Nikon's MB-D10 (see our review, buy from Amazon, B&H) for the Nikon D300 & D700 gives you several options for powering your camera. Which option you select can have a significant effect on the performance of the camera, both in terms of battery life and the maximum frame rate you can shoot.
The options for powering Nikons MB-D10 are:
Use a second EN-EL3e in the grip. These can be bought for around $35, but will not increase your frame rate; this battery will merely extend your battery life. In normal use, we get around 1,250 to 1,400 shots per battery (this is using VR, minimal use of the LCD, 12-bit NEF lossless compressed on a Nikon D300. The number of shots you get may differ significantly based on how you use the camera.) |
A tray to use the EN-EL3e is supplied with the MB-D10. Also note, many third-party EN-EL3e clone batteries do not work with the D300 or in the grip.
A tray to use 8 AA batteries is also supplied with the MB-D10, and has the added advantage of increasing the maximum frame rate of both the D300 and D700 to 8fps. Disposable batteries can be used and work very well, but that option not only gets expensive fast, but is also not the most environmentally friendly.
Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries work very well in the MB-D10, however the problem with most NiMH batteries is that they self-discharge very quickly, usually in a matter of days to a few weeks. The good news is, that the newer Low Self-Discharge Rate NiMH batteries, such as Sanyo's eneloops, don't have this problem. We use them, and we've literally had a set sit on a shelf fully charged for almost 3 months, and they still managed over 2,200 shots in the MB-D10. That's far more than we've ever got out of an EN-EL3e, plus they give us the full 8fps.
A set of 8 batteries plus charger typically costs under $30, which less than a single EN-EL3e, making them very hard to beat.
Nikon expected a lot of D3 owners to also buy a D300 (either as a backup or for telephoto work due to the crop factor), so they designed the MB-D10 to be able to use the EN-EL4a batteries used by the D3 and D2 series cameras. This requires buying a separate Nikon BL-3 Battery Chamber Cover for around $35. The EN-EL4a option also gives you the full 8fps on both the D300 and D700, and although we haven't tested it, it should give you the longest battery performance of all the options. We've seen reports of people getting over 3,000 shots per charge in real-world conditions. |
The battery is also a few grams lighter than using AA's, but not really enough to be noticeable. However if you don't already have the EN-EL4a and a charger for it, buying the battery, charger plus cap runs around the $250 mark, which in our opinion is just not justifiable when NiMH batteries will give the vast majority of photographers the exact same results for about a tenth of the cost.
Firstly, avoid 3rd party EN-EL3e and EN-EL4a batteries completely. Many of these simply won't work in the D300 or the MB-D10. Even if you find one that does work, these are not just simple batteries – they have circuitry in the battery and have a 3rd contact used to communicate with the camera, and if your camera is damaged by a 3rd party battery it may void your warranty.
We have a hard time justifying spending $35 on an additional EN-EL3e when for less money NiMH's not only last longer, but also give you the full 8fps. We have five EN-EL3e's laying round the office, largely gathering dust now that our D200 is rarely used anymore.
If you already have a D3 or D2 and have the charger and spare EN-EL4a's, spending an extra $35 on the BL-3 cap is a great way to go, it gives you 8fps, and is the longest lasting battery. If you are traveling with both a D3 and D300 in your kit, then you only need to take a single charger for both cameras.
For everyone else, the approximate $250 price tag for the EN-EL4a solution is very hard to justify when there are much more cost effective solutions available, that do just as good a job. That extra $200+ spent on the EN-EL4a plus charger plus cap over NiMH's, in virtually every instance won't make a tangible difference to your photography. We believe putting that same money towards lenses, filters, tripod or a trip somewhere to actually take pictures will have a much more significant impact.
Our recommendation is to use Low Self-Discharge Rate NiMH batteries. For less than the cost of the BL-3 cap, you can buy a set of 8 eneloop or similar batteries plus charger (we paid $28 at Costco for a set of 8 with charger, that also came with AAA's and other stuff). This should give you over 2,000 shots per charge in normal circumstances, at the full 8fps if needed.
Very few people take more than 2,000 shots in a day on a single body. We have been known to at major events, so we bought an extra set of eneloops and an extra MS-D10 tray for the AA's ($30 on Amazon). Swapping the trays takes mere seconds; with two trays we get well over 4,000 shots before the camera switches to the EN-EL3e in the body, which is more than enough for any days shooting we've encountered yet. Plus we are still well under half the cost of a single EN-EL4a with charger & cap.
This setup also has several other advantages - when traveling we just need to take a single charger with us to power both camera and flashguns. Car chargers for AA's are cheap, so you don't need to worry about international voltage when traveling internationally, or if you are in the middle of nowhere camping. Unless you are in the wilderness a long way from civilization, if a battery dies or charger breaks, just about every gas station and corner store in the civilized world carries disposable AA's that can be used in an emergency. For us, that makes the choice pretty simple.