How to Improve the Life of Your Digital Camera Battery

Butterfly on flowerThere is nothing more frustrating than being out somewhere ready to snap a great shot, only to see that red “battery empty” symbol light up on your camera. Whether you have the latest top-rated point and shoot digital camera, a super zoom or digital SLR, cameras can be power hogs and quickly drain that full charge you started the day with.

Whether you camera uses nickel cadmium, lithium ion or lithium polymer, they all have a relatively short battery life. That LCD screen and the various mechanical parts such as zoom, flash and auto focus can eat a lot of energy. Fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to ensure you are not caught without juice.

1. Consider turning off the LCD screen. While it may pain you to do it and you will have to get used to looking through the optical viewfinder like in the olden days, the LCD screen is an enormous power hog.

2. Dim the brightness of the LCD screen. While a number of camera manufacturers boast about the brightness of their LCD screen, it uses a lot of energy. So if you can’t bear to turn off the screen, or if your camera does not have an optical viewfinder, by dimming the LCD a bit you can save some battery life.

3. Don’t overuse the picture preview. Use the preview as little as possible and especially don’t use it to show off a bunch of pictures to your friends. Just use it when you really need it, such as to check the lighting, and wait until you get home and get them uploaded to your computer before viewing all your shots.

4. Don’t delete individual images from your camera. Each time you delete a picture you are using considerably power. In fact you might be surprised at how quickly this will suck up power. I have seen my camera battery go from one or two bars to none in a very short time after reviewing and deleting images one by one. Just leave them all on your camera and when you get home and upload them you can delete the unwanted pics from your computer.

5. Set the power saver function to shortest time possible, which means it will go into power save quickly. Power save doesn’t shut it down completely, it just puts your camera in a sleep mode, similar to the way your PC does. You reactivate it by pressing on the shutter.

6. Easy on the Zoom. Moveable parts such as zoom and auto focus use motors and they consume a lot of energy. Try to use your zoom as little as possible.

7. Turn off the Continuous Auto Focus. Every time your camera focuses it takes energy. By turning off the continuous auto focus you can eke out some more power.

8. Don’t constantly push shutter button halfway to focus and refocus your shot. Every time you do that you are using power, because your camera goes through several processes to set up a shot.

9. Don’t leave your flash on in the daylight and use flash only when required. Using the flash takes more energy. If you get to know how to use your camera’s manual controls, you may find you need to use your flash less often.

10. Carry a spare battery and  make sure it is fully charged. Even if you put your camera away with a fully charged battery, it will slowly discharge over time, so always check your battery life before setting off to take pictures. Likewise, don’t assume that your spare battery is still fully charged. Top it off before you go to ensure it is fully charged. In fact, today’s lithium batteries work better if recharged frequently.

Pros and Cons of Battery Types

Various camera models use different types of batteries. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. Here is the lowdown:

Lithium-polymer: These employ the newest technology. They have a high capacity but no higher than lithium-ion. The big  advantage is they can be made in any form, so they tend to be smaller and lightweight and can be manufactured to fit a wide variety of camera designs. Unlike the older nickel cadmium batteries they have no “memory effect” which means they can always be recharged to their full capacity regardless of their current state. The downside is they are expensive.

Lithium-ion: A slightly older technology, but very popular. They have a high capacity and no “memory effect.” They are more expensive than the older nickel cadmium and are usually larger than the lithium polymer batteries. Lithium-ion batteries also have a limited lifespan and usually fail within two to three years

Nickel cadmium: These are older technology. The pros are that are inexpensive and quickly recharge. But they have a lower capacity and they have what’s called a memory effect, which means the battery must be fully discharged before it can be recharged. Some camera chargers have a workaround for this and will automatically fully discharge the battery before recharging it.

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