The secret to the Digital
Camera Battery's ability to provide power voltages lies
in the custom cables that have circuitry built into them.
If you think that the lack
of battery life is a new phenomenon that has only come to the forefront
since digital cameras hit the market, you're wrong. Long-time photographers
will tell you it was the advent of electronic flash guns that triggered
the need for long lasting powerful batteries. For more than three decades
companies have been supplying large external battery packs that can rapidly
recharge an external flash gun and provide full power flashes for hundreds
of shots. These units sure beat having to replace the AA batteries after
every roll of film.
For a long time I have been
dreaming of the day when I could utilize the same high-powered battery
pack I use to power my flash gun to also power my Nikon D1 digital camera.
That day has now arrived thanks to a remarkably sophisticated new battery
pack from a company that's appropriately named Digital Camera Battery.
Most of the external battery packs on the market provide a very high voltage,
which is used to power high-end external flash guns. These voltages run
from 200v and up. Obviously this would not work for a digital camera which
only needs between 6 and 12v, depending on the model.
The Digital Camera Battery's
battery cells are housed in a nicely constructed anodized
The sophisticated Digital Camera Battery is computer controlled so it
can supply juice to two pieces of equipment at the same time even if they
use different voltages. The voltage output of the battery is set by the
individual cables and can vary from 1.2 to 16v dc. For external flashes
that have a high voltage capacity special cables come with a small inline
transformer contained in a small sealed box that converts the battery's
6v output up to the 330v needed by a flash gun such as the Nikon SB-28DX.
It's also possible to power 12v car accessories using an optional cigarette
lighter adapter plug. As many electronics, such as laptop computers, video
monitors, etc., can be powered by the 12v output from a car battery it
means the battery pack can be used with an even wider variety of products
other than digital cameras and flash guns.
It's quite a tangle of cables
when a Digital Camera Battery is connected to the Nikon
D1 and the SB-28DX flash gun at the same time.
The battery, which is offered in four different capacities, and the complex
computer control module are contained in a neat anodized aluminum case
with an on-off switch, status indicator lights, two output sockets and
one socket for the charger on the top panel. Other battery packs rely
on lead acid cells, but this power pack uses a group of Ni-MH cells, which
are the current favorite with digital camera manufacturers thanks to their
good operational characteristics. For example, unlike NiCd batteries,
Ni-MH batteries do not suffer from memory loss although they do discharge
slowly when not in use.
One of the key characteristics of the Digital Camera Battery is the fact
that it is designed to produce a regulated output that remains constant
over time. Most batteries tend to start off with good power output which
drops off as the battery drains. A flash might recharge in 1.5 sec when
the external battery pack is fully charged but it might lengthen to 3
sec once the battery drops to half charge. On the Digital Camera Battery
the length of time to recharge a flash will remain the same until the
battery is fully discharged. The status lights on the battery pack indicate
the state of the charge. When the green light is on everything is fine.
When the yellow light comes on it means the battery is nearing exhaustion.
Once the red light flashes on there is no more juice left and the pack
needs to be recharged. The battery will automatically cut out before any
damage can be done by discharging the battery pack too far.
A computer housed in the
case combined with intelligent cables to each powered device
control the dual output ports on the top of the Digital
In The Field
In order to experience the Digital Camera Battery, I tried the 30w model
with my Nikon D1 camera and a Nikon SB-28DX flash gun during a couple
of shoots. The pack weighs only 1.5 lbs and is about 1.3x3x6" in size.
It proved very convenient to use as it came with a nice optional cloth
carrying case that allows the pack to be attached with a belt clip or
carried with a shoulder strap. Many cameras and flash guns have their
power sockets mounted on the side of the body, which is convenient as
it keeps the cables out of the way. The Nikon D1 has its external power
plug mounted on the front of the camera body so I found it got in the
way in some situations although at least I could still hold the camera
with my left hand. The Nikon SB-28DX flash gun's external power supply
plug attaches to the front, which is not as convenient as the old Vivitar
283 that has the plug socket on the side.
A small sealed transformer
in the cable increases the voltage to 330v for powering
the SB-28DX flash gun.
Currently the Digital Camera Battery has to be custom ordered from the
company's web site, as there are such a large number of different cables
required for all the different cameras and flashes on the market. The
cost of these cables vary between $39 and $99. The cost of the 30w battery
is $249 and the Cordura cloth case adds another $39 to the price. The
company also offers a variety of tripod and camera mounting brackets.
All the details are contained on the company's web site.
Although the Digital Camera Battery might appear to be an expensive accessory
at first blush the added security when shooting a lot of images is priceless.
I was easily able to shoot over 1300 pictures during one shoot with about
400 of these using the flash as well and the battery pack never showed
any signs of losing power. Normally I would have gone through three charged
batteries. As each battery pack for the D1 costs about $90, the price
of the Digital Camera Battery is quite reasonable.
An optional cloth case for
the Digital Camera Battery allows for the use of a shoulder
The manufacturer claims that
the 30w unit will provide 1000 shots on the D1 or up to 1000 flashes at
full power from a flash gun such as the SB-28DX. My experience indicated
even better performance, so I have no reason to doubt these figures. And
that was with the 30w model, so only a few really heavy-duty shooters
would ever need to buy the higher capacity 60, 90, or 120w models. Unless
they want to power a laptop computer for an extended period as well, which
is entirely possible. I am more than happy to be able to rely on a consistent
power supply with just one battery pack to power my D1 camera and the
SB-28DX flash at the same time.
For more information, contact
Digital Camera Battery, PO Box 868, Port Richey, FL 34673; (727) 817-0513;