The Nikon D800 was just announced and the 36mp powerhouse is being sold at the extremely reasonable price of $3000. Like many photographers, I planned to buy a D800 and the grip together. Once again Nikon has created a proprietary grip for the D800, the MB-D12. The biggest surprise was that this grip is double the price of the most expensive grip for the previous camera. Why?
Why do you need a vertical grip anyway?
There are a couple of reasons to purchase a vertical grip with your camera. The first is battery life. With the vertical grip your camera can now hold 2 batteries which will double the life of the camera. If you are in a jam and run out of charged batteries you can use the included AA battery pack adapter to power your camera will standard AA batteries. Although having these extra battery options is convenient, it is not the main reason that I like having a vertical grip. As a wedding photographer that shoots for 8-10 hours at a time, the vertical grip makes shooting far more comfortable. Without a grip, vertical images require that I hold my right elbow high in the air to take an image. When you do this you are actually holding the weight of the camera with your back in a very unnatural way. After hours of holding up a camera with a 70-200mm lens this way you will experience major back pain.
The vertical grip allows me to keep my right elbow down, pressing against my chest, when I take vertical images. This position relieves all of the pressure from my back and I can shoot all day without issue.
Why we need another proprietary grip
Nikon decided to change the shape of the D800 (from the D700) which means that the older Mb-D10 grip wouldn't fit on the newer camera. Because of this redesign Nikon built the MB-D12. Nikon had the opportunity to put new features into the grip like bluetooth, wifi, gps, or a radio trigger but they didn't. From what I have read, the grip is the exact same as every previous grip Nikon has made. Ok, no big deal, right? One would probably think that this grip would cost about $250 since it is the exact same thing as the last grip. That would be fine. But shockingly, it does not. No, instead it costs about $500. Yesterday it was $500 on B&H Photo Video and today it is $450. On Nikon's website it is $616! Who knows what it will actually cost once it is released.
The knockoff grips
To make the price of the Mb-D12 look even more absurd, let's look at the knockoff grip market. The Nikon D7000 camera body sells for $1299.00 and the matching MB-D11 grip for $219.00. This price seems pretty reasonable until you find out that China has created a knockoff version of the MB-D11 that sells for $42.00. This "fake" grip is so well made that even though I owned a real one as well, I couldn't tell that it was was fake. Check out the full story on that fiasco here.
If China can make a grip that is almost the exact same quality, ship it to the to the other side of the world, pay Amazon a percentage of each sale, and then ship it to your house for $42 and still make a profit, why does Nikon's version cost 12 times more? The "Nikon" name is worth a lot but not that much.
On the bright side
This huge jump in price opens up the door for 3rd party companies to create not just an equivalent grip, but a far superior grip with some ground breaking new features for a significantly cheaper price. Imagine if you could get an MB-D12 with a GPS receiver or a Pocket Wizard build in for $399. Patrick Hall suggested another innovative idea over a year ago: allow the vertical grip to add extra power to the on-camera SB900! Any company who could produce this would make a massive profit and consumers would still be saving $100. Let's hope that Nikon's decision to charge a premium for a standard, boring battery grip will open up the doors for innovation in this market. Hopefully it will work out for customers in the end, but I cannot wait. I will be paying the premium to have the camera and the grip from Nikon because I hate shooting on a camera without a vertical grip... So maybe Nikon actually knows what they are doing.