Sony's A7/A9 series of mirrorless cameras have a bad reputation for their grip ergonomics. And rightly so. I love my Sony A7III and it is still the best camera on the market for my particular needs, but the grip just isn't anywhere near as good as on a pro DSLR. My pinky finger has nowhere to go, and when holding the camera for extended periods of time, often with a big chunky lens and a speedlight attached, my hand even starts to hurt. So I decided it was time to do something about it.
I researched solutions for the bad ergonomics of the Sony A7 and A9 series of cameras, and found that the two available solutions are either a classic battery grip or a grip extension. Not sure which solution would be best for me, I decided to buy both. I bought a third party battery grip from Jupio, which cost around $80 as opposed to $350 for Sony's original VGC3EM vertical grip. I also paid a painful $130 for Sony's original piece of metal and plastic, GPX1EM, that prolongs the grip on the right hand side of the camera.
After using the battery grip and the grip extension every day for a couple of weeks on my recent trip to Japan, I have learned the following things:
- Both the battery grip and the grip extension do a great job of improving the ergonomics. Not only does the pinky finger find a place to rest, you can also support the camera with the bottom of your hand, which is even more important to avoid hand pain.
- The battery grip adds significant weight to your camera, and I do not recommend it if you plan on having the camera hanging from a neck strap for longer periods of time. The grip extension is very lightweight and perfect if you want a much improved gripping experience without adding too much weight. On my Japan trip I found myself mostly using the grip extension, as it didn't weigh me down.
- The price difference between Sony's original grip and a third party one is staggering. The quality and feel of my third party Jupio battery grip is great for the price, but an original grip from Sony will of course have an even higher quality feel to it. If it is worth paying $250 extra for this slight increase in quality is up to you.
- The Sony grip extension is ridiculously expensive at $130, but still worth every penny if you are using your camera a lot. But there is a budget alternative in Meike's variant which you can get for around $50, which also has a 1/4' screw hole for tripod mounting.
- The downside, literally, with using a grip extension is that the cameras underside will be uneven, and when you put the camera down on a table you will often wonder whether it will stay there or not. You will also have to unscrew it to change battery.
In summary, my recommendation for you is dependent on your needs and problems:
- If you haven't yet found the bad ergonomics of your Sony camera annoying, there is no reason to buy anything. Maybe your hands are small or you are not using the camera for long enough periods of time to notice any problems.
- If you are walking around a lot with the camera around your neck, I would recommend a grip extension to save weight. Even with a very wide neck strap such as the Peak Design Slide, and even with a lightweight lens such as the Samyang 35mm f/2.8, a battery grip with two batteries will start to feel heavy after a couple of hours of walking around with it around your neck.
- If you want the best possible grip, and if you shoot a lot in portrait orientation – go for a battery grip. The extended battery life with two batteries is nice, even if I don't find it super necessary with the latest generation of Sony batteries.