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grip1The Aputure AP-N80G is a battery and vertical shutter release grip for the Nikon D80. Several after-market grips are made for this camera, but this one caught my attention because it is a self-contained battery (rather than requiring the purchase of additional Nikon batteries), comes with a car-charger, and of course, was inexpensive. From “Link Delight” in Hong Kong, it cost $60.10 including shipping to Colorado. At the time (about 9 months ago), that was about $100 less than the genuine Nikon MB-D80 grip. Before I go any further, let me say that Link Delight’s customer service was wonderful: fast, friendly and helpful, despite the weird name.

You may be asking yourself why I’m bothering to write this now; the D80 is getting old and there probably aren’t many photographers out there looking for dedicated accesories. This is true, but I’m guessing that the Nikon D90 and other new models will also have corresponding grips made by Aputure, and I think its a safe bet that their quality will be similar. In any case, it is always helpful to have as much information as possible when making a purchase.

Description

Since the basic features and measurements of these grips are available from the sellers, I’ll focus on the qualitative and operational aspects instead.

This grip arrives in a formed plastic clamshell package, as you might expect to buy a pair of headphones, rather than a well padded box. Along with the grip, the package contained a standard 110v power adapter/charger and a car charger. Basic instructions are also included.grip3

My expectations for a product like this always match the price; I didn’t excpet to get something as nice as a Nikon grip, and in that regard, I was correct. The overall feel of the grip is actually very nice. It has a nice weight and solid feel, it doesn’t squeek or flex when gripped, and the large wheel that drives the mounting bolt into the tripod-mount on the camera makes for a strong, easy connection. The rubberized grip material feels good and doesn’t show any signs of peeling away at the edges. The channel in the side of the battery compartment projection is very handy for storing the battery compartment door, which must be removed to use the grip. My hands aren’t massive, but my fingers are long and this grip was a very welcome addition to the body of the D80 both as a grip extension and a balance.

That said, the buttons and switches all have a very cheap feel to them, particularly the shutter release button and lock switch. The shutter release button does not have a half-way point for auto-focus operation as most shutter buttons do, and the shutter releases well before the button actually hits the bottom of its motion. The action is stiff, taking more finger strength than is comfortable to operate. The “Lock” switch that forms a ring around the shutter button is just as bad. Its light construction immediately makes it feel brittle and fragile, and its rough sliding motion does nothing to rectify the situation. To top it off, the position marker is a dab of white paint that looks as though it was applied by an elementary school student (although the corresponding mark on the grip’s housing looks just fine). More on these later.

As a power supply, the grip works well. Since I havnen’t done detailed comparisons, I can’t say whether this grip works 2.5x as long as a Nikon EN-EL3e, as the manuacturer claims, but it certainly lasts longer than one. I frequently shoot all day with the grip and rarely dip below half power, even when using VR lenses or big glass. It charges in about 2 hours, as expected.

My Experience

I ordered this grip about 10 days before a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado, where I had hoped to test it. It arrived a couple of days before I was scheduled to leave, so I plugged it in and charged it to try it out.

It didn’t work.

The battery took a charge and powered the camera, but the vertical shutter release simply did not work. I contacted Link Delight, and they requested that I return it for replacement, which I did. They were nice enough to send a new one before the original had arrived back in China, which helped speed things along.

When the replacement arrived (weeks after the Dunes trip), I plugged it in to give it a try and… this one worked, sort of. The shutter release functioned, though took more force than it should have, and it was hard to judge when the shutter would release. I eventually decided that it was more trouble than it was worth and just used the device as a battery grip/extension.

About three months later, I was shooting some portraits and decided that I’d like to try the vertical shutter release again and, you guessed it, it no longer worked. At this point, I have no idea whether the problem is within the shutter button itself or the lock ring surrounding it. I may simply be permanently locked in the off position. I suppose it doesn’t really matter; the button is useless either way. The battery still works just fine (after about 9 months) and I continue to use it because the camera feels so much better with the grip on.

The Verdict

If you’re like me and really need a vertical grip on your camera for it to be comfortable, I would recommend saving a bit longer and buying the Nikon grip rather than the Aputure. The AP-N80G simply is not reliable or built well enough for serious use. I would like to recommend this grip to those of you who don’t care about the vertical release, but because of the other problems that I’ve had with this unit, I can’t even do that with a clear conscience.

If any readers have experience with the other Aputure (or other after-market) grip models, I’d be interested to hear about it! If you have any further questions about this grip or my experiences with it, just let me know.

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Mel Mattingly
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Mel Mattingly

Mine is still going well after approx. 7 yrs, enough said.

Mel
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Mel

I have had this Grip for over 2 yrs and cannot speak too highly of it. No problems at all,everything works as it should and holds charge amazingly well and long. Price great as well.

GregR1
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GregR1

I recently bought this same grip via eBay, and have to agree that the shutter button is awful – though mine DOES have the half-press and full-press. The half-press comes easily, but the full-press is VERY deep and requires too much movement – I almost have to roll my fingertip into the button to push it down far enough.

Good price for a grip with batteries and chargers, and I like the idea of the control pad on the rear.

Would I buy it again? No, not at all. When I have more money available, I’ll buy a different one, or hack this one apart and try to “tweak” the shutter button.