I bought this for shooting portraits and sports, mainly since I have a nagging shoulder injury that can really act up if I do the "chicken wing" to shoot in portrait orientation for very long. It has most of the controls I need, but a few tweaks to the layout, and a second set of buttons beside the lens (DOF preview, etc) and it would be perfect. It is nice that the buttons on the grip can be customized separately from those on the body. Overall, this grip seems pretty well built, but probably not quite up to the APS-C/FF equivalents I've had over the years. I've already very slightly bent one of the pins just from putting it in and out of my Lowepro backpack in a normal manner. I bent it back straight with a pair of hemostats, so all is well, but since I've only had this item for a short time and only used it probably 2-3 times.. this isn't exactly confidence inspiring. I take really good care of my gear, but it does get used. I've never had an issue with any of the other (non-Olympus) grips I've ever had dating back 10 years, but this one I'll be extra careful with.
This battery holder is Weatherproofing for EM System. I am still a little unclear what this means:
- E-MI Mark II, E-M5, FL-LM3 flash, FL 900R flash, and Power Battery Holder (PBH) HLD-9 are all rated IPX1 – Water drops that are falling vertically on device for at least 10 minutes will have no harmful effect; water equivalent to 1 mm rainfall per minute (which would be characterized as a light drizzle)
- E-MI Mark II, E-M5, FL 900R flash, and Power Battery Holder (PBH) HLD-9 are rated for 30% - 90% humidity (operation)
- E-MI Mark II, E-M5 Mark II, FL 900R flash, and Power Battery Holder (PBH) HLD-9 are rated –10 °C - 40 °C (14 °F - 104 °F) (operation)
- Despite being advertised as being dust-proof, in several places in all manuals, the E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark II and accessories have warnings not to use or store in dusty (or humid) environments.
Pros for the HLD-0:
- Excellent build quality - well matched to the E-M1 Mark II
- excellent grip for vertical - with most controls same as horizontal:
- FN 1 button in very similar location.
- FN 2 button located where AEL/AFL button would be - can be configured to match that button
- Extra battery life, although not a huge advantage over simply switching to a second battery
- provides a bit more grip for horizontal - place for little finger and a bit of the heel of MY hand
- However, not a huge improvement over grip without PBH
- Gives camera a larger profile and looks "more professional" if this is an issue for client who might be concerned about such a little camera being good enough for professional work. However, on the flip side, the camera is still very compact!
- ability to configure battery use preferences via camera menu.
- PBH Battery used first - when exhausted the battery in the camera body will be used
- Body Battery used first - when exhausted the batter in the PBH will be used.
- port for AC adaptor
- attachment point for wrist strap
Cons for PBH
- It pushes my left hand forward, different for zooming/focusing smaller lenses.
- this is not bad, merely different and takes some getting used to
- My hands constantly fire the shutter on the PBH when holding in landscape orientation.
- My right hand (my hands are a bit on the large size) keeps hitting that button
- might not be an issue for someone with smaller hands
- I will have to learn to switch on and off to avoid this.
- Extra size and weight not always welcome
- have to remove the PBH to access the battery in the camera
I do like this grip, although it is hard to truly justify the cost. Without it, the ergonomics of the E-M1 Mark II are quite good. The addition of the vertical grip and controls are nice, but not necessary. Even with the added size and weight, the combination of the E-M1 Mark II and PBH is still a relatively compact package. By comparison, the Canon 5D Mark III is massive with the battery grip attached.
Although it has the same weather-proofing specs as the E-M1 Mark II and Pro Lenses, the instruction manual for the HLD-9 advises against using it in humid or dusty conditions - a bit of a contradiction. With the same IPX-1 rating as the Pro bodies, Pro lenses and flash, I would feel comfortable using the HLD-9 installed on the camera body in wet or dusty conditions while taking common sense measures to protect the equipment via bagging or shielding.
