Rechargeable AA Batteries for Photographers
What are the best rechargeable AA batteries for photographers? Are you still using alkaline disposable batteries for your flashes and other photo gear? Are you tired of spending all that money to buy those throw-away batteries? Do you want to maximum performance from each set of batteries? Are you concerned with the environmental impact from all those chemicals in throw-away batteries? Finally, are you presently using rechargeable batteries but are not happy with their performance? Answer yes to any one of these, and you’ll want to be sure to read this informative post, about high-performance, low-cost, environmentally favorable options to power your equipment using rechargeable AA batteries.
This post is all about the great luck I have had personally using Powerex rechargeable AA batteries. But on every board and forum I’m on, it’s inevitable that whenever there is a battery discussion the clear players and victors in this game. Powerex and Eneloop brand batteries. So, though I feel there is an ever-so-slight advantage to Powerex, let’s just call it a draw and say right up front here that Eneloop (formerly by Sanyo and now a Panasonic brand) is an equally awesome choice. Let’s look at what we’re talking about:
Powerex brand rechargeable AA batteries set themselves apart from the competition, because they’re rated for 2700 milliamp-hours (maH). Which is to say, they are “stronger” than just about any other AA rechargeable battery. The next best, including the Eneloop, are rated nearly as high at 2600 maH. Which goes on to mean that Powerex lasts longer. And in my experience that is totally the case. They also can be discharged and recharged over and over and over again, using, of course, a battery charger. The best charger is the conditioning charger made by the same people that make the Powerex batteries, MaHa Energy.
This charger (above) will charge the batteries quickly and safely, shutting off a bay at a time so as to not overcharge any of the cells. And, there is a ‘soft’ mode to use every now and again to more slowly charge and condition the batteries for even longer life.
The Powerex batteries are Nickel Metal Hydride (NIMH). For photographers using high-drain items, like flashes, it’s best to stick with this type versus the new “low-discharge” NIMH type. The difference is that the regular tend to lose a little of their charge when sitting unused. Whereas the low discharge are not as “strong”, but don’t lose much power when sitting idle. Just think how good these would be for things like remote controls!
Since 2008, I’ve powered six flashes, six external flash battery packs, and many radio triggers using a set of roughly 12 dozen Maha Powerex batteries. Every battery went through hundreds of discharge-recharge cycles. They served through about 7 seasons before finally needing to be finally discarded and replaced. That, to me, is huge!
COST SAVINGS: SERIOUS COST SAVINGS!!!
Besides the wonderful benefits to landfills and the environment, I figured that the cost savings were profound:
Let’s look at the cost of use of the batteries in a flash that takes 4 AA cells. I calculate that each Powerex battery cost 2 cents per battery per use, or 8 cents in this case to use four of them. This factors in the cost of buying the batteries in the first place at about $14 for a 4-pack, dividing that out by the number of discharges are recharges, and allowing a fraction of a cent in electricity to fully recharge each battery. And it includes some amount almost too little to calculate to amortize the cost of the chargers, which should last nearly indefinitely.
Disposable alkaline prices vary from about $6 for a 4-pack from the grocery store checkout to about $14 for a 36-pack (40 cents each) from the big-box home stores. Which is obviously the right way to go about buying them if you choose to continue to do so. But, even in the most conservative example here, each use of four at a time is worth about $1.60. Compare that to the 8 cents in the case of using four Powerex (or Eneloop) rechargeables. Not to mention their current carrying capacity means your flash recycles faster, equals a real given as to which is more economical to use. Now, for the fun of it, that 8 cents per use compares to $5 or $6 if you didn’t get the deal on the 36-pack at the home store.
WHERE TO PURCHASE
The big on-line camera retailers and amazon typically carry Powerex batteries, but we love ordering them from Thomas Distributing Company. Their customer service is top notch. This past year I added two more of the 8-bay Maha chargers (as shown above) and soon after setting them up, one stopped working. Thomas Distributing had a new one on the way, along with a prepaid shipping envelope to return the old one, as fast as I could send an email explaining my situation. I love working with companies that value their customers. And, their prices are about as good as it gets, anyhow.
I suggest sticking with the brands mentioned here. Other brands, even name brands, in the world of rechargeable batteries, just don’t even come close.