Canon 5D Mark II Battery Grips: BG-E6 vs. Third-Party Grips

Canon 5D Mark II Battery Grip

The Canon BG-E6 battery grip serves a couple of different purposes for the 5D Mark II.  As the name implies, it holds batteries – either two LP-E6 lithium-ion batteries or 6 AA batteries in the included battery holder.  Likewise, the BG-E6 serves as a grip for handling the camera in portrait orientation, featuring controls for the shutter release, scroll wheel, and focus point adjustments, among others.

Canon 5D Mark II Battery Grips

The BG-E6 is a nice accessory to have; however, it runs $250.  For some, that’s a little steep for a battery grip.  Third party grips are much more affordable at less than $100, but are they worth the compromise? This question comes up on forums quite a bit and finds its way in my inbox now and then.

In this little exercise, we are going to take a look at the Canon BG-E6 grip and see how a couple of third party grips from Vivitar and Zeikos stack up against it.

[UPDATE:  I've supplemented this review with a review of the Vello BG-C2 and BG-C4 grips for the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.]

Build Quality

The Canon BG-E6 appears to be constructed out of more durable materials than what you find in the Vivitar and Zeikos grips.  The plastic shell to the Canon grip seems like it is thicker than the third party grips.  Likewise, the rubber coating on the Canon grip is more like the coating on the 5D Mark II body, so it feels a little more “factory” than the Vivitar and Zeikos grips.

Examining the Vivitar and Zeikos grips closely, they look like they came off the same assembly line in China.  Every plate, button, seal, switch and marking is in exactly the same place.  The only way to tell them apart are the stickers on the bottom.

Canon BG-E6 Battery Grip Seals

Still yet, the Vivitar and Zeikos grips are not all that bad with respect to their build.  For the most part, they are fairly accurate reproductions of the BG-E6.  While the Vivitar and Zeikos grips have seals on the battery door, these seals are not as significant as found in the genuine BG-E6 grip (as seen above).  Additionally, the battery door on the Vivitar and Zeikos grips doesn’t have the same rubberized coating found on the BG-E6.

Zeikos Grip for Canon 5D Mark II

Handling and Performance

Again, the Canon BG-E6 feels more “factory” than the Vivitar and Zeikos knockoffs.  Everything works fine on the third-party grips though.  All the controls are in the same place and function just as well as the official Canon grip.

The battery door opens and closes without issue.  Batteries can be inserted and removed without issue.  However, if you lose or break the AA holder on the Zeikos or Vivitar grip, the standard Canon BG-EM6 replacement will not fit into the third-party grips.

if you were handed a 5D Mark II with any one of these three grips attached, it would function just as well as any of the other grips.  You might even had a hard time deciding which is which if not for the brand labels.  (Yeah, you’d figure it out, but it might take a minute.)

Don’t get me wrong though, the BG-E6 has a smoother shutter release like is found on the 5D Mark II body.  The third-party grips have a little bit “clickier” of a shutter release.  I didn’t encounter any difficulties with the shutter releases – just a little “clickier.”  The rest of the controls feel pretty much the same on all three models, with the Canon getting a slight edge of smooth.

Likewise, the Canon grip edges out the other two in terms of ergonomics.  I think this is mostly attributable to the more “factory” feel and additional rubberized coating.  The form-factor and grip style is almost identical, so holding the camera in your hand feels about the same.

UPDATE:  Mike Spivey asked a question in the comments about an important feature that I overlooked in this comparison.  What about the Battery Info dialogue on the 5D Mark II?

Since the LP-E6 batteries are so expensive, missing out on this feature may not be justifiable for some.

The good news is that both the Vivitar and Zeikos grips appear to fully support the Battery Info dialogue, which provides you with info concerning the number of shutter actuations for each battery, which side the battery is located inside the grip and the remaining percentage of charge remaining for each battery. The above screenshots were taken with the Zeikos grip attached. Additionally, you can check registration information for registered batteries and proceed with registration of additional batteries while they are inside the Vivitar or Zeikos grips.  Everything appears to work in the same manner as with the Canon BG-E6 attached.

