What to expect from rechargeable/alkaline AA batteries when installed in Digicams


Hon. Acoustical Engineer
Mar 16, 2002
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Recently on my recommendation someone purchased the Nikon S4 Digital Camera, on using it the first day the battery bundled with it (Maxell Alkaline) wore out in just under 40 minutes of use and hardly 15 shots were taken. Agreed that the first time buyer did play around with the new toy for a short while trying to understand how it really works since it was the first time the person had opted to delve into the realms of digital photography. Nonetheless, it was a big concern for him since 40 minutes is practically nothing and when it comes to a days shoot one would need a dozen set of alkaline batteries to continue shooting:eek:, an unacceptable expense by any standard. I explained to him about the requirements of the digital camera in terms of power and that he would be better off getting rechargeable batteries and a charger since it would pay itself off in no time considering the cost of alkaline batteries and the number needed. Recently he went for the charger and few batteries and I am waiting for him to give me feedback. I am already well informed and I would not be surprised when he give me the feedback which more or less would be same as the what I had found out while doing the research.

Meanwhile I decided to do a bit of research to find out if my friend’s camera was not at fault and that the batteries lasted the amount of time that they should have. Allow me to share some of the information I gathered about it, but, first an overview:

Many of the digital cameras are being introduced in the point and shoot category which now sport AA battery cell facility. This means that you no longer have to rely on the propriety batteries which cost as much as the charger and 4 AA rechargeable cells and sometimes more. These camera’s, when used with alkaline batteries give a very pathetic performance and costs can go very high. Alkaline batteries are just not made for the current breed of Digital Camera’s as they are extremely power hungry and a set of 2 cells may last for a very short while, say no more than 40-55 minutes or 30 to 50 shots at the most depending on how it is used and how power hungry the camera is.

The rechargeable perform much better when called upon to deliver high globs of current demanded by the digital cameras and particularly the high power zooms built into some of them. Higher capacity rechargeable batteries are being introduced in the market, particularly in the range of 2300 to 2500 mAh packed in a single AA cell. However, beware about the capacities indicated as this is not the only thing that determines how the particular battery will perform but other variables as well. Batteries of similar capacities can perform very differently when they come from different manufacturers. Temperature when the batteries are being charged, temperature of the environment when they are being used, quality fo the charger used, all play a very important role when it comes to the performance of the rechargeable battery. Some of the best known brands truly perform better than the rest; the better brands may be slightly more expensive but worth every penny you spend on them in the long run, besides the failure rate is also low. You get what you pay for should be at the back of everyone’s mind when considering purchase of not just batteries but anything.

Recently, a very exhaustive shootout was conducted (link at the bottom of this post) and many brands were put to test to find out their performance characteristics. There is a wealth of information in the article and it could be termed as a “White Paper for Rechargeable Batteries” If you get bored with the details and technical jargon you can scroll down to the actual results to find out which batteries were the best performers. However, if you enjoy reading the minute details, be my guest and read the whole thing.

I hope this information will prove useful and that I also hope you will get the best out of the batteries that you finally decide to buy, not only for your Digital Camera, but for any other gadget that you use currently, requiring you to install rechargeable batteries. :)

Batteries Shootout

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