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Thread: Rechargeable flash batteries

  1. #1
    Alis's Avatar
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    Rechargeable flash batteries

    Does anyone has any recommendation for rechargeable batteries for use in a flash (Speedlite).

    I have tried Pearston and Hybrio but did not like them. While Pearston has a very fancy charger, I feel the batteries drain very fast after they are charged, when I am not using them. Of course when I use them, I used to get a lot of shots of them but after using them for less than 6 month, I feel they empty very fast and after may be 5o shots, it takes much longer for the flash to recycle.

    Anyway, I hear Eneloop is one of the best brands, curious to see if anyone here has actual experience with it or any other brand they recommend. I can search the internet myself, I am more looking for a first hand experience.

    Thanks!

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Hi Ali,

    What type of batteries are you using? Lithium-ion?

    Rechargable batteries do have a lifespan, and it's usually a lot shorter than we would like . I havn't heard of a single brand you listed - maybe try a name brand?

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Hi Ali,

    I'm upgrading my flash setup as we speak (to 4x 580EX II's, all with CP-E4 high-voltage accellerators & Pocket Wizard TT5's). So food for thought ...

    - If you want to stick with internal rechargeables then I recommend Eveready Nickel-Metal-Hydride (I think they're up to about 2500mA/Hr these days). The "trick" I discovered for making them last is to use a 12 or 24 hour trickle charger; 15 minute and 1 hour chargers literally cook the batteries (sometimes to the point where you can't even hold them). I've lost count of the number of times I've stuffed batteries in the fast chargers - but I don't think I've ever stuffed any in the trickle chargers. Keep in mind though that this type of battery technology is only good for around 500 charges.

    - If you want to take the "deluxe approach" though, consider getting a Canon CP-E4 it's an external battery pack that generates the 380V for the flash head instead of making the flash unit do it (actually you can run both in parallel). You can configure it a couple of ways, but in general it makes the flash recycle 3 times as fast and the batteries last 3 times as long (it takes 8x AA batteries). Size wise it's a little bigger than about 12 AA batteries arranged in 3 rows of 4, so easily pops into a pocket of mounts on a belt (comes with everything needed to do that easily). When you use it you can tell the flash to generate the high-voltage using ONLY the CP-E4 (so the batteries in the 580EX II only have to run the logic and the zoom motor and should last for a VERY long time) or you can tell it to use both the internal and the external batteres for even faster recycling (but if the 580EX batteries die out before the CP-E4 batteries than the flash stops working).

    - Another approach is to use something like an Al Jacobs "Black Box" (I've used these in the past) - they're good for around 1000 full dumps and I think he guaranties the battery for either 5 or 7 years. (If nothing else, have a look through Al's website - he's an experienced photographer - has many great tips - and has a very enlightening "no bull" writing style.

    - Finally, if all else fails, consider just using disposable batteries (I just bought 48 AA lithiums online). Unlike rechargeables you ALWAYS know what you're going to get next time round (whereas with rechargeables, if one dies so does the flash).

    Hope this helps!
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 6th November 2009 at 10:07 PM.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Very useful info Colin.
    Thank you.

  5. #5
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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Thanks, Colin. Very helpful.

    I think I am going to go for the Canon CP-E4. Price is reasonable.

    I am still going to use the rechargeables, may be I can try the Eneloop this time.

    I have heard of Al before, I am sure from you, and I even printed his wedding photography guide, very comprehensive checklist of everything a wedding photographer needs to know about the job. But I think his packs are too heavy for me. And the more stuff you attach to the camera, the more people expect good pictures from you

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Some fast chargers for NiMH are not bad I hear, mainly the expensive ones, although in theory the faster chargers do shorten the shelflife quicker than slow charger. I suppose if you really need the fast charge it can come in handy but for most preplanning or multiple sets of batteries mean a standard slow charger is fine.

    I personally side with colin and find a trickle charge more reliable, mine takes 26hours to charge a set. NiMH does have a limited life though which isn't quite as long as some lithium ion as far as cycles goes. They do last longer full to discharged wise than alkalines or some lithium (but not single use lithium like cr123 type, I can't remeber what they are but there are 3 types of lithium cells if i remember correctly). Also they work at low temperature which is ideal and most of all they are cheap. Don't pay over the odds for the very high mAh because it's a bit of a marketing thing and not exactly what you'd think. I use 2200 aa in my flashes that only cost about £3 per 4 and the same in my camera.

