[Editorial] Why Does The Nikon MB-D12 Cost So Much?

[Editorial] Why Does The Nikon MB-D12 Cost So Much?

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.

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Previous comments
Alex's picture

In Canon's defense, at least that is a vertical grip with a wi-fi system, unlike the MB-D12 :)

i am just going to buy 2 extra batteries. no way in hell am I giving Nikon $500 for a grip. NEVER!

Derek matarangas's picture

I see a lot of people buying the replica.

The pocket wizard is a great idea!  

I really really start to dislike Nikon and regret that all my equipment is made by them.

First, they insult every photographer on Facebook, then they release the D800 with - in my opinion - good but very "weird" specs, and now this ridiculous grip (that of course you need with a D800).

Nikon becomes more and more evil, doesn't care about it's customers, and gets very unfriendly. I seriously wish I had Canon gear.

Mike Kelley's picture

What did Nikon do on Facebook?

José T.'s picture

Some time ago they sortta said that the most important part is the gear, that a photographer is just as good as the lens he uses and that without proper gear you could not get good pictures. More here: 

Tomas Ramoska's picture

New way to recover after Nikon's factory flood in Thailand lol...

Wow that is crazy, I think I will seriously consider the Chinese knock-off this time. I'm all for supporting the manufacturers to keep innovating and paying the slight premium at times versus the knock-off versions, but this is a little ridiculous...

because they can!

I own a $42 grip for my D300s. It fits with a tiny wobble. Not enough to bother me. Functions perfectly and even adds the ability to trigger the shutter with an IR remote that it came with.

It does not increase the shooting speed like the Nikon version. I believe the increase is from 7.3 FPS to 8FPS. Not a significant enough increase for me to concern myself with my type of shooting. Not for $250.

It sucks that Nikon, or any company really, takes the brunt of the cost for R&D and then someone else comes along and rips it off. That's not cool at all.... and yet, if the Nikon version was what I would consider "reasonably" priced. I'd have bought the Nikon instead.

Normally, I'd echo your argument about the difference being R&D and the people of China taking an already developed product and  making a copy. But we're talking about a grip. it's some plastic, four buttons, two battery slots and a couple wires to connect those thing to the camera. It doesn't actually *do* anything, it just triggers functions that are already included in the price of the camera. 

And also, factories producing Nikon and knock-off versions are probably a couple of blocks away, so the costs should be only lower for the Nikon because of the higher quantity of production. They're not producing them in Detroit, so that you could say that cheap labor is the reason for the difference.

i same predicament with canon, and I settle for the knockoff one. I only want it as handle and trigger. I don't even put batteries inside as they all drain together.

I plan to buy a vertical grip with my next body (hopefully, the D800). I've never owned one before so I have a couple of questions:

1. Are there certain 3rd party makers that are more reliable and/or have a better reputation that the others? If so, what are their names?

2. I understand the MB-D12 can be powered by eight AA batteries. Does the use of AA batteries require a battery holder? If so, is it normally included with grip or purchased separately? If purchased separately, how many battery holders are needed (ie, one that holds 8 batteries or four that holds 2 batteries each)?

I bet there will be good and bad knockoff grips but you won't know until they are released. I read on some  blog that not only is the MB-12 twice as expensive but it also doesn't come with the AA battery holder. That will cost you another $60. 

Really Lee ? If the AA holder isn't there then GO TO HELL NIKON, we should really complain just like Scott Kelby did against Adobe :) 500$ is already a RIP off, now if the AA holder is not included, that's insane...

it does come with the AA battery carriage. 
but the Nikon grip is MADE IN CHINA.

I like the Zeikos brand grips...never had an issue... http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?atclk=Category_Photography+Batterie...

FWIW i bought a knock off d7000 grip, and a d300 grip...both work great, never had an issue...and for $50 bucks, if they break, i'll buy another and STILL be ahead of the game as opposed to a Nikon branded grip....ESPECIALLY if you're talking about $500 for a D800 grip...

