Monday, October 26, 2009

Slowing down your camera's battery drain!

Nikon DSLR BatteryI don't know about your digital camera, but my Nikon D-200, a DSLR, seems to eats up its battery charge too quickly. That's one of the major reasons I have a vertical grip on my camera. The grip allows me to use two batteries at a time, doubling battery life.

Today's digital cameras, whether DSLR or Point and Shoot units depend upon batteries to power the camera and its variety of moving parts and electronic circuits; no battery charge, no photos.

You should be aware of what you can do to extend the life of your camera’s battery. I also recommend carrying a spare battery at all times when taking photographs.

All new digital cameras today, of which I'm aware, utilize rechargeable Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries, though some use standard alkaline batteries too.

Unlike rechargeable batteries of the past, Li-Ion batteries don't have a “memory,” and therefore never need, to be deep discharged. In fact, deep discharging a Li-Ion battery may damage it. Li-Ion batteries require no maintenance other than recharging. They do discharge slowly while not in use, but far slower than many other rechargeable battery types.

Li-Ion batteries do have some drawbacks. They are fragile and require an internal protection circuit to maintain safe operation, by limiting each cell’s peak voltage during charging and preventing their voltage from dropping too low on discharge. They monitor their internal temperature to prevent overheating.

Aging is a Li-Ion battery concern. A Li-Ion battery’s capacity deteriorates noticeably after one year, whether the battery is in use or not. Like other types of rechargeables Li-Ion batteries often fail after two or three years.

Here are my tips to increase your camera battery’s useful life during your day’s shooting.
  • Before setting out on the day’s photo shoot, top off your camera’s Li-Ion battery charge, plus any spares you have. Topping off your Li-Ion batteries will not harm them.
  • Virtually all of today’s Digital Point & Shoot cameras, and now many DSLR cameras have an LCD screen on their back through which you can both frame your photos, and review your images once shot. These LCD screen rapidly use your battery’s power.

    • Use the optical viewfinder (if your camera has one) to frame your images, instead of the LCD screen. Be aware, on some Point & Shoot cameras, what you see on the viewfinder isn’t exactly what you’re going to get in the actual picture. On some cameras, the edges of the frame, looking through the viewfinder, may be cropped off. Make an allowance for that when using the viewfinder.
    • Turn off automatic review of your photos. There is no reason to immediately review each and every photograph you take.

  • Consider lowering the LCD screen’s brightness to save power. If you have difficulty seeing the screen in bright sunlight, shade it with the palm of your hand when necessary.
  • Adjust your camera’s “sleep” option(s). Maximize your digital camera’s power-saving “sleep mode.” In “sleep mode,” your camera uses little power, but is ready to be “awakened” at a moment’s notice. Usually you can “awaken” a digital camera from “sleep mode” by pressing the shutter release halfway down, or by pressing on one of your camera’s function buttons.
  • Some shutterbugs, continually “play” with their power zoom (digital point & shoot cameras) habitually. Use your power zoom judiciously. The zoom motor which moves the lens in and out can quickly drain the camera’s battery. Wait to use it when you’re ready to shoot.
  • Set your focus mode to single servo focus as your default. Continuous focus requires far more battery power, as the camera must continually adjust the lens to keep it in focus. In single servo focus, the camera focuses only when you press your shutter release halfway, or another button programmed for the same purpose. You only need continuous focus when there is motion in your subject, such as in a sporting event, or when panning to capture wildlife in motion.
  • In cold weather, keep your camera under your coat or jacket, close to your body, to keep it warm. Colder temperatures cause batteries to drain faster.
  • Use the camera’s “built-in” flash only when necessary. I can’t tell you how often I see people at a football stadium, or sports’ arena taking photos of the game with their flash going off with each shot, even though they are hundreds of feet from their subject. Those “built-in” flashes rarely are useful at more than 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 meters). The “built-in” flash is a major battery drain when used.
  • Don’t delete unwanted photos directly from your camera’s memory. Deleting photos in your camera can lead to memory card corruption and it drains battery power. (After transferring your photos to your computer, remove your photos from the memory card by formatting the card in your camera.)


James said...

Glad to see your back from your trip and writing in the Blog again.

Great article. I'm implementing changes in my "sleep" options right away.


Herb said...

Ned, I don't understand how deleting a few photos in my camera to gain space when I'm low on memory can corrupt the memory card. It's a built in function of the camera after all. I understand how it can drain the battery a tiny bit, but corrupt the card. (I read your linked article, but I just don't buy it.)

I think your blog is one of the best, by the way, but I don't agree on this point.



Ned S. Levi said...

Herb, the memory chips are like any floppy disk, zip disk, USB memory stick, etc. Their magnetic imprint is not as strong, or continually strengthened like internal or external hard drives which are always under power. Moreover, apparently, the internal process which cameras use in general to add and delete files from the memory cards is different than computer hard drives and not as safe, with regard to error checking.

While it isn't the norm, anecdotal evidence from professional and upper level amateur photographers has indicated over the years that cards from which photo files are deleted individually, as opposed to deleted by formatting, are more susceptible to corruption. There is no doubt that deletion by formatting strengthens the magnetic properties of the chip to retain their integrity each time the chip is formatted.

Chips are becoming better at avoiding corruption, and cameras are becoming better at disk management, but my feeling is why take a chance. Why not do a "best practices" and maximize your odds of having no corruption?

With the increasing size of these memory chips available for cameras, and with cameras compatible with larger chips, you shouldn't have a space problem during your photo shoots which deleting a few photos here and there will affect.

Finally, any use of the camera drains power from the battery. Everything takes power.

Best regards,


Lewis T said...

Useful tips. Particularly turning off the automatic review of the photos - as you say, there should be no need to review every shot! I'm glad to see someone else also finds seeing a lot of flashes going of at sports venues a little frustrating. Turning off the built-in flash is a must.

non geographic numbers said...

Keep in mind whenever you go on a vacation, you need to bring spare camera batteries in case the stores where you are don't carry your camera's size.

Ned S. Levi said...

NGN, it's not just batteries these days, don't forget your charger.

Most digital cameras use proprietary batteries, and if your travel destinations don't have a camera store, in some cases a "big" camera store, you won't be able to get spare batteries. Of course, camera batteries these days are rechargeable, so you absolutely have to have your battery charger, and like the batteries, these are usually proprietary too.

Many other devices, photographic and non-photographic, use batteries too, but these are often the normal AA and AAA batteries. Make sure you take spares, and if you're using rechargeable AA And AAA, don't forget that charger too.

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