WARNING: This is about to get super nerdy...
As we mentioned the other week, we've decided to start a new section of our blog where we share some of the knowledge and tips we've learned over the past few years, now that we are full time photographers/ videographers.
It's an attempt to help share knowlege with fellow photogs/videographers, in hopes that you don't have to learn the hard, and often expensive way of trial and error... Not that that's what we did... *cough cough*
Now, we're not saying that there aren't better solutions and products out there, but we're not product testers… We don't get stuff for free, so everything here we have learned, first by researching online (obsessively) until we figured we knew what we needed to know, then spending some hard earned (or borrowed) money. This is all stuff we wish someone had told us when we started in this business years ago...
Part One: Batteries are lame.
AA Batteries are a the WORST...AND it turns out they run pretty much everything we (ie. photo/video people) use from the Zoom H4n, to pocket wizards, to of course the biggie… our speedlights.
Ok you're right, it could be worse...we could have like 5 different kinds of batteries to use instead of just the standard AA’s. BUT the problem comes when you're shooting almost every day, but you're going broke trying to keep up with replacing these Double A demons….
Because if you think about it, even if you're shooting with only 2 flashes, both with battery packs, and say you get a whole week out of those batteries (not likely), thats 12 AA’s per flash x2...so 24AA’s a week, 96 a month, or over 1000 batteries a year!! In other words, you quickly could become a planet killing, douche ”B”! (A broke one too)
Now, say you forget to buy some extras, because you thought you had enough to last this job… but you end up shooting way more than you thought and you run out of batteries...
When someone is paying you to shoot something there is no way in hell you can risk having a dead battery stall, or even worse shut down your shoot. Can you imaging having to ask the client … “um hey man, um do you have any double A’s kicking around that I could borrow?” … NO, just NO.
So, you need yourself some rechargeables and a metric shit ton of em' too. So here's the ditty on rechargeable batteries that pertains to us:
The most common types of batteries today are NiMH and Lithium Ion. Lithium Ion is the same type of battery that is in your cameras, cell phone, tablet, laptop etc. The reason for this is: they're lightweight, hold a mean charge, have built-in temperature control stuff, and no longer have the need to completely run dry before you re-charge them.
The down side is that they are still relatively new (especially in the AA’s market) which makes them super expensive, and not easy to find. No doubt eventually we'll be rocking these little gems in all our gear but not yet my friends...
So, that takes us to NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride). These guys have two types: Low self discharge (LSD), and the regular joes (lets call them RJ’s). The difference is kinda in the name.. the RJ’s will drain themselves as they sit there being unused in your gear which sucks if you like to have your batteries charged and ready to go (which you should) incase you get a last minute job call. The LSD’s, on the other hand, will still drain but instead of a couple months they will take like a year to drain anything significant.
The only disadvantage of the LSD’s over the RJ’s is that the RJ’s will generally have a higher power output (that’s the mAh rating). But realistically, you have to be in a lab, bench testing this stuff to notice anything, and in my opinion, the advantage of the LSD’s outweigh any tiny amount of power difference from the RJ’s.
Part two: Chargers have feelings too
I thought a charger is a charger and that's that…nope! It turns out there are 2 types of AA battery chargers: a Smart one and a regular one. If you have a regular charger like I did, (Like a Duracell 4 battery charger I found at Walmart for my Duracell RJ’s, pictured right) it turns out, it only charges the batteries in a group, not as individuals. In other words, it pumps the same amount of energy into each battery, regardless of their current charge, for a predetermined amount of time. So when it says the batteries are "full" it might mean 1 is full, it might mean all 4 are full...you have no way of knowing. Not to mention it can also damage your batteries during this process, which reduces the capacity for their life cycle.
SO, now you jam those AA’s into your speedlight and start shooting away, but your speed light only see’s the batteries in groups as well, so when 1 battery drops below a certain point, (because it's the one that wasn't fully charged) it assumes they're all dead… So you're left not being able to figure out why you're getting crap battery life out of these damn rechargeables...
Now, the smart charger (SM), on the other hand, charges each battery separately and knows when to stop charging each individual one. This ensures ALL of your AA’s will be fully charged every time. The batteries then also get less damage every time, increasing their life cycle...Good for your wallet, AND the environment.
SO, moral of the story? Quit pooping on the planet and buy some NiMH recharagbles which can be either LSD or RJ’s (up to you) but for love of GAD buy yourself a decent charger or you're not getting the most out of the rechargeable batteries you do have.
Gear that we chose, based on performance, value, reviews, and availability:
Batteries - Maha IMEDION 2400mAh
Location - paulsfinest.com because of good shipping, good value and decent web page (not great tho but works well enough).