SanyoEneloop – best buy? Photo by Joshua
There are tons of electronic devices today that use – most often, excluding the miniature units – AA and AAA batteries and to pretty much all of these gadgets it makes good sense to use rechargeables instead of one-shot-only alkaline batteries. Most camera producers specifically recommend using (NiMH) rechargeables since they hold their output stable until the very end, instead of gradually getting ever weaker. With other words: rechargeable batteries should keep your gear going full capacity all the way, even though they do quit without much of a warning when they’re out of juice.
Powering digicams in edu use
Talking about digital cameras in school use, I definitely prefer using equipment powered by standard AA size (rechargeable) batteries, considering both the economy and the environmental aspects. There is one more major practical advantage as well, in case the camera batteries go flat when you most need them – which is known to happen! – and that is the emergency option of grabbing a set of standard alkalines at the closest grocery store. However, when moving up to the semi-pro SLR digicam equipment the only choice these days is to stick to the brand specific Li-ion cells and chargers.
The main breeds of rechargeables
The standard NiMH rechargeables can’t be stored very long after charging because their self discharge rate is high: after one month of storage, their capacity can be down to half. Basically, NiMH batteries should be taken fresh from the charger and fitted right into the camera or whatever gear you’re using, to ensure you’ll get maximum performance and battery life from your unit. However, the latest version of rechargeable NiMH ‘hybrid’ batteries – also called 2nd generation and LSD(!) – self discharge very slowly and can be stored almost like conventional alkaline batteries. Further, when you get ‘hybrids’ in your hand, they are fully charged and ready for use. The downside: they are still a bit pricey and the capacity is not quite yet in par with the standard (fresh!) NiMH batteries.
Some personal recommendations
So, what rechargeables should you get, and what about the charger? I’d guess there are as many opinions on this as there are users but some personal guidelines from me here:
- If you want to keep tabs on the latest developments about rechargeables, it’s a good idea to follow what the heavy digicam users say on major photo sites like dpreview, Flickr and Steve’s Digicams. These guys generally know what they’re talking about.
- I have had very bad experiences with Chinese Konnoc 2700mAh batteries. I bought quite a few of these – nice price! – but several of them have failed completely after just a couple of months of (not very frequent) use and the rest don’t come up to reasonable capacity any longer. Further, in low temperatures Konnoc are close to worthless. What a rip-off! Many heavy users apparently rate Chinese batteries kinda low, I’ve noticed – after getting mine – so beware.
- I’m more and more moving over to the low-drain ‘hybrid’ NiMHs, even though they are a bit expensive. A brand that has generally got great user reviews is Sanyo Eneloop; I have used PowerexImedion from Maha and they have also performed great so far.
- Don’t buy the cheapest no-name charger you set your eyes on! A good charger with automatc diagnostics, reconditioning and trickle charge for fully loaded batteries will give your rechargeables a much longer life than the low cost garbage. Again, Maha has good reputation – I use their tiny MH-C401FS and it’s been doing a great job. Comes with a car adapter, too, which sure is handy.
To wrap it up: rechargeable batteries are an excellent choice to power most hand-held electronic devices but, as usual, you tend to get what you pay for. In the long run, it just might pay off to choose quality before quantity.