E-620 + HLD-5 battery grip


INTRODUCTION

I have both E-1 & E-3 with battery grips. I was persuaded of the advantages of the E-1 grip that used the additional battery power to boost AF power to lenses such as the ZD50-200mm. Since then grips only serve as storage for more battery power and do not boost the cameras circuits.

Having used the E-1 grip I immediately realised the ergonomic advantages they offer the user and have been a fan ever since. However, Olympus has been very selective in the models they have designed and made grips for. E-1, E-300, E-3 (fits E-30) and surprisingly the E-620 (and of course the E-600) have been their only E-System issues to date. They did make grips for the C5060/7070 and 8080. Other makers have offered grips for the E-5XX and E-4XX series but to my eyes anyway these after market grips seem bulky and unattractive.

Having owned the E-620 for some time now I began to look around for a HLD-5 unit. The MRRP is 199 UK, but they seem widely available at around 100 - 139 via Internet shops. When SRS MicroSystems offered them for 69.00 with free postage I could resist no longer; it was duly ordered. It arrived two days later.

LET'S HAVE A CLOSE LOOK

The grip comes housed in an Olympus E-System dual silver coloured box. In UK the grip has its standard 2 year European warranty. Other countries may vary - please check. The box offers superb protection to the black HLD-5 nestled therein.

E-620 Battery Grip; E-System dual silver box.

This is straight from the box with protective cover over the power tower.

With protective cover removed - notice the 8 sprung electrical contacts.

Grip from the rear showing the recess into which I've fitted the camera battery cover. Note the 8 contacts.

Note the large securing ring wheel, the lock switch with control wheel adjacent and the battery compartment release button.

Same view but with battery door opened. Door release is spring loaded and locks at 90 degrees.

This is the base of the grip - note the metal tripod bush.

And finally the E-620 complete with battery grip.



GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

The HLD-5 size (W x H x D) is 127.5 x 68.5 x 102 mm, however the base accounts for 40mm of its overall height.

The E-620 size (W x H x D) is 130.0 x 94.0 x 60.0 mm, so the grip adds 42% to the cameras height.

The grip weighs 200g (without batteries) adding 42% to the weight of the 620 (475g).

The additional battery accounts for a further 46g bringing the total weight of camera, grip & 2 batteries to 767g.

The plastic of the grip is quite thick and completely rigid - there's no play anywhere.

Tripod mount is metal in a serrated plastic surround and is a near duplicate of the one on the camera base.

Battery door is sprung (to open) and locks at 90 degrees.

Grip holds two BLS-1 batteries fitted fore/aft.

There is no dust or drip proofing on the grip battery door.

Grip provides one shutter button and one control wheel.

Built-in lock disconnects electrics from grip if/when required.

TO ATTACH THE GRIP

To affix the grip the camera battery door must be removed. Open the door and pull it back on its hinge; firmly press it right back until the hinge pins pop out of the clamp that holds them in place. Some force is required. The battery door is stored in a recess on the power tower of the grip.

Place the battery cover in the recess provided on the power tower. There are no clips - it's just a good fit.

Once the camera battery is removed the grip power tower slides into the cameras empty battery compartment and its sprung electrical pick-ups mate with those inside the camera. Press the grip firmly to the base of the camera and turn the large locking wheel to connect camera to grip via the tripod socket on the base of the camera.

The batteries load upsidedown into the grip. Each battery chamber has a locking clip (similar to the one in camera). They are easy enough to load but removing them is a little difficult as finger access to the battery edges is restricted by the compartment door.

Close and lock the grip battery door, switch on the camera and unlock the switch on the grip; you are now ready.

IN USE

The 620 is quite a small camera only marginally larger than the 4XX series. With some of the larger E-System lenses it is a little unbalanced. While the grip cannot cure this is does redress the balance making the combination of say E-620 + ZD12-60 much easier to handle.

The rubber covering that matches the E-620's 'grippy' parts, is restriced to the front aspect of the grip only. The rest of the grip body is finished in the same black plastic as the E-620. It has no serial number and is Made in China.

