Brief Review of Harbortronics D70 Grip

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by efusco, Mar 16, 2005.

  1. I received my VG-D70 battery pack/grip/vertical shutter release from Harbortronics yesterday.
    Images at: VG-D70 Photos
    News/manual and ordering link: Links Page
    I wanted to give a brief 'review' of the product with my impressions so that others considering will know what to expect.
    The grip is $165 and includes space for 2 OEM batteries to be serially connected. It also includes a spot for a tiny fiber-optic wire to attach that will activate the remote sensor allowing the use (limited) of a vertical shutter release on the grip itself. There is an additional remote shutter release cable connection and a power jack to allow the use of any inexpensive (appropriately rated and polarized) external power supply instead of just the expensive OEM one.
    The grip seems to be made of metal of some sort. The exterior is black and knerled. It looks good on the body and will appear OEM to anyone just looking on. Up close, however, it is easy to tell that it is a different material and knerling pattern. I think it looks fine. The contours are very good and it fits snuggly to the base of the D70 without any wiggling. It feels comfortable in the hand and makes holding the camera in the vertical position more comfortable and it feels more solid and stable in the horizontal position. There's something about being able to add that extra support at the bottom of the camera with your pinky that just feels better.
    If there's a significant down side to the grip design I'd say it's the weight. They clearly did not take advantage of the light-weight material that the D70 is constructed of. It is particularly heavy with both batteries installed. For some this may be a big issue.
    The battery holder in the bottom/base of the grip works fine, the battery drops right in and doesn't seem to wiggle around or anything. The upright battery, however, has no means of support. The little cap with the electrical contacts just sort of sits on top loosely and there is nothing to hold it the battery. Every thing just sort of has to balance until you assemble the grip into the D70. This is a little cumbersome and will not be conducive to rapid battery changes. Not a deal breaker but also not the slickest part of the design.
    There's a little extra space in the grip that works ok for holding the extra fiber optic cable (if you're using them--see below) and the battery holder cover from the camera body.
    There's a heavy duty metal screw that also has the tripod mount threads built into it on the bottom. It's a bit stiff (I had to use a screw driver to get it snug), but secure. I'm not sure, yet, what I think about the threads for the tripod being built into the same screw that secures the grip to the body...I have some concern that loosening the tripod may, instead, loosen the grip from the body first. I hope I'm wrong on that. I use a quick release plate most times and it looks like the Kirk generic plate will fit OK.
    I have not tried the remote release or external power connection and can only assume they'll work as advertised.
    My biggest disappointment (and it was my main concern prior to purchase, so I'm not complaining that I didn't get what I paid for) was the fiber optic remote activating shutter release. I honestly can't see any good use for this 'feature'. IF you have your camera on a tripod in a fixed position and pre-focus on your subject and have the camera in the vertical position and your subject isn't moving or requiring re-focus and you want to use the vertical release, then you could consider sticking in the little fiber optic wire and using it. Otherwise, you get no focusing, you have to set the camera to the quick remote feature, and then you loose the use of the regular shutter release (except for the 1/2 depressed functions)--you can't fire the camera with the regular button at all with the remote thing turned on and you can't focus with the vertical button..only fire.
    There is a work around for this provided by Harbortronics.
    D70 Mod PDF
    For another $135, plus $50 shipping (that's probably negotiable if you have a different carrier) only when you buy the grip they will perform a warranty cancelling modification to your D70 after you send it to them that allows you to plug the grip directly into the D70 with a cable they will provide with the mod. This will give full function to the vertical release on the grip. But now you're looking at a full $300 plus shipping of your camera both ways and you have an external cable connecting the grip and body.
    Since this is a small project, the $165 price is probaby reasonable for this rather specialty item. I don't think Nikon would have made one for much cheaper, and if they did there wouldn't be a vertical release at all. However they might have made it possible to use AA batteries?
    It is a shame that there isn't a useful vertical release button in what I'd otherwise consider a well designed and very well built product. If you're willing to pay the $165 for some extension to the grip and the ability to load 2 batteries at once then I think you'll be happy with this product. If you expect to be able to use the vertical release I think you'll be quite disappointed unless you go for the full $300 mod and cable.
  2. About a year ago when I got my D70, i felt it would feel better for my shooting style
    with a vertical grip, plus I could transition between my D2h and the D70 more
    comfortably with closer ergonomics.

