Battery Guide for Digital Cameras

Digital cameras are notorious for being extremely power hungry devices. If you take into consideration that the batteries are used to power the imaging system, the LCD, flash, CCD and storage system it comes as no surprise. Add to the mix, the newer generation cameras with Image stabilisation and high-powered zoom, the power requirements get even higher. Most digital cameras will drain a normal set of batteries in just one shooting session. Choosing the right digital camera batteries will not only save you money, but will also prevent you from missing a memorable moment due to flat batteries.

Propriety or standard batteries

Before buying a digital camera you should give some thought regarding the batteries it uses. Depending on the digital camera model, the camera will make use of either normal sized batteries (AA sized) or a propriety battery pack created specifically for that camera. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages you should take note of:

Normal battery
+ Less expensive than propriety batteries
+ Easy to find
+ Can be used in other devices
+ Able to use alkaline batteries in an emergency
- Normally lasts for a shorter period of time than propriety battery packs.
Propriety battery
+ Can be used for a longer period of time before depleted
+ Normally charges in a shorter amount of time
+ Optimised for your camera
- More expensive
- Can be difficult to locate a replacement
- Can often only be used with a specific camera model or line of manufacturers products.

Most often it is best to choose a camera that uses normal sized AA batteries. It will make it much easier for you to find replacement batteries. However some high-end cameras can only use propriety batteries. This should not prevent you from buying the camera, just make sure that you will be able to get a replacement battery when needed. It is also a good idea to buy a spare battery when buying the camera. This will ensure that you will have a spare when needed. (Especially if it takes a long time to order a replacement).

Battery Power Rating:

The amount of power a set of batteries can provide is depicted as a mAh (Milliampere-hour) rating. When buying batteries for your camera, you should look for batteries that offer the highest possible mAH rating. For digital cameras a 2000 mAh or higher rating works best.

Battery Types:

There are various kinds of batteries in use today. The main difference between them is the technology they use, the amount of power they can supply and whether they are rechargeable.

Alkaline: Alkaline batteries are the standard batteries we all know and love. They are available in all standard sizes and should be available for sale in most stores. Alkaline batteries aren't suited for frequent use in digital cameras. They last for only a few shots before being completely drained. This is an expensive solution if you intend to use your camera on a regular basis. However they should be fine for use in an emergency when your rechargeable batteries have run out.

Lithium: Lithium batteries are disposable and last longer than Alkaline batteries. This comes at a premium price though making them much more expensive than Alkaline batteries.

Nickel Cadmium: Ni-Cad are rechargeable batteries. These are relatively old technology and tend to suffer from the "memory effect". They must be fully discharged before recharging and care should be taken not to overcharge the battery. It's best to avoid using Nickel Cadmium batteries due to their limitations.

NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride): NiMH are the ideal batteries for use in digital cameras. They are rechargeable, but don't suffer as much from the memory affect. NiMH batteries last for a long time and offer the best value for their price.

Lion (Lithium Ion): Lithium ion batteries are relatively new. They are a rechargeable, don't suffer from the memory effect and last almost twice as long as NiMH batteries. Most propriety batteries are Lithium Ion batteries. The only downside is that Lithium-Ion batteries tend to be much more expensive and could be harder to find.

If you plan on using your digital camera on a regular basis you should definitely invest in a good set of rechargeable batteries. The best option would be to choose either NiMH or Lithium Ion batteries. This might seem expensive, but when you consider that they can be recharged multiple times and last longer, they will soon pay for themselves.

Caring for batteries

  • Insert the batteries correctly into the camera.
  • Don't mix used and unused batteries.
  • Don't mix different types of batteries.
  • Take care not to overcharge rechargeable batteries.
  • Don't leave batteries inside the camera for an extended period of time. Some batteries might leak and damage the camera.
  • Don't expose your batteries to extreme heat or cold.

Prolonging battery life

  • Don't switch your camera on and off repeatedly. When a camera is switched on it uses a lot of power to start all the necessary systems. If you are going to take lots of photos in a short time, it's best to leave your camera on, instead of switching it on and off for each shot.
  • Use the optical viewfinder instead of the LCD: The LCD uses a large amount of power. If you use the viewfinder instead of the LCD to frame your images you will conserve power.
  • Switch off the flash: If you don't need to use the flash, switch it off. Using the flash unnecessarily will drain your batteries much faster.
  • Review your pictures sparingly: Review the photo briefly after you've taken it to see if you need to re-shoot the photo. An extended review of your photos using the LCD will drain the batteries.
  • Use an AC adapter: Most cameras provide for the use of an AC adapter. This is ideal for when you are transferring photos from your digital camera to your PC.
  • If you are shooting on a tripod remember to disable image stabilisation on your camera - you won't need it and it is a considerable drain on the battery as well as possibly causing some vibration on the tripod.

Hopefully this will help you with your camera battery selection.