Nikon D800x known weakness and cheap fix.

I recently bought two used Nikon D800 series cameras; a plain vanilla D800 and a spiffy D800e. I'm happy with the handling and the file quality and I've read on the web that these cameras are rugged and well built. There is a caveat to that though... According to my most trusted expert on used cameras and camera repair (he runs a very busy rental, trade-in and repair counter for a very successful camera store) the D800 (and above) cameras have on weakness that he's seen repeatedly over the years since their launch. Where the D700 camera had a solid, metal construction across the inside, bottom of the camera, which made it nearly impervious to blows to the bottom of the camera, the D800's+ have a two piece construction that is fairly susceptible to a hard knock delivered to the bottom of the camera. Once a camera gets a hard enough impact to the bottom it becomes, for all intents and purposes, dead. Yes, you could get the unit repaired but at a cost which would most likely exceed the cost of replacing it with another used copy.

While I am pretty careful and conscientious with my cameras (I don't hang three around my neck and do the photojournalist hustle, with cameras banging against each other....) I have made mistakes from time to time which may have endangered a camera or two.

So, how to protect a usable tool from accidental, deadly impact damage? I thought about this long and hard and decided that the answer lay in more armor. When I bought the D800e it came with a Nikon Branded MB-D12 battery grip. This seemed like the perfect solution to prevent bottom of camera impact and so I've left it on. I went to buy another one to put on the bottom of the second camera only to find that price for a new Nikon MB-D12 grip is the princely sum of $429, at new, retail. While that might be reasonable (probably not) if you were buying a new camera package, and also were interested in using bigger batteries in the grip, it is certainly not rational to pay what amounts to the price of a decent APS-C camera for a bit of extra structural "padding" at the bottom of one's camera!

I checked around on the web, found and bought an aftermarket version that got mostly 5 star reviews on Amazon.com, for a whopping $39, delivered in two days. It fits on the bottom of the camera and seems made from the same materials as the Nikon version. It works well and did not drain the camera battery overnight, or do anything else untoward. While my interest is only in camera protection I'm a bit happier having the battery grips on when it comes to shooting in a vertical orientation. It's nice to have the vertical shutter release...

My intention is to use it as I use the Nikon grip on the other camera; as armor plating against possible impact damage to the camera's bottom. My Nikon branded grip came to me used and did not have the battery trays for one extra lithium battery or six, in-grip, double "A" batteries, but the new one has trays for both. I'll load up both kinds of batteries just as a test but I find that one battery, in camera, makes the overall package lighter and lasts for at least half a day of heavy photographic work. If I were to use the cameras for video I'd see a much, much faster battery drain but that's not my intended use for the Nikons.

That's my known issue report on these particular Nikons. There was one other issue with early D800s which was well covered in the media and that is a focus issue where one part of the frame is not exactly parallel with the other, resulting in one sided focus issues. I've tested both new/used cameras and they are free of this malady.

Now we're back out into the real world with the cameras and even less concerned about their safety...


  1. And YES, this structural change in the bodies apparently continues in the 810 and 850. So, don't pound nails with the bottom of your camera!

  2. What about an L-bracket or a cage?

    I realize this will add weight and won't provide extra power.

    But figure this could be another alternative if people don't want to add too much bulk/weight to their setup.

    I use a cage on my G85 (btw, love your writeups about it) and it does a great job protecting it from unforeseen bumps/drops.

  3. Have you stuck that pictured combo on a scale? I find Nikon full-frame cameras to be much too heavy to lug around. A grip only adds to the ordeal. Guess I should take up swimming.

  4. One thing I really appreciate is that you shoot VERTICAL images rather than "portrait mode". Portraits are horizontal, vertical and square with the off oblong circular image in various guises.

    Keep photographing, keep writing and I'll keep reading while watching as you enjoy photography - as evidenced by it being your hobby, vocation, avocation and profession. Your love of photographing shows over and over and over agin.

  5. I was really happy that my off brand grip/battery pack finally had a vertical selector and shutter that would work and trip the shutter for my D600. The ones I got for D40/D3200 either didn't have the option or didn't work.

  6. Next week is the sixth anniversary of my D800E and thanks to you she received the battery grip you wrote about. Now I use mostly M43 cameras but the Nikon files are just so beautiful that I can sometimes take the weight.
    Best part of the grip is the integrated infrared remote sensor and trigger.


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!