**EDIT: turned out much more detailed than I thought it was going to be. Summary of my thoughts at the bottom of the post.**
As always, being the type to watch where and how I spend my money, I've wanted a vertical grip for my cameras for some time now .. simply as it makes manual focusing a little bit easier to achieve, in marginal situations(eg. slowish shutter speeds).
One thing I definitely didn't want was a cheapo plastic grip that flexes and twists and creaks at every stage of usage.
But then again, I didn't want to pay $400 or more for the real McCoy too.
Then I read about the grip for the D800 which can be had in a magnesium model ... but yet again at a premium over the full plastic version.
When I first heard about them, from memory they were in the $200+ price range .. and I thought fair 'nuff .. but still a bit too much considering my usage pattern.
Just recently tho, whilst searching other stuff on ebay, I noticed a 'magnesium' grip for D800/D800E .. and for the easily affordable price of most of the cheapo Chinese knockoffs that abound on ebay.
They can be found for anywhere between $60 and $100 with or without spare batteries, and as I don't need any more batteries(just yet) ... all I needed was a good quality grip.
So I got this magnesium grip for the lowly price of less than AU$90 delivered.
Can't really go wrong, I thought to myself, and even if it isn't actually made of magnesium, as long as it's a lot more sturdy than a plasticky one. That's all I wanted. OH! and of course cheap
Delivered to my door in just over a week, and initially it felt like it was all plastic. I could see or feel where the magnesium came into the equation at all, but as I use it more it does actually feel magnesium-ish.
While the base plate(dunno what else to call it) that mates to the bottom of the D800 is made of plastic, there is one metal guide tab that mates to one of the obliging recesses in the D800 and one made of plastic.
What gives me a great sense of relief is the feeling of solidity about it. It feels unbreakable. It definitely has a metal chassis of some kind, as it's unbendable even at the weakest looking point at the open battery chamber .... using g clamps! I know I shouldn't but I wanted to see how strong this thing really was(and the clamps were readily at hand )
What feels magnesium about it is the rounded corner where the controls are housed. This section has the same texture and tactile feel as the magnesium bodied D800. It's maintains a colder feel to it compared to the plasticky parts. So I make no guarantee that it is made of magnesium .. it easily passes off as such. So the ebayer's advertising wasn't as far fetched as I thought it may have been.
When the device came, it turns out to be an Aputure model BP-MD12. Subsequent research on their website reveals hardly any info about it .. not even a mention that it's made of magnesium at all. But their battery grip page has only generic information about all their grips .. being made of similar material to the original camera models their aimed at.
But on the D800/D800E list there are two models of grips .. the BP-MD12 that I have and a BP-D12 as well. So my thinking is that they have both a magnesium model and a non magnesium model as well .. the difference in the model naming indicating M for magnesium or something like that. Not 100% sure about that but this seems to be a reasonable guess I reckon.
As for the rest of the grips qualities:
Buttons dials and switches feel reasonably solid on the whole. The shutter release feels nice,. Different to the cameras shutter release, but not in a bad way. The action is positive and quick. The half press is what feels incorrect(or reversed) about it when compared to the cameras release. On the camera, the half press is smooth but barely any click is felt. There seems to be a detent in it's action to prevent an unnecessary release action, then a click feel for actual release. This grip has a two stage click action, where a click is the first stop for the half press and then you press beyond this for an eventual second click for release.
It may be pedantic, but it feels different, and there's a feeling that even tho you only want a half press(in my case only to reactivate the metering .. you feel as thou you're about to hit the release.
Once that is pushed back to the back of your mind set, it feels quite OK.
The command and sub command wheels feel OK too. Not as positive and solid as the camera itself, but not overly cheapish in feel. If I had to rate it against the cameras control wheels, it's be at least 90% of the quality feel.
The 'joystick' or multi controller is not quite as good tho, neither in feel nor action. It's too small and all too easy to press the wrong action... for example instead of moving the focus point one way or another, it's far too easy to centre it instead. This usually happens when trying to move the focus point to the left, where instead I press the centering action(equivalent to pressing OK on the camera's multi controller).