    Oh NiMH don't have memory like NiCd do which can also be a bonus all though I always run them down before charge it can be handy if you just want to top up half depleted ones. There is one prob with NiMH I have found though and that is they run slightly over 1.5v when new which can be a problem driving some devices with regulators, some torches etc but they generally have specialist size Li ion batteries and manual and packaging often informs it's not NiMH compatible on such things.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Hi Davey,

    Just be a little careful when fully discharging a set of batteries - if you don't do it individually then the weaker batteries (as they finally give up the last of their capacity) get subject to a reverse polarity as the current is "pulled" through them by the stronger batteries (Its a bit like pushing a car to start it and then suddenly realising that your sleeve is caught in the boot when it fires up and starts to accelerate away); I've also heard that technologies like Li-on don't like being deep cycled; preferring frequent top-ups.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    Some fast chargers for NiMH are not bad I hear, mainly the expensive ones, although in theory the faster chargers do shorten the shelflife quicker than slow charger. I suppose if you really need the fast charge it can come in handy but for most preplanning or multiple sets of batteries mean a standard slow charger is fine.

    I personally side with colin and find a trickle charge more reliable, mine takes 26hours to charge a set. NiMH does have a limited life though which isn't quite as long as some lithium ion as far as cycles goes. They do last longer full to discharged wise than alkalines or some lithium (but not single use lithium like cr123 type, I can't remeber what they are but there are 3 types of lithium cells if i remember correctly). Also they work at low temperature which is ideal and most of all they are cheap. Don't pay over the odds for the very high mAh because it's a bit of a marketing thing and not exactly what you'd think. I use 2200 aa in my flashes that only cost about £3 per 4 and the same in my camera.

    Oh NiMH don't have memory like NiCd do which can also be a bonus all though I always run them down before charge it can be handy if you just want to top up half depleted ones. There is one prob with NiMH I have found though and that is they run slightly over 1.5v when new which can be a problem driving some devices with regulators, some torches etc but they generally have specialist size Li ion batteries and manual and packaging often informs it's not NiMH compatible on such things.

    Thanks, Davey for the information. I have bought several type of batteries so far and every time it came with a faster and faster charger. The last one is a fancy supper rapid charger (I think it is 15 min) with a lot of bells and whistles like LED monitor and a button to decharge the batteries before you charge them if they are not fully depleted. But as I said, I am not happy with it at all. Just cost me a lot more.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    ...I've also heard that technologies like Li-on don't like being deep cycled; preferring frequent top-ups.

    I have heard the same about the lithium battery in my hybrid car. Somewhere I read that the processor in it makes sure that the battery is never fully dishcarged (if I am not wrong, never goes below 40% of it's full charge) to maximize their life.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by Alis View Post
    it came with a faster and faster charger. The last one is a fancy supper rapid charger (I think it is 15 min) with a lot of bells and whistles
    Is it true that the latest 30 second chargers come with their own automatic fire suppression system?

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Ah thanks I usually deplete them in the charger if I want to full charge a set which effectively decharges them individually. The only reason I do it is so I know when I take 4 out to put in my cam for instance I know they are all at the same level since I have read about the reverse polarity effect on them somewhere (yeah I know reading up on batteries is sad, what can I say other than guilty as charged ).

    I do think fast chargers have a place and could be handy for some people, for instance those on the move like intensive holiday or trip who only have a couple of sets of batteries and have to charge them all in a very short space of time. In that kind of situation cooking the batts is better than lugging around dead ones but even then there are other chemistries possiblymore suited to that situation.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    (yeah I know reading up on batteries is sad, what can I say other than guilty as charged ).
    Very punny

    Personally, I find battery charging re-volting!

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    I've always had very good luck with NiMH products from ThomasDistributing. When I bought my Nikon SB-600 unit, I went ahead and ordered a nice MAHA charger, and two sets of PowerEX batteries. I like this charger because it also implements battery conditioning and re-conditioning modes. So far so good.

