Saturday, March 21, 2009

Camera Battery Power More Important Than Memory

Avoid a common error in lost picture-taking opportunities.

When it comes to buying accessories for your new digital camera, the first priority that comes to most people's mind is getting additional digital memory cards. Few people think about getting extra rechargeable batteries for their camera. This can be a big mistake.

When I review real life photo-taking situations with other photographers, they will tell you that they have had more lost photo opportunities from exhausted batteries than from full digital memory cards. Why? For one thing, a person can always review their images and free up more memory by erasing pictures they don't think are as important; however, when your [last] battery is dead, you're totally out of business.

Maybe it's because memory has become so cheap these days that we typically end up buying additional cards, yet many of us fail to purchase the more expensive (and I believe), and the most important accessory: extra camera batteries.

Some digital cameras still use AA alkaline batteries that are easily obtainable almost anywhere, but the majority of cameras today require proprietary lithium-ion batteries (or Li-ion) for their power source. Rechargeable Li-ion batteries are much cheaper than AA alkaline batteries in the long run, but can be quite pricey in the beginning, and virtually impossible to find when you are on vacation or on location at a professional photo shoot.

I recommend getting at least one extra Li-ion battery for your digital camera, and keep it charged. As soon as your camera indicates that your battery's power is starting to run low, switch out the battery with the fresh one, and start recharging the nearly exhausted one when you get back home or to your hotel. You don't have to worry about battery "memory" problems with the newer lithium-ion batteries. Unlike older battery types, Li-ion batteries don't require you to completely discharge the battery before you recharge it (to maintain maximum capacity).

In fact, it's better if you don't fully exhaust a Li-ion battery. This battery type prefers a partial rather than a full discharge. Because frequent full discharges should be avoided whenever possible, I'd even suggest rotating your batteries, and starting out each day with a freshly charged battery when you leave your hotel or your home. Professional photographers will want to switch out whenever there is a lull in the shooting, or just before an important session. I typically carry four or more batteries on a shoot.

Like I said in the beginning, extra batteries can be expensive. An extra battery for my new Canon EOS 5D Mark II costs about $80, and the typical Li-ion battery for many point-and-shoot digital cameras will run you about $40 or more. One of the most popular digital cameras under $150 right now is the Canon Powershot SD1100 IS. However, an extra Canon NB-4L battery will cost you about $60 -- more than one-third the price of the camera! It's no wonder many put off getting this important accessory.

Low-cost alternative: I suggest you buy an after-market brand battery that meets or exceeds the OEM (original equipment manufacturer's) specifications in their "mAh" rating. But, be careful. There are some poor quality after-market battery products out there. One company that I've used for several years, with good success, is CCS - (also found under They are a leading after-market supplier of cell phone, laptop, camcorder and digital camera batteries. Their replacement Li-ion battery for the Canon NB-4L is under $7. And since the shipping will probably cost you about that much, you might as well buy two or three! Another cost-saving example is their replacement Canon BP-511 Li-ion battery that has been used in more than three dozen Canon digital cameras. Whereas the Canon product typically retails for almost $70, the CCS replacement is less than $9.00!

News Flash: Currently, no after-market companies have tooled-up to produce a replacement battery for my new Canon EOS 5D Mark II (21MP), so I'll have to buy the expensive, genuine Canon original. In fact, Canon is so behind on producing these batteries that they are back-ordered all over the country. In some cases, pros are willing to pay over $115 (retail is $79.95) to get additional batteries!

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