Jul 18, 2014

On Failures and MB-D10 Clone Troubleshooting



The above photo was an example of a failure. Benjamin Von Wong recently shared the results of a two-year collaboration to complete a ultraviolet photo session with some people who are skilled in the art of body painting with ultraviolet paints and makeup. That got me interested in the process. Not long after that the guys at Digital Rev gave their best attempt at some UV photography and it was settled. I needed to give it a shot.

Working under the assumption that our lovely planters full of purple peonies would luminesce under ultraviolet light, I set up my $20 light from my bachelor pad days clamped to a light stand with a reflector on the opposite side, flower holder at the ready, just waiting for the super moon to rise.

Mosquitoes being thoroughly ravenous, I gratefully accepted Angie's help to test the lighting and get things in place. The short version of it is the flowers did not luminesce, the moonrise calculator forgot that Saskatchewan does not follow daylight savings time meaning that the super moon did not rise when expected, and our rescue, just so that we could get something made, was to colour on the flowers with a pink highlighter. And that's the half-way excuse for photo you see above. But, I learned something about the exposure of shooting under UV light and maybe there are some other photos to be made in the future.

Speaking of fails, learning and troubleshooting, the rest of this post is entirely for the benefit of people looking to troubleshoot any problems they might be having with a knockoff battery grip for their camera. It is entirely technical and you will not be missing anything if you came here just looking to see a photo and read about my process. Thanks for visiting and see you on the next post.

DSTE MB-D12 Knockoff Troubleshooting

It's not that the Nikon brand MB-D12 battery grip for the D300, D300s and D700 is terribly overpriced but with the intention to upgrade my camera fairly soon I did not want to spend the money on it. In addition to that I wanted to see how I felt about a battery grip (paralyzed hands, and all) before I decided on the addition of one for the next body I would purchase. Being a knockoff I was willing to accept some of the compromises such as a diminished grip, less distinct and sturdy feeling buttons and a degree of play in the connection points. The grip was not without its minor imperfections, but for the price it was absolutely adequate for my needs.

The differences I felt and the issues I encountered are as follows:

  • The e-dials have a very good click to them but are lacking the rubber coating which makes them slightly harder to grip for easy turning. I doubt this is an issue for someone with functioning fingers.
  • The navigation pad has a small amount of play but this does not affect one's ability to navigate or adjust your AF point.
  • The markings, such as the on-off indicator switch, show signs of rubbing off, already after about three months or 3500 handheld frames.
  • Some inexplicable power issues, such as the battery draining over a short amount of time even with the camera switched off, seem to be better, which I will elaborate on in a moment.

The power issues I encountered may or may not have been related to the grip, itself. Initially I found that the grip was draining both the battery in the grip and in the body of the camera over a period of approximately 3 to 4 days. Even with diligently turning off the switch on the battery grip (this switch should only control the ability of the controls on the grip to function, it should have nothing to do with the power usage of the camera) it did not seem to make a difference. What did seem to help was making certain the grip was attached to the camera body as snugly as possible. I'm not talking about stripping the threads of the tripod mount, but a secure fit, ensuring full contact of all pins and connectors between the grip and the body seemed to help.

This may or may not have been the cause of the battery drain. As with most lithium ion batteries there is a breaking in time. Now that I have run the two new DSTE batteries that I ordered through a number of full drain and full charge cycles they are doing very well, one performing better than the second one. This may have been the cause of the battery drain more than the grip, itself. Cycle your batteries properly when you first get them and you should be able to eliminate one factor of this, if it arises for you.

The second issue that I had with the grip was greatly concerning because I was afraid it was going to affect or damage the camera. Using my initial, two year old, secondary battery (EN-EL3e) which was also made by a third-party manufacturer, I would make an exposure with a shutter speed slower than 1/60 of a second and the mirror would not flip down, I would receive an error message and no exposure would be recorded to the card. I was able to reset the camera simply by pressing the shutter button again but I would need to power cycle the body in order to return to shooting. After power cycling it would reset to approximately f/4.0, 1/160", ISO 200, which is not uncommon for me to be at and it may have been the setting the last successful frame was made with. The initial purpose of the longer shutter speed was for a photo which included four flashes and some electroluminescent wire for a thirty second light painting, using rear curtain flash sync. When this error occurred, and failed to lower the mirror, it did not fire the hot shoe, which would have triggered the PocketWizards to fire the flashes.

I was concerned that my shutter or mirror was in need of servicing even though this body has been incredibly well taken care of and is still at only about 60,000 actuations but, things do wear out. Thankfully this was solved by replacing that battery with one of the new, third-party EN-EL3e batteries. My OEM battery now stays in the D700 body. Before the battery grip, I was regularly rotating between that initial second battery and the OEM Nikon battery that came with the D700. Why it decided to not like the battery grip, I do not know. As soon as I put in a new, fully charged, DSTE battery everything was functioning perfectly.

That has been my experience. Because of how well everything is working now, with my D810 due to arrive any day, I had preemptively ordered a second battery grip, the MB-D12 clone by DSTE, from Deal Extreme, the first grip (MB-D10) being ordered from eBay. Since then, I was given the opportunity to buy an OEM Nikon MB-D12 for the price of $229 CAD, more than a 40% discount off the standard retail price in Canada. That was below what I was willing to pay for a Nikon brand grip, to be put on a brand-new camera, so I took to opportunity. The $400 price tag was too much, hence my ordering the second grip from DSTE. I will be selling it but keeping the DSTE EN-EL18a, charger, and EN-EL15 ordered from DX.com.

I hope this has helped you in troubleshooting any problems you may have had and that a fully charged battery or tightening of the attachment screw solves your camera's hiccups.

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