Digital Camera Battery
Power Your Camera And External Flash With One Unit

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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 aluminum case.

Computer Control
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.

Ni-MH Power
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.

Constant Output
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 Camera Battery.

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.

Custom Order
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.

Economics
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 strap.

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; www.digitalcamerabattery.com.

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