Gear Review: Vello BG-N7 grip for Nikon

Gear Review: Vello BG-N7 grip for Nikon

When major brands build product enhancements or special components, it’s only a matter of time before after-market options with much lower price tags become available. Generally speaking, off-brand products have about a 50/50 chance of being successful or disappointing. With the Nikon MB-D12 grip for the D800 being so highly priced, I took a look at Vello’s after-market model to see if it’s a worthy substitute. If Vello's BG-N7 grip design is only 90% as good as Nikon’s, it would still be a worthy substitute given the vast difference in price points. Nikon’s grip is $389.00 while Vello’s will only run you $90.

Upon opening the Vello box, the first thing I noticed was the difference in color. The Vello BG-N7 has a shinier, glossier finish than the Nikon grip, which has the same dull, less noticeable micro-leather look that you find on the D800. Personally, I prefer the appearance of the Nikon MB-D12 grip because it blends in with my camera. I don’t want my grip to stand out, but rather appear to be part of my camera. If a grip stands out, to me, it looks cheap. The Vello grip material is just a bit softer than the Nikon, but this is barely noticeable. Blindfolded and given just a few seconds with each, I probably would not be able to tell the difference so that is good news for the Vello. I would have to play with the buttons or feel the battery latch before I would be able to pick the Vello apart from the Nikon.

Nikon MB-D12 vs Vello BG-N7 grip review

When I put these grips to a field test, I noticed on the Vello that the buttons and dials were definitely looser and didn't have the quality feel that the Nikon grip has. This is a common complaint with after-market grips, even with the one that Lee previously purchased that was a Nikon knock-off. Whatever Nikon is doing, the way they build their buttons and dials just feels better. The battery open/close latch is built differently on the Vello and in a way that I have found to be difficult to adjust to, but likely only because I am used to the way Nikon built theirs. It’s different, but not necessarily better or worse. Surprisingly, the weight of the batteries in each grip were nearly identical. The shape on the Vello is much boxier than that of the Nikon grip, however it didn't affect me when I was shooting.


Something interesting I was not expecting: the Vello doesn't rattle much at all. When I put a battery in the Nikon grip and shook it, there was a definite rattle to it. There is nothing wrong with this, just an observation. With the Vello, there is hardly a rattle at all in the same situation. The batteries fit far more snugly into the Vello, which is probably why there is significantly less noise when I shook it. Though there is less noise with the Vello, I was actually more irritated with the Vello in this instance because the batteries don’t just click into place like they do on the Nikon. You have to push them harder- like they don’t fit quite right. Another small difference is the placement of the USB cord insert. At first, I had no idea that it came off and was a little confused with the setup of the Vello. Again, this is probably due to my extensive experience with Nikon product. I’m just a victim of habit.

The best part about this grip is the price. As someone who is just starting out, I can’t always afford the nicest or the best available, so for $90, I am more than happy to spend the remaining $300 on something else for my business.

What I Liked:
The weight and feel
The price

What Could Use Improvement:
Material sheen
Battery fitting

As far as I am concerned, these minor complaints would not hold me back from using the Vello over the Nikon. The Nikon grip is almost absurdly priced, leaving many with the desire to try something more affordable.

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I have a grip for my Nikon D800 alternative. But this grip is having problems connecting circuits without being connected with it and ends with the camera's battery.

I couldn't imagine putting an aftermarket grip on a D800.  I could be wrong but you just bought a Mercedes S550 and put honda rims on it? 

A camera is a tool. People use battery grips for function, not fashion. As long as it improves your battery life, has buttons that work, and allows you to hold the camera in portrait orientation without hurting your wrist, it serves its purpose. Now, if having the finish match is worth an extra $200 to you, be my guest and buy the Nikon one.

Good point...

honda has a different bolt pattern than mercedes.

And what about weather resistance ? If the grip isn't properly sealed (especially the gap between camera and grip) rain, mud, sand might kill the D800. $90 then might become a quite expensive investment.

If you consistently get rain, mud and sand on your camera, you probably already own a "proper" battery grip. If not (99% of D800 owners?) then you'll be find.

Try this if you get rattle with Nikon grip: hold you thumb on the locking wheel which you use when you tighten it up to the camera. In D300s MB-D10 battery grip, the wheel has got small clockwards and counter clockwards movement which makes the rattling.

I bought the Vello battery grip for my D7000 and am really pleased with it.  The buttons sound similar to your experience, slightly loose and not quite Nikon quality but it works well and the D-pad control button is easier to use than the one built into the D7000, once I got accustomed to it's greater sensitivity.  Like you said, 80 or 90% of the function for 1/3 the price.

Trevor Woods's picture

Does the Vello grip still up the burst FPS?

Brian Boing Photo's picture

lets have someone build an aftermarket grip with additional features such as integrated wifi or maybe an intervalometer built into it...

Scott Weaver's picture

I received the Vello radio controlled remote lease with my Nikon D800 purchase and I've been very pleased with this accessory. And also very pleased that I had a less costly alternative to the Nikon cable release. The Nikon accessories are generally overpriced. That's the opportunity for third party companies like Vello to create their versions, often exceeding the features of the Nikon or Canon originals. I am going to purchase this battery grip, and the few cosmetic differences certainly do not matter to me. (BTY, I do not drive a Mercedes.)

i have the model BG-N4 for my D7000 and love it no issue or problems