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Monday, January 29, 2007

POWER GUIDE: Battery Options & Tips

New batteries and chargers let you keep shooting and shooting and shooting...

At their worst, battery-strength indicators can be fooled by unusually heavy drains on the battery—the indicators sometimes can report your battery is nearly dead when it isn't. These heavy drains can come from repeatedly rapid-firing your camera through a large number of frames and by operation in cold weather. Under these circumstances, the battery indicators can show a depleted charge, but the batteries come back to life some time after the load is removed or after the batteries warm up.

While you also can "rest" batteries that really are nearly exhausted, don't do it. You risk losing your images—and rendering your media card unreadable—if the battery dies while the camera is trying to write to the card. Using rechargeable batteries that are that close to being completely discharged shortens their life, too. It's always a good idea to keep a spare battery with you.

Charging Your Batteries
Although Li-Ions and NiMHs have eliminated the NiCd's memory problems, there still are a few things you can do to help the batteries last longer and deliver maximum capacity. The first is to prevent them from becoming deeply discharged-exhausted to the point where internal damage occurs.

Along with ignoring the urge to squeeze out just one more shot from batteries that need recharging, make sure the batteries' charge levels don't drop too far while they're in storage. It's a good idea to top off your batteries at least once a month, whether you've used them or not. Some camera makers offer a dock that keeps your camera battery fully charged automatically—the docks maximize your batteries' longevity while making sure you've al-ways got a camera that's ready to go.

In the past, the heat generated by overcharging batteries was a threat to battery longevity, but modern chargers use a more advanced, three-stage system to prevent this problem. Avoid using older fast chargers with your NiMHs, or chargers for other kinds of cells. If you're going out to buy a new recharger, keep in mind that the faster ones generally get your batteries hotter in the process, shortening their life somewhat. Whether the extra convenience makes the batteries' shorter life span worthwhile is up to you.

Li-ion batteries have dedicated chargers, so you don't have to worry about overcharging them or how fast a charger to get—just use the charger designed for the battery. Li-Ions and NiMHs have one special need, though, and that's to condition them by fully charging them before the first use, then discharging them all the way before recharging. Repeat this cycle three times, and you're good to go—you'll get the best out of the batteries, and you can recharge them whenever you want to.



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