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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Gadget Bag: Batteries

What you need to know for reliable power in the field

Proprietary Rechargeable Batteries
If your digital camera came with a proprietary rechargeable power source, it’s probably a lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery. These cells are typically black or battleship gray and shaped like either a rectangular cube or something that resembles two short, fat AA cells joined at the long edge. At the moment, this is the battery technology of choice because it’s environmentally friendly, has no memory and is capable of delivering a full day’s shooting—and then some—on a single charge. It also charges to full capacity quickly. Lithium is the lightest metal on the planet, and lithium batteries are correspondingly compact and lightweight.

The only thing better than one Li-Ion battery is two Li-Ion batteries—one in service and one as a backup. There are few things more frustrating or disappointing than a shooting session that’s interrupted by a weak or dead battery. And it’s so avoidable—just carry an extra battery in your gadget bag. Keep it in its original container or a plastic bag to protect the electrical contacts. Make sure it’s fully charged and you’ll never be without juice.

Is it imperative to buy a battery that’s the same brand as your camera? Let’s face it, most camera manufacturers are not Li-Ion battery manufacturers. That means they’re buying their batteries from a third party. In many cases, these third-party, OEM suppliers are also fabricating batteries for many of the private-label brands. The long and the short of it is this: Trust batteries that are sold by retailers you trust. Avoid brands you never see advertised or have never heard of.

Brands like Lenmar, Quest, DigiPower and Impact have been providing rechargeable alternatives to manufacturers’ prime digital camera and camcorder batteries for years. Many retailers, including Adorama, offer their own line of batteries as well. The cost savings is often substantial—sometimes enough that you can own two batteries for the price of one. For instance, an Adorama EN-EL3 rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack for Nikon D70 and D-100 digital cameras will run you less than $20, but to buy one that has Nikon’s name on it will set you back $40.

Make sure that your search for a lower price doesn’t lead you to some phony brand that’s being sold from someone’s basement via an online auction. There are verified reports of counterfeit batteries sold by nefarious merchants, and some of those look-alike products have malfunctioned and damaged cameras and other electronic equipment. Buy from a merchant you trust or buy a name you know, and you’ll be safe. It’s better to spend a little more for a brand you trust than to find yourself miles from nowhere, with the ultimate photo in your viewfinder—and no power to capture it.

(800) 223-2500
(800) 424-2703
Ansmann (HP Marketing Corp.)
(800) 735-4373
Maha Energy
(800) 376-9992
(800) 211-PANA
(800) 551-2355
Sunpak (ToCAD)
(973) 627-9600
(800) 383-7323
(800) 798-7740





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