A Tale of Two Grips

The Olympus OM-D E-M5III can be the basis of a fantastic small photography system. You get good performance and good features (including weathersealing) in a lightweight, compact package.

But for those of us with larger hands, an E-M5III can be a little too compact.

E-M5III in-hand

And then, of course, people have been reporting problems with the durability of the camera’s mounting plate. So, both usability and camera protection could drive you to adding some sort of grip to an E-M5III. But preferably not something large and/or heavy enough to make the camera as big as its larger brothers in the E-M1 series.

Olympus provides this in the form of the ECG-5 grip — but courtesy of an excellent review by Rob Trek, I recently found out about the Haoge HG-EM5III. I thought a quick comparison was in order, so ordered one to see if it would replace my ECG-5.

The grips side-by-side

Fundamentally, the Haoge grip is very simple — a machined aluminum block, with some rubbery inserts on the grip, and a pad to help grip the camera body at its base. An Arca-Swiss-compatible geometry at its base combined with a removable vertical U-bar turns the whole thing into an L-bracket should you need that (but more on that later). A machined hole in the Haoge’s base allows for access to the camera’s battery, should you need to do a quick swap (vs. charging via USB).

Haoge battery access

The Olympus ECG-5 grip meanwhile is a bit taller, and gives you an additional button and scroll-wheel (the camera will normally treat them as duplicates of the shutter release and body’s front wheel respectively, but you can change that in the camera’s menus).

Side view of grips

The trade-off for this is that (unlike grips for previous E-M5* models) the ECG-5 must be removed from the camera body in order to swap batteries. And of course, the ECG-5 is considerably more expensive than the Haoge grip (the circuitry doesn’t come for free).

Before you get too excited about the Haoge, though, you should know a few things about its L-bracket functionality. The grip’s U-bar (is there an official name for these things?) allows access to the camera’s left-side ports, but not easily. You’ll need to use a long fingernail or some sort of tool to open two of the port covers.

Tunnel-o-ports

The U-bar also seriously limits the motion of the camera’s LCD screen — you can barely open it enough to reverse its facing direction (in / out), but not enough to use it at a 90 degree angle from the body (i.e., the way you’d likely want to use it when taking photos on a tripod in portrait orientation). Other hardware that’s optimized for L-bracket use (hat tip to 3 Legged Thing) accommodates more screen motion than this; sadly, they don’t do grips.

Not quite open

Alternatively, I may do some grinding on the U-bar to allow for the screen to hinge out to 90 degrees (not that I should have to do this on a purchased product).

Granted, you can skip the Haoge’s L-bracket functionality entirely by leaving off the U-bar — but then there’s a sharp edge where the U-bar would normally mount. I’m expecting this will tend to damage other items in my camera bag.

The edge of death

Fortunately, I’m pretty handy and have a 3D printer, so I wound up printing a cap to cover this sharp edge in real-world use (if you have a 3D printer, or have a friend with one, you can download this file and print one yourself). But again, I shouldn’t have to do this for a purchased product.

Summary

So, let’s look at the pros and cons of both grips.

Olympus ECG-5

Pro Con
  • Good build quality
  • Light weight
  • Additional controls
  • Expensive
  • Must remove for battery access
  • Arca-Swiss mount requires extra
    hardware

 

Haoge HG-EM5III

Pro Con
  • Good build quality
  • Light weight
  • Cheaper
  • Built-in Arca-Swiss geometry
  • L-bracket functionality
  • Poorly thought-out L-bracket geometry
    w.r.t. screen use, port access, sharp edges

 

For those that would prefer even more tables, here is a direct comparison of the two grips.

Olympus ECG-5 Haoge HG-EM5III
Retail ($US,
Jan. 1 2021)
162.50 54.99
Weight 120 g / 4.23 oz 125 g / 4.41 oz w/ L-bracket
110 g / 3.88 oz w/o
Adds controls? Yes, button / wheel No
Battery Access Must remove grip Access with grip in place
Screen motion Full motion with grip in place Must remove U-bar
Arca-Swiss Requires additional hardware Built-in

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