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Tenavolts 1.5V AA Lithium Rechargeable Batteries (x4) with USB Charger Included, 1.8h Fast Re-Charge, 2775 mWh – 4 x AA Batteries with Charger

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The popular choice among photographers is for rechargeable batteries. Digital cameras and flash guns are both high drain devices but they differ in their demands for energy. A digital camera has many electrical components, from its complex circuitry to mechanical actions such as focusing a lens. It’s demand for power is continuous from the moment it is switched on. A flashgun, however, needs to produce a lot of power for short bursts and batteries vary in their ability to recycle the flash quickly ready to fire again.

CONSIDERATIONS

What to consider when choosing batteries for a camera or flash gun.

Are rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries best for me?

Will my batteries be in regular use or spending time in storage?

What temperature range will I need my batteries to work in?

Reliability and consistency

Capacity

Ethical considerations

Factory location and ethos

Price


Chargeable versus non-rechargeable batteries

Rechargeable batteries are dearer than their non-rechargeable counterparts, but since you don’t have to buy them so often the price tag is not an issue. Most photographers seem to opt for rechargeable batteries.


PERFORMANCE

The batteries mentioned as good performers below are suggestions based on tests carried out by individual consumers. Some were more scientific in approach than others but the results here represent a degree of consensus.

Which batteries perform well after being in storage?

In general, alkaline batteries are not good for prolonged storage. They are more prone to leakage than lithium batteries. (Apparently, the LSD in Eneloop LSD stands for “low self discharge“).

The impressive Panasonic Eneloop Ni-MH holds 70% of its charge for a decade. IKEA Ladda, Duracell, PowerEx, EBL 2800mAh Ni-mH and Amazon Basics Silver all have a reasonably low self-discharge rate. Amazon Basics Silver batteries have a low internal resistance after being in storage so are able to cope well with spikes in demand for energy such as that required by flash. Amazon Black builds up a little more internal resistance so is not quite so impressive. Rayovac doesn’t seem to store very well.

Storing batteries in the freezer does not prolong their life.


Which batteries perform well after prolonged regular use?


Energizer, IKEA Ladda, Panasonic Eneloop Ni-MH and Duracell batteries are all reliable performers with Amazon Basics Silver high on the list here too and Amazon Black not far behind. In high drain devices like cameras and flash guns, IKEA Ladda and Amazon Silver are impressive with the basic Energizer coming close.



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Reliability and consistency

The batteries mentioned as good performers here also show a high level of reliability and consistency between individual cells, but there will always be some degree of variation and the odd individual cell which doesn’t come up to scratch.


Which batteries cope well with a big temperature range?

Alkaline batteries don’t generally work well at low temperatures, but Amazon Basics Silver (High capacity) batteries perform better than many rechargeable cells in cold conditions. Energizer Ultimate Lithium is recommended for extreme temperatures, even down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and is considered safe for outdoor use. They are also light in weight. The high capacity Panasonic Eneloop Pro functions well in extreme temperatures. Panasonic Eneloop Ni-MH also works well in low temperatures, and with its long life is a popular choice in spite of its price tag.


Which batteries are best for flash?

This is one scenario where you may not want to use cheap cells. They tend not to have the power necessary to recycle the flash quickly enough. You could find yourself waiting several seconds for your flash gun to charge after even only light use.

Those who need to fire their flashgun repeatedly throughout the day, photographing a wedding or on a photo shoot for example, often resort to carrying a power pack or a good supply of spare batteries (often both). You may find Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries useful in this kind of situation. They become hot in repeated use, but if you have time to let them cool (perhaps carry two sets) they can perform twice as long as some of the other popular choices such as Energizer Eco Advanced or Duracell Ultra Power and you could probably manage without having to carry a power pack. They’re lightweight too so a double win.

In normal conditions, at room temperature, Ikea LADDA recycled quicker than Eneloop Pro in a flashgun.

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For more on power packs for flash guns visit  Flash power packs in focus.

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Which batteries are least likely to leak?

Alkaline batteries are prone to leakage so lithium cells win the prize here. Battery leakage is most likely to occur in a situation where there is an ongoing slow drain from being left unused in a device over a period of time. It becomes more likely if unequally charged primary batteries are used in series together as there is a likelihood of the good cell reverse charging the part-empty cell resulting in possible leakage, explosion or fire!

