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Friday, July 1, 2005

Gadget Bag: PowerHungry


Today's batteries help satisfy our insatiable

Chargers & External Batteries
If you use many same-size batteries (AA), it’s worthwhile to have multiple chargers or a larger charger that holds more than four batteries. I make it a point to have more batteries than I expect to use during a shoot. Nothing is worse than running out of power just as you’re hitting your photographic stride.

Some camera makers offer a dock that keeps your camera’s battery fully charged automatically—the dock maximizes your batteries’ longevity while making sure you’ve always got a camera that’s ready to go.

Charge times for batteries on a standard “slow” charge can take three to four hours. For those with little patience or time, rapid chargers promise to fully charge your batteries in as fast as 15 minutes or less. Rapid charging is definitely a convenience, but it reduces the overall life of the battery and tends not to top off the battery at its full capacity. More important to consider is the charger’s ability to prevent undercharging or overcharging, which can result in reduced performance and life. Make sure that your charger includes discharge-conditioning circuitry to prevent such problems.

Along with the chargers that come with a set of batteries, universal chargers that accept multiple types and sizes of batteries also are available. These offer the convenience of having a single unit to restore power to NiMH, Li-ion and NiCD batteries. To ensure good performance, invest in chargers that analyze the condition of the batteries and provide a discharge function.

If you’re working out in the field, you still can charge your batteries with solar-powered chargers, which convert the sun’s rays into power for your batteries. They not only offer a power source for your camera battery, but for all of your electronic devices, including GPS receivers and cell phones.

External battery packs are another option for photographers for whom even high-power NiMH batteries aren’t enough. External packs that use NiMH or Li-ion cells connect to your camera or flash using an adapter. They can provide hundreds and hundreds of full-power flashes or camera exposures from a single charge.

Managing Your Batteries
As I own six sets of AA rechargeable batteries (four cells each), it’s important to keep some sense of organization. Throwing them into my camera bag is a recipe for disaster, which results in an inability to differentiate between those batteries that are fully charged and those that have been completely drained.

I’ve marked my batteries with a small colored sticker—each set has a different color and is marked with a number, such as set 1, set 2, etc. Although I keep fresh batteries housed in the clear plastic case provided by the manufacturers, I’m usually tossing the exhausted batteries into an empty space in my camera bag when I’m actually shooting. The stickers allow me to quickly sort them at the end of the day.

While batteries certainly aren’t the sexiest thing in photography, they’re easily one of the most important tools in the business of image-making. What they lack in allure they more than make up for in performance and reliability.


AAA Rechargeable Batteries Type Capacity (milliamps) Charger Available? Cost
(4-pack)
Ansmann AA
HP Marketing Corp.
(800) 735-4373
www.hpmarketingcorp.com
NiMh 2500 mAh Yes $14
Energizer AA
Energizer, (800) 383-7323
www.energizer.com
NiMh 2500 mAh Yes $10
Hahnel AA
RTS, (631) 242-6801
www.rtsphoto.com
NiMh 2500 mAh Yes $16.95
Lenmar AA
Lenmar, (800) 424-2703
www.lenmar.com
NiMh 2450 mAh Yes $22.95
Maha PowerEx AA
Maha Energy, (800) 376-9992
www.mahaenergy.com
NiMh 2500 mAh Yes $14.95
Monster Cable PowerCell AA
Monster Cable, (415) 840-2000,
PowerCell AA
www.monstercable.com/powercell

NiMh 2100 mAh Yes $29.95
Sunpak AA
ToCAD America, (973) 428-9800
www.sunpak.com
NiMh 2300 mAh Yes $9.95
High-Capacity Battery Packs Type Voltage/Size Charger Available? Cost
Sunpak TR-2000 Universal
High Voltage Battery Pack
ToCAD America, (973) 428-9800
www.sunpak.com
NiCd or NiMh 6-330 volts/
6x4.7x2.5 in.
Yes $299
Quantum Turbo Compact Battery
Quantum Instruments
(631) 656-7400, www.qtm.com
NiMh Varies/
5.5x2.2x2.2 in.
Yes $512

 

 


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