It’s about the batteries you know…

Modern dSLR photography has a great number of advantages to it, but one I doubt many folks consider is the battery. I think it is quite possible the rise of digital SLR photography was made significantly better by the rapid improvements to rechargeable Lithium batteries.

If you previously owned a straight-up 35mm SLR film camera built more than 8 or 9 years ago then you probably remember having to deal with specialty batteries which powered those cameras. Simple AA batteries were not used, but more expensive types. The same was true for many flash units as well.

But dSLRs were, are and will remain far more power-hungry than their film counterparts. Besides many of the electrical needs shared between modern dSLRs and the last few years of SLRs were metering systems, in-the-viewfinder graphics and turning the in-lens focusing system. But dSLRS threw more needs into the power pot in the manner of charging the sensor, transferring data from the sensor to the CPU, transferring data to the media card, lighting the LCD screen, and, later, jiggling the anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor in an attempt to remove dust.

I truly believe that without superior battery technology the world of dSLR photography would never have gotten off the ground. And yet we still find ourselves using plenty of AA batteries in all sorts of ancillary photography equipment. I myself use them for my flash, my wireless firing electronics for the flash as well as my point-n-shoot digital camera which still gets something of a workout.

Some years ago I made the jump to rechargeable AA batteries via the folks at Energizer. I don’t really know if Energizer is better than Duracell is better than Rayovac is better than…., but I had experienced good life with their non-rechargeable AA’s and figured I’d stick with the devil I knew. To be fair I was impressed with them as well. They lasted longer than regular alkaline batteries and the like. They were rechargeable, which meant they should be better for the environment and as I purchased plenty of them I was never without some on hand, charged, and ready to go.

But I soon realized not all was well in Energizer-land. I quickly discovered the batteries didn’t hold a charge very well if they weren’t used. Place them into my flash and not use it for a month or two and when I need it to work the batteries would fire for what I thought was too short a time and then die. I wasn’t impressed. And for all the advertising about how many times they could be recharged I didn’t find the picture as rosy.

But then one day I read about these…

Sanyo Eneloop Batteries & Charger

I no longer recall where I read about them (some photography blog), but the author claimed they were THE battery to own, especially if you were a photographer in need of AA’s. I had neither heard of them before nor seen them to my recollection, but I filed this bit of information away. And not a few weeks later I found myself in the hallowed halls of Costco and stumbled across a package of Sanyo Eneloop batteries.

Said package included the charger, 8-AA’s and 4-AAA’s all for something like $26. A quick check on the phone at Amazon showed $35 or so. Well… what’s a guy to do? I felt a bit silly spending $26 on batteries and chargers when at home I knew I must have had 16 or so Energizer AA’s and two recharging devices. But the words of the author and my experience thus far with the Energizers said “Buy it. Do it. You’ll regret it if you don’t.” And so I did.

And let me tell you I’ll never go back.

I don’t pretend to understand what it is Sanyo does to make these batteries so awesome, but awesome they are. And mind you, my associations with Sanyo go back to childhood in the way of cheap and crappy car stereos, bedside clock/radios and the like. Sanyo was not a company who’s name I held in high esteem. But these batteries rule.

Perfect example… right now, sitting in my flash, are four Eneloop AA batteries I fully charged about a month ago. I’ve used the flash maybe twice and one time included an outing lasting about an hour and included over 150-images being taken. “Staggering” is the word which comes to my mind based upon my experience with other rechargeables.

Those others would barely have lasted the month sitting there doing nothing, much less worked through two outings. No way. No how. Thoroughly and completely impressed I am.

It’s funny… I, like many I imagine, have come to expect nothing less than thousands of shots from their rechargeable Lithium camera batteries, but probably don’t think much about the poor AA’s they stuff into flashs, point-n-shoots and accessories. But if more knew about the Eneloops I’m pretty certain they would see those pretenders out there in a very different light.