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FAQ - Digital Camera Battery Help and Tips

Keep Extra Batteries Handy!

Alright, this is a simple tip and it should be a no-brainer. However, I will mention it anyway, because, as the maxim goes, "common sense is not so common".

Whatever you do, wherever you go, always, ALWAYS bring extra batteries when shooting photos! Cameras suck the power out of batteries quickly, even rechargable ones, so you should always carry extra batteries in your camera bag (you did buy a camera bag to protect your camera from the elements, didn't you?)

Don't Use Alkaline AA - Use Rechargeables

If your digital camera supports AA batteries, read the camera manual and check to see if it also supports a kind of battery called NiMH. These batteries tend to last much longer than most standard alkaline AA batteries - plus, they are rechargeable, so they can be re-used for quite a long time. Granted, the cost of four NiMH batteries plus a charger is more expensive than four alkaline batteries, but you'll more than make up the difference in costs once you recharge and use the batteries a few times.

Battery Conservation Tips

Are you always running out of battery power just before you take that perfect picture with your digital camera? Here are some tips to conserve your batteries when you are out "snapping away".

1) Turn off your digital camera when not in use. If you are in a situation where you must snap pictures quickly, this may not apply as turning digital cameras on and off take a few seconds, and may cause you to miss a picture-taking opportunity. However, if you are taking a leisurely stroll and can afford a couple of seconds before snapping a still subject, by all means, conserve your digital camera's energy!

2) Many digital cameras have a regular viewfinder and an LCD viewfinder. While the digital LCD viewfinder has its benefits, it can drain battery power. Turn it off when applicable and use your regular viewfinder for taking pictures.

3) Don't stop after taking every photo and look at the picture in your digital camera's playback mode. Granted, you sometimes need to look at photos immediately after shooting them in order to make sure your exposure is correct, the lighting is ok, etc., but doing this does use up your digital camera's battery power.

4) If you are using MicroDrive media, be forewarned that these miniature hard drives may take up quite more power than Compact Flash cards.

Use these tips and you'll save some digital camera battery power for when you want to take that perfect picture. But, of course, the best tip to make sure that you don't run out of power is . . . take some extra charged batteries with you on trips!

Bring a Battery Charger on Trips

First off, if your battery takes AA batteries and you are not using rechargeable batteries, read the other digital camera tips on MalekTips on why you should.

Now, assuming you use rechargeables, and that you take several sets of charged batteries with you on a vacation or photo-shoot, realize that it just makes sense to also bring a battery charger or two with you. When you return to your hotel room, condo, etc. for the evening, after backing up your photos to your laptop or external digital media storage (hint, hint!), take your used-up batteries and give them a recharge. If you are new to digital photography, you might think three or four sets of batteries are enough for a multi-day trip, but you'll be surprised when you start using up a set or two of batteries each day!

Keep Playback to a Minimum

I know it can be tempting to show your friends and family pictures you take with a digital camera immediately afterwards, but try to keep image playback to a minimum while you are still out taking pictures. Picture playback can drain batteries, and nothing is worse than seeing something great to photograph and watching your camera's battery meter flash empty. Just politely tell your friends and family that as soon as you are done shooting, you'll be happy to run a slideshow of the photos.

Of course, feel free to play back one or two photos while you are out having fun; just don't take 100 photos and show people the results of every single image capture.

Those Batteries Won't Stay Charged Forever

If you infrequently use your digital camera, you may think that you after you use your digital camera, recharge your NiMH batteries, wait a few weeks or months, then use your digital camera again, that your batteries will be charged and you'll be ready to snap photos, right?

Oops... Do that and you'll be stuck with a non-functioning digital camera or one that just blinks a picture showing a dead battery.

Rechargeable batteries don't stay charged forever. They tend to lose a little bit of their power every day. If you charge your batteries and frequently use your digital camera, you will probably never notice this loss of power. However, after a couple of weeks, the power loss may be noticeable, and after a couple of months or longer of non-use, those once ready-to-go batteries may have lost enough power to make them unusable.

Don't get caught in this trap. Always charge your batteries before every trip, and make sure to use a battery charger with a sensor that prevents over-charge.

What is mAh?

mAh stands for Milliamp Hour, a technical term for how much power a particular battery will hold. Digital camera batteries with higher mAh values theoretically last longer without requiring a recharge, allowing you to take more photographs before you have to replace your batteries.

It is recommended when placing batteries in a digital camera that their mAh values match. Otherwise, it is possible that one lesser mAh battery will drain before the others, causing extra strain on the remaining batteries or causing your digital camera to not work until all batteries are replaced.

Buy Extra Proprietary Batteries

Many digital cameras support rechargeable AA NiMH batteries. The plus side is these batteries are cheap, available at many places, and non-proprietary. This means that a set of AA NiMH batteries used in one camera should work in another. However, the downside of these batteries is that digital cameras drain them relatively quickly when taking photographs.

To combat this problem, many camera manufacturers, especially in their high-end models, require use of proprietary rechargeable batteries. This way, you may get more than a dozen or hundred shots before having to recharge. While this can be of help when on long photo-taking trips, consider the following:

1. When your proprietary battery runs out of power, that's it. You can't run to the local drugstore and buy some AA batteries to take a few extra photos. It must be recharged before reused.