Some manufacturers have such confidence in their cells that they offer guarantees. Amazon Basics Performance Alkaline have a 10-year anti-leakage warranty because of their robust construction. Energizer Ultimate Lithium states that they are guaranteed not to leak or they would replace the affected device!

Charging regime.

Failure to follow good charging practice shortens the life of rechargeable batteries and can even lead to explosion or fire!

You may think all battery chargers are created equal, but that is not the case. If you want a quick charge for four identical equally discharged AA batteries, then one of the simple chargers is fine, but if you want to mix different types, brands or capacity batteries, you need a battery charger which provides independent charging slots.

For more information see my page "In Focus - Battery Chargers".

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Capacity

The capacity of a battery is measured in MaH, how many milliamps (milliamperes) it can deliver in an hour. Some of the cheapest batteries are a little optimistic in their ratings. See the value for money section under “Price” below. Manufacturers usually produce a premium battery with a higher rating than their standard cells and generally photographers are drawn to these, but again, you may find the “value for money” section interesting.




ETHICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS

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What type of battery is the most eco-friendly?

Both chargeable and non-rechargeable batteries can be recycled, but bearing in mind that rechargeable cells can be recharged up to 1000 times you would be recycling a lot of non-rechargeable batteries in the lifetime of one secondary cell!

Some batteries which perform well gain extra ethical “Brownie points” by being mercury free, such as Rayovac High Energy (produced in the United States) or Duracell Quantum Alkaline, which boasts a 10 year shelf life. Manufacturers like to gain some green credentials where they can. Panasonic Eneloop Ni-MH comes pre-charged using solar energy. Energizer Recharge Universal boasts the fact that they are made partly using recycled batteries.

The following quotation comes from Ethical Consumer, and I include it here because it paints a very clear picture of the ethical considerations with respect to batteries:

“While they are named after individual metals, many batteries actually contain a mix of the same metals. For example, lithium-ion batteries contain nickel, and some nickel batteries contain lithium. Cobalt also tends to be present in most rechargeable batteries.

The impacts of extracting these metals paint a fairly bleak picture … however, none of this is a reason to completely avoid batteries, which are essential for us to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, as this is reliant on our ability to store power.

There are actions we can take. To start with, we can ensure we use rechargable batteries, use them as efficiently as possible and, when they do run out, make sure we recycle them rather than sending them to landfill or leaving them squirrelled away in odd corners of the house. And we can put pressure on companies to improve their standards.”


Where are my batteries made?

Finding the answer to that question is not as obvious as you might expect. For instance, Panasonic is a Japanese company, but since the development of their Eneloop Pro batteries, they have out-sourced production of their regular batteries to China.

There are two ethical considerations associated with the actual factory where batteries are made: one relates to the technical side of the production itself, the other to the working conditions of those employed in the factory. You could argue that there may be political considerations too.

PRICE

Which batteries give good value for money?

It is rarely the cheapest batteries which give the best value for money, but there are some surprises at the high end too. Panasonic Eneloop tends to give better value for money than its otherwise superior sister, Eneloop Pro. One affordable battery brand which performs well is IKEA Ladda. It stands up very well against Eneloop Pro in performance tests. Another battery which gives a good account of itself in spite of a low price tag is EBL. If you are going to be using flash, though, I would recommend paying the extra for a high performance battery. (See the section “Which batteries are best for flash”.)

TECH STUFF AND HISTORY

Technical stuff and history for those interested

Alessandro Volta invented his ‘Voltaic Cell’ in 1800. The term ‘battery’ originally referred to a collection of such cells working in series. What we refer to as an AA battery is actually a cell, but language develops with popular usage, so now we just call each cell a battery.

A battery cell consists of two elements, the anode and cathode, together with an electrolyte and a barrier membrane, the separator, which prevents shorting (current jumping directly between anode and cathode). The separator is ion-permeable but electronically non-conductive. Within the cell, the production of electricity is all down to chemical reaction. The anode (-ve) gives up electrons to the electrolyte which then gives up electrons to the cathode (+ve). So power flow within the cell is opposite to our normal expectation, because we tend to think of the flow outside the battery when it’s in use powering equipment.

