An unusual meteorological phenomenon happened in the UK recently- we actually experienced a warm and sunny bank holiday weekend! Taking full advantage of this I headed to the Shuttleworth Collection’s Season Premiere Airshow for my first dose of aviation action in 2018. This would also be my first chance to try my third party battery grip that would hopefully increase the Nikon D850’s maximum shooting speed.
A combination of a great weather forecast and the addition of the popular RAF Typhoon display saw the event sold-out a couple of days beforehand. Despite arriving early (9.30) I queued in the car from the main gate all the way around the back of the estate and through the village which took about 45mins before parking up.
A busy flight-line was filled with many visiting aircraft and the sight of the Hurricanes and Spitfires lined up in the sunshine just the other side of the fence raised the anticipation for the afternoon. After a quick tour of the hangars and Swiss Garden we settled in to watch the vehicle parade and enjoy some lunch.
I would be using the Nikon D850 with my trusty Tamron 150-600 G1 lens. With the increased resolution of the D850 it can crop to DX format for a 19.4 megapixel file. For me this gives me the full frame quality when the subject is close enough and turns into a DX camera when further reach is required- almost a ‘two-in-one’ solution. This also means that using the Tamron lens I can get effective focal lengths of 150-900mm if needed. My previous Nikon crop sensor body (D500) could shoot at a 10fps maximum whereas the full frame D850 can only do 7fps as standard. However attaching the Nikon battery grip and larger EN-EL18 battery increases this to a more equivalent 9fps. The main catch here though is the cost of these additional OEM accessories, an eye-watering £950 in total for the grip, battery charger, battery and end cap. Luckily after a bit of research I managed to source the following third party options at a much lower price.
Official Nikon Accessories...
MB-D18 Battery Grip £369.00
MH-26a Mains Charger £374.99
Nikon EN-EL18b Battery £169.99
BL-5 Battery Chamber Cover £34.99
Compared with Third Party versions...
DSTE MB-D18 Battery Grip £49.99
Ex-Pro MH-26 Charger £82.97
EN-EL18 Battery (included with charger)
Ex-Pro BL-5 Battery Chamber Cover £10.95
Wow! Quite a difference. I accept that the OEM versions may be built to a slightly higher spec or may perform slightly better (eg. battery may last longer) but £800 is a significant saving and I really can't complain that the third party options are lacking in any way.
With the new battery grip installed and ready for action the RAF Typhoon kicked off the show. I enjoy the fast jet action at Fairford during the Air Tattoo but much prefer to see the vintage aircraft at the grass airfield of Old Warden so I was very excited as the BBMF Lancaster approached from stage left, a lovely topside around the bend showing the old girl off beautifully.
The WW2 segment continued with appearances from Spitfires, Hurricanes and the Bristol Blenheim. After growing up with badly glued Airfix models hanging by cotton from my bedroom ceiling, WW2 aircraft have always been the ones that appeal to me the most. Seeing these beautiful old aircraft display on a warm and sunny spring day- it doesn’t get much better than that !
Something new for 2018 was the paint job on the Avro Anson which looked great in the colours of RAF Coningsby.
With conditions close to perfect the WW1 era aircraft were able to take to the skies and it was especially nice to see the Sopwith Camel replica flying for the first time. The Bristol Fighter, SE5a, MC1 and Avro 504K also put on a great show.
With the afternoon turning into evening the conditions were ideal for the Edwardian aircraft to take to the skies in warm golden light. In previous visits to Old Warden the weather has not played ball so this was a first for me. I can only admire the bravery of the pilots perched precariously on these vintage machines- I'm not sure I would want to!
Seeing these old aeroplanes in the sky was a great way to end a great show!
So how was the performance of my cut-price grip? The extra FPS were noticeable and helped to get a few extra frames of the various topside passes. The keeper rate for me is usually pretty low, mainly due to keeping my shutter speeds much lower than normally desired to obtain propeller blur. So any extra frames can really help to get that one image where everything comes together at the right time. In terms of quality of the product, everything worked perfectly and felt good in use. The larger EN-EL18 Battery also meant shooting without having to worry about changing batteries. After a full day of use I still had in excess of 60% charge remaining. I would definitely recommend this third party set up to anyone thinking of adding a battery grip to their kit, the higher price of the OEM versions cannot be justified in my opinion. Use the savings to add to your lens collection instead!