Concept: 2 out of 5
Execution: 2 out of 5
Yeah, but: Not so remarkable the second time around.
The Long Version: I suppose the whole point of disappointment is that it's never expected, which is why I'm a little surprised by the Nikon MB-D12 Multi-Power (aka "Battery") Grip. Physically and functionally it's very much a twin of the MB-D10 grip for the D700, which I quite liked and reviewed in some depth. The grip for the D800 seems like it should be an easy follow-up.
The MB-D12 grip is a good match for the D800, with a couple of very solid alignment pins that keep it in place. The electronics connect to the camera with a straight bus, as opposed to the 90-degree angle for the D300/D700, which is covered by the familiar rubber tear-away door. It still comes with a holder for eight AA batteries, and has a tray for the now-standard EN-EL15 battery as well. It can host the EN-EL18 battery of the D4, with the appropriate door (sold separately, about $30) but doing that makes no sense unless there's also a D4 in the house.
Loading the battery grip with a D4 battery or a half-pound of AA's doesn't make much difference with the D800. The D700 would jump from 5fps to 8fps, while the God Nikon only adds one more frame per second to its cropped-standard 5fps when running in the 15Mpx DX mode. That still makes it the second-best sports camera in Nikon's lineup, but that reflects more on an unfilled market niche (rhymes with quiche) than on the excellence of the D800.
One annoyance with the MB-D12 comes along with the EN-EL15 tray. It doesn't quite match up with the bottom of the grip, creating a very slight but moderately sharp-edged lip. It's really quite minor and not likely to cause any personal injury – unlike the lid of Steve Job's personal humility block, the toilet-seat G3 iBook, which could draw blood – but it's an annoying flaw in an inexplicably premium-priced product. I've checked three different D12's, and each one has this fault.
Naturally, the MS-D12 tray that holds the eight AA batteries aligns perfectly. So clearly the level of fit and finish that I remember from the MB-D10 can still be done – time will tell if a later manufacturing run fixes it for the MS-D12EN tray.
The MB-D12 does have its uses, both as a portrait grip and as a power source. I like to use it when the camera is on a tripod, as it's more convenient to swap batteries from the side, and it's also good for times when I'll want to be able to completely exhaust a battery without risking a power failure. Other times I'll just put it on for fun – a different feel and look to the camera can make for a different shooting experience. But if none of that applies, I'd suggest skipping this one.
last updated 30 apr 2012