.7cm)
Width: 5.8 inches (149.9 cm)
Length: 2.8 inches (59.7cm)
Weight Empty: 0.29kg (0.63 lbs)
Weight with EN-EL4a: 0.40kg (0.89 lbs)
Links: Official NIKON website

Purchase: Available in the UK from Warehouse Express and the U.S. from B&H Photo and Adorama

The MB-D10 grip for D300/700

The MB-D10 grip for D300(s)/700

The review
I used a D300 for two weeks back at the end of last year but it was minus grip…it didn’t feel right at all using it with my 200-400. The balance was off and it just didn’t feel right having a lens of that size hanging off the front of a small body. So, when I picked up a D300 for myself recently, I made sure I got a grip to go with it. After shooting with the D3 and a D2x before that, going back to a small camera just didn’t feel right and I knew the grip would not only improve the handling of the D300 but it also gave me some extra benefits too…so I decided to write this small review for anyone who may be on the fence about picking up the MB-D10.

Included accessories

Included accessories

Build quality
I had the grip for my old D200 many moons ago and I was never overly happy with it. It was of a cheaper construction than the body and it never truly had a snug fit when on the camera. The MB-D10 however improves on this no end. The build quality is superb, equal to that of the D300 itself. In fact, I was genuinely shocked at the weight and robust feel when I opened it for the first time, very very impressive indeed! This quality remains when you attach the grip to the camera itself…despite the lack of a stalk going up in to the body like the D200 grip, this new model feels rock solid when attached to the camera. Even when swinging my 600/4 lens about I can feel none of the play that I would experience sometimes on the D200/grip combo. It does make the camera quite a bit larger though…in fact it becomes slightly more bulky than the D3 once you attach the grip. You do however get the same weather sealing properties as the main body which is also another nice addition.

Grip on D300

Grip on D300

Battery options
For me, this is worth the price of admission alone…the MB-D10 allows, for the first time, the use of pro spec batteries. That means now when I go away I will not need to take two separate sets of batteries and chargers! I can just take all my D3 batteries and a single charger…brilliant. Another interesting feature, is the ability to keep a battery in the D300/D700 and use a D3 one in the grip, giving you more battery life than any other camera in the Nikon lineup. Of course, the trade off to that is you need to carry around two battery types and chargers if you travel. Given the life span of the D3’s EN-EL4a battery I don’t see much need in using anything other than just that – my EN-EL4a battery has managed just over 1500 RAW files whilst on holiday in Florida, with lots of chimping image deletion in camera and only using my 200-400 VR (with lots of VR use) with an indication of over %8 power left…very impressive! **please note, the image below showing dual battery in the menu was with my old EN-EL4 which manages about 800 shots before giving up**

Dual battery option

Dual battery option

But hang on, there is a catch
There are a couple of small catches with the ability to use the D3 batteries though, one, is the slightly sneaky fact that in order to use them you need to purchase an extra little bit of kit…the BL-3 battery chamber cover…

BL-3, optional battery chamber

BL-3, optional battery chamber cover

I hadn’t read about this before purchasing so I was a little put out to get my new goodies home only to discover I then had to order another item in order to start using my gear the way I wanted! Once it had arrived though I was up and running.

BL-3 with EN-EL4 battery

BL-3 with EN-EL4 battery

The other drawback, if your not already an owner of one of the pro bodies, the cost of the EN-EL4a battery and charger is quite expensive. In fact, once you’ve got your grip you then need to factor in roughly £250 on top for the BL-3 cover, the EN-EL4a battery and the MH-21 battery charger!

Oh and of course, there are also the usual AA battery options plus using two D300/D700 batteries (EL-3) as well, consisting of one in the camera and one in the grip. So plenty of battery configurations to be had!

More speed please
So, back to the good stuff…the other big reason for picking up the grip for your D300/700 is the frame rate increase. Pop this accessory on your camera and, depending on the batteries you choose to use, say hello to 8fps up from the original 5fps of the D700 and 6fps of the D300…which is much more useful if you shoot fast moving subjects are high speed action. Sure not everyone needs this kind of boost in performance but for those who do, it’s a very welcome addition. If you don’t want your camera to rattle off at 8fps you can set it to fire off shots at between 2-7 shots per second instead.
**Update Aug 2009: the newer D300s has a max shooting speed of 7fps compared to 6fps of the original D300. So depending on your camera, the value for money may not be so great now if the extra speed was a big factor in your desire to purchase.**

Another nice little touch
I also like the fact this grip as a little D-pad on it, so you can move your focus point etc without having to either move your hand from the shooting position in portrait mode, or without having to stretch your thumb right over to the main one (something those with smaller hands wont be able to do anyway).

Potrait pad for menu/focus point navigation

Portrait pad for menu/focus point navigation

Final thoughts
Should you buy one? It really comes down to personal choice. If you like smaller, light and more compact camera’s then the grip may not be for you. If however you don’t mind larger heavier setups, shoot sports/wildlife or shoot in portrait a lot you will find the extra shutter release and increased speed useful (depending on your camera)…in which case, its a must have.

Side view

Side view

The extra balance and handling it gives with long lenses is a massive improvement over the body alone, so if you shoot with any of the larger lenses in the Nikon lineup I would recommend picking up a grip asap! It feels very robust on the camera it gives a much more balanced and confident feel with the bigger glass. I’ve found that shooting my gripped up D300 alongside my D3 ‘almost’ feels like shooting with two identical camera’s. I think Nikon’s decision to allow the use of pro body batteries is a brilliant one and it places the D300 side by side with the D3 as a camera built to meet the demanding usage of the pro’s.

MB-D10 with D300 and 70-200 VR

MB-D10 with D300 and 70-200 VR

Thinking of buying?
If you live in the UK the MB-D10 and accessories can be purchased from Warehouse Express and Amazon.co.uk.

And, if you live in America the grip and accessories can be purchased from B&H Photo and Adorama

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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