AA batteries no longer the trend?

Started Oct 31, 2011 | Discussions
Les Berkley
Les Berkley Senior Member • Posts: 1,638
Re: then why most flashguns use AAs?

IIRC, you can discharge a AA alkaline faster than a Li-Ion, which is why they are used in flash units.
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lanef Forum Pro • Posts: 10,317
Re: AA batteries no longer the trend?
Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,141
Re: then why most flashguns use AAs?

Les Berkley wrote:

IIRC, you can discharge a AA alkaline faster than a Li-Ion, which is why they are used in flash units.

You are incorrect.

In order of lowest internal resistance to highest (which is fastest discharge to slowest) you have...

Li-Ion
NiMH and NiCad
Alkaline

AA lithium (the chemistry you need to get 1.5V from a Lithium that would be happier at 3.4 is a real mess).

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Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,141
4 reasons...

Most of these were already covered, so I'll start with some that weren't, and work my way down...

  1. flashes are not "mission critical", so the considerably poorer reliability of AA batteries isn't as much of a concern. I carry twice as many flashes as cameras, at least. One dies, I swap in another. I swap just so one can cool down. A flash dies, it's "grab another, keep going". There's another in my pocket or belt pouch, as opposed to the backup camera, which is usually a little farther away.All the flashes die? I'm a wizard at available light.

  2. flashes go maybe 150 full power flashes on a set of batteries, vs. 1000 for a camera. So, while the camera can contain enough battery power to do an entire event (wedding, corporate function), you have to swap flash batteries multiple times.

  3. flash use is often hard enough on batteries to get them burning hot. The lifetime of primaries or rechargeables is shortened considerably by this, so more "disposable" batteries make more sense.

  4. not all flashes use AA. Serious flashes have high voltage connectors, and event photographers frequently plug in proprietary packs, like a Quantum, where all the cells are spot-welded together. No AA. And then there's the Vagabond Mini-Lithium, selling like hotcakes.

Well, you asked...

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photojoe55 Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Re: 4 reasons...WHAT TO DO WITH SPENT BATTERIES

In our recycling system, there is no mention of batteries. What is the proper disposal of Alkaline, and of Li-oN, They both say, "DISPOSE OF PROPERLY" and "KEEP OUT OF FIRE" but our city (311) number does not know, and Dept. of Sanitation can not be reached. I'm in New York (shouldn't matter) but what guidelines should we follow? I'M trying to follow the law. Does any one know? Would you be kind enough to tell me? Thank You Very Much. ...Joe Prete

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onlooker Veteran Member • Posts: 4,002
Standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA?

Perhaps a solution to the problem would be a standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA battery? I understand that might not be in the interest of the device makers, though. Also, since the the current non-rechargeable Li-Ion AAs are 3.6C, and are incompatible with the regular ones, the issue of confusion arises. Not sure how to solve it. Perhaps a new standard? AAL? As I said before, perhaps not in the interest of the device makers.

Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,141
3/4 and 5/4 AA...

onlooker wrote:

Perhaps a solution to the problem would be a standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA battery? I understand that might not be in the interest of the device makers, though. Also, since the the current non-rechargeable Li-Ion AAs are 3.6C, and are incompatible with the regular ones, the issue of confusion arises. Not sure how to solve it.

Well, when the "confusion" involves smoking camera parts, we "resolve" it by making it impossible to make the mistake.

Perhaps a new standard? AAL?

There are 3/4 and 5/4 AA Li-Ion cells, 25% shorter and 25% longer than AA NiMH and alkaline cells. That's what's inside most DSLR battery packs, a pair of the smaller cells.

As I said before, perhaps not in the interest of the device makers.

It's in the interest of the device makers to deliver value to the customers.

A simple cell, the tube full of foil electrodes and chemical paste, does not do that, and it doesn't matter if it's an alkaline, NiMH, or lithium cell. It doesn't have a reliable temperature sensor, charge state monitor, or a decent contact system. It has low pressure contacts designed for flashlights. Ever had a flashlight dim? What's the first thing you do? You shake it.

Did you notice that flashes don't have battery charge meters? You can't look at a flash and see something tell you that you're at 60%. Going by the behavior, it runs fine until you're pretty near the end of the battery, then it dies, suddenly.

Like a car with no fuel gauge, so the first indication you have that you're low on fuel is when your engine sputters as you turn corners. You get around that by adding a chip inside a battery "pack". Sony has been doing it to camcorder batteries since before Lithium.

