Photo Tip Of The Day

Today’s Photo Tip (#189)

Your new camera this Christmas (surprise!) most likely will have a Lithium Ion rechargeable battery as it’s power source. Many of you will see the sense in buying a second or even a third battery for your kit. Charging these batteries is obviously essential. There is a huge amount of misinformation about the proper procedure to charging and discharging these batteries. I try to clear up some of the myths.

Unlike Nickel Metal Hydride batteries (NiMH) Lithium Ion batteries do not need to be conditioned. I’ve heard sales people say to customers that you need to charge the battery up for 12 hours. Some have said overnight, charge it 2-3 times before using. All this is simply incorrect. I’ve asked some sales people to show me where those instructions are written down, to date not one has been able to produce that information. Lithium Ion batteries reach near 100% charge the first time they are charged, unless faulty of course. Long term charging or over night charging does nothing extra for the batteries capacity.

Another myth is that the batteries need to be fully discharged before recharging. Once again some misinformation left over from last century, when we had NiCad batteries. Lithium batteries are design to be kept at near full capacity all the time. The best way is to top the battery up after each use. The worst thing you can do for your lithium battery is to let it go flat and leave it that way for extended periods.

Taking your battery out of the camera will help preventing the battery leaking is what you do with standard carbon or alkaline batteries. Lithium batteries for the most part don’t vent or leak. Taking a Lithium battery out of you camera for storage purposes just increases you chance of either losing it or forgetting to put one in the camera and leaving it behind.

Camera manufacturers spend considerable funds in designing a charger for your camera. Some have flashing lights or “fuel gauges” to let you know the charging level your battery has obtained while charging. Others simply have a light that either changes colour or just turns off. Whatever the charger does to let you know the cycle is done, the charge cycle is finished. No need to double or triple charge it to ensure full capacity. No voodoo magic needed, it’s just done.

Lithium batteries are designed to be cycled 300-500 times during their working life. Life expectancy for a Lithium battery is about 2-3 years. Quickly do the maths and you’ll figure out that 3 charges a week is what the battery is designed for. I’ve never charged my batteries that often. But I know people who do. I personally have had a Lithium battery last 4 years before lack of capacity became a pain.

I hope this tip has helped clarify some things you may have heard about batteries. My advice is don’t listen to the sales person if they tell you anything other than for you to read the manufacturers recommendations. Which is something I recommend you do anyway.

Happy Shooting

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