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Digital Camera Battery Basics

By: Olivia Slade-Silovic | August 29th, 2011

The two most common types of digital camera batteries are rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium ion.  NiMH batteries can be recharged up to 500 hundred times making them fairly cost-effective and environmentally friendly.  They also work well in situations where a flash is being used. The main drawback to NiMH rechargeable batteries is they don’t hold their charge very long in storage – they lose approximately 1 percent of their stored energy every day.  For intermittent users, this could mean little or no battery life available after a month or more of storage.  Because of this, most higher-end cameras are designed to use specific lithium-ion batteries that hold a charge longer while on the shelf.  Lithium-ion batteries have a slightly longer cycle life than NiMH batteries but will start to degrade in performance after about 500 charge cycles.

Brand vs Generic
Contrary to most ads, third party or store brands offer nearly the same performance as expensive brand name batteries.  However, third-party brands may have trouble communicating with your camera and therefore not able to display available battery power.  During important events (birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc.) this could lead to disastrous results.

For long shoots, be prepared with a fully charged back-up battery, just in case.  Conserve the battery by turning off the camera in between shots, when possible, and try to avoid using the LCD screen to view every image you take-it will drain your battery in no time.  If your AC adapter will reach a wall outlet, you can forego using a battery at all!

New batteries arrive in a low charge condition and must be fully charged before use.  Refer to the user’s manual for charging instructions.  New batteries need to be fully charged and fully discharged or ‘cycled’ up to 5 times before they are conditioned to perform at full capacity.  Once a month cycling of a battery will help to maintain optimum performance and is particularly recommended for NiMH batteries.  Quick chargers that claim to charge your battery in 15 minutes often do not bring the battery up to full charge and can reduce the overall life of the battery.  A complete recharge often takes up to an hour.

Once your battery is completely drained be sure to recycle it using the proper disposal method.  Contact your local, state or federal environmental agencies if you have questions.

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