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Pentax BG2 battery grip user review

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The photos for this review were hastily shot with a borrowed Nikon D40. Some of the shots were taken left handed and upside down. I apologize in advance for any lackluster image quality ;-)

I have typically resisted battery grips for my DSLRs because I felt that they weren’t worth the extra bulk. There have only been a half dozen times in my the past 5 or 6 years that I actually drained a fresh battery while shooting. Even then, I just pulled a back-up battery out of my bag/pocket and kept on shooting. My K10D routinely gets 200-300 shots out of a charge so I haven’t even bothered to pick up an extra battery. After playing around with a Nikon D3 and a Canon 1D Mark III (both cameras with built-in vertical grips) I was struck by how much better these cameras felt in my hand- despite their heavier weight. In preparation for heading out to the PMA show I decided to pick up an extra battery. While I was shopping I discovered Cameta had a deal on Amazon for a BG2 battery grip + extra no-name battery for $139.95. This meant if I bought the grip I’d get the battery essentially for free. So I took the plunge. Here’s what I discovered:

Pros:

  • Vastly improves ergonomics, balance and stability of the camera.
  • Extra battery equals more shots between charges.
  • Ability to designate grip battery as the primary battery so it depletes first- leaving the in-camera battery as a back-up.
  • Redundant controls for vertical shooting.
  • Solid OEM build quality (weather sealed, too).
  • Does not require removal of in-camera battery and battery door like some grips do.
  • Nifty storage slots for extra SD card and Pentax IR remote.
  • Makes camera look more “significant”.

Cons:

  • Added weight (11oz).
  • Added bulk (may not fit in many bags).
  • Redundant controls are not placed identically to camera controls and do not function as well.
  • Tripod screw mount takes a few seconds to engage/disengage.
  • Vertical grip not as substantial as regular grip.
  • No AA battery option.

Conclusion:

Having used the grip for three days of walking around the Las Vegas Convention Center and a couple of days worth of my normal routine I can safely say that this is the best accessory I have purchased for my camera. Surprisingly, it’s not because of the extra battery life. The main advantage of the battery grip for me is the dramatic improvement in the ergonomics and handling of the camera. If you own a Pentax DSLR you owe it to yourself to pick one of these up (the K200D uses the BG3 grip). The improvements it makes are easily worth the $130. I actually believe that this is one of the only accessories that I have tried that can actually help improve the quality of your photographs by making the camera a more natural extension of your hand. If you have another brand of camera I can only assume that their battery grips will provide a similar improvement in the handling of your camera (though some are a bit more fussy to work with).

On to the pictures and details…

Review:


Fresh out of the box the BG2 impresses with its build quality. It is a direct match to the finishes of the K10/20D (including the molded rubber insert). The plastic shell is thick and the whole assembly feels quite solid. Like all accessory battery grips, the BG2 attaches to the bottom of the camera via the tripod mount socket. Pentax thoughtfully includes an accessory socket on the bottom of their cameras for the battery grip so one doesn’t have to remove the battery and battery door as is common on most other DSLRs. They even include a place to store the rubber cover so you don’t have to track it down later (large red arrow). This means that the grip can be quickly and easily installed and removed as desired. The grip is kept located on the bottom of the camera body by three stainless steel posts (arrows 1, 2 & 3). Nikon uses one tiny plastic peg on their D300 grip.

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Detail of the rubber cover holder.

battery tray

The BG2’s battery tray is released using a similar flip-up-and-twist lever as the battery door on the bottom of the camera and slides out completely from the grip housing. It has a thick rubber gasket to seal against moisture and dust. A standard D-LI50 battery fits into the tray (1) and there is a space for an extra SD card (2) and Pentax’s optional IR remote control (3). Very thoughtful design. Unfortunately, there appears to be no AA battery tray option for the BG2.