And you still typically want the voltage of 2 or 3 3.7V cells in series. For years, cell mismatch has been a royal pain that's shortened the life of primary (like alkaline) and secondary (NiCad, NiMH) cells. It leads to decreased performance (all the cells taking on the characteristics of the weakest cell in the set) and catastrophic failure modes like cell reversal.

That's why devices that have needed high reliability (2 way radios are my favorite example) have had their batteries factory-matched and spot-welded into "battery packs. Even if the average consumer buys packs of matched AA batteries, how long before they get mixed with other sets, and you have mismatches?

AA batteries are like self-medicating. You have "adherents" try to justify it with all sorts of spurious logic, but deep down inside, it has more to do with a false "feel good" moment.

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onlooker Veteran Member • Posts: 4,002
Re: 3/4 and 5/4 AA...

Joseph S Wisniewski wrote:

A simple cell, the tube full of foil electrodes and chemical paste, does not do that, and it doesn't matter if it's an alkaline, NiMH, or lithium cell. It doesn't have a reliable temperature sensor, charge state monitor [...]

You will get no argument from me on that. Fully agree. What a standard ("AAL" or whatever) would need to include is the electronics inside. No, it wouldn't be a cheap AA anymore. Even the shape of the "rechargeable AAL" is not that important. It could be flat, square, whatever. The benefit would be universality and availability - one box of batteries for all devices. Is it ever going to happen? No idea, but it would have to be rechargeable. There is no way I want to deal with disposables.

Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,141
Gasoline, pizza, Li-Ion packs, and AA cells...

lanef wrote:

Still the trend to me in my flash gun.

Indeed.

There are several items that I need for a successful commercial shoot. Many of them, like the lenses and tripods either require no power, or draw it from another device. However, there are four very critical power sources, and all are incompatible.

  • Camera - runs on a rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack from 10-25 W-H, sufficient for one job.

  • Flash - runs on AA NiMH cells, 10 W-H in a set of four, typically 8 sets (80 W-H) sufficient for one job.

  • Car - runs on gasoline, 4 gallons, each gallon yielding 121 MJ of energy, or 130,000 W-H, round trip transportation for one job.

  • Photographer - runs on pizza, cookies, tea, submarine sandwiches, bananas, etc. some 2000 calories per day, equivalent to 8.4 MJ of energy, or 2,300 W-H.

Why the heck don't the manufacturers fix this. I tell you, it's some sort conspiracy to get me to buy all these incompatible and proprietary power sources. The camera can't run on the gasoline, the AA NiMH cells, or the pizza.

Dang it, everything should be able to run on pizza. One power source, and that's it. Compatible with everything, availaible everywhere, and it can be made by small, independent companies or large, international megacorporations.

Seriously, we should all boycott Sony, Nikon, Sony, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Sony, Metz, Sony, Sunpak, Sony, Quantum, Sony, Ford, Sony, Toyota, Sony, Volkswagen, and especially, Sony, until they deliver what absolutely all photographers, everywhere, want more than anything else

Pizza powered cameras, flash units, and cars.

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Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,141
Standardization is hard...

onlooker wrote:

Joseph S Wisniewski wrote:

A simple cell, the tube full of foil electrodes and chemical paste, does not do that, and it doesn't matter if it's an alkaline, NiMH, or lithium cell. It doesn't have a reliable temperature sensor, charge state monitor [...]

You will get no argument from me on that. Fully agree. What a standard ("AAL" or whatever) would need to include is the electronics inside. No, it wouldn't be a cheap AA anymore. Even the shape of the "rechargeable AAL" is not that important. It could be flat, square, whatever. The benefit would be universality and availability - one box of batteries for all devices. Is it ever going to happen? No idea, but it would have to be rechargeable. There is no way I want to deal with disposables.

We're close to that, right now. the big problem is the same as lens mounts.

  • Nikon believes in a 3 terminal charging port, with the battery pack control chip and the cells sharing a common ground. Canon believes in 4 terminals and a floating ground for the chip.

  • Sony likes shrouded pin contacts, while Nikon and Canon like exposed wiping contacts.

  • Nikon likes the exposed wiping contacts to be longer and wider spaced than Canon does.

But right now, there's no pressure, either from the market place, or from government organizations, to say "you all need to agree on a standard across all manufacturers".

