Fujifilm has just released its brand new flagship X-T3 mirrorless camera. With its older brother, the X-T2, the vertical grip unlocked the extra ounce of juice required to get the full performance from the camera. However, with the X-T3’s new processor, the vertical grip is no longer needed for this reason. So, what are the benefits of getting it and do you still need to spend the extra money?
Vertical grips have been used in the past to offer functionality and battery life to cameras that were not possible with the original release of the body. Some manufacturers have used them to simply improve ergonomics and battery life, whereas others have included things like WiFi connectivity, extra buttons, and in the case of Fujifilm, unlocked performance. All these are great benefits for some photographers. Let’s check out what Fujifilm’s VG-XT3 has to offer.
Build Quality and Handling
As with most Fujifilm products, the build quality of the grip is excellent. It is made to the same standard as the camera body, and thus, based on the construction materials alone, you won’t notice a difference between holding the grip and the camera.
The connection between the camera and the grip seems to have been improved over the X-T2 grip. With the X-T2, I constantly found that the grip would wobble slightly and the electronic connection would falter from time to time. This issue is gone with the X-T3 grip, which fits much more tightly to the body. Time will tell if this holds up.
The plastic drawer that holds the batteries is still the same cheap-feeling one that was with the X-T2 grip. I feel like this is a letdown when paired with an extremely premium-feeling product.
Buttons are placed slightly differently on the grip and no longer match up to their counterparts on the body. This is quite annoying at first, as you need to retrain your muscle memory. However, you’ll quickly get used to it. We’ll see why below.
The size and shape of the grip have changed since the X-T2 iteration. The handgrip that extends out to give more purchase to the body is larger and gives a place to rest not only your pinky at its base but your forefinger at the top. This makes the X-T3 feel more like an X-H1 or a DSLR than I would like. This is a personal preference, but stops me from using the grip.
The other thing to note about this extra purchase is that it’s not present when holding the camera vertically. Thus, it feels like you own two different cameras when switching from horizontal to vertical position. This can be disconcerting, but can also remind your muscle memory to look for the buttons in a different place. Personally, I prefer Nikon’s approach with the D750 in making the grip feel just like an extension of the camera itself.
Benefits and Other Options
Along with the introduction of Fujifilm's X-Processor 4, the need for the vertical grip in order to get the full performance from the camera is now gone. So, what are we left with?
Just like the grips from many other manufacturers, this is now simply and ergonomic and battery-life based issue. I discussed a little about the ergonomics above. You get a larger purchase on the camera and different locations to rest your fingers when working in horizontal orientation. However, vertical orientation feels very different from this. You get the extra buttons in vertical orientation, but they are in different locations. However, you do get the extra stability when working in vertical orientation and also with larger lenses, the grip helps to balance out the front-heavy weight that some find difficult to work with.
You also get two extra batteries, which gives you a total of three to work with. The extended shooting time this allows could be beneficial to some photographers. In my experience, I’m getting around the 1,000-image mark off one battery and sometimes more if I don’t review images while shooting. This is plenty to get from one battery, and I have never gone through more than two in a day of work. Even recently, while making two-to-four-minute exposures over the ocean for three hours, I didn’t get through a single battery. If you’re a heavy shooter or working in cold environments, the grip may be beneficial.
You also get the ability to charge two batteries at once in the grip or run the camera off mains power for studio work. However, both of these can also be achieved without the grip. Wasabi Power, for example, make a great USB charger that will charge two batteries at once on a single USB cable. You can also make use of the USB-C port on the camera and a USB power bank like Fujifilm’s recommended Anker PowerCore+26800 PD to extend your battery life significantly. Purchasing both of these will cost you less than the grip alone. So, if you’re only looking at battery life, there may be better options than the grip.
What I Liked
- Good build quality
- Extra battery life
What I Didn't Like
- Button placement
At $329, the Fujifilm VPB-XT3 is an expensive way to get a slighly larger grip on your X-T3. Considering that you’ll need to buy the two extra batteries yourself as well, it totals $463. If you really find yourself having trouble holding the camera or burning through batteries more quickly than you’d like, this might be a beneficial accessory for you. However, for everyone else, the grip is now superfluous. If I’ve convinced you that you need one, you can snag it here. Otherwise, the X-T3 is still a great camera without it.