Non-rechargeable single-use cells are called ‘primary cells’ and rechargeable battery cells are called ‘secondary cells’. In a rechargeable battery, recharging actually forces electrons in the opposite direction, from cathode to anode. If you try to recharge an ordinary non-rechargeable battery the reaction doesn’t work properly and there is a very real danger of hydrogen buildup causing an explosion!

GLOSSARY

mAh measurement of electric current flowing in an hour, measured in milliamperes (thousandths of an ampere).

Capacity is the amount of charge stored in a battery, the maximum amount of energy that can come from that battery in a single discharge, measured in AH (amps per hour), mAh or watt-hours.

NiCad Nickel Cadmium

NiMH Nickel metal hydride

Li-ion Lithium Ion

Anode the electrode at which an oxidation reaction occurs. It supplies electrons. The flow of electrons reverses between charging and discharging. So, the anode is the positive electrode during charging and it’s the negative electrode during discharging. People normally think of its activity during the discharge cycle, calling the negative electrode of a battery the anode.

Cathode the electrode at which a reduction reaction occurs. It’s the counterpart of the anode. During charging, the negative electrode is the cathode and, during discharge, the positive electrode is the cathode. Because people generally think of discharge, they call the positive electrode of a battery the cathode.

Battery a unit that produces electrical energy from stored chemical energy. Originally the term referred to two or more cells connected in a series, but it is now used for a single cell.

Cell the basic electrochemical unit used to create electrical energy from stored chemical energy. It consists of two electrodes with an electrolyte between them.

Electrolyte the medium which facilitates the conduction of ions between positive and negative electrodes.

Electrode the basic elements in a battery, one positive and one negative. The cell voltage is determined by the difference between them.

Voltage can be described as the force which sends charged electrons through an electrical circuit producing a current.

Voltaic cell a battery cell Primary cell a non-rechargeable single use battery cell Secondary cell a rechargeable battery cell Resistance is the opposition to the flow of an electrical current (measured in ohms and represented by the Greek letter omega).

ODD FACTS

An “ordinary” battery which appears to be completely exhausted, will revive slightly if left on one side for a short while and deliver power again for a little while (can be 15mins).

Apparently, lithium batteries smell of bubble gum when they leak, just before they explode!

If you bounce alkaline batteries of the same type on their bottom end, one that is used up bounces quite a lot higher than one that still has a good charge (this bounce test only works with alkaline cells).

Lithium ion cells may look identical to other AA batteries but they are often rated 3v+.


This nifty gadget replaces one of the AA batteries in your flash and extends battery life. Very clever! (Only works with certain models so read the description carefully):

Quantum ES2 Energy Saver 2

Quаntum'ѕ Еnеrgу Ѕаvеr іmрrоvеѕ thе еffісіеnсу оf аlkаlіnе АА bаttеrіеѕ fоr ѕоmе flаѕhеѕ thаt rеquіrе ААѕ whеn uѕіng thе Тurbо Ваttеrіеѕ. Тhе Еnеrgу Ѕаvеr іѕ thе ѕіzе аnd ѕhаре оf аn АА bаttеrу. Іt ѕubѕtіtutеѕ fоr оnе оf thе аlkаlіnе bаttеrіеѕ іn thе flаѕh bаttеrу соmраrtmеnt: Іf а flаѕh nоrmаllу rеquіrеd 4 ААѕ whеn uѕеd wіth thе Тurbо, іnѕеrt јuѕt 3 ААѕ аnd thе Еnеrgу Ѕаvеr. Тhе rеѕult wіll bе muсh lоngеr lаѕtіng bаttеrіеѕ. Nоt аll flаѕhеѕ саn tаkе аdvаntаgе оf thе Еnеrgу Ѕаvеr (duе tо thеіr іntеrnаl сіrсuіtѕ). Ве ѕurе tо uѕе thе rіght mоdеl еnеrgу ѕаvеr fоr уоur flаѕh. Fоr bеѕt rеѕultѕ аlwауѕ ѕtаrt wіth а frеѕh ѕеt оf АА bаttеrіеѕ.

Available from Wex Photo Video


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