Weight is barely noticeable. Without a battery it feels light as a feather, which made me initially sceptical about the material used. But now it's the light weight of the device that makes me think that it may in fact have a fair amount of magnesium in it's construction. Adding a EN-EL15 feels as though you've doubled the weight of the grip.
Finally in terms of dynamics, the AF-on button feels too far above the natural point of where the thumb rests on the scalloped grip. On the camera, it's perfectly located for my hand. On the grip I have to think about how I'm holding the grip and be sure to have my hand in the right place to reach the AF-On button.
So the result is that it's not a natural process just holding he grip as it feel the most natural manner to do so, and then just shoot(with AF).
Basically the same deal goes with the placement of the command wheel too, but this control feels less important as it's closer to where the thumb naturally falls.
I've roughly worked out that (for my hand) if the AF-On button was 5mm lower it'd be basically ideal.
I'm not going to give this handling dynamic too much weight just yet, as I may become accustomed to placing my hand 5mm higher on the grip.
The feel of the rubberised material is good, not as good as Nikon's stuff, but good enough .. only time will tell as to how durable it is.
The locking mechanism to the camera itself is spot on. I'll give this a 10/10 rating. Easy to lockdown and zero flex/twist between camera and grip.
The tripod anchor point is also spot on for rigidity, but the rubber material that mates to the face of a quick release plate is questionable. I can screw down any of my plates with excessive torque on the retaining screw, but some plates can still be twisted, whereas those same plates are much more solidly seated on the camera itself.
All connections to the camera are good and snappy. No delay in any of the actions and of course no non working features. Battery registers perfectly in the camera. I'm yet to see if there are any anomalies using AA batteries, but I doubt any will surface.
Basic rundown on the grip: if you're looking for a high quality battery grip(at least for your D800) this thing is definitely worth a look in.
At less than $90 from ebay you'd be mad for not thinking about it, at least. That's a minimum of 1/5th of the price of a Nikon version and that's at ebay prices.
The problem with using ebay for your expensive Nikon branded accessories is the guarantee that your Nikon branded grip is actually Nikon branded!! .... and as ebay is rife with ripoff merchants all over the place, I'd be weary of such accessories. I've read stories of supposedly Nikon branded MD-D12's(D300/700 grips) not being actual Nikon items.
I can't imagine that Nikon actually makes these accessories themselves, and most likely outsources their manufacture to the cheapest possible source(99.9% likelyhood that's going to be China). So what's the probability that some of the production from this outsourced company may be going off to other brands too.
I'll post some pics one day very soon too, as there are none of the device even on Aputure's website!
Apologies for the longwinded post: summary follows
Overall, one would have to rate this accessory above 90% as it feels a lot more solid than I remember of any other aftermarket grip I can vaguely remember having used(other's, not mine, as I have no others).
Considering the price of less than $90, a rating of closer to 99.9% would be more appropriate overall because my main concern was the level of solidity of the accessory.
* Solid(really really solid) body
* well made controls(only because I was expecting much flimsier control dials and buttons)
* Works as expected .. no connection issues, nor interface problems in communication with the camera
* Sturdy physical connection to camera for tripod use
* Metal tripod screw base
* Slightly awkward reach to the main controls(AF-On button and main command wheel). Note that this could be an issue with either the size of my hands or accustomisation on my part
* half press on the release feels different to camera. Not bad, just requires getting used too.
* rubber material covering feels very slightly cheaper than Nikon cameras. Not really a negative point, but worth a mention.
* rubberised underside base section is not as solid in it's grip for a tripod or tripod plate. My quick release plates can be rotated/twisted with a bit of effort on the grip, where they lock down almost perfectly on the D800 and D300. (haven't stress tested this aspect on the cameras, as damage could be done somewhere, and any force beyond what I have attempted would never be used in everyday situations.