In landscape mode the grip provides purchase for the ball of the right thumb giving the outfit more stability. The grips left hand edge sits comfortably in the left palm and the fingers can still reach the lens control rings just fine.

In portrait mode the three lower fingers of the right hand sit in the well underneath the lens that is nicely covered with grippy rubber on the front of the grip. The right forefinger falls to the shutter button and the right thumb to the control wheel. The left hand has to cup itself around the prism hump.

To me the grip shutter button is about the same in terms of sensitivity as that of the camera but I'd prefer if it were presented with the same chromed finish; it would 'feel' better.

The grip control wheel is less 'clicky' than the camera's wheel and feels a little plasticky in operation. However it works in exactly the same way and with no hesitation.

There are no further camera control features on the HLD-5, unlike the HLD-2/HLD-4 grips.

WHAT DO I THINK?

Personally the E-620 grip suits me but bear in mind I'm a fan of grips. I find it helps the E-620's handling greatly. I'm not suggesting the E-620 handles badly but as already noted with some of the HG and SHG lenses the body is somewhat overpowered. The grip restores the balance well and makes a good camera a great one. The combination shows its greatest benefit with long lenses like the SWD50-200mm and long MF legacy lenses which, without the grip, can be quite a handful!

Of course the other benefit is you have twice the power reserve available; enough for the longest session away from the charger. I have noted with this grip installed, the dual batteries seem to last much longer than twice their single life - but I don't know why this should be, or if it's one of those strange illusions.

Finally, the base of the grip has a much larger area than the base of the camera, therefore when you set it down with any of the smaller lenses attached (i.e. 25mm, 35mm, 50mm and either of the lightweight kit lenses), it stands well and does not topple forward. However, with any of the HG/SHG zoom lenses, because of their weight, bulk and length the combination does topple forward until the lens touches the surface. Mind you, when such monsters as the ZD14-35 is fitted to the E-620 without the grip, the camera body does not touch the surface and the camera body rolls from side to side on the base of the lens. It is much more stable using the grip with these lenses.

MISCELLANEOUS

1. GRIP STRAP: As said above, I use the E-3 with its HLD-4 and the grip strap. The E-620 and HLD-5 has the same type of strap hangers in the same places. As it happens I have a spare E-3 Grip Strap so spent about half an hour fitting it to the E-620 + HLD-5 to try it out. Results were disappointing. There is simply not enough room to move the right hand fingers to reach the controls when slotted through the grip strap. The E-620 is simply too small. In particular the shutter and compensation buttons are almost impossible to reach when the grip strap is adjusted properly. A great pity!

2. FASTER AF: I have read some forum reports from users that the HLD-5 battery grip speeds up the AF performance of some Zuiko Digital lenses. This was one of the first things I tried out with my range of lenses. I found no such advantage with any of the ZD lens I own (I have examples from the three grades). If any reader can provide details of enhanced AF performance I'd be grateful if they would contact me with the lens used; the circumstances and an estimate of increased speed so I can try it out myself and share the results with others.

RECOMMENDATION

If you use the E-620 with only its two kit lenses I think the grip is not for you; I can't see the advantage when using the lightweight ZD14-42 & ZD40-150 as the E-620 handles well with these lenses. But if you have a selection of HG or SHG lenses, which are substantially larger and heavier than the kit lenses, or regularly use MF legacy lenses, then I'd wholeheartedly recommend the HLD-5 battery grip.

If you do long shoots away from the charger then the grip offers an alternative to carrying a spare battery in your pocket - something that is not recommended in any case (battery can short out on metal carried in pocket).

PRICE

The E-620 Battery Grip is readily available on-line from many retailers. Prices range between 99 - 149 in UK, so shop around. I purchased mine from SRS MicroSystems and suspect the 69 with free postage was a 'special offer' as its normal price appears to be 99.00. The SRS Microsystems website is here (no affinity).


NOTE: This article seeks nothing other than to inform. Only you can decide what equipment you want/need for your use. Bear in mind I own both cameras and lenses, out of my own pocket; I have nothing to gain or lose by publishing this article, photographs, examples or opinion.


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Posted December 2009 Copyright © 2009 John Foster