There are some quirks for the grip. First of all - yes, you have to remove the grip to change out the in-camera body battery. This is a little bit of an inconvenience, but not a huge deal to me. In fact, the way this grip is designed makes for a much faster and easier installation and removal. On the Canon battery holders I have owned, you have to remove the battery door from the body and stow it in the grip. On the HLD-9 you simply remove the weather-sealing gasket from the contacts on the bottom plate and store it on the grip. Very fast and easy!
What is a bit inconvenient (for me) is that I seem to be constantly hitting the vertical shutter release while handling the camera in landscape mode. I think this is a combination of my somewhat large hands and the fact that the E-M1 Mark II/HLD-9 is so very compact. I have been using battery grips on the Canon 5DM3 and 30D digital cameras and before that the power booster on the EOS1n film camera and before that motor drives all the way back to the 1980s with the Canon A1 and F1n film cameras. I cannot remember EVER accidentally hitting the vertical grip shutter button with any of them, but on the HLD-9 it happens a lot. This is pretty annoying, and I have concluded that I will have to shut the PBH controls off via the lock lever on the PBH when going from portrait to landscape mode and switch it back on when going from landscape to portrait. Even after a relatively short time, this has become a fairly consistent habit for me, so this shouldn't be a deal breaker.
Then there is handling with smaller lenses. The base of the HLD-9 sticks out a bit, pushing my left hand forward. This changes my hand position and requires that I reach back with my thumb and forefinger to manipulate the zoom and/or focusing rings. With a little experimentation, I found I can comfortably hold and manipulate even my smallest (45mm 1.8) lens. Depending on the size of your hands and your preferences, you may or may not find the handling with certain lenses to be acceptable. I should point out here that this is only an issue when holding in landscape orientation - when holding vertically in portrait orientation the ergonomics are perfect, as there is nothing to obstruct the left hand from cradling the lens as you normally would. Of course, with larger and longer lenses this is not an issue.
Again, there is one battery in the camera body and one in the battery holder. I have read complaints about that design but there are some cool advantages to this. On previous battery grips I have had, the camera uses both batteries at the same time, so you wind up with two partially depleted batteries. At the end of the shooting day, both need to be recharged. Unless you have a second charger, that can be a pain. Olympus uses one battery at a time and I really do like that you can program which battery is used first. You can designate in the menu system for the camera to use either the battery in the camera first and then switch to the battery in the HLD-9 or vice-versa. For me it makes most sense to use up the battery in the HLD-9 first. That way I shoot until the battery in the HLD-9 is depleted, then it can be quickly replaced without having to remove the HLD-9. I usually wind up only having to charge up one battery at the end of the day. I consistently rotate the batteries, taking the depleted battery out of the HLD-9 and charging it up and then putting that battery in the E-M1 Mark II and taking the battery that was in the camera and moving it to the HLD-9.
Reasons to buy the HLD-9:
- you really need a bit of extra real estate for a more comfortable grip
- You need/want vertical controls
- You need/want extra battery capacity without having to swap batteries
- You need the camera to just look bigger and more "professional"
Reasons to pass on the HLD-9
- you are happy with the way the E-M1 Mark II handles on its own
- don't need vertical controls
- swapping batteries isn't a big deal
- you don't need to impress anyone with more of the traditional "Pro" camera look
Looking at my own review and in retrospect, I wouldn't buy the HLD-9 again. However, since I have it now I will keep it. I do like it for certain circumstances. The vertical controls are very nice for shooting portraits in portrait orientation (I tend to hold vertically a lot when shooting portraits). As I pointed out earlier - the ergonomics holding in landscape mode are a bit of a mixed bag - not clearly better than without the HLD-9. However, holding vertically the ergonomics are fantastic. So, I will definitely use the HLD-9 for shooting portraiture, and If I ever get back into shooting sports with longer lenses I would use if for that as well. Otherwise, the HLD-9 will likely spend a lot of time on the shelf, with my E-M1 Mark II in its more compact configuration.