I have been using a Nikon Df as my second camera for weddings for a while. Even when not shooting weddings and stuff, I carry it around quite a lot as I love how light and small it is. But it is not a perfect camera, one thing I really wish it could be a bit better is the grip design. It’s retro style design means the grip is small and doesn’t provide too much support. It’s ok when I use it casually. But shooting a full day wedding with the Df (even just as my second camera) makes my hand really quite sore and I want to get an add-on grip to improve the support. Unfortunately the only add-on grips available are the third party battery grips, which greatly increased the size and weight of the camera, and make the camera look quite ugly too. In my opinion those battery grips single hand destroyed more than most of the reasons why I bought a Df as my second camera instead of something like another D800.
I want something that improves the grip so my hand won’t be so sore after a 12 hour wedding. Probably something like the add-on grip for the Olympus OMD EM5 but only the top half without the battery box. Turns out i am not the only one with the same thought, many Df users especially some of the wedding photographers I talked to agreed that’s exactly what they want for their Df as well. A small add-on grip that makes the camera more comfortable to hold, nothing more. We don’t care about extra battery, we don’t carry about Arca Swiss plate, or the portrait grip. Despite there is obviously a demand for such a product, surprisingly no one is making anything like that,.
Then about a month ago, Nikon suddenly announced a new accessory for the Df called Nikon DF-GR1, yes a grip designed for the Df!!
Its a big surprise because 1. Nikon normally would only release camera accessories when they announce the camera. I can’t remember there was another occasion when Nikon released a new accessory long after the camera has hit the market. 2. This is exactly what I wanted!! A little add-on grip that doesn’t transform the Df into a big heavy beast. Fantastic!
Now after the initial excitement, I noticed some bad news. Firstly its a Japanese market only release. I contacted my friends at Nikon New Zealand asking if they could bring some in and the answer is no, well not at this stage at least. Secondly, the price is 16200 yen, its really expensive for basically a piece of metal.
But it’s something I really want, so I decided to import one from Japan myself and a brand new DF-GR1 showed up at my door a few days ago.
When I saw the official product photos, I kind of know the DF-GR1 grip is no where as big or deep as the add-on grip for the Fuji XE2 or Olympus OMD EM5. The DF-GR1 design is quite a bit smaller. But when I took it out of the box, I realised it is even smaller and thinner than I thought. The grip area look really shallow. It worried me quite a bit and made me wonder does it actually make any difference to the handling of the camera? Or Is it a complete waste of money?
On the bright side, the aluminum DF-GR1 is really light (only 95g) and doesn’t increase the size of the camera too much which is great as I don’t want to make my Df too big and heavy. The grip is very solid and quality is excellent..
Unlike the battery grip for the other Nikon cameras, the DF-GR1 locks to the camera using only the tripod mount with no secondary locking pin to stop the grip from rotating around the tripod mount. I guess it means the DF-GR1 is indeed an afterthought and was designed after the Df was released. Having said that, once you tighten up the mounting screw, the grip wouldn’t move or rotate at all under normal use.
So the most important question, does it improve the grip?
Yes it does. The extra grip at the front make the camera more comfortable to hold. And the slightly increased height also give my little finger a bit more support. At first I didn’t think the difference is very big. But after using the camera for a few days with the grip including a wedding, I took off the grip and all of a sudden I found the camera really uncomfortable to hold with the grip removed. So while the DF-GR1 may not give you a day and night difference like the big add-on grip for some other cameras, it definitely works and improves the grip. Holding the Df with a heavy lens for a long period of time is a much less painful experience.
While the DF-GR1 may look pretty simple , it is beautiful designed and really matches the shape of the camera. The subtle design means it looks almost like part of the camera and not so much like a separate piece of accessory stick onto the camera. A cut-out hole at the base around the battery door allows full access to the battery and memory card without having to remove the grip. The little hump around the cut-out hole allows easier access to the memory card slot. The little hump also gives a bit more support to the base of the thumb.
Since the Df’s tripod mount is used to mount the DF-GR1 onto it, there is another tripod mount on the grip which sits a little bit more forward than the original tripod mount.
Just like not everyone like the Nikon Df, not everyone would like or even understand why Nikon has made the DF-GR1. The DF-GR1 is really designed for photographers who likes the Df and appreciate the design and concepts behind it. It’s designed for people who loves DF’s retro style design, the compact and light body, but also need to use the camera for extended period of time. If you are a Df wedding photographer like me who enjoy shooting with the Df but also need to hold the camera whole day long, the DF-GR1 is probably the best accessory you can buy for your camera. It won’t transform the camera to a modern DSLR that is super comfortable to hold and shoot. But it will definitely make it a more pleasant experience when you need to hold the camera for long period of time and without making the camera too bulky or ruin the original camera design.
My biggest concern with the DF-GR1 is it’s price. As there is no electronic components, 16200 yen is really expensive for basically a piece of aluminum and a mounting screw, even though they are very nicely made. While I didn’t regret buying one, I also can’t say it a good value purchase. 10000 yen may be a more reasonable price. But after using it for a week, I can’t imagine shooting another wedding without the DF-GR1.
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