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BATTERIES , The "Life Blood" of Modern Computerized and Digital Cameras.

Written by "Vector"
Managing Director, the Vector Trust
One of three founding members of the team.

    Modern cameras require batteries for power. Photographers have learned to buy batteries in large lots, just as we bulk buy our film. As more and more computer power is packaged into each successive generation of camera models the power requirement have gone up too. When digital cameras first emerged, the earliest models quickly became famous for using up batteries faster than any other consumer electronic device. The newer, second generation cameras coming on the store shelves are not quite as thirsty, but unless you have an antique, all-manual camera, batteries have become a way of life for photographers. New technologies at work in the consumer battery business have changed the things you need to know about how to buy, store, use and even recharge todayís modern batteries. These little power packages have changed greatly in just the last 5 years. To simplify whatís new, and what you need to know about todayís modern batteries, hereís a list of the TOP 10 Doís and Donít for using modern batteries. With a little knowledge, some care and proper use, you can maximize the life of these expensive, but vital tools in your camera bag.


   #1    Read the instructions.
Everyone says they do this, and no one does it. Camera manufacturers put a lot of design engineering into modern, computerized cameras. The only way you know if you are using batteries correctly is to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!

   #2    Start with fresh batteries.
Check the freshness date when buying batteries. It will be printed on the packaging or on the individual cells themselves. It may be difficult to find, but if there is no manufacturing or "use by" date, the batteries are really, really old! Don't purchase batteries that are displayed directly in a store window. They probably have been exposed to excessive heat and could be dried out. Avoid retailers that donít sell a lot of batteries. The supply they have could rest on the shelves for months or years.

   #3    Store your batteries in a cool place.
Standard alkaline and other non-rechargeable batteries should be kept in a zip-sealed plastic bag, and in a cool place. The family refrigerator is OK, just donít freeze them. Remember to let the batteries warm to room temperature and be sure they are completely free of condensation before you unwrap and use them.

   #4    Inspect the cameraís battery compartment occasionally.
Any type of battery can leak. What the chemicals can do to your expensive camera is not pretty. Examine this area of all your equipment, not just the camera body, but the flash units and light meters too. A quick look can save a lot of grief and expense.If any of the power contact points have been exposed to leaky batteries, they may be corroded beyond help. Clean them 3 or 4 times a year, as we recommend you polish battery contact points, in #5. Good connections move power more efficiently.

   #5    Keep your batteries clean.
Lightly rub both ends of each battery with a clean pencil eraser before putting them in your equipment. This removes any thin corrosion film and oxidation that may have formed. As mentioned above, good connections move power more efficiently. You can buy a special glass-fiber brush for this purpose at specialty stores, or just use a pencil eraser, like the rest of the photography world.

   #6    6 Donít handle "button cell" batteries with your fingers.
Tiny "button cell" batteries are hard to change, but you must wear thin cotton gloves or use a clean handkerchief when you install them in your camera or light meter. The sweat and body oils from your fingers can corrode battery or camera contact points over time. Clean any suspect batteries of fingerprints with a cotton swab or a napkin lightly dampened with alcohol.

   #7    Remove the batteries from any equipment not used frequently.
Itís easy to do, if you get in the habit to remember this step. If you're not going to use your photography kit for a few weeks, remove the batteries. Itís better to be safe, than sorry. Battery leaks are rare, but they happen and cause serious damage that is expensive to repair.

   #8    Replace batteries in complete sets.
If your camera or flash unit is powered by AA or any other size of multiple batteries always start with a fresh group. If your motordrive uses four cells, replace all four at the same time, even though only one is defective. You will never get good power from three half-used cells and one fresh, new one. Recycle partially rundown cells into a flashlight, radio or other non-critical electronic devices.

   #9 the Modern Cameras energy source    Rechargeable batteries are different.
Read the instructions that come with any of these batteries, and make use your camera is designed for them. Rechargeable batteries require more precise care and attention than nonrechargeables. The higher initial purchase price can be justified only if they are used as designed. Re-read the #1 suggestion above.

   #10    Carry extra batteries at all times.
There is nothing more frustrating for a photographer than to miss a great shot, because of equipment failure. The most common, preventable failure will be dead batteries. Buy the correct sizes on sale. Keep a small supply constantly ready. A nice side benefit of planning in advance is the cost. Purchasing batteries on sale saves money over the price youíll pay at a "tourist trap" retailer.