Decisions, Decisions

Okay, so is the Canon BG-E6 worth the $250?  Well, the 5D Mark II is a $2700 DSLR, so dropping a couple of hundred bucks or so on a grip is not off the wall.  But, just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. The Zeikos grip runs $79 right now, while the Vivitar grip is $100.

If you’re relying on your 5D Mark II as a professional tool that brings home the bacon, then it probably makes sense not to compromise on your gear.  Likewise, if you are particular about the quality of your gear, then you probably won’t be all that interested in any other grip than the Canon BG-E6.  Finally, if you shoot in demanding conditions, or you expect that your 5D Mark II with the grip will take some physical abuse, then you should be leaning toward the Canon grip.

If you’ve stretched a bit to get a 5D Mark II and don’t really want to shell out $250 for a battery grip, then it may make sense to pick up a much cheaper battery grip.  If you don’t mind the slight build differences with the third-party grips, then you will probably be happy with the these.  Given the apparent fact that the Zeikos and Vivitar are the same grips under different labels, it makes sense to go for the $80 Zeikos if you’re going the third-party route.

The bottom line is that you need to weigh your shooting needs against your budget and see where you come down.  I do not think that either of the third-party grips would be a bad choice, and would lean hard toward picking up the Zeikos grip if shopping for myself based on the environments that I shoot in.

You can find each of these grips at B&H Photo:

Canon BG-E6 Battery Grip for 5D Mark II

Vivitar Battery Grip for 5D Mark II

Zeikos ZE-CBG5DII Battery Grip for 5D Mark II

 

Comments

  1. says

    Excellent report on a subject that is very timely for me. But it didn’t address my main concern. Does the “Battery Gauge” and battery reporting work on the off brand grips? You pay a ton extra for the chipped batteries and I want to make sure the dual gauge works like I’ve seen in the manual.
    Thanks.
    Mike Spivey
    Tulsa

    • says

      @Mike Spivey – Excellent question. And, yes, it appears that the Battery Info screen in the Menu works the same with the Vivitar and Zeikos grips as it does with the official Canon grip. Thanks for the great question. I’m in the process of updated the original post with this info and screen shots of the LCD.

  2. Cold-in-the-Rockies says

    One factor that wasn’t mentioned was this: Do you want to risk the warranty on a $2,700 camera by using a non-authorized battery grip? This was, by necessity, a simple test. No one knows how the battery will be protected, or the connecting pins and other electronics will fare over time and use — and high-end cameras are designed to be well used, and depended upon. In the event that something fails or — horrors! — shorts out or otherwise damages the camera itself, sure you may get a replacement grip from its manufacturer. But is saving $150 really worth risking the integrity of a high-end camera? And Murphy’s Law says that if it does fail, it will do so at the absolutely most inappropriate time . . . and there goes a photo-shoot, too.

  3. says

    This is a first class report on the battery grip for the Canon D5 mark 2 and it gives an accurate view on both sides of the storey. In my view the third party grips are excellent, and dose the job perfectly well.
    I’ve had mine now for 6 months and never had a problem with it. It works with one battery or two, and it works well with my wrist strap. It also fits great with my studio and outdoor tripods and works incredibly well with my Manfrotto Neotec Monopod W/Safety Lock and Manfrotto 322RC2 Heavy Duty Grip Ball Head. This is important as the 5D with the battery grip can be a bit weighty.
    The main thing that gets up my nose is the price. If a third party can produce a battery grip and sell it for £54.00 ($77.00) (That’s what I paid for mine on e-bay new) and Canon charge £200.00 ($300.00) why is there such a big difference.

  4. says

    Eric,

    I do not own a Canon 5D but I do own a Pentax K20D with battery grip (BG). For the Pentax version and 3rd party, there is a small matter of alignment pins. Pentax uses metal pins and the 3rd party uses plastic. Since you didn’t mention anything of that nature, I looked as best I could at the pictures and found something else different on the Canon BG.

