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Batteries

By MidgePhoto, written 1542852244.

Camera Batteries

Camera batteries tend to be bespoke, although Canon at least use interchangeable batteries across several of their models.

The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) batteries are better but not by much.

Aftermarket batteries give good value for money and rarely are associated with problems. When they are, it is drops in voltage under load, which indicates a new one is needed. Catastrophic meltdowns in the camera have not been reported (at least on PurplePort) and are unlikely.

In principle, a camera battery could be rebuilt with new Lithium cells of a standard size* and from a named manufacturer in the original case and electronics. This may not be worth it unless one has the setup to routinely do such things.

Charging Lithium batteries or cells on a non-inflammable surface, and clear of anything burnable does not seem an unreasonable habit.

Don't discount the use of AA cells in a holder in a battery handle, holders for these fitting into the space usually occupied by 2 camera batteries are often available. Primary AA cells are available very widely, and where recharging is difficult may extend endurance.  Using rechargeable NiMH AA cells in the cameras may reduce the number of different items in the inventory.

Li cells travel in the aircraft cabin, they should have their terminals covered. The limits on quantity and capacity apply mainly to TV crews.

Flash, Speedlites etc

There is a rough consensus that Eneloop NiMH**** cells are best, and worth the premium. The different makes and flavours of Eneloop may vary, but it doesn't make an obvious difference***. Sanyo originated the type, and 7-Day Shop are economical.  Energizer rechargeables were reported by Which to be nearly as good as Eneloop and half the price.

Alkaline primary cells have higher internal resistance, therefore cycle slower, and get hotter when rushed.  So use NiMH cells if you can.

For external battery packs at 6 volts the same applies. High voltage ones are sui generis and out of scope of this article.

Charging

It is worth having a clever charger to go with these fancy batteries - they'll last longer and individually and as groups be more optimally charged. In particular, charging NiMH AA cells at 200mA probably extends their life, while the option of charging 4 times as hard is occasionally needed.  

Chargers  

Choose the current version, the BL700N, over the one without the N. There are "blatant low-cost copies" around, which are claimed to have older and less capable firmware. 

A very discharged cell may need a short charge from an unsophisticated charger before the smart charger recognises it as a battery, rather than perhaps a model cunningly carved from soap, and deigns to carry on charging it. Best to give them a trickle every 3 months or so if not in use.  (The BL700N is reported to have overcome this need)

It may be worth keeping cells in sets of 4, 6, 8 according to how much use they have had and it might be worth re-sorting cells according to their tested capacity as they age. It almost certainly is worth labelling them, for instance with loops of tape in some systematic scheme, or in writing with a suitable pen, with date of purchase, etc.

Have an extra set, charged, and recycle cells before they become irritatingly poor in performance. (The author keeps a set of elderly AA cells on charge in the studio which have been loaned as needed, but are no longer taken anywhere and relied on.)

Big Batteries 

Studio heads used to have lead acid battery packs to go out and about. Modern ones tend to have big Li batteries (very likely made of a stack of 18650** cells). Neither are very popular on aeroplanes, plan ahead, ask, liaise, and get it in writing if possible.

Gadgets

For off-camera flash triggers there will commonly be a coin cell or other specific primary cell.  It will run out after the second shot on the first shoot where it is vital. Take a spare.

Receivers may be built in to the flash, but if not - Pocket Wizard etc - it helps if they are using the same cells as the flashes.

Similarly with LED panels.

Footnotes

* The Canon batteries for the 7D, 6D etc seem to use a pair of 3/4AA sized cells, for instance.

** 18 mm diameter, 65 mm long, typically 3.7V 2600mAh, up to rare 3600mAh. Probably the most commonly made and generic Li cell worldwide. Samsung and Tesla among others make good ones.

*** Depending how you use your speed lights: the pro version should cope better with many high-power shots in a session.

**** Eneloop, and some other brands*****, are low self-discharge NiMH cells. This means that a battery you charged a while ago should deliver most of its performance. While in theory organisation - taking batteries out of equipment on return to base and keeping a charging line providing recently fully charge batteries to put in prior to going out - would remove any need for this, life tends not to be so crisp. For very long shelf-life some specialised Lithium primary cells are available, the author has not gone that far in backup.

*****  IKEA sell 2450 mAh Ladda cells, which are said to be rebranded Eneloop Pro, and have a good reputation. They do not, as it happens, come as a flat pack.  https://gizmodo.com/are-ikeas-7-rechargeable-batteries-actually-pricey-ene-1823204061