Building a personal camera rig is no easy task. Well, it may seem easy from the outset; however, there are so many things to take into consideration. One of those things is power. Now, it is pretty easy to get away without having a unified power solution for your setup, but once you start running more than just a camera, or your camera just eats through batteries (like my Sony α7S) things can get dicey. My α7S came with two relatively small NP-FW50 batteries and one wall charger in the box. At best, I can get about an hour-and-change of constant use from one battery, and I have to look at my battery meter constantly in case it runs low. And that’s not even mentioning the insanity of the number of times I might have to run back to my charger to swap batteries! Luckily, until this point I’ve been able to get through a day’s shooting with careful planning, but the thought of a better power solution not involving tons of tiny batteries has constantly been at the back of my mind.
Enter the Gripper Series Clip-On Battery System. A 75 watt/hour (Wh) version of the battery and the appropriate charger arrived on my desk, packed inside a nondescript cardboard box. In the realm of professional video batteries, 75 Wh is not huge, but doing some quick calculations, I realized that this battery could hold nearly 10 times the typical capacity of an NP-FW50 battery, which should be ample for a long day’s shoot.
Before I get to the actual testing, I want to concentrate on the design of the Gripper battery and how it can fit onto a rig. To start, it’s unlike any other stand-alone camera power solution I’ve seen, to date. The entire body is molded from hard plastic and it features dual D-Tap power outputs on the front and rear surfaces. The left and right sides have precisely spaced “gripper” sections on the sides, which snap perfectly onto 15mm LWS (Light Weight System) spaced rods. The α7S camera doesn’t accept 15mm LWS accessories b natively by itself, so in need of a solution, I looked no further than Zacuto’s Mini DSLR Baseplate and two extra rods to attach to the rear of the plate, where the battery would then sit. It also required a D-Tap adapter cable to connect the battery to my α7S. For this, I went for the Movcam D-Tap Adapter. It’s well made, and the coiled cable is not so excessively long as to get tangled on the other rig components.
After assembling the baseplate, I snapped the battery onto the rear rods, where it sat securely and was difficult to move up and down the rods (definitely a good thing). I realized that on the underside of the rod “grips” are rubber strips that prevent unintentional sliding, which could lead to potentially broken equipment. After all that, battery removal is just as easy as attachment—just lift off without dealing with any clips, screw clamps, or mechanisms; well done! Having everything assembled yielded a great tripod-ready rig; not too heavy, and ready to roll straight from a backpack. As an added bonus, the height of the D-Tap port is perfectly positioned to fit right under the camera when mounted on the Mini DSLR Baseplate, for a nearly seamless mounting process.
As a test of the battery’s performance, I decided to take the Gripper with me to a song-recording session I was filming. The session was to last slightly longer than four hours, so by my estimations, a fully charged Gripper 75Wh battery would be more than sufficient for this purpose. Using the standard NP-FW batteries for filming jobs like this, I would turn the camera off whenever I could to save battery life, but for the sake of this test, I decided to leave the camera on just to see how long it could last. The verdict? Thumbs up all around from me! Based on the 4-LED gauge reading on the side, the Gripper barely broke a sweat. By the time the session was over, I probably could have done another two sessions before the battery was depleted.
So, are there any negatives? Not really. It’s hard to fault a product that just works as it should. However, the laws of physics are still in play. First, I’d be curious to see how well the Gripper could still grip the rods after a year or so of use, although considering the rigidity of the chassis, I don’t predict any failures on part of the grips. Second, you will need a rig or other rod attachment to hold this battery on your camera rig. An appropriate setup to support the battery might compromise your ability to shoot in certain situations, after which you may want to reconsider your rig to compensate for the extra size and weight. The only other consideration I’d mention before giving this product the green light is that all the parts must be purchased separately. At press time, the batteries themselves are not available together with chargers. Additionally, a third-party cable for connecting to your camera is required. While many adapters may fit physically inside your camera, some may not have the requisite voltage regulation built in. This could potentially damage your camera, as the D-Tap outputs from the Gripper battery are not themselves regulated. I can confirm that my camera was not fried by the Movcam cable I used, but be prepared to spend a little extra for that reassurance.
All in all, I’d have to say that my experience with the Gripper battery was a very positive one. Once you have your rig built up, just snap it on, plug it in, and you’re ready to go. I feel that mirrorless cameras, in particular, can benefit from this battery. With a camera like my α7S, I am confident that I can get through a whole day of shooting without having to recharge. The Gripper is also not as bulky or complicated as V-mount or Gold-mount battery solutions, which I usually dismiss as being overkill for mirrorless cameras. The balance of utility and compactness achieved with the Gripper truly makes this a great product—I suggest you check it out!
What has your own experience with battery power been like? Post comments or questions in the Comments section, below. We love to hear from our readers.