The Olympus OM-D E-M5 is a great little camera, so great that it has officially become my primary camera for work, as I have explained in-depth in my article Mirrorless on the Job – Episode 1. But like any great camera, you always need some accessories to fine-tune it to perfection!
The OM-D is a very tiny camera, which is excellent in some ways, but may also be a limitation if you use it on a daily basis. For one who has big hands such as me, the E-M5 body tends to be a wee bit too small. It is for this reason I bought the HDL-6 grip – a decision which has made using the OM-D all the easier, mainly for two reasons:
- it still keeps the overall size of the camera pretty small compared to a similar DSLR package;
- it comes in two pieces: one tailored to landscape photography, and the other to portrait photography.
The HLD-6 Power Battery Grip is a dust and splash proof two-part grip which, as the title suggests, accommodates an extra lithium-ion battery to extend the battery life of your E-M5. An optional grip strap can also be attached and used in the place of the traditional neck strap.
HDL-6 Landscape Grip
The landscape part of the grip has a dial which locks the grip onto the bottom of the camera, as well as a built-in shutter button and an extra front control dial for changing aperture or exposure.
The landscape grip gives you a better hold on the camera without compromising its size. You have more space for your fingers, as it adds a second shutter button/dial combo to the edge of the grip. This increases the volume in your hand, making it more comfortable and steady.
The grip is made of solid plastic but you inevitably lose some of that metal feel that we like with the OM-D. You attach the unit by screwing it to the tripod socket at the bottom of the camera. It aligns perfectly with the body and remains sturdy and still. Despite the plastic build, the grip feels very accurate in its design. The grip itself has a tripod socket so that you can attach the vertical grip or a tripod plate.
The only limitation with the landscape grip is that it will cover the battery port, meaning that every time your battery runs out, you have to unscrew the grip, change the battery and then screw it on again at the base of the camera. Not very practical. I wish Olympus had come up with a more clever solution, such as leaving some sort of hole to take out the battery without detaching the grip.
Moreover, when attached, the grip is electrically connected with the body to render the shutter release and dial operational. This results in more rapid battery consumption, so make sure you have an extra battery on hand if you are taking the OM-D out for a long day-trip.
HDL-6 Vertical Grip
The portrait part has a built-in shutter button, two built-in function buttons, a front and back control wheel, a DC-IN jack for continuous shooting (also requires AC-3 Power Adapter to work), a compartment for storing an extra battery, and a molded grip for stable shooting while in portrait orientation.
The vertical grip attaches to the bottom of the landscape grip using the same process. Note that you cannot attach the vertical grip on its own to the OM-D.
The vertical or portrait grip adds extra functions, like the ability to use a second battery in conjunction with the one inside the E-M5 body, giving you extra hours to work with. You will also find the basic buttons you have on the OM-D body: shutter button, front and rear dials, and Fn1 and Fn2 buttons.
You also have a lock toggle to turn these buttons on and off. This is something very useful but at the same time something extra you have to remember. It is particularly useful f I use my OM-D in landscape mode, as I sometimes inadvertently hit the shutter button located on the vertical grip with the palm of my hand. It isn’t very practical, however, if you constantly switch between the horizontal and vertical position.
Now, this isn’t what I would call a defect of the grip, but by keeping it very compact, Olympus has had to make a few small compromises.
The HDL-6 certainly improves the ergonomics of the camera. I always use the landscape grip as it gives me just that extra grip I need without compromising the compactness I love about the E-M5. If I have to shoot all day, I also use the vertical grip as it gives me more balance for long hours of work, and also allows me to keep the camera steady, especially when I use a telephoto lens like the Lumix 35-100mm f/2.8.
Now, while I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the landscape grip, I cannot say the same about the vertical version. There’s nothing wrong with it, but if you are not an avid portrait/vertical composition shooter, you might not need it, and in that case, you have two problems to face:
- the landscape grip isn’t sold separately, meaning that you have to purchase the full package.
- the landscape grip alone can become a pain in that you cannot remove the battery when it is attached.
So, if all you are looking for is an extra grip to hold your OM-D more comfortably, you might want to look at some cheap alternatives.
But, of course, if you are looking for a more complete solution, then the HDL-6 is definitely worth every penny.