Choosing the Right Camera Batteries

Camera battery tips and tricks to know

A rechargeable camera battery.
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The camera battery has evolved and it is not as simple as picking up a pack of AAs at the drug store anymore. Many cameras use very specific batteries that can only be found at camera or computer stores.

Proprietary vs. Common Batteries

The majority of cameras now require a certain style of battery for a particular camera. Battery styles vary by both manufacturer and camera model.

Do a search for Nikon battery or Canon battery and you will find many different shapes of batteries even within that particular manufacturer's product line. Some types are for point and shoot cameras while others are for DSLR cameras.

The nice thing is that most (not all!) DSLR cameras by one manufacturer use the same style of battery. This equivalence is convenient when you upgrade camera bodies because you can (again, in most cases) use the same batteries in your new camera that you did in the old camera.

A few cameras continue to use common battery sizes such as AAA or AA, most often in point-and-shoot cameras.

Some DSLR cameras can be fitted with a vertical grip accessory that holds two of the brand's proprietary batteries and could also be adapted to fit the common battery sizes. Check your camera body's accessory list to see if this retrofitting is possible.

Types of Batteries

Disposable 

For cameras that use AA or AAA batteries, rely on the rechargeable version. Although you can use disposables, the power draw is such that using disposables exclusively could be costly if you make regular use of your camera.

Try carrying disposable lithium AAs as backup to your rechargeable batteries. They are more expensive, but they hold three times the charge and weigh about half as much as standard alkaline AA batteries.

Common Rechargeable AAs and AAAs

Nickel metal hydride batteries are more efficient than the older nickel cadmium batteries.

NiMH batteries are more than twice as powerful, and they also have no "memory effect," which is the effect that builds up if you re-charge a NiCd battery before it's fully discharged. The memory effect essentially reduces the maximum capacity of future charges, and the memory effect becomes worse if repeated.

Rechargeable Lithium-Ion

These are the most commonly used style of battery in digital cameras, particularly in DSLRs. They are lighter, more powerful, and more compact than NiMH batteries, but they do cost more.

Li-ion batteries come in brand-specific formats, although a few cameras accept disposable lithium batteries (such as CR2s) using an adapter.

Brand Name vs. Generic Batteries

Today's camera manufacturers are also in the battery business. They produce their proprietary batteries under their name so consumers get a battery they can trust. Canon and Nikon both produce batteries for every camera they sell and many other camera manufacturers do as well.

As is often the case, generic brands compete in the digital camera market. They are the exact size and shape of the brand name batteries and will often have the same output of power. They are also considerably cheaper.

Check reviews on any specific generic to ensure that they hold charge over the long run and do not suffer performance problems relative to their name-brand alternatives.