Save & earn with MPB; trade-in and buy pre-loved

Batteries, Batteries, Batteries


Thank you for looking at my portfolio. I hope you find some images you like.
I read all your comments and look through the gallery, but I may only vote rather than comment.
...Read More

Batteries, Batteries, Batteries

9 Apr 2021 4:52PM   Views : 506 Unique : 339

They're everywhere, and with modern photography we can't do without them.

The electrochemical cell. The technical term for what we commonly refer to as a battery. Invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800, predating photography by almost three decades. Both have come a long way since then and well over a century before they became inseparable.

Apart from my first camera, a Kodak 126 Instamatic, all my cameras have required a battery. My Praktica Super TL3 was an all mechanical device and while operable without batteries it required a PX625 button cell as I recall in order to power the meter. My Pentax ME Super had an electronically controlled shutter so needed batteries, two LR44s which are still a popular size today. It did have two mechanical speeds, 1/125 ad 1/1000 for emergencies. Move onto the Canons, a T90 and EOS film models and no battery meant no pictures. I did, however, power those EOS models with rechargeable batteries in a handgrip rather than single use 2CR5 lithium cells. Cost, availability of AA size (not that I ever found myself without a charged set) and importantly the improved handling led me down that route. The digital EOS cameras moved on with rechargeable lithium batteries so my AA rechargeables were solely for flash and more recently a small LED panel.

I was an early (in terms of my photographic journey) adopter of rechargeable batteries. This was more to do with cost at the time rather than environmental concerns, plus the much faster recycling time for flash. I had a Sunpak and Metz hammerhead guns that would have chomped their way though plenty of alkaline cells.

I started off with some Fuji rechargeable cells in the early 1980s. They were coloured green and brown which reminded me of school dinners, specifically chocolate shortbread which was rock solid and just about palatable and luminous green peppermint custard which I couldn't stand. Unlike earlier generations at least we had things like curry for school dinners which made up for it.


Now where we, oh yes, batteries. Those early rechargeables used Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) technology. They had lower capacity than alkalines but did give fast flash recycle times, a trade-off that was worth it. Cadmium is a toxic material so it was good to see the introduction of NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) versions replace NiCads in the 1990s. Another benefit was better capacity and no 'memory'. Memory was the problem with NiCads if they were 'topped up' rather than fully drained and recharged. The cells 'remembered' that short charge as being 'normal' so their capacity became much reduced.

Move on a decade or so and the introduction of the NiMH hybrid. Unlike the NiCad and NiMH cells previously which lose charge over time the hybrid cells can be charged and still retain a claimed 90% after a year. That said I only recharge mine when I'm close to needing to use them and they work fine that way. I use Eneloop Pro batteries and they store over four times the energy of those NiCads I started with, which is useful on a shoot when you're taking hundreds of images with flash.

Energy density is the key to longer lasting and more powerful batteries. Lithium ions are small and can be intercalated in a carbon matrix in high quantities. Graphene technology for example offers huge potential (no pun intended) in energy density, very useful in automotive and aerospace applications but we should see benefits in smaller, lighter and higher capacity batteries for our electronic devices.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2021

Recent blogs by dark_lord

Unedited Images Rediscovered

While browsing for some image files recently I came across a folder containing a couple of dozen picures. I was sure I'd taken more than that. We all have our preferred workflow. On the whole I like to go through the results of a shoot fairly soon ...

Posted: 27 Nov 2022 5:49PM

Analogue Magic

One of the fascinations of analogue, or film, photography was watching an image appear in front of your eyes on the paper in a developing tray. Apologies first for not posting anything for a while as I've had some health issues to contend with for w...

Posted: 4 Nov 2022 4:40PM

Tripods A Personal History

Tripods are very useful accessories and in some cases indispensable for some types of photography. Some models are more suitable than others and Ive had a few over the years. Your working style and/or genre may mean you don't have an immediate need ...

Posted: 23 Aug 2022 3:01PM

Bird Photography (On a Budget)

Not everyone can afford extreme telephoto lenses for bird photography. Lower cost gear is perfectly effective and getting the best out of it will improve you as a photographer. We've all looked at fantastic bird images and thought that if we too had...

Posted: 12 Aug 2022 3:07PM

Black and White, We Can Learn From the Old Days

It's simple to produce a monochrome image these days. Creating a good one and realising your vision is another matter. Black and white images can be intensely powerful, muh more so than colour. Just think of some of the iconic images from the 20th C...

Posted: 13 Jul 2022 10:11AM


Acancarter Avatar
9 Apr 2021 5:51PM
Thanks for the article! Brings back memories. Maybe it is me getting older and having more grey pounds at my disposal.... but I remember how carefully I looked after nicads and even learned how to rescue them when they went short circuit.... (Nickel needles)... you had to flash a large battery across them...melt the needles. Not sure it would pass health and safety these days! All the best andy
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
9 Apr 2021 9:23PM
I don't recall that method Andy, perhaps it's just as well Grin
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
28 Apr 2021 9:08PM
You can't get away from them... My Instamatic 100 and 200 required batteries to fire the flashbulbs: you obviously had those new-fangled Magicubes on top of your Instamatic, Keith!

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.