No, I’m not singing the old Steppenwolf song “Born to be Wild” (some of you out there might remember with me this 60’s hit song … others of you are probably too young!). One of the worst things you can do is go out to photograph something, just to find out your batteries are dead! What a sinking feeling. Well, here are a few tips to help you “keep your motor (camera) running!”
First, let’s talk about the kinds of batteries available. If you own a point-and-shoot camera, your camera may use AA batteries. If this is the case, then you have several options to work with. First, the old standby alkaline AA batteries are available almost everywhere. They are good, but did you know there are better batteries available? There are now Lithium AA batteries, which I strongly recommend. Why? First, these batteries have a very long shelf life. It is not uncommon to purchase a package of lithium AA batteries and see that the expiration is up to 12-15 years! Second, lithium AA batteries have an extremely long service life … usually 7-8 times the life of a standard, alkaline AA battery. The downside to the lithium batteries is that they are more expensive. But I prefer the lithium AA batteries over the alkaline ones, especially for traveling. Another advantage of the lithium AA batteries is that they are very lightweight, so when traveling, they don’t chew up much of your limited, airline baggage allowance! So if you use AA batteries in your photo equipment, give the lithiums a try. One thing I would not recommend is a rechargeable AA battery system. Although it has been a long time, my experiences with them is that they will not hold up over a long period of time (for photography) … but if you use/like them, then go for it.
If your camera uses a “non-standard” battery (i.e., like many of the major camera manufacturers, such as Canon and Nikon, use), then you have several options available for your camera. More often than not, a camera manufacturer only makes one type of battery available, but if you have the choice, or a third party makes a different type of battery for your camera, here is the rundown on the various battery types. The older cameras typically used a Nickel-Cadmium (Nicad, for short) batteries. On the positive side, Nicads could be recharged. But on the negative side, Nicads had a “memory” to them. This “memory” meant that to efficiently recharge the battery, and to extend it’s battery lifespan, you have to completely discharge the Nicad battery before you could once again recharge it; if you did not completely recharge it, you would “lose” some of the battery’s lifespan.
Next, the Nickel Metal Hydride (aka “NiMH”) batteries were developed. Like the Nicads, the NiMH batteries can be recharged over and over again. But the biggest advantage of the NiMH battery, over the Nicad, is that it does not have the “memory flaw” that the Nicads have. The NiMH batteries are also usually less expensive than other battery types. So the NiMH batteries are certainly acceptable.
But the newest battery type, in my opinion, is preferred over the other battery types, if your camera has one available for it. This is the Lithium Ion battery. I have lithium ion batteries for my newest camera body and I just love them to death! First, the service life (between rechargings) are extremely long. On some location shoots, I will shoot about 1,000 images a day. My shooting “habit” includes shooting multiple bursts (i.e., up to 10-20 images at one time), and often shooting in conditions that are usually detrimental to batteries (i.e., the extreme cold of Alaska in November!). But I can shoot “forever” on a single lithium ion battery. (I always carry a spare one, but usually don’t even need it!).
Of course, your battery usage will depend on your individual shooting “habit”. You may find that an inexpensive, alkaline battery works just fine for you. If that is the case, go for it! However, if you shoot a lot in winter, or many frames per day, etc., you may want to look into different battery types. And if your current battery usage is not an issue for it, then don’t change anything. But keep informed as to what’s out there … you might just find you have some better choices available … whatever it takes to “Get Your Motor Running”!
If you have any questions regarding keeping batteries, would like specific recommendations for your equipment, or if you have some tips or experiences to share, please let me know (I will share tips sent in to me in a future tips section, or in my Show-Me Nature Photography Newsletter). Send your questions or tips via this easy link: firstname.lastname@example.org