Personally, I don't see it ever happening. Lens mounts have been a hash for decades.

Look at computers. There's still...

  • USB (2 and 3, to boot), FireWire, and ThunderChicken for high speed serial connectors.

  • DVI, dual DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, mini DisplayPort, and ThunderChicken (again) for displays.

  • Analog (at two different voltage levels for consumer and pro audio), S/PDIF, USB audio, TOSLINK, Alesis, etc...

We used to have three major competing computer networking standards: Ethernet, ArcNet, and Token Ring. It wasn't manufactures who settled that, nor government agencies (the IEEE "standardized" things by numbering them 801.1, .2, and .3, like that helped). And the proponents of each fought hard for years, and finally 2 of the 3 went under.

Remember what happened with stereo broadcast television. In the US and Europe, manufactures argued which of their approaches should be a national standard. While they were arguing, Japan, Inc, told their manufacturers to cooperate on a standard, they put it into production, then started shipping the TVs to America and Europe, and gave select broadcasters free modulators, and the rest was history, and Motorola, Royal Philips, etc. lost 100% of the stereo TV business.

Remember Duracell's failed attempt to promote a standardized laptop battery? That's OK, few people remember that.

Well, the ball is already in play, no one is charging in with a new standard so cool it sweeps everything else away (stereo TV), Nikon isn't putting Canon, Sony, and Pentax out of business (Ethernet), and the governments apparently only want things they can tax. The consumers aren't rallying, so the mess we have now will be with us forever, for good or ill...

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Mark B. Forum Pro • Posts: 25,430
Re: 4 reasons...WHAT TO DO WITH SPENT BATTERIES

It varies by jurisdiction. The city I work in just had a press release that they will no longer take alkaline batteries on their household waste collection days, instead telling residents to put them in with the regular trash.

PHOTOJOE55 wrote:

In our recycling system, there is no mention of batteries. What is the proper disposal of Alkaline, and of Li-oN, They both say, "DISPOSE OF PROPERLY" and "KEEP OUT OF FIRE" but our city (311) number does not know, and Dept. of Sanitation can not be reached. I'm in New York (shouldn't matter) but what guidelines should we follow? I'M trying to follow the law. Does any one know? Would you be kind enough to tell me? Thank You Very Much. ...Joe Prete

T3 Forum Pro • Posts: 21,255
Re: Standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA?

onlooker wrote:

Perhaps a solution to the problem would be a standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA battery? I understand that might not be in the interest of the device makers, though. Also, since the the current non-rechargeable Li-Ion AAs are 3.6C, and are incompatible with the regular ones, the issue of confusion arises. Not sure how to solve it. Perhaps a new standard? AAL? As I said before, perhaps not in the interest of the device makers.

AA's are bigger, heavier, and more restrictive in form factor for today's slim, compact P&S cameras. Consider, for example, the Canon S100, which isn't even one of the more compact P&S cameras in the market. Look at how compact and slim its battery is:

The Canon NB-5L battery measures 50.8 x 25.4 x 12.7mm and weighs 27.5 grams. Two AA batteries would measure about 51 x 28 x 14mm and weigh about 46 grams. As you can see, the NR-5L takes up a little less space and weighs a lot less. But also, since it's a rectangular block instead of two cylinders, it maximizes the use of its space, using all that space to store power. So even as the NB-5L takes up less space, the battery is more efficient in its use of that space.

Other batteries used in smaller compact cameras are even slimmer and smaller than the NB-5L. For example, the Canon SD4000 IS, which is smaller than the Canon S100, uses the smaller NB-6L battery, which measures a mere 42.4 X 34.2 X 6.9 mm.

So if all cameras had to use AA batteries, this would be more restrictive to camera design, and result in larger, bulkier cameras.

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This is not a real name Contributing Member • Posts: 741
Re: Standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA?

There is an extremely good reason why there is no Li-ion AA battery and there never will be. Li-ion batteries need special chargers as their electrolyte is highly flammable. An AA-sized Li-ion battery would run the unacceptable risk of being put into a charger designed for nikkel-metal hydride batteries with potentially disastrous results.

It's the same reason plugs and sockets for different voltages are designed to be incompatible, why your phone line can't be accidentally plugged into a mains power socket etc.

Joseph S Wisniewski Forum Pro • Posts: 34,141
The law varies. Here in my town...

