The launch of a new camera like the Nikon Z8 often comes with the launch of a new battery grip. Usually, there is nothing much to say about these accessories, but the new MB-N12 battery grip for the Nikon Z8 differs. Kudos to Nikon’s engineers for adding not one but two features that caught my eye. I have pre-ordered this grip for my own incoming Z8.
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USB-C Dual Charger
The USB-C port on the side of the MB-N12 grip can power the camera continuously or charge the two batteries inside it. That’s nice, but this was available on previous Nikon battery grip models. The new feature for the MB-N12 is that you can now use this USB-C port to charge the batteries in the grip when the grip is not attached to the camera. As far as I know, this is the first battery grip with this feature, and it effectively means that the Z8’s battery grip is both a battery grip and a USB-C dual-battery charger.
While I usually do buy the battery grip for any smaller-bodied camera I own, I don’t always use it. I’ll often pack it in my kit and only attach it to the camera for shoots where it makes sense. What’s great about the MB-N12 grip for the Nikon Z8 is that I don’t need to travel with a separate battery charge anymore. At the end of a day’s shooting, whether at home or on the road in a hotel room, I can put a pair of batteries into the grip and charge them using USB-C. I could even charge a third battery in the Z8 simultaneously. Alternatively, I can charge a pair of batteries in the grip while driving while keeping the camera safely tucked away in a camera bag.
This is one of those “why hasn’t anyone done this before?” features. With cameras all moving to USB-C charging, this should become the standard for battery grips moving forward
The second clever feature of the Z8 battery grip is the ability to hot-swap batteries. This means you can swap out a depleted battery while still keeping power to the camera. This is a handy feature during long video or timelapse recording sessions.
Here’s how it works: When you open the latched door on the side of the MB-N12, it doesn’t turn off the camera, as would be the case with many battery grips. With the door open, you’ll see two buttons. Pressing the yellow button only releases the battery in Slot A. When you remove the battery in Slot A, the camera immediately switches to drawing power from Slot B. The grey button releases the entire battery tray with both batteries. Do not press that button if you want to hot-swap!
The important thing is that the camera will always draw power from Slot A if a battery is present (and it has power). While you remove a depleted battery from Slot A, the camera takes its power from Slot B. When you replace the battery in Slot A with a fresh one, the grip will return to using Slot A. This ensures that some power remains in the battery in Slot B should you wish to hot-swap again.
Of course, if you don’t remove the dead battery from Slot A or remove it but don’t replace it with a fresh one, the battery in Slot B will get used until it is fully depleted. Again, just like the UCB-C dual-battery charging, this seems like a feature that camera companies should have already given us. Now I expect other manufacturers to spend a little more time thinking about the functionality of their battery grips! Great job, Nikon!
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The Nikon Z8 battery grip has a few quirks to it. Particularly when it comes to charging. I have compiled a list of frequently asked questions below, based on my own testing and experiments where necessary.
Can you use the Nikon Z6 II or Z7 II battery grip on the Z8?
No. The battery grip for the Z6 II and Z7 II is the MB-N11. At first glance, this grip appears to be identical to the Nikon Z8 battery grip (MB-N12), but there are minor physical differences, such as a different position for the attachment screw, that prevent you from using the Z6 II or Z7 II battery grip on the Z8. Unfortunately, if you already own an MB-N11 grip for one of those older cameras, you will have to buy a new MB-N12 battery grip for the Nikon Z8.
Can you use the Nikon Z5, Z6, or Z7 battery grip on the Z8?
No. The battery grip for the Nikon Z5, Z6, and Z7 is the Nikon MB-N10. This battery grip is not compatible with the Nikon Z8. If you are upgrading from one of those cameras and already own the grip, unfortunately, you will have to buy the new MB-N12 grip for the Z8.
Can you use the Nikon Z8 battery grip (MB-N12) on the Z5, Z6, Z7, Z6 II or Z7 II?
Can you keep a battery in the Z8 while using the battery grip?
No. To install the Z8 battery grip, you must remove the EN-EL15c battery from the Z8. The battery grip will hold two of these EN-EL15c batteries, so you will have a total of two batteries in the camera with a grip attached. Not three. If you are coming from a Nikon D850, this is an important change to note.
How long is the battery life extended with the Nikon Z8 battery grip?
With a pair of EN-EL15c batteries in the Nikon Z8’s battery grip, you’d think your Z8 would last twice as long as when a single battery is used in the camera. According to Nikon, that is not the case. With the MB-N12 batter grip installed, you can expect to get 1.8x as many shots or video recording time as possible when using one camera battery.
Does the Nikon Z8 battery grip come with batteries?
No. The MB-N12 battery grip does not come with any batteries. You can use the battery that came with your Nikon Z8 for one of the two slots, but you will need to buy a second battery to take advantage of longer running times. The Nikon Z8 uses the EN-EL15c battery.
Will the Nikon Z8 battery grip work with one battery?
Yes. If you only have one charged battery for your Z8, you can install that single battery, and the grip and camera will still work. This might be useful for people who want to use the battery grip for added comfort when holding the camera in a portrait orientation but don’t necessarily need the longer running times.
Can you use the Nikon D850 battery grip on the Nikon Z8?
No. The Nikon D850 grip is completely different from the Z8’s grip. If you are upgrading from the D850 you will have to buy the new MB-N12 grip.
Can you use a Z9 battery in the Nikon Z8 grip?
No. You cannot use an EN-EL18d battery from the Z9 in the Z8 battery grip. This is important to note for D850 users who could use the larger D5 or D6 batteries in the D850’s grip.
Why doesn’t the orange charge light on the Z8 battery grip turn off when the battery is full?
Yeah, this one confused me a lot, to begin with! When you plug a USB-C charger into the Z8 battery grip to charge the batteries inside, an orange light indicates which of the two battery bays is being charged. The light should turn off when the battery in that bay has fully charged. However, the light won’t go out if your USB-C charger delivers less than 30w of power. The battery will still reach a full 100% charge, but for some reason, unless that charger meets that minimum 30w specification, the light doesn’t seem to turn off.
Why doesn’t the Z8 battery grip switch to charging the second battery once the first battery has been charged?
Although Nikon doesn’t explicitly state this anywhere I could find, the Z8 battery grip needs a USB-C charger that delivers at least 30w to function correctly. If you use a charger delivering less than 30w, the grip will charge a single battery but never switch to the second battery bay. Instead, the first battery bay will be slowly charged, but, per the previous FAQ question, despite that first bay reaching 100%, the charge light on the first bay will never go out. As a result, it won’t automatically switch to the second bay.
You can get around this by unplugging the USB-C cable after you are sure the first battery has reached a full charge and then plugging it back in again. At this point, the grip will see that the battery in the second bay needs to charge, but the first one does not. And so it will start charging that second battery. Of course, this is a pain in the ass, so buying a USB-C charger that delivers more than 30W in the first place is much better. Anker makes several excellent options. I like the Anker 711 model.