A fantastic idea of providing additional power to the flash gun, even though personally I don't use mine for anything other than a master for remotes. One problem is that there is no provided electrical path from the grip to the hot shoe, so an external cable would have to be used.
 The current price is completely unjustified and I myself will be waiting for third party makers to catch up. If Nikon added some smarts to it, some forward thinking design then I'd be all for it. There are so many options that could be integrated into the grip, wifi/BT radio controller is about $30-40 (less for big mfgs), a modular plug in could be integrated for adding a wifi card, Pocket Wizard card that Seconic is using for 358, leave room for future ideas and there is still plenty of room for a battery. To do all this is not complicated at all and does not require extensive development.

So if anybody can get their hands on Nikon's Vgrip schematics and detailed info about what they use the extra contacts for, we can make our own add-ons! :))

Coby's picture

I've always wanted a grip with raido triger or port for powering a flash, built-in it makes perfict sense as a place for those items. I have contomplanted digging out my old A300 with grip and seeing if I could modify it by working one of those cheap triggers from ebay in to it.

Petar Todorinski's picture

I have a cheap 60$ grip on my d300 since 2008. After near 230 000 shots with the camera still no problems with it. I changed the rubber grips on the body, recently the shutter and the mirror  lifting mechanism, but the grip has still his rubbers in place and works fine. I will upgrade 100% to the D800 but I ma thinking again to put the same brand chinese grip if the price is that or there is no kit option for body and grip thogether for less moony on the grip if bought as a pacage

Patrick Hall's picture

Imagine if you could do this with the normal Nikon Grip and not loose any grip functionality or ergonomics!  

Insanely instant flash recycle time....though I have to wonder how the camera buffer could handle that rate of data and how long it would take for your flash head to simply melt.  :)

So I just got an email from Amazon saying that they now have a delivery date for the D800 I ordered... January 4-January 8, 2013!?!? WTH!? Hopefully they're just overestimating but I was expecting arrival to be in a month or two. What gives?

Hmmm.. So Nikon unveils the body for $1,000 less than was anticipated and they offer the "optional" battery grip for $250 more than what we think it should be and we somehow feel jipped?

Had they just offered the body and grip as a "kit" you couldn't buy separately virtually everybody would have been thrilled to get both the body and the grip for $3500 all in...

Bottom line, Nikon is going to charge, like any other company, as much as it can for what it has to offer... They realize they run a risk of losing customers and lets be real here, nobody has to pay it.. If you don't like what Nikon offers, go buy an Olympus or Pentax or something..
You have a right to not buy just like they have a right to offer up the grip at any price that they want..

With that all said.. The grip is too expensive... :)

In Canada you can get the grip for $400 at vistek.ca so it's a bit easier for me to swallow. 

i got mine for that price in USA at Perfect Light Camera in Idaho.

Jim Valencia's picture

Once it actually ships, I don't think the MB-D12 will be considerably more expensive than the MB-D10. Nikon Japan lists both grips for an identical MSRP of 40,000 yen in their official catalog.  However, street price on the MB-D10 in Japan is 27,500 yen (about US$348 at current exchange) and in the US that grip sells for $235 right now. Th e difference between the Japan and US street price  is primarily due to the strong yen. A 40,000 yen MSRP equals about $506, which is probably the basis for Nikon USA's pricing estimate which trickled down to the pre-order prices at known retailers like B&H.

As a point of reference, the MB-D12 is being sold on a pre-order basis in Japan for 34,000 yen, about $430.

However, I suspect that Nikon market analysts know that the US market will probably balk at $500 for a grip that does no more than its $235 predecessor. So they will set a price more in line with the MB-D10 and accept a lower profit margin than on products they sell in Japan, just like they do with the MB-D10 and every other lens and accessory they sell, because they have to.

I would just wait until they are actually in stock, and the Nikon distribution network and retailers have found a reasonable equilibrium.  I suspect it'll settle in somewhere south of $300 in short order and will get a little cheaper after that. But what do I know?

I would guess that it's all about margins. There isn't much margin for a retailer (or manufacturer) on the camera bodies, so they have to make money somewhere else...like vertical grips. It's not even that they're gouging you on the grip, it's just that they're taking a thin margin on the camera so don't have incentive to discount anything else and still remain in business.

For once we Canadians are getting much better pricing.  http://www.vistek.ca/store/DSLRAccessories/261528/nikon-mbd12-multipower...

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