The first thing I noticed about the 550d is its size, or lack thereof. I have large hands and it feels like a toy in my usual grip. The body is also so light that with anything larger than the kit 18-55mm lens attached, it tends to topple forwards placing unnecessary stress on the lens attachment.
Luckily, the solution to both problems came in the form of the extremely useful, if not essential Canon BG-E8 Battery Grip.
The assembly not only adds necessary size to the small camera body but it adds room for two BP-E8 batteries to be used simultaneously, essentially doubling shooting time.
Curiously, it supplies power in such a way that both batteries are drained at exactly the same rate (meaning they both die at the same time), so for long shoots it’s advisable to go equipped with an extra pair of LP-E8 batteries and an extra charger. (By the way, I highly recommend that you only buy original canon batteries. They not only last longer but their power delivery is more camera friendly).
In the box you get the BG-E8 Battery grip, a tray for 2x LP-E8 batteries (supplied separately) and an additional tray which holds 6x AA/LR6 batteries for emergency use (with decent batteries, this could be up to 2.5 hours of emergency power).
Items as they arrive.
Battery tray loaded with 2x LP-E8 batteries.
Battery tray affixing to BG-E8 grip.
BG-E8 affixing to EOS 500d Body.
As we’ve come to expect from Canon, the grip is manufactured to exacting standards and it looks and feels great. The plastic is a fairly heavy gauge, yet doesn’t feel ‘plasticy’, and has strategically placed rubberised inserts for a solid grip. The battery tray’s locking mechanism moves into place with a satisfying click and won’t easily undo, spilling your batteries over the set floor.
Once the grip is in place, the camera looks and feels like a much beefier piece of kit and it looks a hell of a lot more professional too. Not a hugely important point but one which may lend you a little additional credibility when you turn up at a shoot where your client is expecting to see a more traditional video camera. This beefed up beauty looks like it cost an additional zero, especially with a small 50mm on the front.
For those of you with larger hands, it gives you somewhere to rest your little finger which (as you can see below), tends to be left hanging on the default assembly:
Another great benefit of this addition is the new position of the battery tray. The default body position is on the underside which means you need to remove the camera from the tripod/rig in order to change cells. With the grip in place, you change batteries from the side so you don’t need to strike the rig because of a flat battery.
If you spend any amount of time working on portraiture, there is an extra benefit to fitting a battery grip: When the camera is turned through 90 degrees into portrait aspect, an additional three buttons (AV +/-, zoom in, zoom out), an additional shutter release and menu-selector-wheel come into play. The extra shutter release makes portraiture a snap and removes the need to become a contortionist and the wheel is handy too. The zoom +/- buttons are micro-switched (as opposed to the body’s soft touch buttons) and respond with a solid click when pressed.
An additional ISO button would have been nice, but we can’t have it all!
All in all, it’s a great piece of kit and I highly recommend it to anyone who intends to use their 550d seriously. It addresses several of the inherent flaws and provides a robust platform for professional users. Mine never leaves the camera body!
There are after-market versions available for a fraction of the price (such as the one from Delamax) but I’ve not used them so can’t really comment on their performance (but I’m sure there are plenty of product reviews out there).
Ease of use: 5/5
Build quality: 5/5
Sex appeal: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5