Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Battery Shootout

David Terry Photography - Battery Shootout

Today I want to do my first ever video log (vlog).  A subject that has come up several times recently in different forums and one which I personally wanted to know the answer...  WHICH is the best battery to put into your speedlights?

I wanted a scientific answer - without all of the normal geekiness involved (such as pencil and paper and stop watch).  And I thought a video log would be a great way to show it.

The suspects:

  • TruCELL 1.2v 2900mAh NiMH
  • Sanyo eneloop 1.2v 1900mAh NiMH
  • Energizer Recharge 1.2v 2300mAh NiMH
  • DURACELL PreCharged 1.2v 2000mAh NiMH 
  • Energizer Ultimate Lithium 1.5v 3000mAh 
  • Energizer Alkaline 1.5v (2300mAh?)

The TruCELL battery is a regular NiMH battery.  The other NiMH batteries are a new style. The advantage is that they come pre-charged and they hold a charge longer than regular NiMH batteries.

The Ultimate Lithium is the only Lithium battery I tested.  And I had to throw a standard Alkaline battery into the mix.

Some of my expectations going into this test:
  • The Ultimate Lithium is brand new technology. Energizer is so confident of this battery that it's actually slightly smaller than the rest and weighs less.  YOU CAN FEEL the difference! It doesn't feel like the other batteries because of the weight difference. I'm ready to be amazed!
  • Might makes right! I'm totally expecting the TruCELL 2900mAh battery to trounce all the rest of the batteries due to sheer power.  The eneloop with the lowest rating will probably come in last with the other batteries appropriately placed according to their power rating.
So let's get into the testing!

First an explanation of testing methodology:

Testing the TruCELL, eneloop and Energizer Ultimate Lithium:

Testing the Energizer Recharge, Duracell PreCharged and regular Energizer Alkaline:

Shoot out between TruCELL and Energizer Recharge:


I have discovered a fault in my testing methodology.  Perhaps you noticed too?  Please continue:

Final test:

If you haven't watched the videos and don't want to know the ending before seeing how the tests were made ... then stop here and come back.

My final conclusions:
  • Big shocker! I totally expected the Ultimate Lithium to trump all of them. I was surprised at how poorly it did. It probably lasts much longer than the regular alkaline better, but the recharge rate for the Ultimate Lithium isn't much better than the Alkaline.  This is sad news. Because you can't recharge the Ultimate Lithium you have to keep buying replacements. I cannot recommend this battery at all (not for use in flashes by professional photographers) because it would be far more cost effective (and have better recycle times) to use just about any of the alternatives in this test.
  • Second big shocker: In my mind, power = recycle time. And to that end, I fully expected my 2900mAh battery to trounce the eneloop which is only 1900mAh. In my first round of testing, this truth appeared to be verified. But after recharging all of the batteries, the eneloop came out on top.  Just barely. But it beat out even the 2900mAh battery!  (now, if the TruCELL had been brand new instead of a few months and many recycles old, there is a possibility the results might have been reversed, but all of the results were so close that I think I'm going to give it to the eneloop)
  • DO NOT fall for the claims that these new batteries (eneloop, energizer recharge and duracell precharge) are "ready to use" right out of the box.  Yes, they worked.  But they all worked a LOT better after running them through a recharge cycle.
Finally, I highly recommend getting a good charger.  I highly recommend the one I use, the Maha 801D which can charge up to 8 cells at a time. The big advantages to this charger: every cell is charged individually according to its needs (so no cell is over charged, a scenario that can quickly ruin a good battery). Plus, the individual LCD display for each battery gives me feedback as to how that battery is doing. I keep all of my batteries in sets. If one battery of a set starts to go (appears not to hold a charge as long as the rest of the batteries in that set), then I toss the entire set and buy a new set (the idea being that the rest of the set may not be far behind and as a professional photographer I have to be able to trust my batteries).  This charger does come with different charging cycles as well.  The regular cycle is pretty fast (but again, it is safe for each individual cell). It also has a slow charge cycle. And finally it has a refresh / recondition cycle where it will dump each cell individual and then perform a slow charge cycle on each of them.


dterryphotography said...

I just found a much more exhaustive battery (pun intended) of tests have been performed with the results published online here:


Display Name said...

Very interesting test. I'm actually really shocked the Energizer Ultimate Lithium didn't hold up better, too. I've been using those for years because I've been able to get really amazing life out of them. Looks like I'm moving to rechargeables.

MSPhotography said...

Nicely done. It's always good to see how someone else does a test like this and compares to everybody else. I've seen that the eloops worked better for myself but I never had proof