Designing a Better External Battery Pack

Have you ever been told by a professional photographer that the only way to increase your flash's refresh rate is to carry one of those frumpy battery packs that attaches to your belt and connects to your flash with that telephone cord? What if there was another way to improve your flash's performance that did not require any extra cables or bulky battery packs? I may have just come up with the best alternative yet...an external battery pack that fits perfectly inside your camera's vertical grip.

Since many of our cameras now can hold a battery inside the camera and operate without any extra battery in the vertical grip then we may be able to use the space in our grip to hold extra AA batteries to power our hotshoe flash. My Nikon cameras that use the MB-D10 vertical grip come with a AA battery tray that is used to increase the camera's shoot speed as well as the overall camera battery power for extended shooting. If we could find a company that could modify this tray (or create a new tray altogether) we could then sent the power from the batteries out to our flash instead of up to the camera itself.

This would be great! We could now have a camera that still runs off the single internal battery and have a new battery pack for our external flash hidden inside the camera's vertical battery grip. Our camera would look exactly as it did before (the only difference would be a small power cable connecting our flash to the side of the vertical grip) but we would now have much faster flash refresh rates when we are shooting events or shooting with intense flash power.

I realize this is a great idea and there is definitely some money to be made. I would love to see some company take this idea of mine and turn it into a real working product. If we had a few trays for Canon and Nikon cameras, I'm sure every event photographer would prefer this new external battery pack design over the current wired fanny pack version. What do you guys think?

Designing a Better External Battery Pack for your Camera from FStoppers on Vimeo.

Posted In: 
Log in or register to post comments

12 Comments

I think you are a bearded genius

Nikon SD-8a can be attached to camera with tripod socket from below.

Thanks for pointing that out Roman..very true. However, have you ever tried to use your camera with the grip and the SD-8A? It's very bulky and the unit I have overhangs the grip on several sides. Not practical at all for event shooting. It also prevents your camera from being used on a tripod now that the pack is using the grip's 1/4" plug.

What do you guys think? Maybe I'm crazy on this one

Lee Morris's picture

I agree, I use the vertical grip 50% of the time and I don't like having something blocking it.

i thought about this a while back but to start to see what could be done you would have to take the grip apart to dissable the connections to the cam body, but i'm not prepaired to hack open £250 worth of gear, but it is a great idea, i might see what the cheapest copy on flebay is and have a look at that

Lee Morris's picture

It actually wouldn't even be that complicated. The grip works without any battery inside it as long as there is still a battery in the camera body. This means that all you have to do is have a small cord running on the outside of the camera that goes from the AA batteries in the grip to the flash. We tried to build this ourself but we learned that the front input on Nikon flashes is high-voltage, meaning that you would need a small capacitor in the grip with the batteries to up the voltage, once we learned this we realized we were over our heads.

The idea is great. What is the idea?

NO CABLES

however

HEAT from the new flash batteries
will cook your camera

I used to love the SB800s 5th battery side mounted "Snap On" It got me through alot of events. The only thing that sucks about that is packs of batteries usually come in four. Hey Nikon... fit the EN-EL3e into your flashes already.

Yes I have seen lot of guys using the Nikon SD-8a with no issues and they are happy with it. You got nice idea but I see it has one flaw. First it would be a solution only for those cameras with additional battery grips.
Second, if you need to change the main battery of your camera, you are in trouble. You will spend much more time doing that than changing the casual flash batteries to fresh ones.
I am sure one will drain the cameras which have no specialized grips with a large event.

Patrick Hall's picture

Tauno, thanks for the suggestions. While I think every product will have its benefits and drawbacks here is why I think this idea is better than the current idea:

1) If you use multiple cameras at events like I do (usually 3-4 DSLRs), then having a cord connected to your flash on one camera makes it really difficult to move to another camera quickly. I'm trying to get rid of that cord; I also do not like battery packs in my pants

2) As for changing the battery in the camera, I agree with you that it is a pain to change out the internal battery because you have to remove the grip to get to it. HOWEVER, again, when using 4 cameras throughout the day (or even say two), the battery life in the D300 cameras is so good that you can go for 6 hours without having to change a camera battery (pending you aren't shooting a lot of video or using VR lenses). My D200 camera was horrible with battery power and I needed at least 2 batteries per wedding. With my D300(s), I usually go all day without changing any batteries in my cameras and most of the time my reserve battery is still completely full and unused.

3) Even if I did have to change the internal battery, I know exactly when my camera is about to die but I do not always know when my flash batteries are not going to be able to keep up with say a fast burst of shooting. I would rather know I have to take 2 mins out and change the camera battery once than to not know when my flash is almost dead and not able to recycle. I would make the argument that changing out the SB800/900 batteries or the SD-8a pack is just as time consuming as taking the grip off and changing the internal battery.

The main reason I love my proposed idea is that your camera will look and operate EXACTLY as it did before. Do you need a vertical grip? Of course; but most people concerned with this problem are pros anyway and I assume they already have an MB-D10 which is now being used on all Nikon pro series cameras. If this tray cost $5 to make and someone could sell it for $50, I would buy it and I think there is a lot of money to be made with this alternative to the SD-8a pack. Both take about 2 mins.

Do you agree with at least a few of my points? The SD-8a is so annoying for me to use that I am currently preferring to go without it at all....that is business lost for someone :)

Yes Patrick, there is a valid point in your story. I do not want to imagine a guy with multiple cameras and SD-8a's attached to every one of them. Worse than star wars. I guess SD-8a was designed a single camera usage in mind. I use speedlights mainly off camera so it is not a issue for what I have given enough thought.
I hope there is guy who understands your issue. It should be a engineer/photographer which is hard to find :p
Although you can always design one yourself :)

Patrick Hall's picture

I know there is a lot of money to be made with this product. I can't imagine why any photographer who uses off camera flash would need the SD-8a at all but event photographers that bounce flash need this product because you fire off photos much quicker when taking candid style shots.

I'll be happy when I cross paths with a designer who can help me market this idea but until then I'll just throw it out here for anyone to bite on. The reality is I'd rather have this product and make no money directly than to not have this product at all because I'm trying to figure out how to make it in secrecy.