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Sunday, April 19, 2009

AA Rechargeable Batteries, Chargers, and Charging

This week I took advantage of a special Dell had on and bought 6 packs of 4 AA Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries. had them on for $14.99, a savings of $5 off the regular price of $19.99, so I stocked up (if you missed the sale, don't worry... Dell runs it regularly every few months so just keep an eye on their website).

For those of you that aren't familiar with Sanyo Eneloops, you should really check them out! Their biggest feature is the fact that they hold there charge for LONG periods of time without losing power.

Sanyo claims they retain 85% of charged capacity after 12 months, and while I haven't let a set sit for 12 months to test them, I can say from experience that they work great after several weeks or even a couple of months so I have every reason to believe Sanyo's 12 month claim is valid. It's so nice to be able to grab a few sets on the way out the door and not have to worry if they've lost their charge. Knowing your SB-800, SB-600, 580 EX, 430, Metz (whatever your flash or strobe of choice is) is going to fire is priceless.

I used to always top up my rechargeable AA's the night before a shoot to make sure they were fully charged. I'd rotate each set through the chargers to make sure I wasn't caught with a discharged set of batteries in the middle of a shoot. It's a huge PITA to be in the middle of a shoot, swap out batteries on an SB-800, and find out they're dead when the flash refuses to power up.

Which raises another point. When the above happens, as I'm sure it's happened to most of you, how do you know if the problem is just one battery or if all of them have lost their charge?

One of the reasons I just bought the new Eneloops is that I discovered some bad batteries during my routine "refresh and analyze" that I run on all my batteries after every 10 charges or so with my Maha MH-C9000 Wizard One Charger/Analyzer.

My Wizard One does the "refresh and analyze" as one of it's five standard operating modes. To quote from MAHA's website, the Wizard One "Charges the battery, rest[s] for one hour, discharge[s], rest[s] again, then recharges it." It has a "[s]electable charging and discharging rate[s]", and is "[s]uitable for batteries stored for more than two weeks but less than 3 month or those showing poor performance."

Basically, the Wizard One charges the batteries up, drains them down, and charges them up again, but the best thing is that it tells you via the Wizard One's LCD how many mAh (power level) each battery is at, and what each battery's voltage is.

You actually know what condition the battery is in, and if an individual battery is causing problems, or if it's the entire set. Battery performance is limited by the worst one, so if you have one bad or lower performing battery, it will effect the entire set's performance. The Wizard One makes things really easy when it comes to figuring out if there is a bad battery in the set that needs replacing.

The Wizard One has four other modes, charge, break-in, discharge, and cycle, all of which are very useful, and give the Wizard One a major leg-up on other chargers. I love this little charger! (I bought mine online here).

Over time I'll be replacing all my AA batteries with Eneloops, and combined with my MAHA Wizard One, I'll have total peace of mind when it comes to knowing my batteries will perform on the job.

Not having to worry about topping up batteries every night before a shoot is a huge relief and time-saver. Knowing that my batteries are at full power, and one of the set isn't going to cause my flash to shut-down just makes things that much better. :)

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