My first digital SLR camera was a Minolta 7Hi, and it went through AA batteries like I eat hot dinners. Many years ago several reviews pointed toward Fameart 2500mAh rechargeable batteries as the best on the market. I’ve still got them, but they no longer hold their charge for any long period. I can charge them one day and they’ll be dead the next, without them being used.
My Canon 5Dm2 and Canon 550D have their own proprietary batteries and so I haven’t needed the rechargeable AA’s in a while. But recently I’ve purchased a lot of sound kit, all of which use AA batteries. So I’ve started looking at the latest rechargeable technology to see what might work best for me. Many places online (including “The Gadget Show” and “Which?”) recommend the 3rd generation Sanyo Eneloop 2000mAh battery. They have “Low Self Discharge” technology, meaning stored power doesn’t ebb away quickly. In fact, they’ll still hold 70% of their charge even after five years in storage. That is incredible!
Digging deeper, there are other variations of these cells. The 2nd generation Eneloop 2000mAh batteries are quoted as retaining “75% of their capacity over 3 years“, whereas the 3rd generation are quoted as retaining “70% over 5 years“. Their latest variation is called the Eneloop XX, which hold 2500mAh, but I’ve read a few things about them that make the 3rd gen ones better. Namely, the 2500mAh cells have the same Low Self Discharge technology and can hold their charge up to 75%, but only up to ONE year, compared to three for the 2nd gen. Also, the 2500mAh ones are rechargeable up to 500 times, compared to the 2nd generation recharging 1’500 times and the 3rd generation 1’800.
I guess it depends how power-hungry your equipment is. As an example, the Yongnuo 465 flashgun has been documented to last 360 flashes with the 2000mAh cells, but 460 with the 2500mAh.
On a day where I’d be using all the sound equipment I’d need eight AA batteries in total; 2x cells for the Sennheiser E835 wireless handheld microphone, 2x cells for the Sennheiser EK-100-G3-GB Diversity Receiver, 2x cells for the Sennheiser EK-100-G3-GB Bodypack transmitter and 2x cells for the Zoom H1 digital recorder. That’s a lot of AA batteries.
Now, at the moment I don’t know how much power my sound kit will actually use in a day, but in essence it’d be nice to have a fully charged set in the kit whilst shooting, and a fully charged back-up set. Sixteen batteries! I’d also need 4x chargers in order to get the drained cells recharged whilst I was using the back-up set. Logistically, this seems a nightmare. However, it might turn out that the batteries last several days so there’d be no need to carry any extra kit. For the moment, I just don’t know but I will get back to you…
I should also point out overall cost here (and there is some maths involved so bear with me)… A standard 4-pack of Duracell Plus batteries cost £3.50. That’s £14 for 16 batteries, for one days use (for arguments sake). Whereas I can buy 16 Eneloop 2000mAh rechargeable batteries for under £28, and they will last up to 1’800 times. I could recharge and use the Eneloop batteries every day for nearly 5 years instead of just one day!! Financially it’s a “no-brainer”. But… you must also factor in the cost of electricity to recharge each battery. But this works out to be less than a penny to recharge each one.
The biggest spend is probably on a charger, if your batteries didn’t come with one. I’ve been recommended the PowerX MH-C9000 “ultimate” recharger, due to it’s built in LCD screen and clever electronics which will help keep your batteries in the best possible shape. It has independent charging circuits so you can charge 1, 2, 3 or 4 batteries independently. It has Charge and Discharge functions to extend the life of your batteries. It has temperature sensors which monitor heat during recharge, and it also has an Analyser to check battery health.
You can also be smart in another way by using some sort of solar powered battery panel to recharge the batteries… Now although the solar panel idea seems a little crazy, I currently own a Voltaic Fuse 10w solar panel kit with two rechargeable batteries. The solar panels will recharge a Voltaic V60 universal battery in 10 hours of direct sunlight. One Voltaic battery would recharge 8 AA batteries no problem. It’s free electricity, and environmentally friendly. Even better for me, the V60 battery has a switched output which means you can charge anything USB powered, or anything that uses 12, 16 or 19 volts. I use the Fuse kit to recharge my Macbook pro when I’m out and about, and use a cigarette lighter adapter to recharge my Canon DSLR batteries too! It’d be a fair point to suggest this only really works in the summer due to the British weather. If you live in Los Angeles, you’ll be fine.
I didn’t realise how ‘green’ I was till now!
UPDATE: The PowerX MH-9000 charger did attempt a “break-in” cycle to recharge the old Fameart batteries which initially seemed to work. However the batteries are still incapable of holding charge. Also, thanks to a seller taking advantage of confusion on the Amazon page, I ended up with Generation 2 batteries instead. Rather than send them back I’ve just kept them. As stated they came near enough fully charged, needing only 10 minutes in the charger to boost them to 100%. Brilliant. If you want a charger and batteries, go for Eneloop and a PowerX MH-9000.