A vertical grip is a device that its attached to your Alpha DSLR and lets you control the camera in a vertical way while reducing the strain on your wrists.
But why is it recommended?
A bit of history
Back in the days of film, you had to move a lever next to a dial that controlled shutter speed in order to make film move forward after you took a picture. This lever was manually operated and required you to move it every time you took a picture.
If you've seen films where someone with a camera moves it down and then raises it again its because they were moving the film with the lever.
This operation was annoying for some people or they just couldnt move the lever fast enough to keep with the action. The ability to shoot fast with no lag was something that a lot of professional photographers required, especially when shooting sports events, so camera makers resolved it by creating a mechanical device that would move the film forward without the intervention of the photographer, increasing the frames per second speed.
And thats how vertical grips were born for SLRs.
Since a lot of professional photographers used this device, whenever someone saw a camera with a vertical grip, it was assumed by default that he/she was a pro. So if you didnt use a vertical grip, you just werent a pro. And that thinking still remains today.
Back to the digital age
In modern days, the vertical grip no longer moves the film in a DSLR because there isnt any film in it (duh), but it has found other uses.
In these days, vertical grips increase the time you can take pictures by storing more than one battery, in some cases it increases the fps speed of your camera and lets you control the camera in a vertical orientation without having to bend your wrists, especially when shooting portraits.
The most advertised use for vertical grips, is the ability to shoot portraits vertically.
Sony Alpha DSLR Vertical Grips
With the exception of the A100, all Sony Alpha DSLRs can use vertical grips made by Sony. The A100 requires a third party one.
The A200/300/350 use the VG-B30AM Vertical Grip.
The A700 uses the VG-C70AM Vertical Grip.
The A900 uses the VG-C90AM Vertical Grip.
Why is it recommended?
DSLRs are designed to be used horizontally, but photography can also be vertical.
If you've ever shot a portrait of someone vertically but you screwed up when pressing buttons, you will see the need for this item.
The vertical grip isn't just designed to take portraits in a vertical way, its designed for any photography that requires vertical orientation.
Taking pictures vertically without this item is possible, but eventually it takes a toll on your wrists, hands and fingers, especially if you shoot for long periods of time.
These are the advantages of using a vertical grip:
- Increase of camera space to grab
- Increase of the amount of shots you can take
- Allows you to shoot vertically without forcing your wrists, hands or fingers
- You can control the camera the same as if you were holding it horizontally
- The camera's stability when shooting vertically is increased
Some people do not like to use vertical grips because they dont see the use of it, they dont like the handle of it, etc. That is respectable, not all people need this item. Whether you do or not depends on your shooting style and if youre comfortable or not without it.
My personal experience
I bought the VG for my A700 when I purchased my camera. I wasnt really sure if I needed it, but I thought to give it a shot since I have delicate wrists and I didnt want to strain them while using my A700.
Once I used the VG, I fell in love with it.
Since I have big hands, I need space to grab to, and the VG offers it when I use it vertically. The buttons are perfectly placed and they are a exact replica of the front and back of my A700. I dont need to take my eyes off the viewfinder to see what button to press since its the same arrangement vertical or horizontal.
I have shot vertical pictures without it and Ive found my fingers to be sore after a while due to the extra strength I got to apply to grab the camera vertically, this doesnt happen when I use the VG.
Ive read a lot of comments from people for and against the VG, I personally would recommend getting one if you shoot vertically frequently and you need a good grip over your camera. If you do mostly horizontal shots, then probably this item isnt for you.
Notes of use and closure
Here are some details about the VG you should know:
- Using a vertical grip doesnt make you a professional photographer, your work does.
- The vertical grips require 2 NP-FM500H batteries, you can not use AA batteries or such.
- If you run out of power with one battery, the grip will automatically move on to the next battery
- The grip will always start using the battery with less power available regardless if you placed it in the first or second place in the battery cradle.
- The A700's VG had an error that it stopped responding while in use and required you to remove the batteries and reinsert them. This error has been fixed with the Firmware upgrade Version 4 for the A700
- The A700's and A900's vertical grip look identical, but they are not the same size, do not attempt to use any other VG that the appropiate one for your Alpha DSLR.
- The tripod mount in the VG doesnt fit on all tripods, so the use of this item may be a problem if your tripod's head cant attach to it,
- The Sony VG's are one of the most complete grips in the market, usually a VG is just made of battery space, shutter, dial and thats it. Sony made the VGs' controls as exact as in the actual camera as they could.
- Unfortunately the use of VGs in the Alpha line wont increase you fps speed.
- You can attach a Belt Grip to the Vertical Grip
- The VG-B30AM requires you to remove the battery compartment door, this is not needed with the VG-C70 and C90 grips
- The VG-C70AM grip has the grip sensor found in the A700's body
A vertical grip can be an useful tool if you take vertical shots frequently, not just portraits; landscapes, snap shots, etc. apply. If you feel comfortable shooting without it, then maybe you dont need this item.
A good tip to determine whether you need it or not is to try it out before purchasing it and see how you feel with it. Maybe you need it and you dont know it.
The use of this item certainly reduces the stress on your hands, fingers and wrists. Those parts are essential for you to take pictures, take care of them.
Because of my experience with it and how useful it's been, the vertical grip is an Alpha Sight Recommended Accesory.