    I made one on my own, for about $30 including the electronics and a few hours work
    about a year ago, and it uses the same sort of infared idea that the harbortronics one
    does. While you don't get half-press controls, I shoot in manual focus a lot anyway,
    so I don't really loose a whole lot. I guess it's less of a dissapointment if you've only
    put about $30 into it as opposed to $165.

    I like the fact that I can pull it off, and still have the small discreet D70 body.
  3. Thanks for detailed description of the grip.

    You could tell us more, e.g. how to program camera to use the grip?
    Can you shoot 3 frames per second in the vertical position without reprogramming camera between shots? Can you use the camera command wheels on the camera with the grip, or alternatively change to the horizontal release button if you changed your mind and without reprogramming the camera?

  4. Frank Wrote:
    "You could tell us more, e.g. how to program camera to use the grip? Can you shoot 3 frames per second in the vertical position without reprogramming camera between shots? Can you use the camera command wheels on the camera with the grip, or alternatively change to the horizontal release button if you changed your mind and without reprogramming the camera?"

    1)Well, it seems you can do 3fps with the fiberoptic wire....I didn't think it would work, but it does. Just hold the vertical release down and it fires. Now, it seems a little bit slower. The interesting thing is that shooting that way the camera DOES seem to AF after the first (and subsequent?) shot. There's also a slight delay after the first shot but then the 3rd follows with normal timing after the second.

    2)Reprogramming the camera to use the vertical grip is easy. You push the shooting mode/self-timer button (the one that looks like 3 stacked rectangles just below and to the left of the viewfinder) and then turn the main command dial until the little symbol that looks like the remote control without the timer appears on the top LCD.

    3)As in the original post, once you're in the quick remote mode for the fiber optic control for the vertical release you cannot use the main shutter release (body) to fire the camera until the remote expires or until you manually turn it off. Only the vertical release on the grip will fire the camera in this mode. You CAN still use the body release to AF and check exposure--you can't do either of those with the grip/vertical shutter button. You can use the control wheels on the body while in the quick remote mode.
    (btw, this part is all something you can test on your own camera without the grip)
  5. what's the advantage? just ergonomics?
  6. At this point I'd say the only advantages of the non-modified (ie. making the the vertical release fully functional) are the ergonomics and (depending upon how you think about it) the longer shooting time without changing batteries.

    Of course the down side to the battery thing is that if you DO need to change batteries it's much more inconvenient b/c you'll have to remove the entire base to remove and then charge both batteries.

    I will say, though, that the ergonomics and balance are very much improved, IMO. I don't know if they're improved $165 worth though.
  7. I found the Nikon wireless remote trigger awkward to use from behind the camera. So, I bought the VG-D70 to enable use of a wired remote without modifying the camera. It works great. Since I tend to use manual focus on the tripod, I don't miss the lack of the half-press function through the remote. (I think you can still focus and meter using the half press function on the camera body and engage EL and Focus lock if you choose to) I thought that I'd only use it for tripod work. However, once I began to shoot with it on the camera I found it made a substantial improvement in the way the camera fits my hands and in its balance with bigger lenses like the 80-200 f:2.8. I haven't taken it off since I got it.

    Once my D-70s are out of warrenty I plan to send them both to Harbortronics for the body modification. Not sure if I'll purchase another grip or not.
  8. Anyone look into Hoodman's answer to the vertical grip for the D70/s?

    Here is the direct link:
  9. Well I can't say much about the Harbortronics product yet as it's been over six weeks thus far and still haven't received it. I would also like to add that my credit card has been charged even though their website claims they only do this at the time of delivery. Furthermore, for a mom and pop shop, their communication leaves a lot to be desired. Although their product may be good, I would regret ever having done business with them in the first place.

    Customer service, follow-up, and udpates are very important in addition to any product sold from any company. I think this response is appropriate in an addition to the review above.

    Thank you.

    Note: Consumer reports about this company are being prepared and submitted at this time.

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