Battery confusion

elisamcsJuly 8, 2011

I'm looking to upgrade to a 12.0 megapixel or higher, but I'm getting confused about the different kinds of batteries available and/or required.

Would any of you please weigh in with the pros/cons of AAs, rechargeables, proprietary, etc? And if you care to, what would you recommend for a novice who wants to take pics of her grandkids with no redeye and in low light? Oh yes, under $400.

Many thanks in advance.

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First off, let me give you some insight to "Red Eye"

In low light the pupil of the eye is open wider and if the flash is on or near the same level as the lens the light from the flash goes into the eye, reflects off the retina in the back of the eyeball and is reproduced on film or digital sensor as the red color of the retina.

The best method to prevent red eye is use bounce flash or an external flash that is mounted higher and off to one side of the camera, which changes the reflective angle but that is generally not possible with simple point & shoot cameras.

Many modern digital cameras have a "Red Eye" reduction feature where the flash is fired twice. The first flash does not open the camera shutter but it triggers the eye to close down the pupil momentarily, and a fraction of a second later the camera fires the flash and opens the lens to take the picture. We also see the multiple flash when using auto focus in dim light. The camera fires the flash to allow the focusing mechanism to see the subject and set the lens, then it fires again to take the photo.

If you want a point & shoot camera look for one that has the Red Eye reduction feature, but even then you will probably need a post processing program on your computer to remove traces of Red Eye.

If you do not have a post processing program that has a red eye correction feature one cheap solution is to download "Photoscape" from Google. It is a free download and is not only a fairly powerful post processing program, it is extremely user friendly.

Now for my thoughts on Batteries:

First off, I would be reluctant to buy a camera that uses a specific proprietary battery unless I was sure that the manufacturer has been using that particular battery for a few years. The problem here is they design a specific battery for one camera, or even a series of cameras they are producing this year, but next year when they come out with their new cameras they may change to another proprietary battery shape or size. The problem here is that those batteries will be in limited production and may go out of production rather quickly when they change to a new battery, thus when your battery is worn out in three or four years you may not be able to find a replacement and you will be left searching for another camera. (In industry that is called "planned obsolecence" and it is done to insure a future market for their products)

On the other hand the AA battery has been used in flashlights, radios, toys, and portable electronics for over 50 years, and given the overall demand for them, I am confident they will probably still be in production 50 years from now.

Another up side of AA batteries is that if you go on a road trip and your batteries go dead, you can find replacements at any hardware, drugstore, convenience store, grocery store or general retail stores such as walmart & kmart.

Two of my pro grade DSLRS use proprietary batteries, but they will also work with 4 AA cells. When I go in the field I begin with a fresh charged proprietary battery in each camera, and I carry two spares. If I am shooting without the flash I can average about 900 frames per battery, but if I use the flash they will allow about 500 frames per battery.

In addition, I carry 12 fully charged Energyzer 1200mAh AA cells which I can use in the cameras or my external flash and Macro ring light, not to mention, they also work in the little mini-maglight flashlight that I carry in the camera bag for night shooting, as well as in my MP3 player that I use when sitting in a blind waiting for a bird or animal to come by.

While a set of four AA dry cells for electronics applications costs about $6 you can get a set of four Energyzer Rechargeables at Walmart for about $12. They come precharged and are ready to use right out of the pack, but for another $6 or $8 you can get a plug in wall charger that charges them four at a time, and they can be recharged hundreds of times. And for another few bucks you could even get a quick charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the car to recharge batteris on the road.

Back in the prehistoric days when I first got into photography I would not leave the house with less than 20 rolls of film in my bag. Today its three or four sets of extra batteries and 5 or 6 spare 4gb memory cards. Some people laugh at me, but I shoot upwards of 500 to 1,000 shots a day and the last thing on my mind is film or batteries.

I generally don't shoot point & shoot cameras so I am not as familiar with them as perhaps I should be, but out of curiosity I pulled up Walmarts website just to get an idea of whats out there.

As I looked at the features I saw a couple that really caught my eye, although I must confess, I didn't spend much time looking and I am sure there are many others that would outperform these.

I was actually looking in the under $200 range and found a couple I liked.

Nikon "Coolpix-L120" 14.1mp 21x zoom & wide angle

Kodak "Easyshare 2981" 14mp 26x optical zoom AA batteries

They did not have any Canon, Pentax or Samsung on that page, but I have every confidence they would offer something very competitive.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 3:19AM
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I used to be a fan of rechargeable AA batteries (plus keeping sets of spare alkalines), but no more. For one thing, they're so heavy--heavy in the camera and heavy in the bag. For another, lithium batteries last so much longer on a charge. I keep one in the camera and one in the bag. They hardly weigh anything, and are rotated relatively infrequently.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 7:29PM
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Rechargeable Lithium ion battery are the preferred choice. These hold charge better than the NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) type and holds more energy per volume. However, the voltages of various cell chemestries are different:

Lithium 3 V
Rechargeable NiHM 1.2 V
Alkaline AA 1.5 v
Rechargeable NiCad 1.25 V

NiCad and NiHM can be interchanged in the camera, but their charging programs are different. They require different chargers, but there exists some chargers that can charge either type. I carry a charger that auto detects cell type and switchers charging programs accordingly.

My experience with the common NiMH has not been good for the occasional shooter. These self discharge too fast. Some spec say 8% per month, but I find that after the first use and recharge, the discharge rate is more like 8% per week. I carry 4 sets of batteries, 1 in the camera, and 3 spares. Unless I have recently recharged the 3 spares, I have been let down on a shoot (or walk about).

But wait, I have found an improved version called Hybrid NiMH. These do hold charge better and are superior to the older cells. They do command a premium price, but are worth it. I get mine at "Batteries Plus". It was this supplier that introduced me to these.

Strictly speaking, a battery is a collection of cells. For example, inside a 6 volt lantern battery is a collection of four, 1.5 v cells connected together; A 12 volt car battery has six, 2 volt cells. Unfortunately, common usage has morphed the word "battery" to represent either a cell or a battery of cells.

So, what is the best choice for a camera for occasional use? My picks:

1. Lithium ion

Until recently, these came in special shapes made for specific devices. Lately, I have seen AA sized Lithium cells on the shelves. Beware the voltage difference and don't mix the two. Laptop computers and cell phones most likely have lithium ion batteries. High end digital cameras switched lithium cells as soon as these became available.

2. AA sized cells, NiMH type.

Use Hybrid NiMH for replacements and spares.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:29AM
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