Friday, October 29, 2010

I Need To Recharge My Batteries Today and Other Battery Strategies

Good Afternoon Everybody,

0629MP-1273-DZ_IMG_1074 We're getting ready for a big Bat Mitzvah this weekend and need to begin at 7:30 a.m tomorrow morning - a pretty early wake up call for all of us. I photographed Olivia's sister's Bat Mitzvah about two years ago so it will be fun hanging out with the family again this weekend.

I have to say, I still enjoy photographing Bar and Bat Mitzvah's. I enjoy watching these young 13 year olds marking their rite of passage into Jewish adulthood. Their year long preparation really pays off as you see them so poised up on the bimah being "Rabbi for the day" to the entire congregation.

And, in the evening, it's always a hoppin' party of the kids and adults enjoying a really good time. Yep, it will be a long day tomorrow but still a fun one.

I Need To Recharge My Batteries Today and Other Battery Strategies

Apple chargerI decided to write today’s post based on a press release I saw recently about Apple announcing their brand new AA battery recharger [link] which is shipped with 6 Ni-MH batteries.  So what’s  the big deal about a new battery charger.  Apple is positioning this new product as a way to constantly be ready to power up a device like a mouse pad, keyboard, etc. once the batteries die – 2 batteries in the keyboard, 2 in the mouse pad, and 2 in the charger.

Now the nice thing about their charger is that once the batteries are charged, the charger drops to a “trickle” charge thereby saving energy and a few cents off your electric bill. The downside for me is that the charger takes about 6-7 hours to recharge the depleted batteries – way to long for me.

Anyway, that’s what got me thinking about today’s post an the battery strategies we use around my studio. So what kind of batteries do you use in your shoe mount strobes?

Energizer chargerI’ve been using good ol’ Energizer rechargeable batteries [link] since I started shooting digital 10 years ago. I usually pick them up at Sam’s Club.  I like the fact that the first sets I picked up came with a 15 minute rapid charger.

The downside of the Energizer batteries is that they only last me about two years and then I need to replace them.  The other downside is that they are NiCad batteries and will begin losing their charge once they come off the charger. I usually charge them up the day of the event and then pack the charger with me just in case I need it, which, BTW is not too often. One set usually lasts me the entire day of shooting.

Enelope batteries Is there a better battery solution available.  I think so, I’ve just been kind of lazy to switch.  The better battery is the Ni-MH battery.  Here is the good news – they hold their charge much, much, much better over the NiCad batteries. Check out the accompanying chart to get an idea how long.

The hot Ni-MH batteries have always been the Sanyo eneloop batteries [link]. And, guess what? They’re even cheaper than the Energizer batteries by about $2 at Amazon. I really do need to make the switch.

IS There A Down Side To The Ni-MH batteries?

The only downside, and I think it is a very slight one is the fact that they don’t come with the rapid charger that I’ve come to prefer. But will they work on my Energizer rapid charger? According to Sanyo, they will but it may reduce the number of charge cycles I could get out of the batteries.

Here is how they answer the question:

“Can I use a "Quick Charger" to charge an eneloop battery?

Though it is possible to charge an eneloop battery in a "Quick Charger", it is not recommended. We recommend charging eneloop batteries in a NiMh charger that is 2 hours or more. Charging eneloop batteries in a "Quick Charger" can reduce the overall life of the battery. It is strongly recommended to use eneloop, GE/Sanyo or Sanyo NiMh battery chargers. We only warrant eneloop if used with an eneloop, GE/Sanyo or Sanyo NiMh battery charger.”

Sanyo eneloop For $10 bucks, I think I want to give it a try.  So, there you have the scoop on battery charging.  All in all, I do plan to switch to the eneloop batteries just because I like the fact that hold their charge so long.  I hate pulling out a flash that’s been sitting in my gear bag for a few days and then finding that the batteries are discharged. I’m going to give them a try on the quick charger too – just ordered 8 – AA’s Ni-MH from Amazon. I’ll keep you posted ;~)


Hey gang, that’s it for today.  I’m cleaning and polishing lenses, charging batteries, and prepping my flash cards.  We head off to the great state of California early Sunday morning where we will be wrapping our Captured Bt The Light 2010 tour. We hit Ontario, CA on Monday; Woodland Hills, CA on Tuesday; and then finish in Sacramento, CA on Thursday.

It’s certainly been a kick – I hope to see many of you there.  There is still plenty of time to register. Hey, we still have $18,000 worth of door prizes to give away! Here is the link to register right here.

Everybody have a great weekend and I’ll see ya’ on the flip side from the West Coast. -David


  1. You're better off using a different charger anyway, one that has individual circuits for each cell being charged. The cheap chargers will stop charging as soon as it thinks the first cell is full. If that cell is bad, then all your cells will be under charged.

  2. David,

    One thing you may want to consider is finding a battery charger that has an independent circuit for each battery charged. I.e., if it is a 4 battery charger, then it has 4 separate charging circuits.

