Monday, October 10, 2011
Budget Battery Grip for Canon T2i Review
I recently replaced my "backup" Canon XTi DSLR with a Canon T2i model -- which meant, of course, some new accessories. The Canon "Rebel" models are a great value, but small enough that they're not much of a pleasure to hold onto, and adding a battery grip makes them much more holdable, as well as doubling your shooting time with an extra battery. But I just couldn't see spending $150 for the Canon BG-E8 grip when there are some much less expensive alternatives out there...
I had purchased an Optek grip for my XTi about four years ago, and it worked wonderfully, never giving me a single problem. At the time, the Optek grip was about half the cost of the Canon grip, already a bargain...but on Amazon I came across a Chinese-made grip for the T2i that was only about one-fourth the cost of the Canon original, and it even came with two additional batteries (you can see it here: Battery Pack / Vertical Grip + 2 LP-E8 Batteries for Canon T2i Digital SLR ). This kind of situation makes my brain go into "conflict" mode -- I just *know* it can't be any good for $37 including two batteries, but at that price I could chew through four of them before I'd match the price of the OEM model. The reviews on Amazon seemed decent, so cheapness won out, and I ordered one.
I was very pleasantly surprised after the package came. Opening it up, the build quality is excellent -- clean fit & finish, solid feeling buttons and knobs, a plastic finish that matches the one on the T2i. And the two included batteries have a slightly higher power rating (1350 mAh for the knock-offs compared to 1120 mAh for the OEM battery). The brand name says "Meike" although it appears this exact same Chinese-made unit is sold under a variety of brand names.
One good piece of news is that the OEM Canon battery charger will charge the knockoff batteries -- I had read some reviews indicating that wasn't the case for some other knockoff batteries (most notably for the Canon 7D), so I didn't need to buy an additional charger.
The fit to the camera is as good as the original Canon grip (which I tried out at my local Calumet store). The operation of the buttons is also the same as the Canon grip, and they're in the same place. This is about as perfect a "clone" as you can get. The rubberized covering over part of the grip is *slightly* different from the OEM grip, but otherwise you can't tell which one is on the camera. Like other grips, it has a convenient place to store the camera's battery compartment door along the vertical part that goes up into the camera's battery compartment, so you won't misplace it. Charge up the batteries, put them in the holder, attach it to the camera, and you're all set. That's really all there is to it.
You can use the OEM Canon battery in combination with one of the knockoffs with no issues whatsoever. Using both knockoffs in the grip, I did about 500 still photos (none with flash) and about 30 minutes of HD video shooting with the T2i before the battery meter got down to one "bar" of power remaining, a good showing by any measure.
The "vertical" shutter release on the grip is terrific to have -- on my grip, it's just the tiniest bit less resistant to pressing than the camera's release button is, and exactly twice now I've accidentally release the shutter when I was in half-press mode "holding" focus...but that's the only very minor gripe I have with this unit.
Bottom line: it works great. This isn't an accessory that's going to be critical to image quality, like a lens or filter, so I see no problem using a cheap knockoff when it works so well. So far through two weeks of heavy use, it's performed like a champ, and I have no complaints. And like I said, if the thing stops working for some reason, I can go through three of them and still not have spent as much as the OEM grip would have cost me. :)