I have been very frustrated by the fact that many of the companies that specialize in photo accessories have yet to come out with an L-bracket for the Nikon Z7ii with an attached MB-N11 battery grip. Since the camera itself has a basically identical footprint to the original Z7, there are any number of L-brackets out there for the Z7ii body only, but the choices for that same camera with the MB-N11 attached are far and few between.
The reason seems to be two-fold — the way the battery cover on the MB-N11 opens, and the Charging Connector cover, positioned just above the battery cover. It would appear that the latter is the real problem.
To date, I’ve found only two L-brackets for this camera / grip combo — the PLNMBN11 from ProMediaGear and the BL-Z7IIG from KirkPhoto. Each has its positive and negative aspects.
No one sends me gear to check out, so I buy the things I might want to try, and if something doesn’t work out, I'm either stuck with it, or, depending on who I bought it from, it might be sent back for a refund. I don't take that lightly -- it has to be either defective or otherwise completely unusable for me to return a purchase. In those cases, I usually have to swallow some shipping charges in the process, but such is life.
Since the Kirk L-bracket wasn’t yet available when I needed it, I tried the ProMediaGear version first.
At a retail price of $149.95, the PLNMBN11 is a 2 piece unit beautifully machined from anodized T6061 aluminum alloy. By loosening two screws on the bottom of the bottom plate, the vertical part of the grip can be pulled out away from the body, allowing additional access to the various camera controls. The vertical arm also has a cold shoe on top, to allow mounting of accessories. The PLNMBN11 is available with either a SS2 or QD strap connector on the bottom of the bracket, which, depending on your preferences, can be very handy (I prefer the QD, myself).
There was only one part of the PLNMBN11’s design that I found problematic, and unfortunately, it was, for me, at least, a deal breaker.
ProMediaGear’s solution to the problem of keeping both the battery chamber door and the Charging Connector cover completely accessible was to offset the vertical arm of the grip forward, so that it’s not in line with the rest of the bracket or with the camera body. Instead, it lines up, front to back, with the rear portion of the lens (or with the FTZ adapter, if you are using one of those).
Other than feeling a little odd, I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with that idea — except for one thing: the forward offset made it rather difficult for me to access the lens release button.
I don’t know how anyone else changes lenses on a Nikon camera, but I do it by holding the body in my right hand, and placing my left hand on top of the lens, where my left thumb can press the lens release button while I rotate the lens and body in opposite directions.
Unfortunately, when I tried to do this with the PLNMBN11 attached to the camera, it was quite difficult to get my thumb in between the lens and the PLNMBN11 when accessing the lens release button on the FTZ adapter. Reaching all the way to the camera body to get to the camera’s lens release button was all but impossible. I was afraid I’d lose my grip on the lens, and drop something. Keep in mind, my hands are not overly large, but really quite average in size.
I found that I could rectify the problem if I loosened those aforementioned screws on the bottom of the PLNMBN11, and pulled the vertical out away from the body. All well and good, but why should I have to go through all that to change lenses? I suppose I could just start leaving it that way all the time, but it sure would make the whole thing rather awkward, at best.
I contacted ProMediaGear, and they very graciously agreed to allow me to return the PLNMBN11, going so far as to pay for the return shipping. The only thing I was out was the original shipping charge.
Kirk Enterprises BL-Z7IIG
Not too long after I returned the ProMediaGear bracket, the Kirk Enterprises BL-Z7IIG became available. The BL-Z7IIG is a bit more expensive, coming in at an even $180.00. It’s made of 6061-T6 aluminum, and sports a more traditional design, albeit with a couple of interesting bends and curves in the transitional section between the base plate and the removable vertical arm.
Those bends and curves are what allows the BL-Z7IIG to keep out of the way of both the battery cover and the Charging Connector cover. As a result, the vertical arm is in the more traditional (and, in my humble opinion, the more acceptable) location — completely in line with the body. This means there is no problem accessing the lens release button on the body.
The BL-Z7IIG comes standard with two QD connector ports — one on the bottom, in the traditional location, and another on the side of the vertical arm. I’ve used the one on the bottom, but haven’t yet tried the one on the vertical arm. There is also a space on the bottom designed specifically for storing the included hex wrench.
If the BL-Z7IIG has a design problem, it’s that it is not compatible with a Nikon WR-11B remote. I don’t own a WR-11B, but from the photos I’ve seen of the unit, it appears the WR-11B is too thick to clear the rear part of the vertical arm, and still be fully plugged into the accessory port on the camera body.
To be sure, all of the ports are accessible through the opening in the vertical arm, but the design of the WR-11B is such that one can’t plug it in properly while the BL-Z7IIG is attached to the camera. Like I said, I don’t have a WR-11B, so this is not a problem for me. I suppose the vertical arm could be removed when it is necessary to use a WR-11B, but that would preclude using the camera on a tripod in vertical mode. I haven’t tried it, but it might be possible to just turn the vertical arm around, so it sticks down below the camera instead of running up along the side as it does normally.
Both are beautifully and exceptionally well made. The PromediaGear PLNMBN11 is an excellent L-bracket, and if you can live with the offset, and can easily fit your fingers between it and the lens to access the lens release button, then this might be a good choice, especially if you could make use of that cold shoe on the top of the vertical arm. However, if you need and use a Nikon WR-11B remote, the PLNMBN11 would definitely allow its use. At $149.95, the price is right for a beautiful piece of kit. It's an excellent L-bracket, just not the right one for me.
The Kirk BL-Z7IIG is the more expensive choice, and while it is still not 100% bug free, it was definitely the better choice for me. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I ever decide I need a WR-11B remote, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.