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I'm not happy that my DSLR (Nikon D3100) takes expensive, non standard batteries. What I'm surprised about is that there seem to be very few battery grips on the market that use standard battery sizes (e.g. AA, C or D). Instead, mostly the grips seem to take the same battery as the original camera, tying me further to the expensive custom batteries.

Why is this? Is there a good technical reason for this?

I did find this one http://www.battery-grips.com/nikon-mbd31-battery-grip-for-nikon-d3100-dslr-camera-p-258.html and wondered if anyone has any experience with it, or indeed can vouch for any other grips for a D3100 that take standard batteries?

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How invested are you in Nikon? Is this just an annoyance or is it really, really important to you? –  mattdm May 30 '12 at 10:39
    
I have a Pentax *ist DL that I've had for years and AA batteries are all I've ever used. They're convenient, easy to find and for me, last an exceptionally long time. I absolutely hate being tied to a power supply and have missed once in a lifetime opportunities because of dead proprietary batteries. For that reason alone I stick with the Pentax line. I just keep AA's in my bag, and I'm always ready to go. Even in the field away from an outlet for days or even weeks, I've had no problems at all. –  user10038 Jun 4 '12 at 4:26

3 Answers 3

An indirect answer: the type of battery being used makes a difference. Lithium ion batteries are standard because they provide very consistent high performance for both the entirety of the charge and the life of the battery. They will last a long time, are meant to be recharged frequently, and perform well in many conditions. Cost is their downside.

If you're looking for standard AA-sized cells, there are options.

  • Lithium AA cells are arguably the best because they perform well and will last a long time, and will work well in the cold; they are expensive and one-time use, though.
  • NiMH rechargeable AA performance is acceptable. They output less voltage towards the end of their charge, necessitating more frequent recharging. They also lose their charge pretty quickly even when not used, necessitating more frequent recharging. Quality cells (such as Eneloop) and a quality charger will provide better performance and life, but they cost more and it doesn't take much of an investment before getting another camera-specific battery makes more sense.
  • Alkaline AA cells are nearly worthless. Their performance is poor for high-drain devices like cameras. I don't think it's unreasonable to say you would need hundreds of alkaline AAs for a weekend shoot.

C and D cells are impractical, size-wise, for typical use. Your camera battery probably provides somewhere between about 7-7.5 volts, which is 5, 6, or 7 cells. How big would that be? Yeah, almost as big as the camera and therefore not too convenient!

One battery came with your camera. In my opinion you need one more to always be prepared for whatever may come along. It's possible you need more than that for your specific shooting requirements, but I think having two batteries is probably enough for most people. The cost of one extra battery sounds entirely reasonable to me when you consider the other options.

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Consider this half an answer or an answer to half your question :)

Most cameras on the market use custom batteries. This allows the camera manufacturer to provide a precise and reliable experience for the user. The downside is increased cost and inconvenience since options are limited.

AA batteries are great and Pentax still makes DSLRs that use AAs and can reach battery life above the majority of similar entry-level models. However the latest models, both the K-r and the soon-to-be-available K-30 support BOTH types of batteries. The reason is there was a lot of complaint with people getting very poor performance from AAs, far from the numbers provided by Pentax. With Lithium AAs on a K-r, you can get over 1500 shots!

The real problem is that most people who do not pay for proprietary batteries do not even pay for quality AA batteries! A good set of 4 AAs costs about $15-20 USD, depending on where you live. PowerEx and top-of-the-line Energizer or Sanyo as well as Imedion and Sanyo Eneloops fall in that category. The last two are less powerful but low-self-discharge so keep 90% of the power after 1 year without use while the first two empty themselves in 1-2 months. If your batteries are Alkaline, have a cat on them or say GP, consider them garbage.

Honestly I really like AAs and I was annoyed when I upgraded to a camera with proprietary battery particularly since I have been away from electricity for weeks at a time and a Solar AA charger purchased for about $25 served me well. For Li-Ion batteries a solar charger is not attractive because I would need one for each type of proprietary battery.

There are battery grips for other cameras which support AAs but I have not seen one for the D3100 other than the link you provided.

PS: I know how poor AA performance has been for those who skimped because I got hundreds of messages from people wondering why they got such low battery-life.

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A good set of 4 AAs costs $15-20 and are godawful, whereas a Nikon EN-EL14 Li-ion battery for the D3100 costs $40, performs brilliantly, lasts for ages and is better for the environment. No contest AFAIC. –  ElendilTheTall Oct 31 '12 at 10:35
    
While I have not tried an AA grip for the D3100, I can tell you that good AAs last much longer on a camera which accepts both and on similar cameras with models accepting one or the other, battery-life is much better with good AAs. Poor AAs on the other hand run out very fast and - apparently - give a very bad reputation to AAs as a whole! –  Itai Oct 31 '12 at 13:16

The answer is simple - you already have an original Nikon battery, now all you need is to buy a non original one (which are cheap from Ebay or wherever). Then buy yourself a battery grip also, not that expensive - it doesn't have to be a Nikon.

The secret to this simple puzzle is put the original battery in the battery grip in position One, then put the non original in position Two - this will fool the camera into thinking you have One large battery (as a non standard battery will not work in the Nikon) and - hey presto! - you get the battery grip and cheap batteries' longer performance out of your camera, but a lot cheaper than you could ever buy from Nikon.

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