  14. #14
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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by eNo View Post
    I've always had very good luck with NiMH products from ThomasDistributing. When I bought my Nikon SB-600 unit, I went ahead and ordered a nice MAHA charger, and two sets of PowerEX batteries. I like this charger because it also implements battery conditioning and re-conditioning modes. So far so good.
    Thanks, eNo.

    Just a couple of hourse ago, one of my colleagues recommended the exact same brand from the same site (I think they are the only distributor for MAHA). I may actually try it.

    Ali

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Might be worth mentioning but for long trips with no chance to charge nimh prob wont be ideal because it does lose charge over time even when not used as you've probably noticed. I find it's no problem except when I've been on camping trips and the batteries including fresh backup have started losing charge toward the end but I often take alks or disposable li (careful as many run way over what regular alk and nimh do, about 3.7 to 4 v for a 3v cell equiv) for that purpose anyway.

    If you need long shelflife ones where disposable are not option (for instance if often in such situations) then lithium rechargables are prob best way to go. Unsure about speedlite sizes but you could get a li ion specialist size cell to replace regular disposables. I know many models of flash and cameras come with them as standard now. Theoretically you can build some if you know the cell sizes they are usually constructed from but don't EVER run unprotected Li in series and be very careful. Personally I only use protected ones and in things I really need (like my phone) as I don't need to worry about over/under charge issues or things going kaboom if I short them or heat build up etc etc.

    edit: eneloop do have longer shelflife though. However they are 4 times price so sometimes cheaper may be more suitable eg. I often carry several sets of cheap cells for most my usage although I considering eneloop for my camera to carry 4 sets of expensive ones means £40 of batteries were as cheap ones I can get 4 sets for about £10 for 2300mAh.
    Last edited by Davey; 14th November 2009 at 12:39 AM.

  16. #16

    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    I use Uniross Hybrio, together with an Energiser 15 minute charger and have never had any problems whatsoever.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Can I just post a warning over fast chargers?

    If you need a fast charger then you have a need for the cells quickly, yes? Cells coming off the charger are still 'gassing' up to 30mins- 1 hour later. The 'gassing' corrodes the terminals of your equipment. Trust me, I know from helicopter flying days... (models).

    Gassing is from the very small holes in the positive terminals of your cells. You'll find 2 or 4 holes in the end of AA cells using a magnifying glass - ok, smartpants with good eyesight, with no magnifying glass!

    Slow or fast chargers, that's up to you but any action creates a reaction. Just bear that in mind and you'll be ok.

    Me? I use a few cells and treat 'em rough. Beat 'em hard, use 'em regular and they perform. Used occasionally creates lazy cells which die sooner than harder worked cells.

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveF View Post
    I know from helicopter flying days... (models).
    Interesting timing Steve - I've been thinking about model helicopter flying (being a "retired" private fixed wing pilot) - I'm keen to explore the idea of mounting a cheap SLR camera underneath (say a 400D or the likes) and trigger it with the likes of a pocket wizard.

    Any thoughts?

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Interesting timing Steve - I've been thinking about model helicopter flying (being a "retired" private fixed wing pilot) - I'm keen to explore the idea of mounting a cheap SLR camera underneath (say a 400D or the likes) and trigger it with the likes of a pocket wizard.

    Any thoughts?
    I last flew a model helicopter in 1992. Since then they have become almost un-crashable, dare I say it! We knew no bounds and were damn near suicidal in our antics but never dare put camera equipment in them. I would tend to suggest a live feed with a video camera as they are very small - even a 400D is probably too heavy for the latest small heli. They really don't take any extra weight easily.

    Not having flown anything recently I don't have much, or anything constructive to add, sorry!

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    Re: Rechargeable flash batteries

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveF View Post
    I last flew a model helicopter in 1992. Since then they have become almost un-crashable, dare I say it! We knew no bounds and were damn near suicidal in our antics but never dare put camera equipment in them. I would tend to suggest a live feed with a video camera as they are very small - even a 400D is probably too heavy for the latest small heli. They really don't take any extra weight easily.

    Not having flown anything recently I don't have much, or anything constructive to add, sorry!
    Uncrashable eh ... sounds like a challenge!

    A video feed would be too low resolution for anything saleable - from what I've been told though, the latest bigger ones should be quite capable (apparantly they lift buckets of water with them) - not sure what size that is though (I know some are over 1m long).

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