PHOTOJOE55 wrote:

In our recycling system, there is no mention of batteries. What is the proper disposal of Alkaline, and of Li-oN, They both say, "DISPOSE OF PROPERLY" and "KEEP OUT OF FIRE" but our city (311) number does not know, and Dept. of Sanitation can not be reached. I'm in New York (shouldn't matter) but what guidelines should we follow? I'M trying to follow the law. Does any one know? Would you be kind enough to tell me?

Sorry, Joe, but the law varies wildly from area to area.

Here, in one of the western suburbs of Detroit, we're supposed to place any sort of batteries (NiCad, alkaline, AA lithium, rechargeable lithium, doesn't matter) in a clear plastic bag in the red recycleables bin with the juice bottles and paper waste.

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Darrell Spreen Forum Pro • Posts: 10,509
Re: Standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA?

Granted, some cameras are very very slim these days and the battery form factor helps.

But then there's also the Canon A1200, which is very small -- about the same as the 300HS, but it actually has a nice grip for your hand -- you don't have to add some third-party grip as an aftermarket item!

Therein you find the AA batteries! And, as I said in a post above, I got over 1300 shots on my first set of AA's and they weren't even expended then. I only replaced them for an overseas trip since I wanted fresh batteries. I expect to go the whole year on just those 2 sets of AA's. Note, also, that lithium AA's weigh almost nothing.

I've got 7 cameras with rechargeable Li-ion batteries (alas, all different with different chargers) and 4 cameras with AA's. The convenience of AA's has proven to be a plus, but I don't really care as long as the battery has a charge when I need the camera.

I guess I don't understand the reason for all the passion about this subject.
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synp Contributing Member • Posts: 611
Nope, gasoline

Joseph S Wisniewski wrote:

lanef wrote:

Still the trend to me in my flash gun.

Indeed.

There are several items that I need for a successful commercial shoot. Many of them, like the lenses and tripods either require no power, or draw it from another device. However, there are four very critical power sources, and all are incompatible.

  • Camera - runs on a rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack from 10-25 W-H, sufficient for one job.

  • Flash - runs on AA NiMH cells, 10 W-H in a set of four, typically 8 sets (80 W-H) sufficient for one job.

  • Car - runs on gasoline, 4 gallons, each gallon yielding 121 MJ of energy, or 130,000 W-H, round trip transportation for one job.

  • Photographer - runs on pizza, cookies, tea, submarine sandwiches, bananas, etc. some 2000 calories per day, equivalent to 8.4 MJ of energy, or 2,300 W-H.

Why the heck don't the manufacturers fix this. I tell you, it's some sort conspiracy to get me to buy all these incompatible and proprietary power sources. The camera can't run on the gasoline, the AA NiMH cells, or the pizza.

Dang it, everything should be able to run on pizza. One power source, and that's it. Compatible with everything, availaible everywhere, and it can be made by small, independent companies or large, international megacorporations.

Seriously, we should all boycott Sony, Nikon, Sony, Canon, Sony, Pentax, Sony, Metz, Sony, Sunpak, Sony, Quantum, Sony, Ford, Sony, Toyota, Sony, Volkswagen, and especially, Sony, until they deliver what absolutely all photographers, everywhere, want more than anything else

Pizza powered cameras, flash units, and cars.

As you have noted yourself, gasoline has the highest energy density of all these power sources. We've been hearing for years about fuel cells and how you could fill one with hydrogen or gasoline, and it would have great performance (do you realize that "Marketing Myopia" was written 51 years ago?). Fuel cells could power flashes and cameras. The one standout is the photographer.

Here's a fun experiment. Fine a photographer who's low on energy, even lethargic. Say, he's been shooting in the desert all day and hasn't had enough to drink. Offer him a glass of gasoline, but don't tell him it's gasoline. Don't worry about the smell giving it away - dehydration weakens your sense of smell. Just one sip, and all the lethargy will be gone. He'll be running around, grabbing his head and making loud hacking noises. This, to me, is proof positive that the photographer can also run on gasoline. It's just that big Pizza has been conditioning us for years that we need their expensive pizza rather than cheap gasoline.

Fun fact: just one glass of gasoline can power a photographer for a whole day and costs less than a quarter even in the most high-tax countries..

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T3 Forum Pro • Posts: 21,255
Re: Standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA?

Darrell Spreen wrote:

Granted, some cameras are very very slim these days and the battery form factor helps.