    Everyone of the BG pictures seemed to have the same build but for one thing. If you look closly, note the control pins. The Canon BG pins are gold plated. The others are silver or steel, (plain steel???, naw… nobody would use that!). If anyone thinks that is not a big deal, ask any computer guru and you’ll find out the gold just plaing works better, lasts longer, and is more reliable!

    George

  5. says

    “Everyone of the BG pictures seemed to have the same build but for one thing. If you look closly, note the control pins. The Canon BG pins are gold plated. The others are silver or steel, (plain steel???, naw… nobody would use that!).”

    If you’re talking about the final picture – with the three grips tumbling over – it’s worth pointing out that the Canon grip is the one in the middle. In that picture it appears to have silver-coloured pins ,whereas the others appear to have gold-coloured pins. The Zeikos grip appears to have gold-plated pins in the BH Photo and Video link at the bottom of the article.

    I say “appears” a lot because it is possible that the golden colouring might not actually be gold. I don’t know.

    I have not seen this grips with my own eyes. The impression I get is that they all have gold-plated pins, but the lighting makes them look silver in certain photographs.

    • says

      @Ashley Pomeroy – You are right about the lighting creating the “silver look” on the pins. They all have a golden color when I’m looking at them in normal light.

  6. says

    Since writing the above I actually bought one of these grips, although mine is branded “Meike”. The box has PROFESSIONAL MANUFACTURER on the side. The grip looks absolutely identical to the two in this article, including the wasp-waisted sculpting and the slightly wrong-looking placement of the AF-ON label. The pins have a golden hue.

    I have the official BG-E4 grip for my original 5D, and although it hasn’t let me down in three years of heavy use, it just doesn’t grab me. It flexes a bit and the little clips that hold the batteries in place have a weak grip. Meike’s product feels slightly less robust, although I’m more concerned about the rubbery grip material than the body of the grip itself. Still, it will have to break three times over before the cost of replacing it exceeds the cost of an official BG-E6.

    Overall it feels and smells plastic. The moulded slot for the 5D’s battery compartment cover is too small for the cover to fit snugly, although this does not prevent the grip from attaching to the camera. The grip attaches firmly and doesn’t wobble. The fingertip control wheel has a kind of “hollow” feeling but works fine. I like the clicky shutter button. The grip communicates and works fine with the original Canon battery. It works with the 6xAA battery holder, although this makes the camera very heavy. I imagine that keeping three matched sets of six identically-charged AA batteries would be a nightmare in practice, and I sympathise with owners of the old Canon 1N and Nikon F5 and so forth.

    It seems to be standard practice on eBay to throw in a pair of non-CPU OEM LP-E6 clones with these grips. The batteries have their own dedicated charger. I’m more wary of using these than using the grip, although if there had been a spate of shorted-out 5D MkIIs due to these batteries I’m sure the internet would be full of reports. The charger has an adapter that fits into a Europlug adapter that fits into a UK plug adapter and so the whole arrangement dangles from the plug socket precariously.

    My theory is that the rubber covering will eventually start to peel off, in which case I’ll have to cover it with gaffer tape. My view of the resale value of this grip is that, three years from now, the official Canon BG-E6 will help to shift a used 5D MkII, but it won’t add more to the camera’s value than a brand-new OEM grip of three years’ hence.

  7. bn says

    I’ve used a opteka BG and I had a problem with… it bend so much sometimes that the connection between the BG and the 5D was not possible. Now I had this problem more and more… and guess what… the camera just shut down and the mirror stayed open. Can’t open it now… no power. I took off the battery grip and it seems like something is not working anymore. No error message, nothing…
    If I take of the lens I can clearly see the sensor cuz it’s open.
    I don’t get it. Some people think it’s because I shot video and the camera just overheat… me I don’t know. I’ll send it to repair this week.

  8. bn says

    sorry for my english… I know I’m bad… but if I write it in french… you guys are bad with reading it !! ; )

  9. Billy Whiz says

    Hey I think the Canon grip is magnesium alloy bodied, not “a plastic shell” as stated in the review.. Hence the price difference probably! ;)

  10. Don says

    Will the third party vivtar battery grip also fit the original 5D or is it exclusive to the 5D Mark II.