2. Rechargeable batteries eventually lose their ability to hold power after many charges. When this happens, you're out of luck. Remember the iPod fiasco a while back? These batteries can cost a great deal of money and can usually only be purchased from the digital camera manufacturer or a small number of resellers.

3. If your digital camera becomes obsolete (which can happen sooner than you think!), no one may continue producing the needed battery for your camera. This can mean that a couple of years after your original purchase, a perfectly good camera will be of no more use to you than a doorstop.

So, to prevent running out of power while taking great photos, as you buy your digital camera, go ahead and buy a second battery. While this may increase the cost of your original investment, it will more than make up for itself when you need the extra power to finish your photo shoots.

Don't Mix and Match Brands and Types

To prevent possible damage, only insert similar digital camera batteries.

Don't mix different rechargeable AA NiMH batteries together in the same digital camera. For example, don't put in two Rayovacs, one Energizer, and one Duracell. This may damage the batteries or digital camera.

Batteries may have different amounts of power. For example, I have batteries containing the following amounts:

* 1400 mAh
* 1600 mAh
* 1700 mAh
* 1850 mAh

If you put different types of batteries in your digital camera, assuming the camera even works (which it may not), one battery may run out before others do, rendering the camera useless until you recharge all the batteries or insert a new set.

Either make sure you use same brand and type of batteries when inserting batteries into a digital camera, or commit to buying just one type and brand of battery. Even if you do the latter, make sure the mAh powers match.

Use an Add-On NiMH Power Pack

If your digital camera only supports proprietary batteries, see if it also supports an add-on power pack that uses AA NiMH batteries.

If you have many extra AA NiMH batteries from previous digital cameras or other digital technology purchases, a battery pack may be a wise investment. Though a power pack may add a little weight to the camera and cost more than a couple of proprietary batteries, it may save money in the long run if you have plenty of NiMH's that would otherwise no longer be useful in your new digital camera.

Recycle Your NiMH Batteries

Have your AA NiMH batteries stopped accepting a charge? If so, you may be tempted to throw them away. Instead of doing this, consider contacting your battery manufacturer, local recycling agency, or waste management center to see if they can recycle your dead battery.

Take Batteries Out of the Digital Camera

If you are not planning on using your digital camera for a while (months?), it may be wise to take your batteries out of your digital camera for storage. This reduces the chance of battery leakage and corrosion, which can seriously damage your digital camera's internals.

Never Charge Incompatible AA Batteries

Never charge incompatible AA batteries in your AA battery charger! Do not try charging non-rechargeable batteries in a battery charger, or NiCad batteries in a NiMH charger or vice-versa. Also, if you purchase special 'fast-charging' AA NiMH batteries, only insert those in the charger they were made for. Doing otherwise could result in damage to the batteries or the charger, and in some extreme cases, a fire could ensue.

Batteries in Cold Weather

If you plan on taking digital photos in colder weather, such as right after a snowstorm, note that batteries may hold their power for shorter periods of time than in warmer weather. You may either want to bring extra batteries during your photo shoot or look for digital camera batteries specially rated to handle colder temperatures.

Why does this occur? Check out the following website:

Why do Batteries Discharge More Quickly in Cold Weather? - http://chemistry.about.com/library/weekly/blbattery.htm

Travel Overseas? May Need a Different Charger or Converters

If your digital photography takes you overseas, realize that your battery chargers may not work due to varying plug types and voltage levels depending on the country. For example, in the United States the voltage is usually 120V and two plug types are used, but the United Kingdom uses different plug types and voltages ranging from 220-240V. For more information, one resource you can read is Steve Kropla's Help for World Travelers at http://kropla.com/electric.htm

Proprietary batteries may require special chargers made by the manufacturer or international adapters and voltage converters.

For rechargeable AA NiMH batteries you can purchase battery chargers at most digital camera stores and online shops that support a variety of plug and voltage specifications (these may be called "international battery chargers" or "travel battery chargers"). Note that these will cost more than your garden-variety chargers but can be well worth the price.

Never Get Batteries Wet

If it is raining, or if you are near an area of running water such as a waterfall, be extremely careful when changing out your digital camera battery or batteries. Get a safe distance away from the water or water vapor before you do so. Water can corrode your battery or batteries, possibly causing leakage, and this can damage your digital camera as well if you insert the wet batteries.

Combo Media/Battery Wallet

A media wallet is a great way to store your digital camera memory in one place, reducing the time it may take fumbling through your camera bag. What about your AA NiMH batteries?

Some manufacturers make digital camera accessory cases that can store a couple of media cards and a full set of NiMH batteries, making it easy to find everything in one place. Here are a few companies that produce such products; note that these manufacturers are listed for informational purposes only.

* Case Logic
* DigiCase
* HAMA
* OmegaSatter
* Pro-Pix

Check with your local camera store or online outlets for products from the above manufacturers.

Consider Buying a Media Wallet

Tired of juggling with your digital camera media packed into individual hard plastic cases? You may want to consider purchasing a digital media wallet. While protecting your media from outside elements, a digital media wallet lets you organize all your CompactFlash or other cards into one convenient place. If you decide to purchase a media wallet, make sure to buy one with plenty of pockets so you can separate your used versus unused (empty) cards.

You should be able to find a digital media wallet at your local camera store. Make sure to purchase one that matches your media type and size.

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