    Why is this important? Well, we all know that batteries charge at slightly different rates, they also discharge at slightly different rates. The way single circuit or multiple circuit chargers work, is they charge until the first battery is done, then they basically quit charging. So take this example if you will . . . I have a Nikon flash that uses 4 AAA batteries. I've been using the flash for a good portion of my shoot and notice my recycle times are starting to get longer and longer (typically a sign the batteries are drained). What really is happening is that 1 of the batteries has actually drained faster and is not providing it's share of the load making the flash think they're dead. So you take your batteries and throw them into the charger. The charger gets to work charging them all, only problem here is, it looks at the first one to finish charging, not the entire set to see how much charge each battery needs. So when the first one finishes, it tells you they're done. So you take your batteries, put them back in your flash, and fire away. Thinking you've got a full charge, you are disappointed that this round seemed to go shorter than the last one. Why? Because the battery that was the most drained is probably still the most drained (it never received a full charge remember?).

    Using a charger with independent circuits will avoid that problem, and may actually give you more "life" out of your batteries.

    Oh, one other point you may want to consider. Not all NIMH batteries are created equal. The pre-charged batteries (like the eneloops) are actually slow discharge rated batteries designed specifically to hold their charge over long periods of time compared to regular NiMH or NiCD batteries.

    Hope it helps,

  3. The Apple batteries are Eneloop's in Apple clothing.

    As far as chargers, Maha makes very good models, that have variable charging rates, and shutdown when they're done. Also allow for charging 1,2,3,4 batteries at a time, so not forced to charge in pairs like a number of other chargers.

    Keep up the great info.

  4. Hi David,

    This is one added value extra. These enelops have been made in Japan - original Japanese cells. For me this is e very big plus in context of 99.9% chinese batteries on the market.


  5. Hi David, I look forward to seeing you in Zürich next year.

    Being a bit behind the times (hey, I'm not so young either), it's not surprising that you have missed out on the fact that there are actually two types of NiMH - the regular "they also start discharging as soon as you take them out" and the Eneloop/low-discharge/ready-to-use NiMH that are slightly lower capacity but retain their charge muuuuuuch longer because they are designed for that. I'd rather have a 2100mAh that still has its charge after 5-6 weeks than a 2700mAh that is a dud after a week. I've switched all my speedlights over to the low-discharge type and never have any nasty surprises.

  6. Hi David- Speaking of batteries and chargers... I spent a lot of time looking for a good charger and the La Crosse Technology Alpha Power battery charger kept coming up in my findings as a good one. Give it a try... I've been using it for a year with the eneloop batteries with good results.

  7. David I find the energizer ultimate lithium batteries the best, but are not rechargeable, Two packets of those does me for a wedding.
    re Dean, Sydney.

  8. A lot of people have been plugging the newer NiZn batteries. They combine the fast current delivery of an NiMH with a voltage that is even higher than an alkaline.

  9. Hi David, there is another important benefit about the Eneloops that is not widely know and that is that they have a lower internal resistance compared to standard NIMH. In layman's terms this means they can pass current faster than normal batteries meaning that your flash can recharge faster. I have been using Eneloops and Panasonic Infinuims for a few years now and I'll never go back to normal NIMH batteries. Love your blog, regards from the other side of the planet.

  10. I use Eneloop/Sanyo exclusively and think they are great. Pick up a set after sitting fora couple of months and they still have lots of charge. No getting caught short.

  11. Hello David, I'm writing from Italy, after some testing and other research I found that the best are the Panasonic Infinium batteries, which have the same characteristics of the Eneloop, and are also sold with the special charger and cost even less than the Eneloop seeing is believing. They also allow us to do more than flashes in succession rtapida classic batteries.

    Remember that all Ni-MH battery charger electronic needs and not a generic one for the traditional batteries is not ok. You lose almost all the advantages of this type of battery.

  12. The Energizer photo you posted shows NiMH batteries, not NiCad. You're comment about short shelf life seems to apply to the "old style" NiMH batteries rather than NiCad. What makes the Eneloop and other NiMH batteris different is that they retain their charge. They're still NiMH, but have a different internal construction so that they don't self discharge.

    I've been using Maha batteries and chargers from Thomas Distributing for years with excellent results. They're also about $1 cheaper for the Eneloop 4-pack.

  13. Well, as you can see there are a lot of opinions out there on batteries. Maybe the shorter shelf life of the higher capacity batteries is getting a bad rap. Manufacturers are making both LSD (low shelf discharge) and high capacity batteries for two different and very good reasons. First, high capacity batteries can offer twice the power and longer run times when compared to the LSD batteries. Many users find it unnecessary whether the battery can remain at 80% charge after one year or not. For me I would not worry one bit if I charged a good quality high capacity battery like the Powerex 2700 mAh NiMH one week before use. Also, as others have mentioned the NiZn batteries are becoming popular as well. There’s lots of good discussion and some opinion on dpreview from people who do this everyday.

  14. yes Ni-Mh last longer david. use the higher mah number they last even longer. c",)

  15. David:

    The Eneloop batteries are amazing; I was constantly hacked off with finding that Energizers - only charged a few days before - had gone nearly flat without even being used. Not so with Eneloops - give them a shot and you'll not look back!