Fstoppers Reviews the Fujifilm VPB-XT2 Camera Grip

Fstoppers Reviews the Fujifilm VPB-XT2 Camera Grip
The Fujifilm X-T2 has been in my hands since the day it was released here in Korea, and I have been really enjoying all the new features and speed upgrades. For all intents and purposes, it has become my primary camera now. It is responsive enough that unless I'm working with families, I'll use it for everything I do. However, it still has a couple of flaws in terms of battery life and size. After a full day of shooting, I've been noticing that my fingers ache, and I've changed batteries more times than I can count. To address both of these, I thought I would check out the vertical battery grip (or Vertical Power Booster Grip as Fuji calls it), VPB-XT2, to see if it was worth the hefty price tag. 
 
The grip promises not only space for two extra batteries, but a performance boost and a couple of extra buttons to fulfill your lust for tactile control. The specs looked good on paper, and it seemed like it should be a boon to the X-T2 experience. After a few minutes of playing with it at my local Fuji store, I parted with the cash and took a deep dive into its full functionality.
 

Build Quality

The first thing I noticed about this was that it feels like no other grip I've used. It fits. It feels like a part of the body. From the 5D Mark II grip to the D800 grip, I always felt like they weren't really a match for the body. It has always felt like something alien was attached to the camera. The quality is the same, the finish is the same, and it fits flush to the body. We'll see how it holds up over time, but it doesn't have the wiggle that all other grips seem to have. Overall, it's really well made.
 
There are only three small things that bug me about the build quality. The first is the locking wheel. It seems like Fuji went to great lengths to make the grip absolutely exceptional, and then went cheap on the locking wheel. Its plastic finish just doesn't feel in line with the rest of the camera and grip. The second is the flimsy feel of the grip extension on the front of the body. I know why it's there. It gives just that little bit of extra grip required to hold the extra weight, but it feels like I might snap it off at any point. The final thing is the rubber cover for the extra ports. I've had my fair share of issues with the rubber covers of the X-T1 expanding on me over time, and I was overjoyed to see the use of hard plastic doors on the X-T2. This hasn't been carried over to the grip, however, and it has me on edge. Thankfully, I have a two-year warranty on those!
 

Handling

Again, Fuji have knocked this one out of the park. It feels like an extension of the X-T2. The slightly deeper recess on the grip is a nice addition, and all the buttons are extremely well placed. In fact, I would go so far as to say that some of the controls are actually better placed on the grip than they are on the main body. The command dials are a good example of this. They are much closer to my fingers while I'm shooting, making them more comfortable to access. 
 
The extra weight really isn't noticeable if you're coming from a DSLR, but it does feel significantly heavier than the X-T2 by itself. This could be a good or a bad thing, but overall, I feel that it works for my shooting style. When I'm out shooting around town for myself or on a date with my wife, I'll be leaving the grip at home. However, the extra power and weight is great for all-day event shooting and engagement sessions.
 
Again, I have a couple of small complaints in terms of handling. But again, they're nothing serious. The first is that my palm covers the shutter button on the grip and I often find myself accidentally half pressing it. I could use the lock button to prevent this, but that would be a pain to have to lock and unlock the grip every time I switch orientations. With smaller hands, you may not have this issue. For me, though, it has been quite annoying and not something I've been able to work around. The second thing is that shutter button. I love the feel of the Fuji release buttons, and this one feels like it belongs on a DSLR, not on a Fuji. I understand why it needs to be further recessed and cannot share the shape of the shutter on the body, but it feels quite disconnected from the Fuji experience. The third thing is again a personal one. I feel like changing lenses is a lot clumsier. The grip makes the camera that much harder to hold while changing lenses. Perhaps it will be a little better with the larger zooms, but with the small primes, the camera is so big that it becomes an issue to hold.
 

Functionality

Here's where this grip is really something special. Most grips are a bit of a joke when it comes to adding any sort of value to your experience with the camera. They are simply built to make vertical shooting easier and give you space for some extra power. However, the Fuji grip brings so much more to the X-T2 that it can almost justify its price tag.
 
It does what it says on the box. You get the extra power, the extended recording time, in-grip charging, reduced shutter lag, and audio monitoring via headphones. All of these sound great, but how good are they, and do they really add enough to the experience to justify the price? Yes and no.
 
The ability to charge batteries in the grip is great. On a long shoot last week, I drained the two batteries in the grip, so I simply removed it and plugged it into the wall. While I was waiting for the charge, I kept shooting with the battery in the body and then locked the grip back into place. That was great.  
 
In terms of the boost function, I have found it to be a noticeable increase. It's not a revolution, but the shutter lag difference makes shooting consecutive frames a lot less cumbersome due to the shorter viewfinder blackout. The other difference is, of course, in video record times. The increased recording times mean you don't have to be constantly watching the clock for shots. This is great for long takes and interview shots. 
 
The extra command dials are really handy, especially when the exposure compensation is set to C. One of my favorite features of the Fuji system is the exposure compensation. Having that dedicated dial makes shooting a breeze, and this grip continues that experience. A button that makes a lot less sense is the Q button. It's great because you can pull up the quick menu from the vertical position, but the menu doesn't rotate in the viewfinder, so you still have to rotate the camera to use it. 
 

What I Liked

  • Fits really well with the body
  • Extra juice
  • Improved shot-to-shot times
  • Recessed grip
  • Charging
  • Video record times
  • Heft when carrying it

What I didn't like

  • The price ($329)
  • Doesn't come with any extra batteries
  • Shutter too easy to press with palm
  • Flimsy front piece
  • Rubber port cover not in line with the new build quality
  • The audio monitoring jack needs a very small plug

Interested in buying your own? Get it here.

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8 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

It's interesting that Fuji calls it a "power booster"; I wonder if that's a tip of the hat to the film days. Canon used to call their grip for the 1V a power booster as well, as it increased the continuous frame rate substantially (imagine shooting 10 fps with film)!

JUSTIN SISSON's picture

I love the fact the grip has the boost mode that increases refresh rate on EVF, faster auto focus, and more battery life has been greatly appreciated. I'd recommend turning off the screen view and just using EVF if you need more battery life.

XT2 does 95% of what I need it to do! Praying for tethering capabilities via Capture One soon!

EVF's tend to draw more power than LCD'd.

Great review Dylan. Just a quick question about using another camera for families, what is your preference for this and why over the X-T2?

My family sessions are extremely active, and switching between focus modes on the X-T2 is still not quite quick enough for the way I like to shoot. It's a small thing, but the complexity of the focus tracking system in the Fuji line makes me still turn to the Nikons every time.

I liked mine, I wish the ae-f, the Af-l and the function button were customisable though!

I have read on some forums that the booster grip works and provides all functionalities even if there is no battery in the camera. If possible, please someone confirm that this is not damaging the camera/the grip and is a solution as then I'd use only the booster grip with 2 batteries (I'd also use an RRS L plate, therefore this solution would be perfect for me) and charge the grip only with one cable.