My Knockoff MB-D12 Battery Grip for the D800

When I purchased my D800 I had fully intended on buying the grip for it, just like I had done with my D700 and D7000. I have pretty big hands and just like the feel of a grip when I shoot. It just feels more natural and allows me to get a better hold on the camera. Of course there are those who buy the grip for the added battery capacity, which I have to admit is an added bonus. I also like having a side shutter release button to make vertical shooting more comfortable. So you can imagine how disappointed I was to find out that the price was for the Nikon MB-D12 D800 battery grip; a staggering $500. Now, for those of you who have purchased battery grips in the past, you know that most of them run between $200 and $300 dollars, which is still pretty hefty for what they are. Nonetheless, I have spent the money because it was worth it for me to have a quality grip to enhance my shooting experience. I can’t say the same for the MB-D12. With a huge $500 price tag there was just no way for me to justify spending that much money, especially when I had just plunked down over $3000 for the camera body. But that’s not where this story ends. See, I knew that it would just be a matter of time until the 3rd-party accessory makers got in gear and started producing replacement accessories for the D800. It took a few months but eventually things like batteries and grips started showing up on the Internet.

The first battery grip I saw was listed on eBay for about $100 and was just taking pre-orders. Next came a grip from Flashpoint, who makes accessory items that are available on Adorama. Their grip lists for about $75 and looks exactly like the MB-D12. I was actually thinking of buying it but then a whole bunch of other low-cost grips started showing up from companies like Meike, Pixel, Phottix, Zeikos, and Smatree. Basically a bunch of companies that you have probably never heard of before. Truth be told, most of them are probably selling the same grip under different names but I decided to check out one of the least expensive options, the Smatree MBD12 Battery Grip for Nikon D800.

The grip costs $45 on Amazon and looks exactly like the Nikon version. Of course I completely understand that it is an inexpensive knockoff but I still wanted to give it a try to see just how good a grip I could get for about one tenth the price of the original. As an added bonus, I also purchased the Smatree EN-EL18 battery, which adds the same battery powercell found in the D4 for use in my grip instead of the EN-EL15, which is the standard battery for the D800. The combined cost for both of these items – an easy to manage $87.

Just in case you were wondering, the Nikon BL-5 Battery Chamber Cover and a Nikon EN-EL18 Battery sells for $175. Oh, and don’t forget the MH-26 battery charger that you will need for the EN-EL18 battery; it will run you about $310. Yes, that’s just for the charger, not a battery. So if I total up the cost of the MB-D12, the BL-5 battery chamber cover, EN-EL18 battery, and the MH-26 charger I’m looking at a total, mind-blowing cost of $892 – all for something that shouldn’t cost more than a couple hundred dollars. So now maybe you understand why I am willing to give a try to the Smatree knockoff.

Fit and Finish –

I received the charger and battery yesterday and wasted no time in unwrapping it and checking out how it would fit on the D800. The top of the grip has a connector that allows the buttons and knobs on the grip to interact with the camera. There are also two small pins that fit in the underside of the camera body, a 1/4-20 screw thread for securing to the tripod mount, and a small area to store the rubber connector cover while the grip is attached. Attaching the grip to the camera is pretty simple. Just remove the rubber connector cover and store it in the grip and then lock the grip to the camera by turning the large wheel that turns the screw. When tightened, the grip makes a very secure seal with the body. The grip itself is probably plastic but looks just like the body, with a very similar finish. The rubber on the grip feels really nice and has just enough tackiness to it to make the camera feel secure as it’s being held.

Performance –

One nice thing about the battery that I purchased is that it doesn’t require an expensive charger. In fact, the charger comes with the unit and has a power block that plugs into a wall outlet and then plugs into a small hole on the end of the grip. There is a small LED next to the charging plug port that lets you know when the charging process is complete. If you don’t want to opt for the upgraded battery, you can use an EN-EL15 battery in the holder that comes with the grip. There is also an AA adapter if you want to use regular batteries instead of the lithium power cell.

After charging the EN-EL18 battery I turned on the camera and started checking the operation of all the buttons and dials. There is a main command dial on the front and a sub-command dial on the back of the grip. These work just like the ones on the top of the camera and let you change aperture and shutter speeds. The multi-selector joystick on the back worked perfectly when navigating menus or scrolling through images in playback mode. There is also an AF-ON button that allows you to back-focus if you so desire. The button can also be reprogrammed in the custom control menus to serve any number of functions such as AE-Lock/AF-Lock, FV Lock, AE Lock Only, AF Lock Only, Same as FN button, and more. I tested each of these custom settings and all worked just as they should. The shutter release button on the side of the grip felt firm and responsive, just as I would expect and there is a locking switch to keep from accidentally taking a photo.

Plus and Minus -

I hold no delusions about the quality of the grip that I purchased. I fully expected it to be a little lower in quality than the Nikon version and this is certainly the case. While the grip seems to firmly attach to the camera, there is a small gap near one edge of the camera base where I can see light coming through, which means it is not a perfect fit. That being said, it does feel firm and not at all loose while I am holding it. Also, the on/off switch does not have a snappy fell when moving from one position to the other. It does however feel like it is engaging firmly and works as it should. I have not had much of a chance to test out the battery life but that will be something that I have to check out over time. 

