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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 278
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A Gripping Tale of Two OM-D E-M5 Grips
Wednesday 11 September 2013   —   Category: Equipment
After the delivery of my beloved Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera in July 2012, one of the first accessories I purchased was the Olympus HLD-6 grip, which I wrote about in Getting a Grip On the Tiny Olympus OM-D E-M5. In that article, you can see that this ingenious grip is actually TWO grips. If you are wanting only a beefed-up horizontal grip, you can just add the smaller section (shown here). If you are also wanting a vertical grip (which holds an extra battery), you attach BOTH sections. Because it greatly improves the camera handling without adding much weight or bulk, my usual habit has been to keep the horizontal grip attached at all times.

A while back I wrote about all the Really Right Stuff (RRS) camera-support goodies I purchased at the beginning of the year. Because all of RRS’s equipment conforms to the Arca-Swiss system — which I will henceforth refer to as “arca-style” — and because I had been wanting to get some sort of camera L-plate, and because I would have to remove the Olympus grip in order to use the L-plate, I decided to go the whole nine yards and get an RRS arca-style L-plate with an optional grip. The whole assembly is called the BOEM5 Set: Base L-Plate Grip.

Each of these grips for the OM-D E-M5 camera has its own advantages and disadvantages, which I will compare and contrast in the remainder of this article.

As I mentioned above, the Olympus HLD-6 grip is actually two grips. In exchange for $300 you get a small, lightweight horizontal grip, plus a larger vertical grip which also holds an additional camera battery. You cannot buy these two grips separately, even if you want only the horizontal grip. Personally, I have not used the vertical grip much at all, but under the right circumstances I can imagine that it would come in very handy. For the rest of this article, when I refer to the Olympus HLD-6 grip, I will be talking about the horizontal grip only. To find out more about the vertical part of the grip, see my above-mentioned article.

Olympus HLD-6 Grip
The 102g (3.5 oz) Olympus grip does not add any width to the E-M5 camera, and increases the height of the camera by 10mm (3/8 inch). The top of the grip features an additional shutter release button, which is easier to reach than the one on the camera body. The button communicates with the camera via a 22-pin connector, which you can see in the first photo at the beginning of this article.

In the image to the right, you can see a top view of the Olympus grip attached to the E-M5. Click on the photo to see a view from the front.

The primary disadvantage of this grip is that you have to remove it completely in order to change the batter in the camera. If you want to mount the E-M5 on a tripod while using the grip, you can screw any standard 1/4 inch camera plate into the socket on the bottom of the grip.

The $180 arca-style Really Right Stuff L-plate grip weighs 126g (4.45 oz) — almost an ounce more. It increases the height of the camera by 8mm (0.3 inch) and its length of 13.5cm (5.3 inch) adds about 1.3cm (1/2 inch) to the width of the camera.

Really Right Stuff Grip
Because this grip is an L-plate, the entire bottom of the grip, as well as the detachable side plate, will fit into an arca-style clamp. This makes it very easy to move the camera from landscape to portrait orientation when mounted on a tripod. Also, as you can see in the second photo above, the base plate has a cut-out for the E-M5’s battery compartment door, so you can change the camera battery without taking the grip unit off.

In the image to the right, you can see a top view of the Really Right Stuff (RRS) grip attached to the E-M5. Click on the photo to see a view from the front.

Besides being bulkier and heavier than the Olympus grip, the RRS grip also lacks the extra shutter release button of the Olympus grip — which isn’t too big of a deal, because it’s not difficult to reach the shutter release button on the camera body. Furthermore, in order to use the Olympus vertical grip, you have to remove the RRS grip and install the Olympus horizontal grip, to which the vertical grip attaches.

Both grips are solid, heavy-duty and very well made. The svelte Olympus grip, made by the same company as the E-M5 camera, really looks and feels as if it were part of the camera and not merely an attachment. Even though the RRS grip is well-engineered and made specifically for the E-M5, it looks and feels more like a third-party add-on — but to be fair, this is mostly because of the L-plate functionality of the grip.

I really like the fact that I can attach the Olympus grip to the camera without any tools — I simply turn a built-in thumb-wheel. With the RRS grip, I’m often irritated that I have to dig a hex wrench out of my camera case just to attach or remove the grip.

If you are going to use the E-M5 on a tripod a lot — especially if you will be switching frequently between landscape and portrait orientation — or if it is important for you to be able to change the camera battery without removing the grip, or if you don’t want to spend $300 on a horizontal grip, then the Really Right Stuff L-plate grip would be better for you.

If you want the least additional weight and bulk, or if you want a better-positioned shutter release button on the grip, or if you want to use the Olympus vertical grip in addition to a horizontal grip, then the Olympus HLD-6 grip is the way to go. Even though it costs $300, you are actually getting two grips, which makes it a better value in the end.

Or, if you can’t decide between the two, you can always follow my example and get both! Then you would have the right tool for each situation. And that would be the perfect happy ending to a gripping tale of two E-M5 grips!
UPDATE — 23 April 2014: If you found this article interesting, be sure to check out the related article:
Of Battery Grips and Lens Tripod Collars.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 278
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Brian's Photo Blog — Article 278
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