Battery Facts

Digital Camera batteries

Digital Cameras place a huge burden on the batteries that provide them with power. When being used, they need a large amount of electricity very quickly. And of course it still needs to work after a month or two of being stored.

Even though some alkaline batteries have very high rated capacities (up to 2500mAh), the method by which alkaline batteries convert their chemical energy into electrical energy places a limit on how much power they can produce. This gives even the best alkaline AA batteries a run for their money in power hungry digital cameras.

Rechargeable batteries fare much better. The current technology used in rechargeable batteries for digital cameras uses Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiHM) chemistry to convert the stored chemical energy into electricity. This chemical process can generate electricity far more rapidly, and will thus allow a 2100mAh NiMH battery to outperform a 2500mAh alkaline battery in a digital camera.

Current NiMH technology has a number of additional advantages over its predecessor, Nickel-Cadmium or NiCd. NiCd rechargeable batteries suffer from something called a ‘memory effect'. This reduces the amount of electricity that the battery can store in each charge/discharge cycle. Not by a great deal for each cycle, but over time you would notice that you got ever fewer pictures from your digital camera, before you had to stop to recharge.

One disadvantage that rechargeable batteries for digital cameras have not overcome is the loss of stored power while not in use. A rechargeable battery loses 1-3% of its power EVERY DAY when not in use. If you are running a professional photo studio, that won't be an issue because you're recharging every day anyway. But for a more casual user, quickly grabbing the camera
on the way to the car for a long weekend can often result in a surprise – and no pictures! Fortunately, most digital cameras are designed to also work with lithium batteries. These typically come in the same size as AA alkaline batteries, but are much better at keeping up with a digital camera's voracious appetite for power. They also have shelf lives of 10 years or more. The ideal strategy will be to rely on rechargeable batteries for most of the time, but to keep a spare set of lithium batteries handy for emergency use.
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