   The new rechargeable batteries on the market offer a cost efficient way to power cameras and other high demand electronics. Much like reusable memory devises in digital cameras, these batteries can be reused over and over, but only if treated properly. The cost efficiency and "environmentally green" nature of these power cells is only realized if they are used properly. Rechargeable batteries have also changed substantially in the last 3 or 4 years too, so hereís a "Top 10" list just for this power choice.

   The TOP 10 RECHARGEABLE BATTERY "DONíT" LIST( with apologies to David Letterman.)    David Letterman is a "late night" adult TV show host on networks in the USA and Britain. A favorite humor feature of his show is a silly list of "Top 10" this or that.... done in reverse order from Number 10 to the grand finale, silliest item, #1.

   #10    Don't use rechargeable batteries when the ownerís manual says not to.
This is why the #1 suggestion above is listed at #1 !! Read the ownerís manual. This applies to new high tech equipment as well as your older tried and true gear. Rechargeable batteries overheat and can have odd life cycles. These power traits will damage your cameras, motordrives and flash units, unless they are designed for this power.

   #9    Don't mix and rearrange rechargeable battery cells.
The power capacity of one brand of nickel-cadmium AA cell can vary from 450 to 850 milliampere-hours (MAH) per unit, depending on the battery model, and how long ago it was manufactured. Use these batteries in sets of 2, 4 or eight, so they are always together. Mark them into family sets to keep them straight, or donít use rechargeable. Mixing battery cells of different power capacities can cause fatal damage to your expensive electronic units.

   #8    Don't mix different battery types in your equipment.
Similar , but different than #9 Use either alkaline, nickel-cadmium, or all nickel-metal hydride cells, but keep them matched. Mixing different types is likely to permanently damage the rechargeable cells by reverse charging. Alkaline cells will leak or burst when abused this way. Rechargeable will overheat or crash. When this occurs, you will be lucky if ONLY the batteries are dead.

   #7    Donít put "trickle" slow recharging batteries in a "fast" one hour charger.
Most battery chargers have special safety features to prevent fast charging of slow charge battery cells, some of them do not. Slow charge cells can leak or burst if subjected to high charging currents. Even if they don't burst, this abuse will quickly shorten their useful life.

   #6    Don't recharge alkaline or other non-rechargeable battery cells.
You are lucky if they leak or rupture. It is very possible that this cells can explode. As mentioned before, if you keep your batteries together in sets you wonít confuse one type with another.

   #5    Don't use rechargeable batteries without giving them a full charge, first.
A new set, straight from the package is likely to be completely run down and won't work. At worst, each cell will have a different amount of charge left from the factory. Trying to use any rechargeable without a fresh charge could "reverse charge" one of your new cells and ruin it! This is particularly important when using multicell battery packs, commonly used for video/ camcorders.

   #4    Don't try to repair rechargeable battery cells!
These batteries offer great benefits in cost savings over time. They can be very convenient and reduce the chemical waste issues at landfill sites, but they do wear out. There is no rehabilitation for these units at the end of their useful life. Dispose of them responsibly, as you would regular old alkaline batteries. Never place any battery in a fire. They will most likely burst and injure someone

   #3    Don't leave your batteries in the charger constantly.
After use, recharge your batteries and then store them away. A good slow charge before the next use will freshen them up. If your recharger doesn't have a run-down feature, just keep your camera on until the batteries have run down. Constant recharger activity will cause them to stay warm, lose internal water and become less effective more quickly.

   #2    Don't drop your expensive rechargable batteries.
Spare batteries should not rattle around loose in your camera bag or be dropped repeated ly. The impact can cause unseen internal damage and greatly shorten their life. They can short out against each other or against other metal objects. Bundle cells from the same family ( see #9 above ) with a rubber band and put them in a plastic bag.

   .... and finally, The Number One rechargable battery "Donít" is ; ( insert suspenseful drum roll here)
   #1    Don't leave your rechargable batteries at home in the charger.
We will all do this at one time or another, whether we admit it or not. You will enjoy the benefits of your new, expensive rechargable batteries much more, if you remember to take them with you. In the rush to get "out the door" and on your way, Don't forget to double-check the supplies that you'll need. This applies not just to batteries, but film, lens cleaner, tripods, and all the "kit" you'll need to have a successful day of photography.

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