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Mounted on the camera, the BG2 very nicely matches the design of the K10/20D. It’s not nearly as bulky and blocky looking as some others I have seen (Canon 5D for example) and as such, doesn’t look so much like an add-on. The bottom is solid plastic with a center-mounted metal tripod socket. Some kind of rubber pad/coating on the bottom would be a nice touch as I’m sure the plastic will start showing wear pretty quickly. A rubber pad would also be nice for long exposure shots when the camera is braced against a wall or other surface. As you can see here, the camera will stand upright on the battery grip with the kit lens. I’m sure that a larger, heavier lens like Pentax’s 16-50 f/2.8 DA* would likely result in tip-over.

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Pentax gives you the ability to select which battery the camera will use first. I’m not sure what “Auto” mode does but I selected the grip battery as the primary battery (despite what this photo shows). This means that I will not have to remove the grip to recharge the camera battery very often. This also ensures that the camera battery is fresh in case I decide to ditch the grip for some stealthy street shooting or something.

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The BG2 (bottom) replicates most of the K10D’s (top) shooting controls for vertical shooting. While the controls on the front pretty much match the location of the camera’s controls, the ones on the back (exposure comp, AE-L, e-dial) have been rearranged. This will require a bit of remapping of your muscle memory for using the vertical shooting controls. The on/off switch on the grip only turns the grip’s controls on and off (not the camera). I found this feature nice as I was constantly bumping the shutter release on the grip while holding the camera (even though it is recessed). The rear e-dial does not protrude as much as the camera’s and does not have the same fluid action which made it somewhat difficult to manipulate.

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I also found the BG2’s vertical grip to be considerably shallower than the camera’s horizontal grip. It does feature a nice rubber insert and a lip for your fingers to grip but never felt as secure in my hand as I would have liked. Another oddity is that the eyepiece is offset towards the bottom left of the camera when using the vertical grip. I often find myself having to hunt around for the viewfinder when shooting with the vertical grip. Personally, I just leave the grip turned off and continue to use the camera’s controls in the hand-over-the-top style while shooting vertical shots.

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Now for the good stuff. Notice how my pinkie finger is clinging for life on the bottom of the K10D w/o the battery grip (top)? With the grip there’s now a very nicely contoured pocket for my little finger to help hold onto and control the camera (bottom).

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More significantly, notice how the heel of my hand is just hanging out in space in the top photo while in the bottom photo the grip fills the void. Without the grip the camera is supported by my fingers and thumb. With the grip the camera is now cradled in my entire hand with my palm taking the weight instead of my fingers. This provides significantly improved control of the camera as well as far greater comfort while holding the camera for long periods of time. While walking a trade show I like to carry the camera in my hand rather than wear it on a strap around my neck or shoulder. Without the grip the tips of my fingers become quite sore after and hour or so. With the grip I was able to go all day with no discomfort. In my opinion, the improvement in ergonomics alone justifies the purchase price of the BG2.

Buy one today. You’ll be glad you did!

UPDATE: After using the BG2 for a few more weeks I have started using the vertical grip for taking portrait shots more and more. I think it just took a little getting used to. Doing so I noticed a small problem the other day. The rear e-dail on the grip stopped working. I removed the grip and discovered one of the spring loaded contact pins on the grip was stuck down…

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I suspect this was due to me being a bit hasty while installing the grip a some time. After popping it loose I found that it was bent slightly so I gently bent it back straight. All is well again. Careful with those pins!

13 Responses to “Pentax BG2 battery grip user review”

  1. 1
    Stephen:

    I agree with every assessment here except your confident prediction,
    “Some kind of rubber pad/coating on the bottom would be a nice touch as I’m sure the plastic will start showing wear pretty quickly.”
    I purchased my BG2 with my original K10d and have kept it in use after migrating to a K20d. So I’ve used my BG2 regularly since Aug2007 (that’s a bit longer than your three-day trial ;-) . So far the only cosmetic issue as been a so-slight marking from my tripod head mounting plate.

    The only times I take it off or don’t use it as designed:
    - when I am traveling in not so safe areas and I want the camera to look less “significant”
    - when I want to make the camera lighter—I”ll sometimes remove one of the batteries; sometimes I’ll simply take the battery tray out during use

    Kudos to Pentax for making it compatible across both cameras. Let’s see if they can maintain this compatibility into the K30d.