Considering all that, I feel that I can definitely work with this grip while not feeling that I am paying way more for something than it’s really worth. Of course this will not be the way that everyone should go. My buddy Moose Peterson just gave a review of his D800 and his experience with a 3rd party grip was not altogether great. That being said, I certainly feel that my $87 investment is well worth the $807 in savings for a similar rig from Nikon. Of course only time will tell if it really was worth the savings.

 

Comments

  1. I have just started dabbling in photography so when it came to buying accessories I tried the internet route.

    Of course, the quality is not quite the same, but when we’re talking lens hoods and glass lens covers, do I really need to spend $24.99 each when I can get something perfectly adequate for $3 online? Granted, I have to wait for it to appear in the mail from overseas, but I can live with that.

    A question though. I’m trying to find an after market EN-EL14 for the Nikon D3100. I’ve seen them in the stores for approx $90. Every aftermarket outlet/internet site I’ve tried is very specific in saying that their EN-EL14 is NOT compatible with the D3100. Any ideas why?

  2. Chris_biker says:

    I had the same issue with my D7000 when I searched for a grip: Nikon vs third parties…
    I read a lot of reviews on the internet, saw a lot of videos…
    Then I bought it from Phottix, 59€ instead of 230€ for Nikon’s ! (prices in France)
    After a couple of months, no regrets !
    The Phottix is well built and for my usage (I’m not a pro), it is great. I’ll see if it is robustness in time, but I usually take a great care of my gears…

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for your writing as I am shopping for a grip for my D800. Is there any update since your initial writing? Does the Smatree EN-EL18 battery work well in shooting both still and video? I’d like to have your update to make my decision. Thanks again!

    Austin

  4. I do not own a D800, but I have a D700 and a D300. I had bought the Nikon grip for the D700, but when I got my D300, I wasn’t ready to invest the same amount of money for a grip (I love grips on my cameras, so I had to have one). So I went the third party route, I think I ordered a Meike (but it can be a Phottix or a Zeikos, I do not remember). Now reading this report, made me realize one thing. That for the past few months I’ve been using both my cameras to shoot soccer matches (one of my 10 years old twins is a soccer maniac) and I use both my cameras for them. Guess what? In all those occasions (one to two matches every weekend), I haven’t been able to tell the difference between the two cameras, as far as the grips are concerned.

    For me that’s great! A $50 imitation is feeling exactly the same as the genuine thing?!?

    The only problem I had with the third party grip, when I bought it, was that the wheel which turns the screw, which secures the grip on the camera body was relatively thin and was making clicking noises, as you use the camera. Problem easily solved: I removed the plate which secures the wheel on top of the grip and added two small pieces of self-adhesive felt (from a small strip of Velcro, if memory serves me right). This has stopped the clicking noises and the grip is as … silent as the Nikon one.

    I thought I should post my experience here.

  5. I hate to tell you but I have OEM grip and it has exactly the same gap. And I removed the top plate to find out that it is not water sealed. So don’t feel so bad by saving over $800. Nikon accessories are rip-off.

  6. Mike Phizacklea says:

    I bought a D800e and after some searching, decided that the outrageous price for the Nikon MB-D12 was just too much so I bought a Polaroid grip which came from Amazon at about £45, and it came with an AA batery holder and a holder for a Nikon EN-EL15. So far it has worked perfectly and looks and feels as good as I would expect of a Nikon item, and I have saved £300, which buys a lot of CF and SD cards!

    • Hi Mike, how is the Polaroid working so far? I have been considering various grips but it seems most of the popular ones stop working after a while. Meike, DSTE, Pixel Vertax, etc. Not sure about the Smatree. Not a lot of info on the polaroid. Would appreciate your review when you have a moment.

      best,

      rob

      • Roland Master says:

        I agree with the fact that the NIkon MD-12 is a big rip off from Nikon. Their greed will cause them to lose a lot of business.
        I bought a DSTE and it looks and feels like a real MD-12 drive.
        I can not tell the difference from the MD-10′s I have on my 2 300′s and 2 700′s. in fit or finish. I would definitely buy another one.

  7. Mooses comments regarding the knock off make no sense. He says he has a MB-D12 but keeps the knock off on the camera, then goes on to say “I simply can’t afford it crapping out on me during a shoot” but he’s going to keep using it “waiting for the day”. Whatever Moose.

  8. greedyorca says:

    What input voltage does the wall charger take?

  9. Small problem made bigger says:

    Just a quick “BUYER BEWARE”…..

    If you purchase the DSTEbattery grip, and everything works, you’re golden. But, if you have a problem – say the battery stops charging after 31 days, you may have problems getting a replacement. There are entries in the dpreview.com forum that highlight my attempts to get a replacement battery. It’s in the March, 2014 entries in the “Is the DSTE battery grip best NON OEM for D800″ topic…

    As I said, if you buy the product and everything works, you’re golden. If
    there’s a problem… maybe not so much. If there’s a domestically
    available alternative, it may be a good idea to consider them in case you do encounter a problem.

Trackbacks

  1. My Knockoff MB-D12 Battery Grip for the D800 http://t.co/3X3sqy5G #photography

  2. RT My Knockoff MB-D12 Battery Grip for the D800 Photography http://t.co/12X1OxDN

  3. Saving hundreds of dollars on knockoff equipment. Here is a test on a battery grip. You decide. http://t.co/I44S7RgG #photography

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