Probably the best thing about stepping up from a compact digital camera to a digital interchangeable lens camera is that you now have an entire world of digital camera accessories to choose from. Some of the accessories may be for convenience while others offer performance enhancement. How about a digital camera accessory that is both?
In my opinion the standout camera accessory for Canon digital cameras is the vertical extension grip, sometimes called a battery grip. In fact I’ve been such a big fan of this particular camera accessory that every camera I’ve owned since the mid 90’s has had a vertical extension grip added – film and digital cameras both.
OK, so what is a vertical extension grip? I’m glad you asked! A vertical extension grip is a digital camera accessory that provides an additional hand grip and attaches to the bottom of a DSLR. That’s right; it makes the camera even bigger. But that’s not all because the grip can hold not one but two camera batteries so the camera is also instantly heavier. Both bigger and heavier, that’s about as un-compact as a camera can get.
So who in their right mind would want this added bulk? Well, not to take anything away from your state of mind but I think you do – you just don’t know it yet.
If you skip upward a paragraph or two you’ll recall that I mentioned something about convenience and performance. A vertical extension grip really does offer enhancements to both.
Lets tackle performance first because that’s the easy one. Two batteries loaded at the same time means twice the shots between charges, and that’s the obvious upside. However when you add a vertical grip and a second battery to certain camera model the cameras suddenly perform faster. They leap from six image frames shot per second to 9 frames per second. Not too shabby, twice the shots at a speeds 50% faster than before. You can shoot soccer games almost all day long.
Now for the convenience part of the statement. I could argue that twice the shooting time between charges is convenient but I won’t. The real convenience lies in how this particular digital camera accessory changes how the photographer holds and operates the camera.
With the grip accessory attached the photographer immediately notices that the grip provides a second shutter button. Now when the camera is shot in vertical orientation (portrait) there is a shutter button placed exactly where the right forefinger falls. There isn’t a need any longer to break the wrist and reach over the top of the camera to shoot in vertical orientation. The wrist stays straight creating a more stable support and with far less stress and fatigue caused by an uncomfortable hand grip.
If you’ve ever shot more than a dozen portrait images in a row without an extension grip I think you can appreciate how this change in how you hold the camera would spell relief.
And like they say on late night TV – “But wait! There’s more!” Not only does the vertical grip help improve camera handling in, well, vertical orientation by offering an alternate shutter button it also duplicates the back of camera buttons found behind the regular shutter release. You know those two buttons that are under your right thumb when you use the regular shutter button? (AE Lock and AF point Select, but more on those another time) Well they are duplicated in exact relationship on the back of the vertical grip to still fall under your right thumb in vertical orientation.
Basically a vertical grip allows a photographer to operate the camera in vertical (portrait) orientation while holding the camera in a natural and more stable manner. And since the control wheel and buttons are duplicated in the exact same relationship on the grip as on the camera body the photographer’s fingers feel right at home.