Frequently Asked Questions
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Q: How can I get better battery performance for my digital camera?A: Most camers are shipped with alkaline batteries. These batteries are universal, convenient, and inexpensive. These alkaline batteries do not require a special battery charger and they can be purchased anywhere. However, they are not the most efficient when it comes to power.
When power is in short supply, it is best to avoid the camera functions that consume the most power, select the best battery for your needs, store and use your batteries at the proper temperatures, and take advantage of external power sources whenever you can.
Camera Battery Types
Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH)
For routine use, the NiMH chemistry and efficient internal cell design with the flexibility and economy of the AA format is a hard-to-beat power delivery system for digital photography. Select 1500+ mAh AAs for camera use.
Features of a NiMH Battery
Store NiMH batteries by refrigerating them. Refrigerating stored NiMH batteries preserves capacity by slowing self-discharge. Remember when returning NiMH batteries to service from cold storage, bring them back up to room temperature before using them.
All rechargeable batteries lose charge spontaneously (self-discharge) over time. Freshly charged NiMH batteries are commonly said to lose 10% of their capacity in the first 24 hours and 1-2% daily thereafter at room temperature. (High ambient temperatures speed self-discharge while cool temperatures slow it.)
At cold temperatures of 32°F, 0°C NiMH rechargeable batteries lose at least 20% of their deliverable capacity without significant loss of voltage; at -20°C, they have lost 80%. Since cold NiMH batteries behave like batteries of lesser capacity, be prepared for reduced runtimes in freezing conditions. Carrying extra sets of batteries in a warm pocket is a must with NiMH in the cold. When the cold batteries in the camera fail, switch to a warm set. Once the cold set has warmed up, its residual capacity will be ready to tap.
Excessive heat can also be a problem. At room temperatures (68°F, 20°C) NiMH cells self-discharge by about 1-2% per day, as the graph at right clearly shows. Crank that up to 99°F (37°C), for example leaving the camera in a car parked in the sun, you will loose additional total carried capacity by more than doubling the self-discharge rate.
Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) AAs
High-capacity (1100 mAh) NiCd AAs are a reasonable second choice for digital cameras provided they are charged properly and conditioned frequently. Overcharging NiCd AAs can be less of a problem with a newer model smart charger. Do your research before selecting a smart charger, and it will result in a sound investment in long-term battery protection.
Because of the highly toxic cadmium they contain, NiCds should always be recycled, never discarded.
Disposable Lithium AAs
Features of a Non-rechargeable Lithium AA Battery
The downsides to the non-rechargeable lithium AA battery are the price and the fact that it is not rechargeable.
Alkalines Features of a Alkaline Battery
Unlike the most familiar electronic devices, digital cameras draw currents ranging from a trickle while asleep to a large amp or more during memory card writing. Keeping up with a digital camera takes a high-drain battery one that can send a charge very rapidly on demand without a big drop in voltage. Alkalines store a lot of charge, but when they meet a high current load, there is a big drop in voltage.
A typical digital camera running on good alkalines shuts down within a dozen shots for lack of adequate instantaneous voltage and current flow, not available charge (the bigger the draw on the alkaline battery, the bigger the voltage drop and current shortfall). To alkaline battery users familiar only with low-drain devices like flashlights, radios, CD and tape players, games, calculators and remote controls, this dismal high-drain performance often comes as a rude surprise.
In short alkaline batteries will work in your camera, but they are not a good solution for extended battery life.
If you do decide to use alkaline batteries, resist the urge to toss your disposable alkaline batteries when your camera goes dead. They still have lots of capacity left. If you let them cool for 20 or 30 minutes, you may be able to nurse a few more shots out of them. After that, use them in any low-drain device such as a TV remote, CD player or clock, to recoup some of your monetary investment.