I continue to be amazed at the Nikon D850. There is a reason that this camera is still on backorder a year after it was released. Since this is my main camera right now, and I shoot a variety of assignments and subjects, I decided to get the MB-D18 grip. Why get a vertical grip? There are a number of reasons. First, I shoot a lot of portraits, and many are vertical shots. Having a vertical grip is much more stable and comfortable if I am shooting vertical for most of the day. Second, the controls I need are right where I need them. The MB-D18 grip has an AF-ON vertical oriented back button focus button, a toggle to move the focus point, and of course a vertical shutter button. These controls all feel very intuitive, just like the horizontal buttons on the D850 body. Third, battery life is greatly increased..approximately 1840 shots to 3300 using an EL-18b battery (D4/5 battery). I recently went to Romania and used one EN-EL15 battery for 7 days, almost the entire trip. With this grip I wouldn’t have to charge batteries the entire trip. Wow. Fourth, I like a big camera grip for many shoots. I photograph with gloves on a lot in the winter, and the larger grip is handy for holding onto the camera.
But here is the real kicker. If I use one of my old D4 batteries (EN-EL18), the frame rate goes up to 9FPS. Only one frame less than my D500, and three frames less than the D5. When I photograph wildlife and adventure sports, those extra few frames are nice. But unless you shoot professional traditional sports, you probably don’t need 12FPS. 9FPS is the perfect frame rate for my action photography. And using the D850, you are shooting 45.7MP frames at 9FPS…incredible. You have a lot of latitude to crop the final shot and still have a 20MP file.
Is there a downside to the MB-D18? For many photographers, the answer is no. You get what you pay for…a nicely built vertical grip (third party grips never match the Nikon quality). The MB-D18 attaches firmly and securely, with the controls well positioned. The one downside mentioned by some photographers is the lack of buffer space shooting at 9FPS. I’ve tested this with the fastest SD cards, and it does seem to slow down around 20 frames. With XQD cards, I would expect better performance. But honestly, most of my bursts are closer to 5-10 frames, not holding the shutter down for multiple seconds. If you are shooting a NFL football game, then the D5 is a better choice.
One other thing I like about the MB-D18…I can take it off. When I am shooting travel images, I want a smaller, lightweight camera system; off comes the grip. When I go to photograph grizzly bears in Alaska, I want 9FPS and a vertical grip; on goes the MB-D18. Gotta love having options!