But then there's also the Canon A1200, which is very small -- about the same as the 300HS, but it actually has a nice grip for your hand -- you don't have to add some third-party grip as an aftermarket item!

Not everyone likes that bulge in the body that comes with AA batteries. And at 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches, the A1200 is noticeably larger and thicker than a 300HS, which measures only 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 inches. In fact, it's about a quarter inch taller, quarter inch longer, and almost half an inch thicker than the 300HS! So it's really not the same size as a 300HS. Not good if you want a slim camera that slips easily into a slim pair of jeans. And given that these cameras are so compact, there really isn't much need for a molded grip. After all, it's not like you've got a big lens hanging off the front. A bit of texture, or a minimalist finger ridge like on the S100 is all you really need, not some prominent bulge or "some third-party grip as an aftermarket item" like you seem to imply is needed. So as you can see, that's one of the downsides of using AA batteries. It ultimately means you end up with a larger, thicker camera.

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Ring A Senior Member • Posts: 1,269
Re: No to AA's

RedFox88 wrote:

T3 wrote:

RedFox88 wrote:

T3 wrote:

I don't know why anyone would want AA batteries in compact cameras. OEM rechargeable batteries are so much better.

Yet most likely you would not need to "run out" to get AAs as they are > standard and if you relied on AAs you would have a supply.

A aa battery user is as likely to forget extra aa's about as likely you you leaving your house without your pants on!

But what happens if you forget to charge your battery and it's near dead or has sat for a while and has become dead and you want to use the camera right away? You're SOL unless you have a 2nd battery, which the average P&S user probably won't have.

Heck, most AA chargers are larger than the compact P&S cameras that those batteries are going into!!!

Chargers? Who said anything about chargers? I have several family members that use standard AA batteries in devices and don't deal with rechargeable batteries. They buy a huge box and always have them if needed. Plus AAs can be bought practically everywhere around the world. Plus they are cheap compared to a special li-ion battery that might cost $30 to $60.

Yeah, that's great for the environment! Where do you think that "huge box" of AA batteries ends up?

I've found that not everyone is very environmentally friendly. In general I've found those with kids under 18 and married are more into convenience of having batteries to grab whenever needed, and throw away when dead. Because having to charge batteries and know what has been charged and when is another thing to complicate their lives. Just my observation.

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Ring A Senior Member • Posts: 1,269
Re: so much for your "observation"

T3 wrote:

Ring A wrote:

T3 wrote:

RedFox88 wrote:

I've found that not everyone is very environmentally friendly. In general I've found those with kids under 18 and married are more into convenience of having batteries to grab whenever needed, and throw away when dead. Because having to charge batteries and know what has been charged and when is another thing to complicate their lives. Just my observation.

And yet I've found that the sales of cameras with proprietary rechargeable > batteries overwhelmingly outsell cameras with AA batteries.

But that's because most cameras today use proprietary .... phew, tough one

There used to be plenty of cameras that used AA batteries. But as time went > on, the ones with proprietary batteries outsold the ones that used AA batteries.

But only because of the options that the MFG left was propitiatory or buy another camera.

And since manufacturers prefer to make products that sell well, cameras with these proprietary batteries eventually overtook the ones with AA batteries. And THAT is why "most cameras today use proprietary" batteries. In other words, cameras that use AA batteries lost the battle, and cameras with proprietary batteries won out.

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Darrell Spreen Forum Pro • Posts: 10,509
Re: Standardized rechargeable Li-Ion AA?

T3 wrote:

And at 3.8 x 2.5 x 1.2 inches, the A1200 is noticeably larger and thicker than a 300HS, which measures only 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 inches. In fact, it's about a quarter inch taller, quarter inch longer, and almost half an inch thicker than the 300HS! So it's really not the same size as a 300HS.

Good grief! The 300HS dimensions aren't magic! Of course the A1200 is not the SAME size as the 300HS. The 300HS is the 300HS -- this isn't. Yet the A1200 is very slim and slips easily into a slim pair of jeans. So do other cameras that aren't the 300HS. Is your point compact size or something else?

And given that these cameras are so compact, there really isn't much need for a molded grip. A bit of texture, or a minimalist finger ridge like on the S100 is all you really need,

Reading the forums, you'll find that lots of people are looking to buy grips for their compact cameras -- they need them. It helps a lot when you have large hands. Probably not necessary for one-handed happy snapping though.

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