    From flickr_support

  2. 2
    Robert:

    @ Stephen: thanks for sharing your experience with the BG2. I’m happy to hear that the plastic finish on my grip should hold up to the rigors of everyday use. Lord knows yours has likely been through the ringer. I still maintain that a rubber pad would be a nice touch. I take a surprising number of hand-held long exposure shots with my camera braced against a wall, lamp post, street sign, etc.

  3. 3
    Ollivier Robert:

    I can’t agree more. I went through the same steps and resisted for a few months after buying my K10D. In Nov. ‘07, I was in Vancouver and went to a camera shop. Took the opportunity to test the grip and, well, bought one of course. It has not left the camera since. Second battery is nice but ergonomics is by far the best reason to get one. Now, if only the second SD card could be connected like the battery, I’d be in bliss.

  4. 4
    Herman Lee:

    Nice review!
    This is really helpful and informative for someone who is considering this battery grip like me.
    Thanks again for your time and effort.
    We need more Pentaxian like you.

  5. 5
    Stratman:

    I bought the grip at the same time that I ordered my K10D, and except to access the in camera battery, it never comes off !! I love it…

  6. 6
    Albert:

    I got the grip as part of a package deal, and it only comes off when I need access to the camera battery. I also run the batteries Grip First. I was at the Bar U Ranch historical site, and met a lady with a K10 there. She saw I had a grip, and asked how it was. We put her lens on my camera (quicker than swapping the grip over) and she was sold, instantly. It’s not even the same camera with the grip on.

  7. 7
    Robert:

    Albert,
    I took my grip off briefly yesterday for the first time since getting it. I had so much trouble handling the camera I had to put it right back on! You said it: “it’s not even the same camera with the grip on.”

  8. 8
    Doug:

    I was in at Houston Camera Exchange looking for a photo bag and while I was there gave the Pentax counter a quick look. There under the glass was a used BG2 for $89.00. I picked it up and it even had a battery in it. I put it on my K10D and I was sold right there. I’ve had it on the camera ewer since. Your review is spot on about the pros and cons. The pros far out way the cons. It feels just right in my hand and makes the K10D even more of a joy to use.

  9. 9
    pardes:

    Thanks for helping me decide!

    Now put me out of my other dilemma misery and help me decide which lenses to buy with the Pentax k20D.

    My plea for shopping help is posted on “our” Pentax discussion forum.

    http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/pentax-dslr-discussion/56923-portability-questions-k20d-100mm-macro-18-250-tele.html

    Hurry, I’m 63 and getting older by the second. :)

    Love your site.

    pardes

  10. 10
    linkdelight:

    Great elaborate hands-on review never see it before!

  11. 11
    Bruce Bentley:

    Hi there, I have had this grip for a while now, my only negative observation is that the tripod socket is not aligned center to the camera lens axis, as the one on the body is. This makes doing panoramic shots, using the nodal point difficult to do with the grip on. I prefer to leave it on, to only remove it when the in camera battery needs charging. (this is not very often as I select the grip battery to be used first.)

    The only other minor little thing is the thumb af button is not on the grip. You are forced to use the half shutter press for auto-focus. I find that when you are in some circumstances the thumb af option is prefered, but you do not have this option with the grip.

  12. 12
    Mario:

    I just got this today, it’s amazing…
    It’s never coming off, so much easier to hold my beloved K10 :)

  13. 13
    julio:

    estupendo articulo, pero….
    no veo la razón de tener q nombrar a otras marcas para establecer una relación, parece q siempre hay una sombra de envidia con las demas marcas. en el caso de decir que no es necesario desmontar la bateria de la camara ni la puerta de su compartimento como en otras marcas…bueno, ya ves que esos pines de contacto son muy fragiles en comparacion de las lenguetas de los otros grips. y tener q desmontar el grip para poder cargar la bateria de la camara no me parece muy practico.

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