Flash batteries and other power options

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Overread, Jan 6, 2009.

  1. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well me and my flash have come to a disagrement and a solution has to be found. My basic problem is the recycle rate - early on in a shoot the recycle rate is acceptable - I can shoot and expect the flash to fire most of the time provided that I am not bust shooting - which will end up with many shots not getting flash support. However its getting that I only get a short amount of time (comparativly speaking) before the batteries start to drain and the recycle rate gets longer and longer until it gives up. This is resulting in me either having to change batteries or come home.

    Now there a 3 possibilities to this problem:

    1) the batteries are duff - might be I have not recharged/drained them enough and they have lost their capacity.

    2) my flash is duff - possible, though I list it as the least possible cause - but one has to consider all the options

    3) my expectations of my flash are too high/demanding. Considering my lack of experience this is probable.

    The thing is I use flash for almost all my macro photography since I tend to shoot handheld rather than from a tripod so I need a decent recycle time that keeps working for several hours before needing to recharge. I have considered that an alternative could be to use an external flash battery which will hold more charge and (I hope) allow for faster and longer use of the flash. I have read that some of these can be quite weighty and tricky to use in the field and my current plan would be to use such a device by holding it in my backpack and then threading the power cord out of the bag, though the carry hoop on the top and then down into the flash (keeping the cord of the way of my hands).

    However I need some advice first;

    1) is it likley that I just have duff batteries and that a new set or a different make might give me the use I desire

    2) what options are on the market for external chargers - I really have no idea what my options are in this area

    for refrence I use the following:

    Flash - one speedlite 580M2
    batteries - 8 Energizer rechargeable 2500mAh (4 in the flash and 4 spare - I get similar responces from both sets)
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    My guess would be the batteries.

    It's rather common for those types of batteries to loose their capacity. More advanced chargers will test them and tell you the actual capacity. Some are lower from the start but they will all loose capacity over time & use.

    A good charger can keep them working well with a refresh mode and I know of a charger that can 'force' a charge and bring them back up to their rated capacity.

    THIS is a highly recommended charger because of it's 'break-in' mode.
     
  3. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    What recycle times are you talking about? At full power it is not unrealistic to expect 3-5 seconds in between flashes. At 1/4 power, it is not unrealistic to go 1 second in between flashes. This also depends on what brand of flashes you are talking. These numbers would be for a Nikon speedlight. Multiply X2 if this is a Vivitar flash.
     
  4. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Mike - good point, I never consdiered that the charger itself could be a part of the problem. The charger I have at the moment is very basic and came with the batteries and only shows an on-off light. I will look out for a similar product to the one you linked to - UK amazon has non listed as availble

    Jerry - recharge times are definatly longer than 1 second - infact it can get to being minutes at the worst end (which is generally where I give up or change batteries) Its the timescale - it goes down from quick recycling to very slow much quicker than I like
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I wouldn't necessarily say that your charger is flawed...just that it's limited and doesn't give you the feedback that others can.

    This is the reason I think it's the batteries. If the flash works well when they are fresh but then gets slower as you use it...it means the batteries are not giving it enough power. Typically, NiMH batteries will be fairly consistent until they start to get low, then the performance trails off quickly.

    Alkaline batteries, on the other hand, tend to gradually loose performance in a flash. They become used up for quick flash use, but can still be used in other things for quite a while.

    I use NiMH and as soon as the flash starts to slow down, I change them out.
    Also, these batteries will loose their charge as they sit...so if you charge them up and don't use them for a couple weeks, they may have lost a good deal of power...you should charge them freshly for each outing.
     
  6. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    thing is now I am looking quite a few (albeit amazon customer reviews only) people are giving the quick 1 hour rechargers a slating - some have even said that the energiser makes don't even have a cutoff for when the battery is charged - you have to remember the time limit yourself.

    As for sitting you say a few weeks - would a few days have much effect? I can definatly say my flash will often sit for a few days between uses if the batteries are not dead when I finish using.
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm not sure of the specific self-discharge rate...or what factors might affect that. A few days is probably OK...I do that fairly often when just casually shooting...but before a wedding, they are all freshly charged up.

    There are new NiMH batteries that have a very low discharge rate...so they don't need to be freshly charged. Sanyo Eneloop are the most common/popular type of these.
     
  8. Early

    Early TPF Noob!

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    You would think the capacitor wouldn't even discharge all the way with macro photography, which would enable you to fire off a series of shots in rapid succession. Also, if a flash has been pre formed, it should'nt take any longer than about 7 sec to recharge after draining the capacitor completely. Have you tried another flash unit?
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Only other flash I have is my popup on the camera - so I can't test performance against another.
    also when the batteries are freash charged the performance of the flash is greatly improved, back to fast recharging - its just that it seems to drain down quickly. Also when I shoot sometimes there is not enough time for the preflash (or my mind forgets about it) even so I do not always notice a massive difference between a preflash metered shot and a no metered fired shot - indecating that my flash is already putting out quite a bit of its power (I think).
    I tend to have a 1.4TC and shoot at apertures such as f13 a lot combined with a shutter speed of 1/200sec - so whilst the subject is close quite a bit of light is needed for the exposure

    looking into the powerpacks a bit more I am intregued by the quicker recycling claims and constant ability to stay at those shooting speeds for longer periods of time - though I must say price on some is way way offputting ;)
     
  10. Early

    Early TPF Noob!

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    The thing is, Ni cads, and I assume NiMH’s are similar, are consistent throughout their charge, meaning they will have only a small drop off in performance until the very end where their performance will drop off rapidly.

    It is possible you have a bad cell. The problem was pretty common in the days of the Ni cads. In that case, you would need a tester, or use a process of elimination like I used to.:grumpy:

    I don't know if I was any help, but good luck.
     
  11. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Battery condition and age will have a lot to do with that, but figure about 5% per week for a newer battery in good condition.

    One thing that I never do is leave batteries in my flashes when not in use, but if I use it for, lets say, a 1-2 hour session and then again a week later for another 1-2 hour session, I can easily use the same batteries without recharging. A 1-2 hour session averages about 50-175 pics, way below what the average # of pics I can get out of a SB-600 or SB-800 (which is conservatively between 400-500 shots) at my normal power levels, which are anywhere from 1/64th to 1/2 power.

    For me, NiMH batteries are perfect. I use them a lot and recharge them regularly. For my dad, he does a 50 pics in a day, then goes and puts the camera away for 2-4 months. Eneloops are the better solution for him, and that is just what he got from me as a stocking filler for Christmas, an 8-pack of AA Eneloop batteries and the matching same brand charger... lol
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2009

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