EXpro third-party batteries and chargers

Started Aug 29, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Timur Born
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EXpro third-party batteries and chargers
Aug 29, 2012

Given the low availability and high price of original BLN-1 batteries for the E-M5 I started looking for third party alternatives. This is a short experience report.

http://www.exprodirect.com/om-d-e-m5/

The cheapo alternatives with less capacity didn't fully convince me. The "Wasabi" power that is sold as 1500 mAh at Amazon US seems to be the same that is sold as 900 mAh (Voltway, Blumax) at Amazon Germany. The latter figure is at least honest, but nothing to write home about. And I absolutely do not trust that "slide in from the side" power-plug mechanism (one Germany reviewer said he got a power surge when he tried to pull the charger out).

The "EXpro" chargers looked promising and they rate their replacements batteries as 1220 mAh like the original, but voltage is rated lower at 7.2V (vs. 7.6V original). According to reviews on Amazon Germany users didn't notice much of a difference to the original (one speculated about 10% less charge). They offer a single charger with or without LCD (bar) display that uses a better sliding mechanism for the plug and a double charger with a cable plug that can load two batteries at once. The chargers are advertised as "quickloading in 2 hours", which has its advantages (time) and drawbacks (temp/life of batteries). But since both the EXpro chargers and the original Olympus charger use 600 mA charging output (8.4V vs. 8.7V) it doesn't really matter.

I decided to get a single battery plus the single charger with LCD (bar display) and 12/24V input (cable for charging in a car included). The charger comes in three parts, the base charger unit, three different clip-on plug for Europe, UK and US and a replaceable clip-on adapter to fit the BLN-1 (or copy). The latter means that the same charger should be usable for other batteries, too, once a fitting adapter is used (the packaging also lists 4.2V / 300 mA). My version comes with a simple LCD panel showing battery charge in 33% steps (3 bars), where solid bars mean charge already finished/present and blinking bars mean currently charging (i.e. 1 solid bar + 2 blinking ones means 33% charge finished and 66% to go).

I burn both the original and third-party batteries in the E-M5 with the following setup.

  • Auto power-off disabled.

  • Full Time AF enabled.

  • Histogram in Live View enabled.

  • IBIS IS1 enabled.

  • Exposure compensation set to +3.0 for maximum Live View screen-exposure and especially processor intensive shadow pushing.

  • E-M5 turned upside down while permanently half-pressing its shutter button (via its own weight). This keeps the screen active at full brightness (set to +-0) permanently , keeps IBIS working permanently , keeps the histogram working permanently and keeps the focus engine looking for motion/changes in the frame permanently (but focus will only be acquired or given up once).

  • Aim at a shadowy and low contrast surface closer than the minimum focusing distance while having a brighter window filling part of the frame (done at different times of the day).

  • Let the camera take 2 or 3 exposures of 30-60 seconds (by accidentally pushing the shutter button all the way through).

Original BLN-1: ca. 3h 20min.
EXpro copy: ca. 2h 50 min (first run) - 2h 55 min (second run).

This corresponds to about 85% charge for the EXpro battery compared to the original BLN-1. Well possible that it get closer towards 90% once being through a few cycles. I paid half the price of an original BLN-1 for getting both the EXpro battery plus charger!

Size is within less than 1 mm tolerance of the original in all dimensions, so it fits perfectly well. The battery indicator of the E-M5 in combination with the EXpro battery does work .

It doesn't seem to run warmer than the original, neither when loading nor when used. The charger does get warm on one side. What I don't like is that it emits some chemical/rubbery smell after running warm inside the camera (also leaves that smell inside the battery compartment). It mostly only detectable with the nose up close, but it seems to be slightly irritating to nasal mucous membrane. No idea if its from the plastic casing or the inside chemicals/electronics. The charger smells different, but in contrast to the battery its smell is also present when its cold (but again you have to put your nose close to notice).

The battery came with a simple folded sheet manual that offers some hints and the usual warnings. One line that catches my attention is: "To prolong the life of your battery always ensure you charge your unit fully and use until empty, recharging completely before use, try not to "part" charge whilst these units have a none memory capacity doing so will reduce the long life of these cell types."

Two things to take note here:

1) Batteries without memory effects may like/need to be fully discharged (but not exhausted) from time to time, but life time usually is measured in full cycles and it shouldn't matter if you use "part" cycles or not (3x 33% charge should be the same as 1x 100%). Usage will tell how well the EXpro survive the wheel of time.

2) The language and punctuation are somewhat clumsy, this also includes the German Amazon product text. I got an English invoice (including British VAT listing of 20%) with German product names/descriptions. Contact information says:

Express Processing
PO Box 806
Stockton on Tees
Cleveland
TS19 1EP

Fujifilm FinePix IS-1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 (Lumix DMC-FT1)
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